§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
rose "To call attention to the present condition of the Militia; and to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if, in view of the large number of officers and men wanting to complete the establishment, His Majesty's Government will consider the advisability of invoking the assistance and using the agency of lords-lieutenant in the recruitment of men and the selection of persons suitable for recommendation to the Secretary of State for War for commissions as officers in the Militia." He said: My Lords, In calling attention to the present state of the Militia, I cannot do better than quote from the summary of the speech of the Secretary of State for War with regard to the reorganisation of the Army, presented to Parliament on July 14th last. That summary contained the statement that—During the last two years the falling off in the strength of the Militia has been as follows: Numbers wanting to complete establishment, January 1st, 1902,21,148; January 1st, 1903,20,596; January 1st, 1904,32,601. There is 929 no sign that the fall will be arrested. Moreover, the Militia is undoubtedly deficient in quality as well as in quantity, and every year the rate of decay is likely to be accelerated, for a battalion which once loses prestige goes rapidly down hill.The deficiency at present is 32,168 men, but what is still more serious and significant is the rapid decline in the number of officers. In 1903 there was a deficiency of 667, but at present there is a deficiency of 987 officers.
Not many weeks ago a Bill passed your Lordships' House entitled the Militiamen's Service Bill. The object of the Bill is to enlist the Militia under the obligation for foreign service on embodiment, thereby carrying out the military policy expounded by the Committee of National Defence. That policy is based on the opinion of all naval authorities that the invasion of this country is an impossibility. Accepting the correctness of this opinion then it is unnecessary and wasteful to maintain a large and expensive force, ear-marked for service at borne, where no active service can occur, whereas it is most necessary to maintain as large a force as possible enlisted for service abroad, where campaigns of great magnitude and many years duration are by no means so improbable as we could wish.
I would remind your Lordships that in the Report of the Royal Commission on the South African War the opinion is expressed, that—No military system would be satisfactory which does not contain powers of expansion outside the limit of the Regular Forces of the nation.His Majesty's Government, by seeking to make the Militia, which is a force composed of men who are not professional. soldiers, liable for foreign service, are taking the first step towards extending the forces of the nation outside the limits of the Regular Army for the defence of the Empire abroad. I may add that I have only heard one feeling expressed among all ranks in the Militia as regards this Bill, that of anxiety to see it passed through the necessary stages and become law.
We see, then, in the Militiamen's Service Bill an attempt made to carry out not only the principles of the military policy 930 laid down by the Committee of National Defence, but also the recommendations made by the Commission appointed to inquire into the war in South Africa. But as things stand this attempt is foredoomed to failure. Both officers and men are a vanishing quantity, and it is idle to expect that a national citizen Army can be recruited by the Departmental methods and purely military machinery of the War Office. The military authorities can train a national force. They cannot call it into existence. A national citizen Army can only be recruited by the nation. The principle of national recruiting is that the civilian authorities in the State accept the responsibility of finding officers and men and of handing them over to the military authorities to train. The Militia has been deprived of that assistance to which it was formerly entitled from civilian authorities in the matter of recruiting. The result is the deplorable and increasing failure to obtain officers and men, described by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War last year.
The present recruiting staff for a Militia battalion consists of the adjutant, the sergeant-major, and eight or ten sergeants, members of the Militia Permanent Staff. The adjutant is an officer, usually a young officer belonging to the Line. A Militia adjutancy is not a well-paid appointment, not nearly so well-paid as a Line adjutancy, although, of course, the work of recruiting is of paramount importance. The appointment is for a term of three years, too short a period to allow of any officer acquiring anything beyond a most elementary knowledge of his recruiting duties and of his district. At the end of three years he is recalled to the Line, and another officer is appointed, to be in turn removed before he has time to become efficient. Recruiting sergeants, however worthy in themselves, and many are most excellent men, have inherited traditions which make them objects of dislike and distrust to the parents and friends of those whom they seek to enlist in the Militia. For the working classes the recruiting staff of the Militia means nothing beyond the barracks. From the barracks they come, just a lot of soldier 931 men, to the barracks they return, and in the barracks those whom they take back with them find their perdition. Such is the unfortunate misconception which it is our duty and interest to remove. No recruiting agency could well be more feeble. None could well be more unpopular. It is ineffective because it is unsupported by any local influence, and appeals to none of the higher feelings of the people. It is disliked because it has inherited all the unpopular traditions which cling to recruiting for the Line. Cannot this futile and absurd recruiting agency be transformed into one of the most congenial and influential agencies in the country, and cannot the unpopular traditions be removed?
In order to secure influence and that prestige, the loss of which is alluded to by the Secretary of State for War, I should place my hand at once on the representative of the Sovereign in the county, namely, the lord-lieutenant. As your Lordships are aware, Militia regiments used to be entirely under the control of the lords-lieutenant of counties. At this very moment all lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants owe their existence to the old Militia laws. It is the lord-lieutenant who ought once again to become the authority charged with all recruiting operations for his county Militia. For reasons which I need not now go into, lord-lieutenants and deputy-lieutenants were so completely severed from all duties connected with the Militia that they do not at present feel in a position to concern themselves actively with that force.
When we come to the officer commanding the Militia regiment, it certainly does seem a little unreasonable of the War Office not to allow that officer to have control over the recruiting of his own regiment. But such is the case. He has no right at present to conduct recruiting work for his own regiment. The adjutant of the Militia battalion is for all recruiting purposes under the command of the Line field officer at the depot. This officer will in future be a major. He is of necessity without any shred, of influence amongst the civilian population. The Militia commanding officer does not command his own recruits when assembled for 932 their preliminary drill. His position during the non-training period is altogether absurd and impossible. The officer commanding the Militia regiment must be the link between the civilian authorities and the military recruiting staff. It would be his duty to inform the lord-lieutenant of the progress of recruiting, and to confer with him about all matters connected with that work. For instance, if he should report that in certain districts recruiting is making no progress and is very unpopular then the lord-lieutenant might direct the deputy-lieutenants connected with the neighbourhood to endeavour, by means of interviews and meetings, to explain to the people of the locality the value of the-Empire and the necessity for maintaining a national Army for its defence.
At present in many districts where recruiting is unpopular, doors are slammed in the face of Militia recruiting sergeants, and they, for the sake of avoiding disturbance and unpleasantness, return to that district no more. The district is closed for recruiting. This is a frequent occurrence before which the military element is helpless. It is a case which can only be met by acquiring influence through educational processes carried out by the civilian and not by the military authorities. A visit from the lord-lieutenant to the Militia recruits when assembled for their preliminary drill would be very advantageous. I do not suggest that the lord-lieutenant should appear in a military capacity, but that he should come giving his personal sanction and direct encouragement to the youthful patriotism of his county. I should myself like to see the preliminary drill of Militia recruits extended during the winter to the full legal limit, that is, six months. Employment is, we know, scarce in the winter, and the more young men and lads there are in barracks the more employment will there be for the older and married men at home-Six months of physical drill, together with sound discipline and healthy surroundings, would be of great moral and physical advantage to these lads in after life.
