HL Deb 31 March 1905 vol 144 cc5-6

My Lords, I rise, in accordance with the notice standing in my name on the Paper, to move for a Return of the ages of the men enlisted into the infantry of the Line under the new nine-years regulation up to March 31st, 1905. The object of this Return, which I have reason to believe will be granted by His Majesty's Government, is to secure information as to the effect on the Reserve of the Army of the long-service regulation. This is a serious matter, because the maintenance of a strong and efficient Reserve is necessary to this country, more especially having regard to the defence of India. A simple sum in arithmetic will show very clearly that if you reduce the Reserve service you must diminish the Army Reserve, and, further, if you enlist the same class of recruits as to age as you are enlisting now you will not get any advantages corresponding to the disadvantages you will suffer. Apart from the long-service regulation, you are proposing, as I understand it, to have a short-service system. I do not think it is arguable that a Reserve force composed of men of two years service and no fighting experience at all will be in any way equal to a Reserve force composed of men having had from six to eight years service, and most of them campaigning experience as well. I am not going to pursue this matter further, but I contemplate with some dismay what might happen in years to come in the event of disturbances on our North-Western frontier. If we were in a really difficult position there we should have to send out two Army corps for the purpose of the defence of India composed partly of recruits and partly of Reservists of two years service. I do not think anyone can contemplate that possibility with equanimity. I hope His Majesty's Government will seriously consider this matter. They have had many warnings from competent military and civil authorities, and among the latter I would specially mention Lord Haliburton and Sir Ralph Knox. The noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War took me to task at the conclusion of the debate yesterday because I had not accepted a statement which he made, and which was also made by the noble Marquess the Foreign Secretary, that the other members of the Government were in agreement with their colleague the Secretary of State for War on a certain scheme of Army reform. I confess I do not now know what that scheme is. If the noble Earl will say that the Government are in agreement with their colleague in the scheme in its entirety, which was outlined by him in another place, I will, of course, accept that statement without demur, and only regret the decision of the Government. I move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved, "That an Humble Address be presented to His Majesty for a Return of the ages of the men enlisted into the Infantry of the Line under the new nine-years regulation up to March 31st, 1905." — (The Viscount Hampden.)


My Lords, as regards the last Question which the noble Viscount has asked, I can only refer him again to the speech delivered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs yesterday. I have read that speech since hearing it last night, and I claim that the noble Marquess made it perfectly clear that he and his colleagues support my right hon. friend in the scheme which he has put forward. The other question touched upon by the noble Viscount is a very important one, but in almost every Army in the world two years training is now considered sufficient. We believe that two years training is sufficient for an infantryman. As regards the Motion which the noble Viscount has moved, I shall be very glad to grant him the Return. Of course, he will understand that he has asked for information which, under present arrangements, we have not got at the War Office. We have had to write to recruiting offices for it. Letters calling for this Return were dispatched the day after the noble Viscount put the Motion on the Paper, and as soon as we have collected the information the Return will be laid on the Table.