§ Order of the Day read for resuming the adjourned debate on the Army Order of 23rd December, 1907, and on the following Questions put by the Duke of Bedford—(1) If non-training bounty will be paid to men belonging to the disbanded Militia battalions; (2) If the special Infantry Reserve will be at once equipped in the same manner as the Regular Reserve; (3) If any additional officers will be added to the present establishment of officers serving with the Line in consequence of the posting of Line officers to the third Special Reserve battalions.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I think the most convenient course for me to adopt is to reply, first, to the specific Questions that were addressed to me by the Duke of Bedford, and then to the series of Questions put by Viscount Hardinge and Lord Raglan, before dealing with the Army Order of December 23rd to which the noble Duke referred, and the other speeches that were made in your Lordships' House on Tuesday. The noble Duke asked if non-training bounty will be paid to men belonging to the disbanded Militia battalions. An Army Order of the 5th instant deals with this point, and lays down that those Militiamen who belong to disbanded battalions, and who do not elect to join any of the Special Reserve battalions, will receive the non-training bounties which are payable on 1st October, 1908, 1st December, 1908, and 1st February, 1909, if they are then serving.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I am afraid I cannot do that now. I have a great many quotations to deal with as it is. Next, the noble Duke asked if the Special Infantry Reserve would be at once equipped in the same manner as the Regular Reserve. In reply I may inform him that it is the intention of the Army Council to arm and equip the Special Reserve with the same pattern of rifles and accoutrements as are held ready for the Regular Reserve. No alteration will, however, be made until after the completion of the annual trainings this year. Then the noble Duke asked if any additional officers would be added to the present establishment of officers serving with the Line in consequence of the posting of Line officers to the 3rd Special Reserve battalions. As the number of Regular officers allotted to battalions of the Special Reserve will exceed the number of Regular officers at present allotted to infantry depôts, the Army Council propose to make up the difference by increasing the total establishment of Regular officers. This increase will, of course, be effected gradually, according as each Militia battalion is re-organised into a Special Reserve battalion, so that each Reserve battalion on re-organisation will receive its proper complement of Regular officers.
I now come to the Questions of which private notice was given to me by Viscount Hardinge. First, the noble Lord asked how, as regards senority, the officers of the Special Reserve will rank with the Line officers that are to be attached to each battalion. This is a most delicate and difficult question, and we are fully alive to the importance of this point. It is one to which my noble friend the Duke of Bedford referred in his speech on Tuesday, and it seemed to me that he referred to it with great reasonableness. It is true that paragraph 65 of the Army Order of 23rd December indicates that the present arrangement, as laid down in the Royal Warrant of January, 1895, and embodied in paragraph 3 of the King's Regulations, would remain in force. We, however, fully appreciate the difficulties arising from the present arrangement, and, although it is a matter of some complexity and one upon which I cannot make a definite statement at present, it will be carefully considered, and, I hope, satisfactorily dealt with.
950 My noble friend Lord Hardinge next asked whether, during the non-training period, the command of the battalion was to be as at present under the colonel or under that of the senior attached Line officer. To this the Answer is that during the non-training period the battalion does not exist as such. During this period the senior Line officer will command the permanent staff and the recruits under training. Then Lord Hardinge asked, in the case of a disbanded battalion, what is to happen to the officers of that battalion? In reply to this Question, I have very little to add to what has been already promulgated in paragraphs 72 and 73 of the Special Army Order of 23rd December; the first laying down that officers other than the lieutenant-colonel commanding will, with their own consent, be attached to a remaining Militia battalion of the regiment to which they belong, or they may apply to be attached to a Militia battalion of another regiment whose establishment in officers of the same rank as the applicants is incomplete. In either case they must enter the Special Reserve of officers. When the Militia battalion to which they are attached is converted into a Reserve battalion at the termination of the annual training in 1908, they will be posted to it according to the dates of their original commissions. By paragraph 73 it is arranged that officers not accepting these conditions may, subject to the qualifications that if field officers they must be under fifty-five years of age, and if captains under fifty years of age, join the existing Reserve of officers, or they may retain their commissions.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I should have said resign their commissions. Lord Hardinge also asked on what basis were units selected as extra reserve battalions. The selection of the twenty-seven battalions of Militia to be retained as extra reserve battalions was based on a variety of considerations. In Great Britain battalions were chosen so as to be fairly distributed between commands. In the choice of battalions so distributed military requirements, recruiting facilities, and other matters were gone into. The decision arrived at was based upon the conditions as a whole. I 951 will take the noble Viscount's next two Questions together. He asked—How is it proposed to procure subaltern officers for the Special Reserve battalions, and what is to be the length of the recruits' training of those officers on joining?and—When will the conditions be published regarding the payment of £40 grant to Special Reserve officers on joining, and will they be retrospective?Both of these questions are dealt with in a Royal Warrant which is being prepared and will very shortly be published. It would not be right for me to appear to anticipate the Royal Warrant, but I do not think there can be any objection to my stating that the maximum length of training for recruit officers will ordinarily be one year, but that this period will be liable to reduction when young men are in possession of certain public school or University certificates. We are taking steps to organise the Volunteers corps at public schools and Universities with a special view to their members being trained on lines suitable for the career of officers. Any young man who attains a certain standard of military efficiency will be allowed to become an officer of the Special Reserve without spending a whole year on recruit training. The standard will generally be prescribed by regulation. In February last year the first Report of Sir E. Ward's Committee on the Reserve of Officers was laid on the Table of the House. The general principles embodied in that Report have been adapted to the requirements of the Special Reserve in the matter of officers. The conditions of service, outfit allowance, and the rest will be laid down in detail in the Royal Warrant to which I have referred. With regard to the payment of the £40 grant, by which presumably my noble friend means the outfit allowance referred to in the recent Army Order of 23rd December, it is not proposed to make that grant retrospective. I may, however, say that, should a Militia officer be transferred to another arm of the Service, he will be reimbursed to the extent of any expense entailed by the change of uniform within the £40 limit.
