HL Deb 27 July 1908 vol 193 cc725-7

rose to call attention to the War Office Circular of 20th November, 1907; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, my second Question demands two minutes of explanation. It refers to a circular from the War Office with reference to the appointment of deputy-lieutenants. It is to this effect— A commission as deputy-lieutenant should only be given to a person who possesses the qualification, in addition to such as are laid down in the Militia Act, of having either held a commission in one of His Majesty's forces for not less than ten years, or of having rendered eminent service in connection with the Association formed in his own county under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act. 1907. The subject of deputy-lieutenancies has received a great deal of attention of late years from the War Office. I think the age was first raised, and then their number was limited. Those improvements—for I regard them as such—I heartily welcomed; but I must say that I think this new restriction imposes a very great limitation upon the selection of deputy lieutenants, and may, in fact, if I do not misread it, put an end to the appointment of deputy-lieutenants for a very considerable time. The Militia Act of 1882, which I had occasion to look up in connection with this matter, imposes a very considerable number of limitations upon the appointment of deputy-lieutenants already, chiefly those relating to property; but if this new one is added, that persons to be appointed should have held His Majesty's Commission or should have rendered services in connect ion with the Territorial Force, it will be found difficult for some years to come to get any deputy-lieutenants at all. I wish to point out to my noble friend that the uses of deputy-lieutenants, which may be as vague to some candid minds as those of an archdeacon, are not entirely limited to military duties. It is quite true that they were utilised in connection with the Militia; but in the Militia Act itself it is stated that three deputy-lieutenants might act for the Lord-Lieutenant in his absence, which means, I suppose, that they may recommend to the magistracy and so forth—duties which do not obviously require military training. There is another point to which I desire to call attention. Deputy-lieutenancies have been purely honorary offices. They have been the only means by which a Lord-Lieutenant could reward public services rendered in a locality. I do not care to cite my own course in that matter; but I have always observed the strict rule not to give a deputy-lieutenancy to anyone who had not rendered such public service. As a result the number of my deputy-lieutenants has become extremely small, but under this War Office Circular they threaten to become extinct. I do not make these remarks in any hostile spirit, because I regard the circular as having; been hastily issued as one of many means of promoting the interests of the Territorial Force. I only ask that the Secretary of State for War should give his attention further to this matter, and that the appointments should not be limited to purely military persons or persons who have rendered services to the County Associations, but that some scope should be given to a Lord-Lieutenant to give to persons who have rendered local service the only reward which a Lord-Lieutenant can give.


My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words with regard to the original cause of this circular being issued, and the view of the Army Council on the matter. Originally, the chief function of deputy-lieutenants was to assist the Lord-Lieutenant of the county in raising the necessary number of men under the Militia ballot. They had, in fact, to raise what was then the Territorial Force of the country, and, allowing for the changes in the nature of the two forces, the functions of the present County Associations bear very close comparison to those originally intended to be performed by the deputy-lieutenants. It was, therefore, considered a suitable opportunity to revive the original conception of what was a deputy-lieutenant, and that was the reason for issuing the circular, in which it is clearly laid down that one of the qualifications of deputy-lieutenants is that they should have rendered useful service to the County Associations. It is not confined to that. That is the only new qualification; the other is having held a commission in one of His Majesty's forces for not less than ten years, thus reviving once more the conception that a deputy-lieutenant was intended to be a person who exercised certain definite functions very closely connected with the military forces of the Crown. I will, however, lay before the Secretary of State what the noble Earl has said.


I do not wish to detain the House, but I would point out to my noble friend that the original conception of what was a deputy-lieutenant has been overridden by the consistent practice of, at least, a century, and the effect of the Circular will certainly be to impose I a hardship upon those who might otherwise expect a deputy-lieutenancy for civil services.


Up to the date of the issue of this circular a Lord Lieutenant had a perfect discretion as to whom he might appoint. I should like to ask whether, in the event of a Lord - Lieutenant not being able to find deputy-lieutenants coming within the qualifications named in the Circular, it is intended that he should fall back upon the old practice?


No case of that kind has arisen. If it did occur the point would certainly be considered.