There is no need to keep the recruits continuously away from their homes. 933 On the contrary, they should be encouraged to go and even be sent home from Saturday noon to Monday morning, and they should be sent home for a week both at Christmas and Easter. The object is that they should be constantly returning to their homes well-dressed and smart, with a few shillings in their pockets, and contented with their new life in barracks. I fear, however, that the barracks at a depôt are but a gloomy place, and of a winter's evening, when it is dark at four o'clock, cheerless, depressing, and comfortless in the extreme. Here is an opportunity for the lord-lieutenant, the deputy-lieutenants, and the county generally to come forward and show their appreciation of the recruits of their county regiment by organising entertainments to pass away the long winter evenings. The cost of military training and equipment should be provided by the State and not supplemented by the money of civilians. But a cheerful recreation room for the barracks during the winter evenings, or a cricket ground at the county camp in summer are legitimate gifts by the county to its regiment, and would be matters within the discretion of the lord-lieutenant.
I now come to the question of the supply of officers for the Militia, and that, with a deficiency of 987, is a serious problem. In this matter the lord-lieutenant and the deputy-lieutenants could be of the greatest assistance. At present the only person interested in finding officers for the Militia is the officer commanding the regiment. I find that the number of deputy-lieutenants in the United Kingdom in December, 1904, was 3,700. My proposal is that it should be the duty of deputy-lieutenants to submit the names of persons eligible for the rank of subaltern in the Militia to their lord-lieutenant. The lords-lieutenant, assisted by the commanding officers of Militia regiments, would then select names for submission to the Secretary of State for War. Thus if 3,700 deputy-lieutenants were called upon to supply 1,000 officers, every three deputy-lieutenants would have between them to find one candidate. Surely a group of three deputy-lieutenants could, from among their combined families, friends, relations, and connections, raise 934 one desirable recruit officer for the Militia. Society should cooperate and should close its doors to the idle man of leisure who does nothing for his country. The man who is deaf to patriotism should be dead to Society.
The lord-lieutenant should have the necessary authority to summon together all his deputy-lieutenants for the purpose of filling vacancies in the subaltern ranks of the Militia—I say "summon" advisedly, because it must be a command of the superior officer to attend on the business of the State. When the business in hand is the defence and the maintenance of the Empire there must be a command. There must be no question of attending if agreeable, or preferring a social engagement because it is infinitely of more interest than any meeting to discuss military service. The clerk of the lieutenancy would keep a list of names recommended by each deputy-lieutenant, and in the event of a deputy-lieutenant failing for five consecutive years to recommend a possible candidate for a commission, never showing any interest in the Militia, and never helping in the recruitment of men, the lord-lieutenant should recommend the Secretary of State for War to remove such deputy-lieutenant from the list. A deputy-lieutenant is by his qualification a man of influence in his county. If he neglects to use that influence I submit to your Lordships that he should vacate his office to make way for someone better qualified to discharge his duty to his country. My Lords, without some such penalty there will be no real work, and it is real work which we require. The keynote to any form of national recruiting must be that it is the business of the nation, and, as such, takes precedence of all other duties, pleasures, and engagements.
I apprehend that the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War will take exception to my proposals on the score that national recruiting for the Militia will injure recruiting for the Regular Army. I do not admit that such would be the case. I do not for a moment suggest raising the pay of the Militia. That would certainly upset the balance all round. The Militiaman is a man who seeks to soldier by the month 935 except in time of war. He does not look upon himself, neither does he wish others to look upon him, as a professional soldier. The Regular soldier soldiers all the year round and regards soldiering as his profession. Some men who enlist into the Regular Army mean to make soldiering their profession. These men will not join the Militia. Some do not mean to stick to soldiering, but they fancy going abroad for a time and the shifting scenes of a soldier's life. They will not go to the Militia. Some men enlist because they have got into scrapes and difficulties and wish to change their locality. His county Militia is the very last place to which a man who wishes to lose his identity will go. Some enlist because they are "deadbeats" and cannot get on in any civilian profession. They will not go to the Militia, because they would have to remain civilians for the greater part of the year, which is exactly what they cannot afford to do. I, therefore, ask the noble Earl if he is aware of any large class of men who would be attracted to the Militia to the detriment of the Regular Army, owing to the influence of lords-lieutenant, deputy-lieutenants, and a system of national recruiting.
It is, I believe, admitted that no matter how excellent our Regular Army may be, it is numerically so insignificant that it cannot of itself bring a lengthy campaign against a military Power to a successful issue. You cannot hope to make any impression on a nation in arms, and trained as a nation to arms, and numbering its trained forces by the million, by means of a few hundred thousand Regular soldiers. If follows, therefore, that in any great struggle it will be by our second and not by our first line that we shall stand or fall. The importance, then, of the second line cannot be over-estimated. I do not suggest for a moment sacrificing the first line in any way to the second. I see no difficulty in holding the balance equally between them. The Militia must look to the Line for its permanent staff, therefore the Militia must give recruits to the Line. At present a Militiaman enlists for six years. I suggest that ac the end of three years a Militiaman raised by national means of 936 recruiting should be allowed to transfer to the Line. If national recruiting increases, as I am sure it cannot fail to do, both the quality and the quantity of the Militia, there will be a far larger body and a far better body of men from whom transfers to the Line are likely. The man who had served three years in the Militia would not be a recruit. On the contrary, he would be ready for foreign service the moment he transferred to the Line. Thus I believe that national recruiting for the Militia would be a benefit and not a detriment to the Line.
Continental nations, my Lords, have learnt cruel lessons from the march of conquering armies through their native lands. From this calamity we have been saved, not by our superior patriotism but by our insular position. Thus we have never realised, as our Continental neighbours have realised, in the bitter school of humiliation and subjection, that military training and organisation are the first and foremost duty of every citizen. Insular we are at home but Continental we have become abroad. Hence the necessity for the principal civilian authorities to come forward and take the lead in recruiting a national citizen Army for the defence of the Empire all the world over. At present we have no such force. In whatever light His Majesty's Government may view my suggestions, I am confident that they will agree with me on one point, namely, that a patriotic offer is worth all the sterile criticism in the world. I beg to ask the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War the Question standing in my name.
THE MARQUESS OF GRANBY
My Lords, I rise to support the general proposition which has been laid down by the noble Duke, and especially that part of it which more closely concerns the shortage of officers in the Militia service. I do so because it appears to me to be most necessary that some steps should be taken to counteract that shortage. One cannot deny for a moment that the present inducements to young men to join the Militia service as officers have proved conspicuous failures. I am sorry to say that at this moment 937 military service in this country is singularly unpopular among all classes. There is distinct disinclination throughout the country to join the service. Many reasons might be given for this unpopularity. The principal ones are, first, that there is a feeling of insecurity of tenure, that men do not know from day to day how they will be dealt with; and, secondly, that—as has been very well put forward in an article which appeared in a distinguished magazine within the last few months by a Member of your Lordships' House, who is himself a gallant soldier—while young officers are expected to go through a great deal more training and to be more highly educated in military science, no further financial inducements have been offered to them to make the Army their profession for life. I do not for a moment say that what is required of officers now is not in every way desirable, but you cannot expect young men to devote the best years of their lives to an arduous and dangerous profession unless they are adequately remunerated. That may not be a very lofty view, but it has undoubtedly been the reason why many young men have not joined the service.