Will that apply to an officer if transferred from a rifle battalion to a red-coat battalion, or rice versa?
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I cannot answer the noble Lord offhand, but perhaps he will communicate his Question to me. The noble Lord also asked whether it was to be understood that no man would be allowed to re-enlist in the Special Reserve over the age of 30. I am not sure whether the noble Lord refers to men who are at present serving in the Militia or to men who, having been recruited under the new system, shall have completed their original period of engagement. If he refers to serving militiamen, they will not be taken for the Special Reserve if they are 48 years-of age or over. If he refers to recruits under the new system, they will enlist in the ordinary way, provided they are between the age of 17 and 30, and may continue to serve by re-engaging (not re-enlisting) until they are 40 years of age, after which they will not be allowed to serve further.
In the absence of the noble Viscount who asked the Question, I desire to state that what my noble friend Lord Hardinge had in mind was the case of old soldiers who are at present allowed to enlist in the Militia over the age of ordinary recruits. I understand that those men will not now be allowed to enlist after the age of 30. That will cut all old soldiers out of the Special Service section.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
That is so. The final Question put to me by Viscount Hardinge was whether authority could be obtained to allow an extra meat ration to be given to weakly recruits on joining on the recommendation of the medical officer. It is no: proposed to increase the present meat ration for weakly recruits. The daily scale as now issued—namely, ¾lb. in barracks and 1lb. under canvas—is considered adequate. The concession recently given to Regular recruits over the age of 18, of drawing the messing allowance of 3d. a day from the date of enlistment instead of after three months service, applies also to recruits of the Special Reserve. This increased emolument would enable the recruit to provide any extra meat ration.
I now come to Lord Raglan's series of Questions, which arrived this morning. The noble Lord desires to know what is 953 to be the future training of the Artillery of the Special section. The Answer is, six months' drill on enlistment, and 15 days annual training, including two days gun practice. On that point I would refer the noble Lord to Appendix 8 of the Special Army Order of 23rd December last; but if by training he means drill, I would refer him to the Syllabus issued with that Army Order. Next the noble Lord asked, What units will they be trained in? They will do their six months recruits' training with the Field Artillery brigades, as shown in Appendix 2 of the Army Order of 23rd December being attached to the existing Royal Garrison Artillery Militia units. For this year, if they have finished their six months recruits' training before the annual training, they will do their annual training with the training brigade. When the Royal Garrison Artillery units have become Field Artillery Reserve units, their men will train with the unit which will be trained in the training brigade. Here I would refer the noble Lord to paragraph 11 of the special Army Order of 23rd December.
"What officers will they have?" is the third Question. The establishment of officers is not yet laid down. It is not at present known what Royal Garrison Artillery Militia units will elect to become Field Artillery Reserve units, or whether existing Royal Garrison Artillery Militia units will be able to recruit men for Field Artillery. Next the noble Lord asked, how will they be provided with horses for training? As the corps, after assembling at their headquarters, join the training brigade the horses of the training brigade will be utilised. That, my Lords, disposes of the Question, and I thought it well to clear off the Answers to those Questions before attempting to deal with the debate that was raised by the Duke of Bedford on Tuesday. In that debate Lord Raglan said that last year or the year before the submarine mining section of the Engineers was abolished, and he went on to say, laying great stress upon this that the effect had been that, whereas he had previously obtained for his regiment seventy or eighty recruits from Swansea, last year he did not get one.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The Times reports the noble Lord as saying that last year he did not get one. At any rate, he got a very small number. As a matter of fact, the submarine mining section of the Engineers have not been abolished. The service has been transferred to the Admiralty.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I must differ from my noble friend. They are transferred to the Admiralty. It is obvious that in seafaring places like Swansea submarine mining recruits would be attracted more to the Navy than to the Army. Speaking of the Engineers, the noble Lord went on to say that, according to the proposals laid down in the new Orders, there would be only fifteen days training, and that this, too, would leave no time for musketry. He also said that there always had been a school of soldiers who had been anxious that Engineers should not shoot.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
He added that he did not know why, because he believed that in South Africa the Engineers fired more rounds than any other arm. These men to whom the noble Lord referred—Militia Engineers—will be principally employed on siege and railway companies, and their functions therefore, appear to us to be very different from those of the combatant infantry. That is the reason why they have not got the same time allotted for musketry.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The noble Lord went on to say that he had the gravest doubt of men coming out for six months training.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
Of course, that is, and can only be, a question of opinion. We believe—we may be wrong—that on the whole employers prefer six months preliminary training 955 for young men between, say the ages of seventeen and eighteen, to a longer annual training after they have settled down to their trades. Our proposal is six months initial and fifteen days annual, as compared with six weeks initial and four weeks annual.
The Militia Engineers do nine weeks preliminary, and seven or eight weeks annual. Let us have it right.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
It is perfectly right as I stated it, but, in the case of Engineers and special technical corps, the period of training is enlarged. Touching the suggestion of Lord Bathurst that we should express our appreciation of the services of the officers and men of the disbanded battalions, I can assure my noble friend that this matter will not escape our attention. An Army Order, perhaps, is not the most convenient or suitable medium for an expression of thanks, but the matter is receiving the personal attention of the Secretary of State, who, I have no doubt, would take the best means of expressing the appreciation of the War Office.
