HL Deb 30 March 1909 vol 1 cc540-2

My Lords, I rise to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War a Question of which I have given him private notice. It will be in the recollection of some of your Lordships that a little more than three months ago a Return was ordered as to the state of the Army, the Special Reserve, and the Territorial Forces on January 1. Your Lordships were encouraged to hope that the Return would be available on the reassembling of Parliament, but we are still without the Return. We are now within two days of the adjournment for the Easter holidays, and I hope that the noble Lord will do his best to circulate the Return tomorrow at the latest, in order that it may be possible to place a Notice on the Order Paper before your Lordships adjourn.


My Lords, I regret that there has been this delay in presenting the Return which was asked for at the end of last session. The Motion was placed on the Order Paper on one day and taken the next day. I did not get an opportunity of consulting my military advisers on the question until later, and I now regret to say that I was unaware of the fact that it had never been the practice—the noble Viscount himself constantly refused to supply them—to give mobilisation figures when they were asked for. I unwittingly agreed to give the Return, which includes certain mobilisation figures; but I now fear that it is not in the public interest to give those figures. I shall be glad, however, to supply the figures confidentially to the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, who moved for the Return, and also to the noble Viscount. But I am extremely sorry to have to tell the House at this late date that it is not possible for the mobilisation figures to be publicly given. All the other figures asked for are ready to be printed at once, and I trust the noble Lords will have them in their possession before the Easter recess.


I do not for a moment press the noble Lord for any figures which the Government consider it undesirable to give, but I think we might have been informed some weeks ago that there was a difficulty in presenting the figures asked for. I have ventured to press the noble Lord and the Secretary of State privately to let us have the Return, and this is the first I have heard of there being any difficulty on the ground of public interest in giving it. The other figures we should have been glad to have had some time ago.


Having asked for this Return in the first instance, I have mentioned the matter to the noble Lord two or three times, and he has always informed me that the Return would be ready in a week or two. This is the first I have heard of there being any difficulty in presenting the mobilisation figures. Like the noble Viscount I do not wish to have published any information which it is undesirable in the public interest should be given, but I would be very glad if the noble Lord would let us have the other figures asked for as soon as possible.