I hope the proposition of the noble Duke that lords-lieutenant should be allowed to go back practically to the position they occupied before 1882 in respect to the procuring of officers for the Militia will receive favourable consideration from the noble Earl the Under-Secretary. It may be said that one of the powers enjoyed before 1882 is, to a certain extent, still preserved to the lord-lieutenant, who has the right of nomination to the lowest rank of Militia officer if he sends in the notice within thirty days of the vacancy being announced. But a large number of lords-lieutenant have waived that power in view of the general tenor of the Act of 1882. I am sure that lords-lieutenant have only one wish—namely, to do all they can to help the Militia, which, as a matter of fact, they are really compelled to do. If the lords-lieutenant are brought once again more actively into touch with the Militia regiments of their counties they will undoubtedly be able to afford much help the officers commanding. There are 938 at this moment certain Militia regiments which are commanded, and effectively commanded, by officers who, through one cause or another, live outside the county in which their regiments are situated. That is to say, from the end of one Militia training to the beginning of the next the colonel commanding the regiment has practically no status in the county. That is an unfortunate occurrence, which cannot sometimes be avoided through there being no one in the county capable of commanding the Militia regiment; but if that officer were in close correspondence with the lord-lieutenant, and the latter was able to deal more effectively with recommendations, he would greatly aid the colonel. I beg most cordially to support the suggestion of the noble Duke, more especially with regard to the recruiting of officers.
§ LORD BLYTHSWOOD
My Lords, we are greatly indebted to the noble Duke for bringing this matter before the House, and, as an old Militia officer who now occupies the position of lord lieutenant of his county, I beg to thank him for doing so. I desire at the same time to say that I cordially support the views which he has expressed. Thirty years ago, when I first joined my county Militia, the counties were in quite a different condÎtion. The old county families are gradually disappearing, and those from whom we got recruits in those days are disappearing also. The Militia then was looked upon by the Volunteers as a different class. All this is changing. County government has completely changed. There are different authorities, and the municipal bodies, both in the counties and boroughs, are of greater importance than they ever were before; and I feel quite sure that unless you are able to enlist their co-operation in getting recruits, both for the Volunteers and the Militia, you will find it utterly impossible to fill the ranks of the Reserve Forces. On the other hand, if you enlist their goodwill I believe you will have no difficulty in filling those ranks. Some years ago I prepared papers on that very subject for circulation among a few friends. I expressed the wish that the counties should be the recruiting areas, that they should be appraised as to the number of officers 939 of Militia that they should be able to support, and that every quarter the numbers that the county was really giving should be published throughout the county. If that were done I think you would set up a rivalry between the different counties and a great deal of the difficulty in getting recruits would be overcome. Of the men that you get to join the Reserve Forces there are always a certain number who will go into the Army. Increase your Reserve Forces and you will make it easier to get men for the Regular Army. I trust that His Majesty's Government will see their way to broaden the basis and enlist the sympathies of all the authorities in the county in carrying out this great work.
My Lords, I wish to claim your Lordships' attention while I say a few words with regard to the gravity of this question of the scarcity of officers. It is difficult to discuss the question of the shortage of Militia officers alone, because, since the Militia are being made liable for service abroad, the question becomes wrapped up in the other and greater question of the shortage of officers for the Army as a whole. I should like to ask the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War what is the actual shortage of officers for the Militia when mobilised for service abroad. We have heard the figure of 1,000 quoted. The Militia is short of 1,000 officers at the present moment, but the question of inefficiency is not taken into account.
When the Militia becomes available for service abroad the object presumably for which they will be sent will be the defence of India. It would be criminal to send boys of seventeen, who, after all, comprise a large proportion of the junior officers in the Militia, to take part in a campaign in the North of India where enteric is so rife. In the same way, a large number of officers, from their positions in this country—Cabinet Ministers and others—would certainly not be able to go out with their units, which would add considerably to the number of inefficients. Moreover, the Militia, if it is to be sent abroad, must go as a fighting force; it will have to have a staff as well as a service corps. There are no arrangements at the present 940 moment for a staff or for the other requirements of the Militia on mobilisation. Then, again, a number of officers would-be seized for the Regular Army. It is well known that, when a campaign takes-place, from 300 to 400 junior officers are at once taken off for the Regular Army. It is all very well to argue that in the next campaign, because the Militia are liable for service abroad, the junior officers will not be snatched away for the use of the Regular Army, but is it probable that the young men who enter the Militia with a view of joining the Regular service can be kept back from entering that service when war breaks out? I contend that it is not. That, again will add considerably to your shortage of Militia officers. I would like to ask the noble Earl, the Under-Secretary, whether, when organised as a fighting machine, the Militia is not deficient in officers, not to the extent of 1,000, but to the extent of nearer 2,000.
The important point, however, is how the authorities are going to make good this deficiency? Where are the officers-to come from when your Militia goes abroad? We learnt, from a reply given in another place the other day, that the reserve of regular officers was 2,000, while 30 per cent. of them were unfit. From the point of view of the-Militia, the reserve of officers is almost entirely composed of old officers; but the shortage of the Militia is, as was. brought out by the Norfolk Commission, in junior officers, and you are not likely to get these older officers to take positions as subalterns in the Militia. Is the supply likely to come through promotion to the Militia from the Volunteers? There is already a shortage of 2,700 officers in the Volunteers, and I suggest that many of the scandals and disgraceful surrenders in the South African War were due to the fact that many of the officers had been picked up anywhere and sent into the Army in the field-How can we guard against the junior officers in the Militia being taken and put into the Regular Army when war is Declared? As we know, there are two classes of Militia officers—those who enter the Militia permanently and those who may be called birds of passage. Will it be fair to the birds of passage 941 who wish to make the Army their profession and who only enter the Militia temporarily, to refuse to allow them to go into the Regular Army in the event of war breaking out? I think not.
I would like to ask the noble Earl, the Under-Secretary, what the Government has done to remedy this crying deficiency. We have had this deficiency pointed out on many occasions. It was one of the greatest criticisms made by the Elgin Commission, and we next had our attention called to it by the Norfolk Commission. The deficiency has been alluded to by the noble Duke opposite on more than one occasion, and by Lord Heneage and other noble Lords on both sides of the House. What, I ask, has the Government done to remedy this alarming deficiency in officers and staff? The deficiency, as has been pointed out by the noble Duke, is getting worse, and, though I am in hearty sympathy with the suggestion which the noble Duke has brought forward, I doubt whether lords-lieutenant can be induced to do more than has already been done to remedy the evil. I do not in any way wish to oppose the suggestion, because any suggestion ought to be welcome, but is it likely to be final in getting us an additional 1,000 or 2,000 officers?
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I was rather suggesting increasing your agency by getting hold of the 3,700 deputy-lieutenants who at present are not active in getting recruits for the Militia.
But, even with the assistance of deputy-lieutenants as well as lords-lieutenant, are you likely to produce the thousands of officers necessary for the Militia and the Volunteers, and make up the deficiency of 400 which you have in the Yeomanry? At any rate, I hope we shall be told by the noble Earl that an effort is being made to reduce this alarming deficiency, and that the House will not be informed by the Government that they are waiting for some scheme of defence, or that the blame is shifted from one party to another. We have been waiting for this scheme of defence for some years, and I trust that the Answer which will be given to-night will not be worked off on that particular line. 942 Before I sit down I would like to express a pious wish that, before the end of the session some prominent military Peer will raise a debate on the subject of military officers as a whole. The officers engaged in the South African War suffered a great deal of blame through the inefficient officers, through the rubbish, sent out to command the troops and in the event of war taking place again it seems to be probable that the same worthless material will be given out to the Army. I may mention that me I sent home as worthless as privates came out afterwards to command 100 men, whom they made even worse than they were themselves.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, in my opinion there is a great deal in what the noble Duke has urged, and I trust that his words will be carefully considered. It is some thirty years ago since the Militia was removed from the control of the lords-lieutenant and put under the War Office; and, looking at its present condition, I cannot say that any great improvement has taken place from that change. Not only is there a shortage of officers, but very many of them are not fit to go on service if asked to do so. Now that the Militia under the new arrangement will be required to take a portion of service in foreign countries, it is essential that the officers should be men who can take their place with the troops in foreign countries. I have great faith in the territorial system, and it answered admirably during the war. We saw then, when soldiers were sent home ill and wounded, how the families were taken care of by the counties; and I believe that if some arrangement is made, such as the noble Duke has sketched out, the Militia recruiting as to-men and officers will be very much increased in value and in numbers.