I now come to the speech of the Duke of Bedford, who, if I may be allowed to say so, was not so perfectly fair and judicial in his criticism of the Army Order as is usual with the noble Duke in his dealings with Army matters. The noble Duke, in one of his remarks, seemed to imply—I know he did not mean it—a breach of faith on my part touching the disbandment of certain Militia battalions. The noble Duke made use of these words—The Government promised that Part III. of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill should not apply to the Militia until after the next training, but made no mention then of their intention to disband twenty-three battalions and then apply Tart III. of the Bill to them at once, before their annual training.I would refer your Lordships to a statement I made in this House on July 18th last year, when, speaking as Minister in charge of the Bill, I said—If the Government were to give an undertaking on this matter it must be on the understanding that this proposal "—I was speaking of the proposal of a moratorium—only applied to the 101 battalions which we propose to transfer to the Special Contingent.956 I made it perfectly clear at the time, and I do not see how the period of extension could reasonably be made to apply to battalions which were not going to form part of the Special Contingent, and which were superfluous as units to our scheme.
§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
If there has been any misunderstanding it arises on the difference between amalgamation and disbandment. We understood at that time that the proposal of the Government was not to disband but to amalgamate weak batalions and so reduce the number to 101.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I do not wish to enter into controversy with the noble Duke, as I am sure he did not mean to imply that there was any breach of faith on my part. I think it is important, as the noble Duke criticised this Army Order in great detail, that I should deal with the points as they were raised, and I think I shall be able to show that on many of them he was speaking under very serious misapprehension. With regard to the noble Duke's criticisms on the Army Order of February 15th, I have to say that a man who decides to remain a militiaman will receive the non-training bounties even if he does not train as a militiaman this year. Therefore the men of the disbanded battalions who do not transfer to the Special Reserve, or do not take their discharge immediately, will receive the non-training bounties.
The noble Duke went on to say, that the officers of the Special Reserve under thirty-five years of age were to receive £20 a year, in consideration of which they were not allowed to resign their commissions until the expiration of the whole year, for which they had received this retaining fee. It is true that these officers undertake liability for each year's service, which they may, or may not renew independently of the fee. The fee is only paid on the completion of each year's service and not at the beginning. That is expressly laid down in Paragraph 67 of the Army Order of December 23rd. Speaking of the Special Reserve, the noble Duke said—With regard to the chance of seeing active service, it is quite clear that the Special Reserve officer will see very little of that. It is manifest that his lot will be to take drafts of Special Reservists to foreign garrisons. That will be his use.957 I should like to remind your Lordships of language which I used when the Act was passing through Committee in your Lordships' House. I then said—on July 8th—that as far as practicable, subject, of course, to the supreme necessities of war, when the men of the 3rd and 4th battalions were ordered abroad on active service their own officers should go with them. The great object of the Special Reserve is to supply wastage in war, and I do not know any reason—there is no reason—why they are not as likely to be sent to the seat of war as to foreign garrisons. My noble friend has never out of his mind this question of drafting. I have referred to my own statement in July last as showing what I may say is the honest intention and desire of the Army Council and of the War Office. We do not want to separate these men from their Territorial regiment or from their officers, and, while I dislike very much giving any guarantees, I am prepared, in order to clear up a considerable amount of misapprehension on the subject, to say that serving Militiamen who transfer to the Special Reserve will not be drafted to any battalion other than those of their own Territorial regiment whilst serving to complete the term of their original engagement in the Militia. If they re-engage whilst serving with the Special Reserve, they will on taking their new engagement become liable to serve in any other unit of the same arm.
I now come to the messing allowance, on which the noble Duke made a considerable amount of play, producing much merriment among noble Lords sitting round him. My noble friend, with great ingenuity, made out that in this matter the War Office was inspired by a rather mean spirit. The War Office, we know, is from time to time said to be guilty of every error and every crime, but in this case I think the noble Duke has, no doubt unintentionally, used the figures rather unfairly. The noble Duke said—The threepence a day messing allowance is stopped, in addition to a stoppage of seven-pence a day if the Special Reservist is in hospital. Suppose he breaks his leg playing football he is stopped tenpence a day. He could not be charged any more, because that is practically the whole of his day's pay. The note continues, If, however, he is admitted into the hospital suffering from injuries received during drill or manœuvre he is granted free hospital treatment. If through injuries received in the performance of ordinary military 958 duty half stoppage, 3½d. only is enforced.' Yes, but at the same time his messing allowance of 3d. a day is stopped, so that he loses 6½d. out of his day's pay. So much for free medical attendance.What are the real facts? The messing allowance of 3d. a day is entirely outside and in addition to the daily pay of 1s. It is an allowance to supplement his ordinary rations. Obviously when in hospital, with a different dietary, and his food absolutely free, he would not want this messing allowance. The noble Duke said that if the Special Reservist broke his leg playing football he would be stopped 10d. a day, and he implied that this would only leave him 2d. The fact is, he will be treated in the same way as the Regular soldier. I do not know how we could justify in Parliament a system by which we paid a man the extra 3d. a day messing allowance when he was in hospital and had his food completely free. It would be an exact analogy if one of your Lordship's servants, at a time when he had a free run of your kitchen, were to be in receipt of board wages as well.
