HL Deb 22 March 1910 vol 5 cc454-8

LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU had the two following Questions on the Paper viz.:—(1) To ask the Under-Secretary of State for War what additional cost would be incurred by granting separation allowance to all Territorial non-commissioned officers and men during the period of annual training; and whether he would consider the advantage of such a concession in view of the facts that the Territorial Force is at present largely composed of lads under twenty-one years of age; that the majority of working men, with wives and families, cannot afford to come out for fifteen days at one shilling a day, and that the younger married men, who would impart a certain amount of stability to the various units, are thereby lost. (2) To ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that great difficulty exists in drilling outlying companies and sections of Territorial battalions recruited in country districts owing to the present deficiency of sergeant-instructors; and whether, without laying down a fixed scale, it would not be possible to deal more liberally in respect to the provision of permanent staff to scattered units, taking each case on its own merits.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I desire to ask the noble Lord who represents the War Office in your Lordships' House whether he can give us any information as to the two Questions which I have placed upon the Paper. The first question affects the class of men who enlist in the Territorial Force. I think the time has arrived when some consideration should be given by the War Office as to whether they could not grant separation allowances to privates as well as to non-commissioned officers. At the present moment separation allowances are given to non-commissioned officers, who, as a matter of fact, are generally in a better position to provide for their families than are privates in the ranks. To the ordinary private the separation allowance is of great importance, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to inform us that the matter will be considered by the War Office. The second Question relates to the supply of non-commissioned officers of the permanent staff for the training of units. In a town you can manage with a small permanent staff, but in country districts with scattered battalions more instructors are badly wanted. I trust that the noble Lord will be able to state that the number of instructors will be increased. I hope he will also be able to tell us, in reply to a Question of which I gave him private notice, whether the War Office will consider the desirability of increasing the amount now allowed to enable outlying sections to travel in to attend drills. I am certain that unless some consideration is shown to men attending drills after they have done a day's work, it will have a disastrous effect on recruiting.


My Lords, with regard to my noble friend's first Question, I am sorry that I have no means of obtaining information as to what it would cost to give separation allowances to all the married men in the Territorial Forces. We do not have any return either of the number who are married or of the number of children the married men have, but I can assure the noble Lord that it would cost a very large sum indeed. It would also lead to increased expenditure in another direction, because we do not give separation allowances to the privates in the Special Reserve, and I think they would be entitled to them and would eventually get them if the Territorial Force were granted these allowances. It is quite true that the non-commissioned officers who get the separation allowance are very often a class of men who are in much better circumstances and require the allowance much less than the privates, but we give it to the non-commissioned officers for a particular reason. We realised very clearly when the Territorial Force was first formed that we should have to exact a rather higher standard of efficiency from the non-commissioned officers than most of them had attained at that time, and we give a separation allowance to non-commissioned officers as a payment to them for what we expect to get from them, and what, as a matter of fact, we are getting from them, in the way of increased efficiency. We expect the non-commissioned officer to be a regular attendant at camp, to attend the whole fifteen days, to be prepared to go through courses and other forms of instruction during the non-training period, and generally to be prepared, even at a certain amount of sacrifice of his time, to make himself as efficient as he possibly can in the circumstances. I would point out that, after all, it is not altogether desirable, from any point of view you like, to have too many married men in a military force. If the Territorial Force does have to go to war, it is obviously desirable that you should cause as little dislocation of business and as little distress as possible, and you do not want to have more men with wives and families dependent upon them falling in a war of that kind than you can help. Therefore you do not want to encourage a large number of married men to enrol. I agree that a certain number of married men are desirable. You get them whether you give a separation allowance or not. But as to encouraging a large number of married privates, I think that is an undesirable thing. Even in the Regular Army, where we do give separation allowances, there is a certain fixed establishment of married privates allowed. In the Infantry it is very small indeed, only three per cent., and it is only the men who are on the married establishment who get the separation allowance.