I feel strongly on this point because I have been accused of not saying very much in favour of the Militia regiments that came out to South Africa, and that I did not value the regiments nor the service to which they belonged. It caused me, however, the greatest anxiety when I saw regiments in the field who had come out with eight, nine, and ten officers only, instead of their full 943 complement, owing to the officers having been taken away from the battalions to fill the vacancies caused by casualties or by the need created to fill up a number of staff appointments. We require not only that the Militia should be thoroughly officered in time of peace, but that there should be officers in the Militia and Army sufficient to fill up the vacancies that occur in troops mobilised to go on service as war proceeds. I hope, too, that before the end of the session the question will be raised in a specified form. In the meantime I commend the matter raised by the noble Duke to the earnest consideration of your Lordships, for it is of the most extreme importance to the efficiency of our Army that there should be not only officers to every unit, but a larger reserve of officers even than your Lordships seem to have any idea of. We want a reserve of 5,000 officers. I hope to see some carefully-considered plan by which we shall be able to get the number of officers provided willing to take their places in the Army after they have had a certain amount of training. Unless this be done it is impossible for us to hope to go to war with any chance of being successful. One way of considering how our object can be attained is carefully to consider what the noble Duke has brought forward.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, I desire to say a few words on this subject as an old Militia officer who received his first commission from a lord-lieutenant. I anticipated, until I heard the remarks of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who has just sat down, that the noble Earl who would reply on behalf of the Government would remind us how enormously the Militia had improved since the power was taken away from lords-lieutenant. It seems to me that there is a radical confusion of ideas in the minds of many persons between the functions of the civilian and the functions of the military in respect of this question. No doubt the moment the Militiaman is put into a uniform and has a rifle placed in his hands the soldier knows best how to deal with him. I say that with some reservation, because the fact that a man puts on a uniform and carries a rifle does not 944 wash out all his civilian instincts immediately, and I think that in some matters of internal economy the civilian officer of Militia understands the Militiaman better than the soldier; but in other respects, such as training, we admit at once that the civilian ought to step aside.
As regards recruiting, however, civilians are better judges of how to bring in recruits than the military. The civilian knows their feelings and their prejudices, and can deal with them in a way which is absolutely impossible in the soldier. I remember being ordered over and over again, when I commanded a Militia regiment, to send recruiters to districts where I knew it was impossible to get recruits. When I sent a reply to this effect I received this answer, "It is a large district, and you have not got any Militiamen from it." In accordance with instructions I sent men down, and the result was, as I predicted, that we got nobody. I knew that in this district it was impossible to get a recruit, whilst in other districts recruits could be obtained; but this was unknown to the military authorities. It is perfectly true that in many respects the Militia has improved enormously since the days when the lord-lieutenant signed the commands, but it has not improved in the particular matters with which the lord-lieutenant then had to deal. Even in those days the deputy-lieutenants, to whom the noble Duke is looking for support now, did not take any part in getting officers.
When we had a debate on this subject earlier in the session the noble Earl the Under-Secretary for War, answering the proposal that the lord-lieutentant should take a more active part in this matter than hitherto, said that that would possibly lead to competition in recruiting between the officer commanding the district and the lord-lieutenant, and that nobody could want that. I confess I heard that statement with very great surprise. I could wish for nothing better. It seems to me that if you had two persons responsible for recruiting for the Militia—the officer commanding the district and the lord lieutenant—you would probably have a 945 competition between the two which would get you far more recruits than you could obtain in any other way; and, although I admit that there may be something to be said on both sides, I was astonished that the noble Earl scouted the suggestion on that ground. If, however, the two systems are incompatible I should certainly give my vote in favour of the responsibility being thrown on the lord-lieutenant and the deputy-lieutenants, and especially for the purpose of getting officers.
There is another matter which ought to be mentioned in this debate, because it has some bearing on the question whether the intervention of the lord-lieutenant would be useful in these cases. I hardly know how to deal with it, because if I put a supposititious case I know that the answer will be "You can always put supposititious cases." If I gave a concrete case it would be improper, but I will give an instance, without mentioning names, of the sort of thing which is going on at the present time. About three weeks ago a lord-lieutenant was informed that a second lieutenant, who had lately resigned his commission because he thought his private affairs would make it impossible for him to train in the Militia, had discovered after all that he could do his training and was anxious to go back to the regiment. I may say that he was perfectly willing to go back as the junior of his rank; there was no question of his superseding anybody else or of complications of any kind. He was a good officer, recommended by his own commanding officer and the lord-lieutenant, and the latter added a most urgent request that he should be gazetted as quickly as possible because the regiment was very short of officers and the training was just about to take place. Three weeks have passed. The training has begun. Nothing more has been heard upon the question.
I do not know what the experience of other lords-lieutenant is, but my experience is that a lord-lieutenant recommends a gentleman for a commission and gets no acknowledgment whatever. Now what, I ask, is to be done in a case like the one to which I have referred? If the lord-lieutenant had the authority 946 of appointing these officers the difficulty could never have arisen. The Militia of the county would have been his chief interest, and he would have seen that this officer was gazetted without delay. In fact, I do not know that it was even necessary under the power originally held for that to be done. I imagine that if the lord-lieutenant signed the commission it would empower the officer to act. But when I commanded a Militia regiment a good many years ago the lord-lieutenant could not have interfered, and I should have gone as a commanding officer straight to the War Office. I should have asked to see the officer commanding the Auxiliary Forces, and should have laid the grievance before him; and from my experience of the way in which I was received and I am afraid I was very troublesome to the War Office in those days—I believe the grievance would have been got over, and the whole thing settled satisfactorily.