The noble Duke further complained that, whereas a Militiaman used to be able to purchase his discharge for £1, the Special Reserve man will in future have to pay £3. But the Special Reservist is paid and clothed and fed for six months at the public expense, and on the completion of six months he gets a bounty of 30s. It is obvious, therefore, that we could not allow him to buy his discharge for £1, or a man would come in, get his food for six months, take his bounty of 30s., and at once buy his discharge. Why should not the same class of youths who have in the past made the Militia a stepping-stone to the Regular Army make the Special Reserve a stepping - stone also? There is no reason whatever why they should not.
Then the noble Duke, criticising this Army Order, said—Men now serving in the Militia will be offered £2 to transfer to the Special Reserve, but on transferring they will not be allowed to join the Army for one year. The result is obvious. Toe flow from the Militia to the Army will be checked for twelve months.In regard to that, I would point out that a Militiaman who becomes a Special Reservist will be allowed to join the Regular Army, but if he does so within a year he must refund the bounty. After 959 a year he can join without forfeiting the bounty. That seems to be a perfectly fair and reasonable proposal.
But perhaps the most important criticism of the Duke of Bedford, because it more vitally affects the whole Army scheme, is the relation of the Special Reserve to the Line on mobilisation. The noble Duke said that on the outbreak of war we must deduct, first, the men leaving the Special Reserve to enlist with the colours; secondly, men under twenty and too young for foreign service; and, thirdly, men medically unfit for foreign service. As to the first point, I would remind the noble Duke that, by the Royal Proclamation calling out the Reserve, these Special Reservists automatically become part of the Regular Army. There is no question, therefore, of their enlisting to serve with the colours. As to the second point, the noble Duke said—If enlistment is to begin at seventeen and under, not more than one-third will be twenty years of age.But the Army order lays down seventeen as the minimum, and as Special Reservists will be the same age as Militiamen, the noble Duke grossly exaggerated when he said not more than a third would be over twenty years. The last public return of the British Army shows that out of 68,000 Militia infantry only 18,100 were under twenty years of age, so that more than two thirds were over that age. Those are remarkable figures, because they prove the exact contrary to what the noble Duke stated to your Lordships, and I should very much like to know upon what calculation the noble Duke made that statement.
How many of these men were over thirty years of age, and, therefore, men who will not be in the future Special section at all?
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I am afraid I have not the figures to enable me to answer that Question. Next the noble Duke deducted 20 percent. for men medically unfit. But the recruiting and organisation authorities at the War Office maintain that it will not exceed 13 per cent. Then, in consequence rather of arguments of this kind the noble Duke contended that the ample Reserve maintained by the 960 late Government would now be allowed to run out and would not be adequately refilled.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The noble Viscount cheers that statement. It is quite true that we have reverted to the system of seven and five years which existed at the outbreak of the South African war, under which the Regular Reservists sufficed to bring the Regular battalions up to war strength, but did not provide for wastage in war. Lord Midleton changed the system to three years with the colours and nine years in the Reserve, which certainly tended to create a much larger Reserve. But the noble Viscount was succeeded by Mr. Arnold-Forster, who discontinued the system, thereby indicating that the three and nine, which was found extremely difficult on account of drafts for India, was not necessary to secure the Reserve for the Regular Army.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
In the speech of Mr. Arnold-Forster, in which the three and nine was for a time abandoned, you will find that Mr. Arnold-Forster definitely declared it was impossible to continue the British Army on seven and five, or eight and four, and said it was intended to have a large number of men recruited for two years with ten in the Reserve.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
At any rate, Mr. Arnold-Forster never gave effect to that intention. The Duke of Bedford, speaking of the class of men we are going to get in the Special Reserve as almost a parody of an efficient soldier, compared the cost of a Section A man of the Army Reserve with the cost of the Special Reservist just joined. He said that, while the Army Reserve man cost only £18 5s. per annum, the cost of these inferior Special Reservists would be £19 2s. 6d. The Section A man is a first-class soldier, but he is the result in some, cases of seven years, and in other cases of a less though a considerable number of years, of colour service; and during the whole time he has been in the Army he has been costing the country about £57 a year. The £19 2s. 6d. referred by the noble Duke as to the cost of the Special Reserve man is what he will cost 961 the country in his first year of six months initial training, and not his average annual cost over his period of service. I submit that to make a proper comparison the average annual cost of each man over his period of service should be taken. The publicity that has attached to the criticisms of the noble Duke has made it necessary that I should deal with them in detail and that I should be able to show, as I think I have, that in a great number of cases the noble Duke has rather miscalculated the effect of what it is proposed to do and what is being done. It seems to be thought that the Special Reserve will be no more than a phantom.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
Well, that is a matter of opinion, and I would like to give some figures with regard to recruiting. Recruiting for the Special Reserve began on January 16, and since then 2,351 recruits have joined. That is eminently satisfactory; but as regards the men of the disbanded Militia battalions, of those who have replied to a letter asking them whether they will become Special Reservists or remain Militiamen or take a free discharge, 60 per cent. have offered to join the Special Reserve.
§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
Is the noble Earl perfectly certain that these men knew their full liabilities?