With regard to the second Question, which deals with sergeant-instructors, we are quite aware that difficulties do exist in certain places with regard to these matters, and if we had nothing to consider but simply the drilling of these men it would be desirable in many ways to give more sergeant-instructors than we do at the present time. But there are certain very cogent reasons why we should not. Sergeant-instructors, taking into consideration their pay and allowances and the non-effective vote as well, cost, roughly, £160 a year each, and therefore we cannot be indiscriminate in serving them out. We have, as a matter of fact, had a Committee sitting on the question and considering very carefully all the cases that have been brought before us. We have revised the permanent staff no fewer than eight times; we have in the last two years increased the number of permanent staff allotted by nearly 400, and we are prepared now to reconsider any case which is brought to our notice by the military authorities with their recommendation that it should be considered. There is another objection. After all, we have to see that the man who goes for service on the permanent staff does not run any risk of deteriorating, and I think if you have a man who is told off for a considerable time in charge of a very small detachment which does not occupy anything like the whole of his time, who is away from his headquarters, as he would be in the case of an outlying detachment, and who is, therefore, not under supervision, you at any rate run the risk of that man deteriorating and not being so fit a soldier as he ought to be if he is to return to the Colours. But we do realise the importance of drilling these men who join outlying battalions. They are usually countrymen, whom it is very desirable to enlist. We sanction now drill stations where you can have headquarters and accommodation for anything over twenty men, and you can have drill stations, where expense of accommodation is not incurred, for almost any number you like. We leave that to the County Associations.

We have taken another step in advance. I refer to the payment which is given to the County Associations to enable outlying sections to travel in to drill. We have in that carried out a promise which we gave to the Council of County Associations last year who brought this question to our notice. We have asked every County Association to inform us how many men they have at a distance from their headquarters. We have taken different distances. We have asked them for the number of men at a distance of from three to five miles, from five to ten miles, and so on, and having got these figures we have taken each county separately and given them a payment based on allowing each of those men to travel in six times a year to the headquarters of the squadron, or battery, or whatever it may be, for the purpose of drill. That comes to the same thing as giving more instructors, because it means that if the instructor cannot travel out to the men we are enabling the men to travel in to the instructor. In the case of each county that figure is a different one, based on the actual returns supplied by the county. I hope that the giving of that grant will enable the County Associations to bring these outlying men in to drill and will relieve the difficulty of adequately instructing men in outlying districts.


My Lords, with regard to the noble Lord's answer to the question as to the separation allowance, I should like to inquire whether he could not ask the Secretary of State to take into consideration the question of granting separation allowances to a certain number of men in every battalion. There is very great difficulty in the Territorial Force in getting non-commissioned officers, and we are losing a great many men who would fill these ranks with very great advantage to the force by the fact that they leave on account of their being unable to get a separation allowance. While it might be inadvisable to give a separation allowance to every married man in a battalion, it would, I conceive, be a very great advantage if a certain percentage besides the non-commissioned officers who have it at present were allowed the separation allowance, so that you might retain some of the men to whom I have referred. I hope the noble Lord will lay this point before the Secretary of State.


I will certainly do so.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord who replied was speaking for himself or for the War Office, but if it was the latter I think that some of his remarks are of a singularly disquieting character. He said that if the Territorial Force ever had to fight—and remember the only possible circumstances in which they could fight would be the event of invasion—the object of the authorities was, I understood him, that there should be as little inconvenience and as little disturbance of business as possible. Now, does the noble Lord or do the War Office really imagine that in the event of invasion it would not affect every man, woman, and child in this country? Do the War Office really imagine that if we were invaded it would not affect and dislocate the whole of the trade of this country? I think the matter is of importance, because if those are the views which are held officially they are views which must cause us very grave anxiety and concern.


I leave the noble Lord to draw his own inferences from what I said; but one thing is obvious, and that is that every man who has a wife and several children depending upon him and goes into the ranks and fights will cause more want and distress than if that man's place was filled by a single man.


Then if there are vacancies, is it suggested that married men had better not apply?

[No answer was given.]