But now what has happened? The officer commanding the regiment, as I understand, has no access to anybody except the local general officer commanding. That officer may or may not be interested in, or know much about the Militia, because it is by no means necessary for an officer to be cognisant of the details of Militia service in order to be a very distinguished officer in the Army. The lord-lieutenant can do nothing. As far as I understand, he has no locus standi, no right to intervene, and in this way your decentralisation, which sounded very well on paper, has had this effect, that any friction in the machine is fixed-there and cannot be removed with that speed and facility with which it used to be. I have not one word to say against that kind of decentralisation which prevents a long correspondence with the War Office as to whether a man ought to have received sixpence more or sixpence less of his pay, which used to go on, but I do deprecate the present system, which seems to me to entirely preclude access to any of the higher authorities, either by the lord-lieutenant, by the officer commanding the regiment, or by anybody else. I have only brought this instance forward as showing the deadlock which there now seems to be 947 in working the Militia satisfactorily. I believe that the increasing of the authority of lords-lieutenant over the appointment of officers would give them more interest in the Militia, would do much to improve that force, and, if extended to the Volunteer force, to improve the whole of the Auxiliary Forces.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords, I had no intention of addressing our Lordships on this subject, but, as I have been prompted to do so, I trust that you will extend to me that consideration which is invariably given to those who address your Lordships for the first time, The whole of the Militia force will be grateful to the noble Duke behind me for having brought this matter before the attention of your Lordships. I must say I am not altogether enamoured of the way in which he suggests that his proposal for increasing the number of officers and men in the Militia should be carred out. I think the proposal to import the lord-lieutenant and the deputy-lieutenants into the recruiting service bristles with difficulties, nor can I agree with the noble Duke who spoke last that to set up competition between the commanding officer of the regimental district and the lord-lieutenant of the county would be a good thing for recruiting. I am afraid that, on the contrary, it would bring matters to a deadlock at once. If the Militia were enlisted under the old conditions of a more or less civilian force, I think something might be done in the way suggested by the noble Duke. But, since the recent Bill, which passed through your Lordships' House about two months ago, throwing on them the liability to foreign service on embodiment, the Militia force has become practically an integral part of the Army; and, speaking as an old Militia officer of many years standing, I am proud to think that we are looked upon as part of the effective Army of this country.
Those who have taken any interest in the Militia must have seen with extreme regret the deficiency now existing in men and officers. My noble friend below me (the Earl of Wemyss) has a panacea for these defects; but if any attempt were made to put the Militia ballot in force 948 at this moment in order to increase the numbers, it would cause such a dislocation in the whole of the civil conditions of the country that some other system would have to be adopted at once. I agree with a great deal that fell from the noble Lord opposite, Lord Lovat, more especially with regard to the scarcity of officers and the material which was put forward during the South African War to fill up vacancies. It is somewhat invidious to bring personal experience to bear, but in this case I think your Lordships will excuse me if I make a personal allusion. I was rather more fortunate than a good many others when I took my regiment to South Africa, because we had gone through a term of embodiment and had become more or less effective; but there were many regiments sent to South Africa almost immediately on embodiment, which had not the advantage of that thorough military training which those who remained a longer time in this country before going out were able to be put through. Some of these regiments were in no more effective condition for being put into the fighting line than a Militia regiment would be to-day immediately on mobilisation. That is a point which will have to be considered.
It is all very well to talk about the shortage of officers and men and the means by which that shortage can be made up, but I would point out that not only must the men be got but they must be put through such a training as would fit them to take their place in the fighting line. This question of efficiency is not a toy to play with. It is a matter which bears a very near relation to the safety of the country; and what I want your Lordships to consider is that the country has to be provided with a force which can be relied upon in time of need. It is no part of my business to defend the War Office. I am well aware that it has been brought home more closely to Militia officers than to others that the shortcomings of the War Office are great. We feel it in the Militia service more especially, but I think the complaint made by the Duke of Northumberland with regard to the difficulty found in getting a young officer appointed to a certain regiment might have been overcome by a little arrangement. Almost 949 the same thing has happened not infrequently to me, and if the commanding officer had gone to the officer who represents the Militia at the War Office
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
May I remind the noble Duke that he is not allowed to do so now by the regulations?
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I think my noble friend is wrong. If the officer commanding the regiment had gone to the officer who represents the Militia at the War Office and told him that the officer's name had been sent in and that it was desirable he should be gazetted as soon as possible, that would have been done. It has, as I have said, happened to me over and over again, and I have always found that no obstacle has been placed in my way by the War Office.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I am not able at this moment to state the last time it occurred, but I have never had any difficulty in regard to the matter. There is nothing to prevent an officer approaching the War Office on a question of that kind. This subject of Militia service is one which appeals so much to me after the many years I have spent in that force that my anxiety to see it in the condition in which it ought to be is my excuse for having addressed your Lordships this evening.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, I do not think it will be necessary for me to detain your Lordships at any. great length in answering the interesting speech of the noble Duke and the comments upon what he said which followed. The noble Duke outlined his scheme in a speech earlier in the session, and I stated then very briefly what I thought were some of the objections to it. He now brings forward his scheme in greater detail, and in the Notice which he has placed on the Paper he asks if we will consider what he says. I need not say that we shall be most happy to consider the subject in all its bearings. With a 950 great many of the theories of the noble Duke I, of course, must most cordially agree, though I cannot help seeing difficulties in putting some of those theories into practice.
Before I refer more closely to the matters brought forward by the noble Duke, I would like to reply to some of the criticisms advanced by subsequent speakers in the course of the debate. The noble Marquess below the gangway, Lord Granby, commented on the shortness of officers, not only in the Militia, but also in the Regular Army, and he put forward certain reasons which, in his opinion, account for what he called the disinclination throughout the country to join the Army. The main reason he described, in what was to me somewhat veiled language, as insecurity of tenure. I wish that the noble Marquess had expanded his views on that subject in the same way as he did on the second point he mentioned. It is well within your Lordships' recollection that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War has repeatedly shown that in the forefront of his mind there exists a belief that it will be necessary in the very early future to increase considerably the number of officers in the Army; and I am not able to see, in view of that definite statement by the Minister who is responsible to Parliament and to the nation for the Army, how any officer in the Army at the present moment can feel insecure in his tenure of his commission.
The noble Marquess also put forward the view that officers are not sufficiently paid. I admit that the pay is low; but we must not forget that the supply is still considerably in excess of the demand except in one particular branch of the service—the cavalry. I have not got the figures with me; I did not know that this point would have been raised or I should certainly have had them; but I am aware that at the last examination the number of gentlemen who passed the standard qualifying for admission to Sandhurst was considerably in excess of the number we were able to accept owing to the accommodation at Sandhurst. We hope very shortly to largely increase the accommodation there, and that increase will, obviously, considerably 951 help us in combating the deficiency to which the noble Marquess referred.
I come now to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lovat. The noble Lord asked for particulars as to the deficiency of officers if the Militia were mobilised for war now; and, going further into detail, he said that though we were about 1,000 officers deficient at the present moment, we should, owing to the want of a service corps and an ordnance department, be 2,000 deficient if the Militia were mobilised now. If I may say so, I think the problem should be looked at rather differently. When the Militia is mobilised. for war it is not mobilised separately from the whole Army. It does not have its service corps and ordnance department separate to itself. I therefore think the noble Lord should have asked for figures as to the number deficient on any mobilisation scheme for the whole Army.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I quite admit that we are deficient; but the noble Lord has asked me a very complicated Question as regards mobilisation for the whole Army, the figures of which I do not think it is quite reasonable to expect me to have in my pocket on an afternoon when I am to be asked a Question with reference to the condition of the Militia. I shall be glad to ascertain what the figures are, but I cannot promise to give them to the noble Lord, far I do not know that it would be advisable that they should be published. If I am permitted to do so, I will be very glad to let the noble Lord have them. The noble Lord asked where the officers required are coming from in the future. He asked the Question straight out, and then he slid, in substance, though in more formal language—"Do not let us hear any nonsense about considering a scheme; but let us know definitely where these officers for the Auxiliary Forces are to come from." I was amazed at that statement, and I think your Lordship will be amazed, too, when I tail you that we are at this moment inquiring into a most detailed and complicated scheme which has been put 952 before us by the noble Lord himself. I think it is rather unreasonable, when we have had this scheme in our hands for a few weeks and are gladly going into it in great detail, to be asked this Question, and to be told that the questioner did not wish to hear any nonsense about the matter being under consideration.