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
In my opinion there is no doubt about that. I probably take a higher view of the intelligence of these men than the noble Duke does. I have quoted these figures because in my opinion they are more eloquent than words, and I think they show that the Act is going forward and promises to be a great working success.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships must be grateful to the noble Earl for the very detailed reply he has attempted to give to my noble friends who sit behind me. As I listened to the noble Earl, I could not help regretting that the practice does not prevail in your Lordships' House which is to be found in another place, where Questions in respect of such details as we have been dealing with are 962 put and answered separately rather than in the bulk. I cannot help thinking that, if such a practice prevailed, the noble Earl himself would have found it easier to deal with the details of the Questions put to him. He would have recognised that many of his Answers were not quite complete, and if it had been possible to put Supplementary Questions "arising out of the Answer which has been given"—the recognised form in another place—I think the noble Earl would have had an opportunity of amending his Answers in a way more satisfactory to your Lordships.
I take, for example, the Answer to a Question as to the promise given that officers who were transferred from one arm of the Service to another should have a grant made to them in respect of the expenditure upon the change of uniform. Upon being pressed, it appeared that the noble Lord the Under-Secretary had not really realised what was the import of his Answer, because, although apparently a grant was to be made in respect of uniform, that did not apply if the change was from a red coat to a green coat. I am sure the noble Earl did not mean that. He must have meant that if a grant is to be made in respect of change of uniform, it would be of universal application. The truth is, I thought the noble Earl was almost cumbered with the mass of papers with which he was dealing, and that there were, perhaps, moments when the hard-worked secretary who assists him had forgotten to correct quite accurately the typewritten copy which was submitted to the noble. Earl.
I will try and indicate to the noble Earl some points on which, I think, he hardly satisfied your Lordships as to the completeness of the Answer. There was, for instance, an important Question, as to the relative seniority of officers on a Militia engagement and Regular officers attached, which was put by Lord Raglan. The noble Earl hardly attempted to answer that Question, the upshot of his reply being that it was still under consideration. Then there was the question of free food—not in the ordinary connection of those words, as we know them in modern political controversy, but as applied 963 to recruits. There the noble Earl, I think, misunderstood the Question of my noble friend the noble Duke. The noble Earl said the messing allowance was separate from the pay. That is, no doubt, true as regards the greater part of the soldier's service, but it is not true with regard to the recruit. To say that the man receives 1s. a day and free food is not accurate with regard to the recruit. He receives 1s. a day, less the messing allowance.
In my opinion the noble Duke, if I may say so with great respect, was quite right in dwelling upon these things, because there is an unwholesome tradition, I am afraid, attaching to documents put forward from the War Office to enlist recruits, that they are not severely accurate, and nothing has cast more discredit on the whole process of recruiting in this country than that the recruit should find, after he is enlisted, and is unable any longer to choose for himself, that he has been misled as to the precise terms of the remuneration he was to receive. Then there was the question—a very important question—as to the man's capacity to buy his discharge. I did not follow the noble Earl's answer, but I did follow my noble friend's charge. The noble Duke alleged that a Special Reservist—I am not sure whether it was the general case of a Special Reservist, or of a man who had hitherto been in the Militia—could not secure his discharge under a payment of £6. I do not think the noble Earl met that in any detail, or in a way satisfactory to your Lordships. That, again, is a very important point, because one of the inducements held out to a Militiaman to enlist has always been that if he is dissatisfied, he can, at a comparatively cheap cost, recover his freedom. That has always acted as a great inducement to recruiting, and if it has been changed, either advisedly or inadvertently, so that henceforward a man, instead of paying a moderate sum, will have to find £6 in order to get his discharge, then I say the War Office has struck a severe blow at recruiting.
There is another important point on which I think the noble Earl entirely misunderstood my noble friend. The 964 noble Duke pointed out that, as a result of the changes which had been made, henceforward a number of recruits would be admitted, not to the Special Reserve, but to the Regular Army, under eighteen years of age. That depends upon these circumstances. A man may enlist in the Militia Reserve at seventeen; after six months drill, whether he is eighteen or not, he may elect to be transferred to the Regular Army. That is a great and important change, because a man is not considered fit to go abroad until he has reached the age of twenty; and, therefore, if the War Office have by this indirect method reduced the age at which men can join the Army, they have, to that extent, interfered with the full complement of men who can be sent abroad.
There were other points. There was the case of the unfortunate men who belong to the disbanded battalions. In that case the first idea appears to have been that they were not to receive any bounty for the current year. Then a Supplementary Army Order was issued to say that they should receive the non-training bounty for the current year; and the noble Earl quoted this amended Order, with great satisfaction to himself, and I suppose, to the Government, as disposing of the contention of my noble friend. But I asked him to continue the quotation, and if he had found, among the rather voluminous documents before him, this little one, he would have been able to read to the House, this concluding sentence—The training bounty for 1908 will, however, only be payable to Militiamen attending the current year's training.Therefore, in order for Militiamen in these disbanded battalions to take advantage of this Order they must attend the training for the current year; but we find that, by another Army Order, they are not to be allowed to attend any training in the current year. I have no doubt that is an inadvertence on the part of the War Office, but the noble Earl will, I think, admit that he has not really disposed of my noble friend's point.
Then there was the question of the position of the officers of the disbanded battalions. They, as I understand, are 965 to be attached to the remaining battalion of the regimental strict. The mind quails before the picture of these multitudinous officers all attached to one battalion, and at the thought of what work there will be found for them to do. What are you to do with twice the proper number of captains and twice the proper number of subalterns? Has that little difficulty occurred to the War Office, or do they intend that they should be unemployed until they can be absorbed? That is another little question which I offer for the consideration of the noble Earl and his advisers. The noble Earl told us, in great detail, how new officers were to be appointed, how they were to serve in cadet corps, and, after a certain period, to be considered eligible as officers for the Special Reserve. I have no objection to that system. It is experimental, however, and it may not work. I should have liked the noble Earl to have supplemented his Answer by telling us what they are going to do in the meantime while these young officers are maturing for service. How is the Special Reserve to be officered?