I do not in the least depreciate the importance of this question of officers for the Auxiliary Forces. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for the suggestion he has given us. There are other schemes of a similar nature which are at present being worked out in detail at the War Office, and amongst these naturally would be the remedy which has been suggested to us this evening by the noble Duke who initiated this discussion. But, as regards this particular one, I am not entirely convinced that it will prove the final solution of the problem. As has been said, lords-lieutenant already have power to nominate candidates for the Militia, and it is difficult to see exactly how their activities are to be considerably extended. They have no staff for the purpose. They have certainly not the facilities, in spite of what has been said, that a colonel of a regiment has—a colonel who, in every case we can manage it, is a county man and always should, be a county man.
Difficulties suggest themselves on every side. One of the difficulties with which the Militia has to contend has been referred to tonight by the noble Lord behind me, Lord Blythswood—the paucity of young country gentlemen in many of the counties of England. Your Lordships will remember that last year my noble friend Lord Raglan, putting it rather bluntly, stated that as we have been legislating the landed class out of existence for many years, we could not expect them to come forward now to officer our Auxiliary Forces, because they did not exist. I confess, therefore, that I am not sanguine that lord-lieutenants, if they had the machinery, could, as regards officers, help us very much more than they do now. Still, as I have said, I would be most reluctant to refuse to inquire into the question. I should think that it is in regard to officers far more than in regard 953 to men that we can look for assistance in this direction. As regards the men, I entirely agree with the noble Duke who initiated this discussion that the more we can increase local interest, not only in the Militia, but in the whole of the military forces of the Crown, the easier must the recruiting problem become. So far I can agree with him in the generality. At the same time it is difficult to follow him in the particular remedy which I understand he now advocates—namely, that recruiting for the Militia should be organised under the lord-lieutenant and entirely separated from recruiting for the Regular Army under the direction of the War Office.
And here I would turn to the point raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, with regard to what I said on a former occasion as to the danger of competition between the lord-lieutenant of a county and the officer commanding the district. The noble Duke thinks that nothing could be better than competition; that having the lord-lieutenant on one side and the commanding officer of the district on the other, both recruiting for the Militia, is bound to lead to the most favourable results. I am afraid that I did not make myself clear to the noble Duke. What I objected to was the prospect of having the lord-lieutenant recruiting on one side for the Militia and the commanding officer of the regimental district recruiting on the other side for the Line. If I remember rightly I used the phrase "pull devil, pull baker," as illustrating the condition of affairs which I thought must inevitably ensue, and I still feel very strongly the objection I then raised. The noble Duke who called attention to this subject to-night discounts that objection. He says the Militiamen and the men going into the Line are a different class, and that rivalry between them is, therefore, not to be feared. I wish I could agree that the Militia and the Line recruits were of a different class. We know that last year in the General Annual Report of the British Army it was shown chat just under 15,000 men went on from the Militia into the Line. I cannot imagine a more convincing or damaging-fact than that as against the theory that the Line 954 and the Militia recruit from a different class.
Your Lordships will also remember a speech delivered last year by a noble Lord who I regret is not in his place tonight, Lord Harris, in which he laid particular stress upon the fact that he regarded the Militia as a feeder for the Line—a further justification for my saying now that Militiamen are regarded as coming from a separate class from the Line. I think it is a pity. I wish the Militia did consist of a different class and did not compete for recruits with the Line; but, convinced as I am that the Militia and the Line do draw men from the same classes in the community, I cannot but feel very nervous as to the result of any experiment laying us open to the danger, if competition should be set up, that one branch of His Majesty's forces should do harm to another. Whatever remedy we find, it is useless to suggest that remedy if there is danger of its simply improving one branch by doing harm to the other. The noble Duke will recognise that at the present moment the Militia permanent staff is looked to at non-training periods to act to a large extent as recruiting sergeants for the Line; and the carrying out of his suggestion would involve a considerable change, therefore, not only in the recruiting arrangements for the Militia itself, but for the whole of His Majesty's forces.
I do not wish to appear a carping critic, but simply to point out to the noble Duke that there are difficulties in the way, and that we cannot rush quickly into the remedy that he suggests. I can only repeat that I shall be most happy to ask my colleages at the War Office, who go more into detail on these questions than I do to work out the whole of his scheme and consider it in all its bearings. I would like to mention one fact which may be of interest to your Lordships. Perhaps rather justly, one or two of the speeches this afternoon, though not impatient in tone, have had a little impatience underlying them at the apparent lack of rapidity of progress. Your Lordships, I am sure, will not be impatient. This is a matter which must be approached cautiously. Everybody is in favour of reform, but 955 most people are opposed to any particular reform, and everybody is opposed to being reformed themselves. The lines which we would like to follow—the lines recommended by the Norfolk Commission which reported last year—all involve expense, and until money comes along we are unable to carry out such recommendations as that the Militia should train for six months on enlistment and at least six weeks during subsequent years; that commanding officers should form part of the permanent staff, and that there should be organisation in brigades and divisions, and so forth.
I have already explained how we hope to obtain money to carry out some of these things, but there is another necessity which has been referred to this afternoon—the necessity for organising the Auxiliary Forces at home for the purposes of war. I am glad to say that considerable progress has lately been made in formulating proposals in this direction. It would not be expedient for me now to explain the details, but I may perhaps be allowed to state to your Lordships that from papers which have been before me during the last few days I am able to say with confidence that I believe considerable progress has been made in formulating proposals in this very important direction. Naturally matters have been facilitated by the work of the Defence Committee, and I have every hope that before very long we shall be able to finish and settle finally such a scheme of organisation as that to which I am now referring, which must effect a considerable improvement in the general efficiency of the Auxiliary Forces of the Crown.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence to speak on this subject after what we have heard from so many noble Lords who themselves command or have commanded Militia regiments and have had great experience in regard to them. At the same time I feel that I have perhaps some little claim to say something on these matters, as I have been for a considerable time one of the Sovereign's lords-lieutenants. The subject we have before us to-night and the 956 topics that have been referred to range over a very wide area. I will say a few words with regard to the difficulties that now exist, and which were put forward exceedingly well by the noble Marquess who spoke second. The noble Marquess referred to what he called insecurity of tenure as one of the reasons of the unpopularity of the Militia at this moment. The noble Earl the Under-Secretary for War criticised that expression, but I interpret it in this way—that those who are now proposing to enter the Militia have really no idea what kind of Militia they are entering, or what changes will be made in it. A short time ago a measure was passed through this House altering fundamentally, as I conceived, the position of the Militia. Some noble Lords held one view and some-another, but I confess myself that I had very grave doubt, not only whether it was right and expedient to alter the fundamental character of the Militia, but also whether the doing of that might not make the Militia more unpopular, and make it much more difficult to secure officers and men for that force.
The noble Earl who has just sat down complains that there is impatience about the plans of His Majesty's Government. I do not really know whether I ought to say the plans of the Secretary of State for War or the plans of the Defence Committee. I have always felt that I there was a considerable danger in the creation of a Committee which would take off some of the serious responsibility which always used to rest on the Secretary of State for War, who was really responsible to Parliament for all that was done with regard to the Army. I will touch on the point with regard to officers first. I could not quite follow all the arguments of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary with regard to the want of officers. At one moment he said there was no real want of officers for the Army generally, and that lately there were more applicants to go to Sandhurst than they could accommodate there, and yet in another part of his speech he rather admitted that Lord Lovat was right in saying that if there were a mobilisation there would be a great dearth of officers. I do not understand the position of the noble 957 Earl, and I would venture to say that anybody who has had anything to do with young men wishing to enter the Army as officers knows that there are an enormous number of applicants for commissions. One young man who was nearly related to myself was seeking to be an officer, and on the two occasions that he went up there were between 600 and 800 candidates with only a limited number of vacancies at Sandhurst. Why is this? We see an enormous number of men seeking to be officers, and a great number rejected. Why, then, is it that there is this great deficiency?
Is it not the fact that it is after men have entered the Army that the great falling off occurs? And thus there are an enormous number of resignations of officers. That is a very serious matter indeed, and I should like very much if some time or another a member of His Majesty's Government would explain the reason. I sometimes think that, though it is most desirable and important to make the officers of the Army as efficient as possible, the regulations, both with regard to officers of the Regular Army and officers and men of the Militia and other Auxiliary Forces, are driven too hard, that the authorities forget that these are all officers voluntarily, and that they make the conditions for young officers so hard now that you cannot get them to remain in the service. I think that in some way or other this should be modified. Men entering the Militia are also uncertain as to what will happen to them. The late Act of Parliament may have a very considerable effect in checking entry.
With regard to what the noble Earl said just now upon the question whether the Militia are drawn from a different class from those who enlist for the Line, I think it is the case that the men who enlist in the Militia and those who enlist in the Line come from the same class, but they are men who have different intentions as to what they will do in the world. Those who enter the Militia are men who do not want to give up their whole time to soldiering. They want to do patriotic service and enter the Militia while working in some profession or trade. Those who enter the Regular Army, on the other hand, are ready to 958 devote themselves for a much longer time to the service. Though you may say that they are drawn from the same class they have different ideas, and they ought certainly, if possible, to have their separate views in this matter kept in mind, and those who intend to serve in the Militia while following their profession or trade ought not to be driven out of their course by too onerous duties being imposed on them during training. I believe that a great deal of the falling off in the numbers who enlist for the Militia has been caused by bringing the Militia for training too often to places at a distance from their own homes. I am happy to think that in my own county that has now been changed. In my county last year, for the first time in five years, the Militia trained in Northampton, and at this moment the Militia are under canvas close to my park training for the first time in the rural part of the county. This is a system which it is exceedingly desirable should be extended.
I have stated what I think are some of the reasons why enlistment for the Militia has so considerably fallen off. I now come to the proposal which has been submitted by the noble, Duke opposite. He proposes not merely to go back to the old system of giving authority to the lord-lieutenant to enlist for the Militia, but to go a great deal further. I do not speak from experience, because I was appointed just after the change was made in 1872 or 1873, it was made under Mr. Cardwell; but I think the noble Duke will not contradict me when I say that before the charge was made, though the Militia were under lords-lieutenant, the lords-lieutenant, so far as I know, never did anything in regard to recruiting. They did everything in regard to appointments. They appointed all the officers, from the colonel down to the sub-lieutenants and ensigns, that existed at that time. I cannot help thinking that to the change which took place we cannot attribute the whole of the difficulties which now exist. Certainly, for many years after the change took place the Militia prospered and there were plenty of enlistments both of officers and men. I do, however, say that the result of taking away the 959 appointments from the lords-lieutenant has removed to a very great extent some of the inducements which created the local interest in the Militia. I agree with the noble Duke with regard to that. At the present moment the lord-lieutenant has very little inducement indeed to assist in this matter. The Duke of Northumberland spoke of the way in which he had been treated, and said that many of his recommendations had received very little notice, and that he had waited a long while before he got any reply.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I did not complain of the want of carrying out of any recommendations I have made. I have only been a lord-lieutenant for a very few months, but what I said was that there was no acknowledgment of any letter sent in recommending a commission. The commission was granted, but there was no letter.
§ EARL SPENCER
I was going to say that that is exactly the position in which I was placed. Very great changes have taken place with regard to the recommendations of lords-lieutenant. At one time the recommendations for first commissions always went to the Under-Secretary, but that has been changed several times. Latterly I have sent in recommendations and have never had any answer whatever. I have merely received an acknowledgment from one officer saying that my letter had been forwarded to the proper quarters. In one case an officer whom I had recommended was appointed, and was obliged later to give up his commission, but I was never informed either of my recommendation having had effect, or of the officer's resignation. I agree that the lords-lieutenant in this respect have not been encouraged in the proper way, and on one occasion I proposed to give the whole thing up, and no longer to recommend any officers, but the colonel at the time said he thought that there was some advantage in the lord lieutenant intervening in regard to first commissions, and, therefore, I reluctantly continued the practice.
The fact is, the influence of lords-lieutenant with regard to all these 960 matters has been confined to getting up subscriptions for the men in time of war, and in that way they have no doubt done something to encourage local feeling, but I cannot help thinking that if they received more encouragement in regard to the Militia, they might have more influence than at present, and might be able to do a considerable amount of good service. I will give an instance which came before me. One of the reasons why we get fewer recruits at this moment in my own county is that the whole organisation of the staple trade of the county has been altered in recent years. In Northamptonshire the staple trade is shoemaking, and in my early days the men followed it in their own homes. But that has now been entirely altered, and the trade is carried on in factories. I understand that the greatest objection is offered by the proprietors of these factories to the breaking up of the men, who work together in small gangs or parties, and when one or two want to join the Militia, the employers say they must not go, and they are prevented from joining. That is a case where the lord-lieutenant might exercise local influence, and see whether some arrangement might not be possible. Therefore, I agree with the noble Duke that more encouragement ought to be give n to lords-lieutenant to excite interest locally in the Auxiliary Forces, and if that were done some good at all events would follow.
At the present moment the double system does not work very well. The Militia ought either to be, taken completely out of the hands of the local authorities and entirely centralised, or some serious modification with regard, at all events, to the officering of regiments ought to be made. It is, I admit, a difficult matter. I do not think that the whole difficulty arises from the change, but I think it is desirable and important that more local influence should be exercised, and it would be exercised if the lords-lieutenant were in some way or other brought in more directly to assist the Militia and the Auxiliary Forces generally. I listened with interest to what the noble Earl opposite said at the end of his speech with regard to what was going on. He spoke of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War 961 having in the forefront of his mind the question of the increase of officers. Well, it may be that he has got it in the forefront of his mind, but we have never really arrived at what his mind is on the subject. We have had scheme after scheme hinted at; we have been told that this scheme or that scheme was going to be carried out; but we are still in the dark on the matter. We do not know what is going to be done, and that is a very serious matter.