Lastly, there was the Question, put to the noble Earl in the course of his speech by Lord Raglan, as to what regulations were to be made with regard to the enlistment of old soldiers in the Special Service. That apeared to me to be a very important point. The War Office seem to have arrived at the decision that no man is to be enlisted in the Special Reserve after the age of thirty. By such a decision the War Office will exclude all old soldiers who might be willing to enlist, and whose service, I venture to say, would be most useful in strengthening the Special Reserve.
In considering the working of this new Act, I ask myself what was the object of the Government in establishing the Special Reserve, and, indeed, in all the military changes which this Act has brought about? I think the Government realised, and realised to the full, that they were dealing with a voluntary service. I say the Government realised it, but I very much doubt whether their military advisers did. The Government were perfectly right, as I ventured to say to your Lordships several times last year, in desiring to 966 increase the military resources at the service of the country, but those resources must be increased with due regard to the voluntary character of our Amy. Unless they can carry public opinion with them, unless they can enlist the hearty, sincere, and full cooperation of all concerned, the experiment will not succeed; and the course of the debate two nights ago showed that the Government have failed to make their scheme popular with my noble and gallant friends who then addressed your Lordships. That is a very important failure on their part, because, unless the Government can command the support of the officers commanding the Militia battalions in this country—and I have, no doubt, my noble friends who addressed you fully represent the views of other Militia commanding officers—their experiment is bound to fail. Therefore, I think they ought to consider most carefully the case which the noble Duke made, to see if they cannot, in some way, meet him and the other noble and gallant Lords who have addressed your Lordships and convince them that the Government intend to study the susceptibilities and interests of the officers and men of the Force to the fullest extent possible. The main effect of the speech of my noble friend the noble Duke was this. He showed that the advantage which the Government expected to get from this new scheme might easily be very much exaggerated. The noble Earl said, in the course of his speech, that my noble friend underrated the number of Special Reservists who would be capable of going abroad and performing the draft-producing function which the Government intended for them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I meant that. The noble Duke had, said the noble Earl, exaggerated the number of men who would be unavailable for the purpose of going abroad. It is possible he may have exaggerated a little. But what else do the Government gain by their new system? They gain a rather elaborate machinery for the absorption of 967 those soldiers of the Regular Army who are unfit to go abroad, and of those who are returned sick or wounded from active service. I do not attach a great deal of importance to this machinery. My impression is that when a great effort has to be made by this country most of that machinery will disappear. The Special Reserve cadres will be used very freely in order to increase the number of battalions in the field, and we shall probably be brought back to the position in which this country so often finds itself, when we have to create new machinery on the spur of the moment. That is what I expect will happen, and if you set against your plan the amount of friction and unpopularity which the system bids fair to produce among the officers of the Militia, you will find you have made an exceedingly bad bargain. Therefore, my Lords, I would urge the Government, in every way in their power, to study the suggestions which my noble friends have put before them, with a view to endeavouring to meet them if they possibly can.
Have the Government tried to make the great changes produced by this Act as smooth as possible? I do not think they have. Take the question of the disbandment of the twenty-three battalions. I noticed that the noble Earl hardly dealt with that subject in his reply just now. Take the case of Lord Bathurst. My noble friend commands, as I understand, a very efficient battalion; yet that battalion is disbanded. I do not make any charge of breach of faith against the Government, but I do say this, that the general impression last year certainly was that the disbandment of certain Militia battalions was called for by their inadequacy and their inefficiency. It was said, No doubt the Militia service has great traditions; no doubt most of the Militia battalions are very creditable, but there are certain Militia battalions which no one can defend. Those of us who are not familiar with every battalion in the Service bowed our heads and said that may be, and that no doubt the Government were well advised in putting an end to battalions no longer capable of performing efficient service; and we imagined, perhaps rashly, that the twenty-three condemned battalions had been justly condemned.
968 But when this Act comes to be worked we find that that is not the case, and that battalions against whom nobody can say a word—on the contrary, which have received high praise from the Regular officers in authority over them—are to be disbanded, all their traditions put an end to, and all their susceptibilities trampled upon. Why was that done? I think it a most profound mistake. I cannot understand why the Government, who must have been conscious of the inherent difficulties in all great changes, should have added to them by what is apparently a very great injustice. I know the reason put forward in the case of my noble friend Lord Bathurst's battalion. It is said that though he commands a very good battalion, yet his headquarters are not at the depot, and that, therefore, the linked battalion whose headquarters are at the depot was preferred to his. That battalion was retained, and Lord Bathurst's was disbanded. But it so happens that the battalion at the depot was the bad battalion, and his the good battalion. Yet so wooden are the War Office, so utterly unable to distinguish the substance from the form of their regulations, that they allowed this good battalion to be dismissed and retained the bad one in order to conform to some idea of symmetry which is dear to the official mind.
That is one complaint I have to make. But I ask myself, What is the genesis of the number of battalions dismissed and retained which the Government have adopted. Why have they fixed upon twenty-three to be disbanded, and what value is there in the number 101 that they should have said that 101 battalions are to be retained upon the establishment? I understand, of course, why the seventy-four third battalions are retained, that is one for every two Regular battalions; but, with regard to the balance, the twenty-seven extra special battalions, why was the number twenty-seven selected. The conclusion we arrived at was that they were the only efficient battalions left; but it now turns out that that is not the case. I think the Government would have been better advised if they had adopted some defensible position. One of the contentions I ventured last year to urge on the Government was this, that they should 969 abolish the two categories of Special Reserve battalions, and have only one category; that instead of having third battalions which should have one function, and fourth battalions which should have another, they should have only one class of Special Reserve battalions with duties and liabilities precisely the same. I urged that on the Government, and thought I had prevailed. I did not imagine that my eloquence had achieved that result, but I flattered myself that the inherent reasonableness of my argument had converted the Government. But I am sorry to say that turns out not to be the case. I am not sure whether the noble Earl has refreshed his memory as to the assurance he gave to your Lordships last year, but he did tell us that, with regard to the establishment and numbers of third and fourth infantry battalions, there would be equality, and that both the third and fourth battalions would have a chance of being used for units in war as well as supplying drafts. I concluded from that that there was to be no longer any difference, but it appears that that is not the case. I find that there is a difference in the establishment of officers and in the functions intended for the two sets of officers. I think that a profound mistake; and, apart from any personal consideration, I think it invidious that some battalions should be selected and told they are fit to go abroad as units the moment war has begun, but that other battalions should be told that they are not fit and must remain behind and produce drafts. It would have been far better to have treated them on the same footing, to have given both an equal opportunity of serving as units in the field.
Then let me say a word as to drafting. The noble Earl has correctly quoted the assurance which he gave last year in respect to drafting. I hope the Government are bearing in mind that assurance, namely, that, so far as might be practicable, when these men are ordered abroad, they should go under their own officers. I say I hope they are bearing in mind, because I can find no trace of that assurance in any of the Papers, Army Orders, leaflets, and posters, that have come under my notice. I may have missed one, and therefore I do not state 970 it absolutely, but so far as they have come under my notice, there is no trace of that assurance. I would ask the noble Earl how he proposes to carry out that pledge, because upon that I lay the greatest stress. For my own part, nothing would have induced me to give so favourable a reception to the Bill last year if the noble Earl had not given that pledge to the House. If the words are left in the Order as they appear now, it will act as a great deterrent to existing Militiamen to transfer, and, I think, to future Special Reservists to enlist. Moreover, it would be a breach of faith on the part of the Government to your Lordships House.
I do not anticipate that there will be any such breach of faith. But let the noble Earl remember that towards the close of next training, in the month of June, it will be the duty of the noble Duke and other Militia officers in this House, and of myself, to try and induce those who serve under our command to transfer. We shall tell them the truth, the absolute truth; we shall not go a hair's breadth further than we have authority from the Government to go; and unless we are able to tell them, being absolutely convinced in our own mind that we are giving a pledge which will be fulfilled, that if they go abroad they will go with their own officers, we shall not be able to do anything to help you. Nothing would induce me to deceive the men under my command in that respect. Therefore, I ask the noble Earl to produce, before the time comes, the terms which, upon the good faith of the Government, we may offer to the men in respect of going abroad under their own officers. That is all I have to say with regard to the men.
I now come to the officers. There is the position of the commanding officer in the non-training period. The noble Earl has just told us that he will have no position. That is his position, technically, now in the Militia. He has no authority except during the training; but, disagreeable as that has been, the new state of things will increase its disagreeable character. Formerly, the preliminary drill was comparatively short, and the annual training comparatively long, and, if the commanding 971 officer had no authority during the preliminary drill, he had authority during the annual training, and his disability was not felt anything like so greatly as it will be under the new state of things, because the preliminary is to be six months and the annual training only three weeks. Therefore, I think the Government would be well advised to reconsider the position of the commanding officer in the non-training period, and to give him authority then as during the training period.
Then there is the question of relative seniority of Regular officers and Militia officers serving in the same battalion with which the noble Earl dealt, but upon which he gave us no assurance whatever. I hope that which has been suggested by my noble friend will be adopted, and that these officers will rank, not first all Regular officers and second all Militia officers, but according to the seniority of their commissions, whether Regular or Militia. There was one point on which the noble Earl did not touch—the power of an officer to resign his commission. That was pressed upon the Under-Secretary by the noble Duke. As I understand, the Special Reserve officer, under the rank of field officer, is in this peculiar position, that, unlike the Volunteer or Regular officer, he cannot resign his commission until the close of the year's service in which he happens to be. That might act as a great disability and inconvenience to a gentleman holding a Militia officer's commission. He might receive a favourable offer to serve, either the Government or some private enterprise, abroad, and might be unable to accept it because he could not resign his commission. We should have been glad to receive an assurance from the Government that in all reasonable circumstances, the Special Reserve officer, like every other officer, would be able to resign his commission, except, of course, in time of war. I hope this suggestion will receive favourable consideration at the hands of the Government.
I hope they will not regard it as an impertinence, but I do not think they could be better advised than to ask some of the Militia commanding officers to consult with them as to the propriety 972 of these mitigations in the severity of the operations of the Act to which I have referred. If the noble Earl or his advisers at the War Office could meet some of the leading Militia officers and avail themselves of their practical experience, I think they would do a great deal to promote the success of their plan. I hope for the success of their plan. I do so on the purest patriotic grounds. We may not all of us have approved of the new system; but now it has been established, it is our duty to do our utmost to make it succeed, and we ask the Government to give us every facility so that we may make it succeed. We ask them to use our practical knowledge and personal experience, and to accept our advice as to how it can best be made to succeed; and if they do that, they will do more for the success of their plan and the defence of the country than any number of Army Orders such as the one which has been the subject of to-night's and of Tuesday's discussion.