We have very great reason to complain of this, because it is really affecting the services. I have no doubt that if these questions were once settled, and we saw what was going to be done with regard to the Auxiliary Forces generally, our difficulties would be diminished. We cannot press too strongly on His Majesty's Government the importance of solving these problems. Though the solution may be difficult, it is their business to find the solution for these difficulties. This evolution of schemes has now been going on for many years. We have had so many schemes that we are bewildered, and it is high time that the question was finally settled. It would be very satisfactory, if the noble Marquess the Leader of the House is going to speak, if he could assure us that this has actually been done. We are getting tired of hearing that this scheme or that scheme is being considered and that fair progress has been made in regard to it. Alas! we never arrive at what the scheme is, and, therefore, I think we have a right to demand that this state of uncertainty should come, to an end, and that the Government should declare finally what-their proposals are in regard to this most important subject.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, both the noble Earl who has just addressed your Lordships and the Duke of Northumberland have mentioned cases in which they, in their capacity as lords-lieutenant, addressed the War Office in regard to matters connected with the Militia regiments for which they are responsible, and in which they failed altogether to obtain a reply. My noble friend the Under-Secretary assures me that if any one is to blame in these cases the War 962 Office is not the culprit. The War Office, I know, is the habitual criminal of these debates; and it is always assumed that, if anything goes wrong the War Office should be taken to task. But not very long ago, in deference to a general demand for decentralisation—a word which sounds so blessedly in the ears of many people—a good deal of work which had previously been transacted in Pall Mall was transferred to the general officers commanding districts. It was generally felt that it was desirable that the War Office should be as far as possible relieved of the detail of administrative routine, and correspondence of this kind was in consequence transferred from Pall Mall to the districts. My noble friend tells me that if the noble Duke and the noble Earl will supply him with particulars of the cases he will make it his business to inquire into the causes of the delay.
As to the Militia we are agreed up to this point—that the present condition of the force is most-unsatisfactory and urgently calls for improvement. But when we come to the question of remedies the agreement is not so complete. The number of prescriptions that have been drawn up is remarkable. The noble Earl, like other speakers to-night, expressed some surprise because the Secretary of State for War had not yet seen his way to produce a full and complete scheme for remedying all the defects which recent experience and inquiry have disclosed. But is it reasonable to complain of the Secretary of State for his inaction.
Your Lordships will recollect the important Report produced by the Royal Commission presided over by the Duke of Norfolk. I have here a Memorandum drawn up by the Secretary of State for War containing an analysis of some of the more important recommendations of that Commission. There are between thirty and forty substantive propositions, all of which require the utmost care before they can be accepted or refused. Not only do the raise points of great difficulty and intricacy, but they are propositions which involve a large expenditure of public money; and it is not so many nights ago that I was taken to task in this House on account of 963 the growth of our military expenditure. Although we certainly should not grudge the expenditure of money to make the Militia efficient, we certainly owe it to the country, particularly after our experience in these matters, to scrutinise with the greatest care these proposals, some of them very far-reaching, for altering the character and conditions of service of the Militia force.
Then it is incorrect to say that the Secretary of State for War has taken no steps to deal with the Militia. A Bill has already passed this House—the most important measure affecting the status of the Militia which has for many years been produced in Parliament—I mean the Bill under which Militiamen become liable in certain circumstances for service beyond the limits of this country; and I heard with great satisfaction the cheers which greeted the mention of that Bill by the noble Duke. The fact is that these proposals are proposals of very great delicacy and difficulty; because what is the cardinal proposal of those who, like the noble Duke, wish to see the efficiency of the Militia increased? The Duke of Richmond, to whose speech we listened with great interest and satisfaction, put the case well when he said that it was of no use to raise the numerical strength of the Militia; but what mattered was the quality and efficiency of the men. But efficiency implies training; and when you come to proposals to increase the training of the Militia, you find yourself at once face to face with a problem of the utmost difficulty.
It is very easy to talk of training the Militia for months instead of for weeks, but if you take away a Militia officer or private for six months training, as the Norfolk Commission proposed, you at once place it beyond his power to follow those civilian pursuits upon which he depends for his livelihood. These are matters about which it is impossible to dogmatise; and I think my right hon. colleague is right when he pursues a careful and deliberate line of action in regard to this question, and, above all, when he refuses to deal with it without consulting, as he is doing, the commanding officers of Militia battalions. We have taken the Militia Vote this year at the full amount at which 964 it stood last year; and the hope of the Secretary of State is that we may gradually, by reducing useless units or by amalgamating smaller units with larger bodies, find ourselves able to spend on the units which remain a larger amount with good results for their efficiency.
I pass to the particular remedy recommended by the noble Duke. His desire is that a more conspicuous part should be taken by the lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants of counties in dealing with the Militia. I am perfectly prepared to say that, so far as the principle of the noble Duke's proposal is concerned, we are entirely at one with him. We think that no pains should be spared to increase the connection of the Militia with the territorial authorities; and the suggestion made by Lord Blythswood that not only lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants should be encouraged to interest themselves in the Militia, but that other local authorities might take a similar part, is one well worthy of consideration. That is the more true because, in the case of lord-lieutenants and deputy-lieutenants, they are constitutionally connected with the Militia force. The deputy-lieutenants hold their commissions under the Militia Act, and it would be natural, therefore, for them to take an interest in that force. But I am bound to say that it seems to me that the lord-lieutenant is more likely to use his influence with advantage in the case of the officers than in the case of the men in the Militia. The lord-lieutenant and his deputy-lieu tenants may be presumed to have some knowledge of their counties and of the families from whom officers are likely, to be drawn. Therefore, as far as obtaining the services of subalterns is concerned, there is no reason why their aid should not be usefully invoked.
I am not sure that I should go quite so far as the noble Duke when he suggested that, if the deputy-lieutenants do not at the end of a fixed time produce their full quota of subalterns, their commissions should be withdrawn. I picture to myself the pitiable state of mind of the three deputy-lieutenants who are expected by the noble Duke to produce one subaltern amongst them, and who, at the end of the 965 five years period of grace which he allows them, finding themselves unable to produce a suitable candidate are to be themselves sentenced to extinction. That, however, is not an essential portion of the proposal. The case is different as to recruiting the men for the Militia. The lord-lieutenant has no staff which could assist him in organising the county or in drawing recruits from different parts of it.
I admit that the Militia in the past has suffered very greatly from the undue competition to which it has been subjected owing to the practice of taking recruits for the Militia and passing them into the Line, sometimes even before they have actually joined their Militia battalions. That is a matter to which the Secretary of State is giving his earnest attention, and he is in hope of being able to devise some means of avoiding competition of that kind.
As to the general subject, I agree with the noble Earl that, although the change under which the lords-lieutenant were deprived of their functions in respect of the Militia may have had an effect upon the force, it is unfair to attribute to that change the whole of the falling off in its strength. The explanation of that must be sought for in other causes into which I will not now enter. I will only say that His Majesty's Government are fully aware of the necessity of taking some adequate means of arresting this decadence, and that the particular suggestions which have been made by your Lordships during this debate will certainly receive the most attentive consideration.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, I do not wish to prolong this debate, but I should like to be allowed to say a word or two upon the subject of the appointment of subaltern officers. I do not think that the double system that exists at the present can really work well. Somebody must be responsible, either the lord-lieutenant or the commanding officer of the regiment. At present either of them can appoint. I have certainly in my own experience not had any difficulty in the matter, but it has been because, acting upon what I understood to be the view of the War Office, I have hardly ever interfered in the appointment of these officers. But if you want to get 966 the influence of the lord-lieutenant brought forward to secure a large proportion of local officers for the Militia, you must, at least so far as subaltern officers are concerned, revert to the practice by which he was the person who made the selection and recommended the proper persons. No lord-lieutenant would be so foolish as not to consult the commanding officer of the regiment on the subject. I feel that the double system will not work satisfactorily, and that so long as it is in force, in that respect at any rate, no material change will be introduced. You may debate these questions as much as you like, but the discussion will be unavailing and the difficulties will remain until the Militia force knows what His Majesty's Government really intend to do.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.