§ LORD ABINGER
My Lords, I cannot regard the explanation of the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War with respect to the position of Militia officers in the Special Reserve battalions as entirely satisfactory, because officers who have served for fifteen years or more in the Militia will find themselves junior to much younger Line officers. The noble Earl has said that this is an exceedingly difficult and delicate question, and that it shall receive the attention of His Majesty's Government. May I ask that it shall receive very careful attention, because if these Line officers are brought in as senior to the Militia officers you will not retain the Militia officers. I cannot admit that the speech of the noble Duke contained, from the point of view of the Militia officer, any exaggeration at all, and I am sorry to say that the impression left on our minds by the new regulations is that the senior Militia officers are no longer wanted. In answer to the Question whether the senior Line officer or the colonel of the battalion would command in the non-training period, the noble Earl stated that the senior Line officer would be in command of the permanent staff, but that during the non-training period the battalion ceased 973 to exist. In Paragraph 23 of the Army Order it is said that these battalions "thus will become in the fullest extent training battalions." Yet we are now given to understand by the noble Earl that during the non-training period these third Reserve battalions are nonexistent. I wish to say a word as to how the Militia officers feel with regard to this scheme. It is only in your Lordships House, and occasionally—very occasionally—in the Commons House of Parliament, that we are able to discuss this scheme at all. If we discuss these matters outside, we are threatened with the pains and penalties of the Service. I think, sometimes, that those who are responsible for the scheme feel that anybody who dares to criticise it is a deadly enemy of the scheme. I had the temerity in June to recommend to the Army Council that they should trust us a little. Perhaps that was rather bold on my part, but I cannot help entertaining the feeling that they do not trust us. We should like a fuller measure of confidence, and to be allowed to explain to them a question which is entirely one for the men themselves. I have nothing further to say on the subject, but I should like to have clearer answers on the point to which I have referred.
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed, very briefly, to state what I believe is the answer to one or two of the questions raised since my noble friend spoke. First of all, there is the question of the pay of the new Special Reservist. It seems a very hard thing to meet the criticisms of all one's critics. The Government were attacked earlier this afternoon for the extreme explicitness with which they had drawn up the attestation form of the Territorial Force; they are now taken to task on the opposite ground, for veiling their intentions with regard to the Special Reserve. The document to which exception has been particularly taken to-day was the leaflet which gives in detail the pay the Special Reservist is going to receive, and certainly I should 974 have thought it difficult to have a more explicit document. In the first place, it is set forth in bold type that, on enlistment, the infantry recruit's weekly pay amounts to 7s. It is then stated that, when he is eighteen years of age, he gets the 3d. which brings his weekly pay up to 8s. 9d. It then sets out, in full, the total amounts which are deducted in stoppages—in the case of an Infantry private, 2s. a week. Therefore you have the whole of the particulars fully set forth, and I think greater clearness almost an impossibility. Then there was the question of the bounty. I think the noble Duke, in his speech the other day, gave it as his interpretation of the new regulations that the Militiaman who does not transfer into the Special Reserve and does not take his discharge but remains a Militiaman will not draw any of the bounty.
§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I said that that was so under the Army Order of 23rd December, but that an Order was subsequently issued under which he did receive the bounty, provided he trained as a Militiaman, and that that created a difficulty with regard to the disbanded battalions.
I do not think the subsequent Order can be construed in that light, when it is read in conjunction with the notice sent to the disbanded battalions, in which they are given the alternative of remaining in the Militia until their term of service expires. In that notice they are told they would not be called out for training, but would remain liable for embodiment in time of emergency. Therefore the Militiaman who remains in the Militia cannot say he has not been warned that he will not be called out, and he will not for that reason get the training bounty, but will get the three non-training bounties of £1 each. Then there was the question as to the age at which Special Reservists are to be allowed to enlist in the Army. The Army Order of 23rd December lays down that a Special Reservist who is under the age of 975 eighteen may enlist in the Army at the end of his six months preliminary training as a Special Reservist—that is to say, you cannot possibly have a lad enlisting into the Army under the age of seventeen and a half, and he may be anything over that. Up to that point it is a new departure; but what I believe influenced the Army Council was the fact that, after all, the lad would have had six months continuous training, and at that time would be as good a soldier, physically, as the ordinary lad who is able to enlist at the age of eighteen. As to the question of the officer not being allowed to resign his commission, I do not think that any officer is likely to be compelled to remain in the Special Reserve longer than he wishes; but if he does wish to resign, he may be called upon to refund the £20 he receives as an annual bounty. I am sure there is no intention of keeping him against his will until he has completed his year. That, I think, answers most of the points. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, indulged in prophecy. He asked what use the new scheme was, and gave it as his opinion that the whole thing would break down in time of stress. There is no machinery that will not break down if you deliberately misuse it. But the merit of this new scheme, which entails the entire reorganisation of the Militia, and, to a certain extent, the breaking up of that great force, is that for the first time in the military history of the country that which every military authority agrees is essential will be supplied—namely, a special, definite machinery for the training at home of the men who are to be sent out to keep the Army in the field up to the required strength. Is it not infinitely better to keep the veteran cadres in the field up to the strength by that system rather than to send out raw cadres? Here you have for the first time machinery for training men, and unless you deliberately send out your training machinery to the front where it is not intended to go, you will avoid confusion and breakdown. That is the justification for the change which the Militia is being asked to undergo.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-part Ten o'clock.