HL Deb 16 November 1915 vol 20 cc337-58

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Power to accept services of Volunteers.

1. It shall be lawful for His Majesty to accept, for purposes in connection with the present war, the services of any Volunteer corps, being a corps which is duly affiliated to the Central Association Volunteer Training Corps, as recognised and approved by the Army Council, and whose services aro offered through that Association.


moved to delete from Clause 1 the words "which is duly affiliated to the Central Association Volunteer Training Corps, as." The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I need hardly say that no slur is intended upon the Central Association. As a matter of fact, the War Office are indebted for the great assistance which they have received from Lord Desborough and his associates since the inception of this movement, and they would be singularly ungrateful if they made any proposals which appeared to depreciate those efforts. But if recognition of these Volunteers is to take place, it is fairly obvious that the Army Council must inevitably be the controlling authority, whereas if the Central Association were to remain as the statutory body it is quite conceivable that difficulties might arise. It is not, I admit, in the least likely that there would be difficulties as long as my noble friend was at the head of the association, but changes might take place; and the War Office would be unable to accept the position that the Central Association should be the determining and excluding authority. At the same time, I should like to assure the Committee that the Army Council will naturally take every opportunity of consulting with the Central Association and availing themselves of their aid and advice. I understand that my noble friend Lord Desborough has been in communication with the War Office authorities with regard to this Amendment, and that he is not prepared to oppose it. I hope, therefore, that it will be allowed to go through. As is quite obvious, this Amendment embraces various other Amendments which will be moved subsequently, but I have thought it better not to say anything at the present moment upon, for instance, the question of the inclusion of recognition of Irish Volunteers, until the subsequent Amendments are before your Lordships.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave oat from ("the second corps") to ("recognised") in line 8.—(Lord Newton.)


I should like, in the first place, to thank my noble friend who has just sat down for the kind expressions he has used towards myself; and, in the second place, to say, on behalf of the Central Association, that although we quite understand that it would not be fitting, perhaps, to include any particular association in an Act of Parliament, still it might avoid trouble later on if in this Bill some words were substituted such as "which is duly affiliated to a recognised association of Volunteer training corps." The object of. mentioning the association is this. Throughout the whole of this movement the Army Council have delegated to a recognised and approved association in England, in Scotland and in Ireland powers of affiliating or not affiliating Volunteer corps; and at the present time it is only those Volunteer corps who are affiliated to one of these three recognised associations who are in the position of being recognised and able to wear the red brassard which gives them a right to fight for their country and to carry arms without a licence. Therefore if the Government could see their way to introducing, either here or elsewhere, words such as I have suggested, it is quite possible that it might save a good deal of trouble in the future. As regards the Central Association, I am quite willing that the words proposed to be deleted should be cut out; but I hope that in some way it will be possible to recognise in the Bill the Association for England, the Association for Scotland, and the Association for Ireland, which have already been recognised by the Army Council.


I am glad to notice that there is no serious difference of opinion between my noble friend opposite and the noble Lord who represents the War Office. My noble friend behind me (Lord Newton) went out of his way to express the debt of gratitude which we owe to the association for which my noble friend Lord Desborough is responsible, and he went further and gave what I think amounted to an undertaking that every effort would be made by the War Office to avail itself of the advice and co-operation of the Central Association. But, of course, that is a widely different thing from giving the association a statutory recognition in the manner proposed in the Bill as it was originally framed. I submit to your Lordships that in a case of this kind the sole responsibility must remain with the Army Council, and that the Army Council cannot be allowed or encouraged to divest itself in any way of that responsibility. I gather from my noble friend Lord Desborough that it would be agreeable to him if some form of words could be found, either in this part of the Bill or elsewhere, which would at any rate, by mentioning the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps, show that they had a position in the estimation of the public and of the War Office. I observe, as to that, that my noble friend Lord Harris has given notice of an Amendment at the end of Clause 2 which raises that point quite distinctly. I would therefore suggest that the consideration of that suggestion might stand over for the present and be discussed when we come to Lord Harris's Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment standing in my name is consequential. It is to omit from the end of Clause I the words "and whose services are offered through that Association."

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 9, leave out from ("Council") to the end of the clause.—(Lord Newton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:

Power to make regulations.

2.—(1) The Army Council may make regulations for the purpose of carrying this Act into effect, and in particular may by those regulations make provision, in relation to Volunteer corps whose services are accepted under this Act, as to—

  1. (a) their organisation; and
  2. (b) their duties in case of invasion; and
  3. (c) the other duties for which their services may be accepted; and
  4. (d) the appointment and promotion of officers, and the enrolment, and term and conditions of service, of members; and
  5. (e) the maintenance of discipline.

(2) Any such regulations may apply, with the necessary modifications, any of the provisions of the Volunteer Act, 1863, or any enactment amending or extending that Act, in relation to the same or similar matters.


I move to insert, at the end of Clause 2, the new subsection standing in my name. I agree that the Secretary of State for War and the Army Council should have complete and unfettered discretion as to the rules which they make. I would not insert any words which would indicate that rules of a particular character should be made; I would leave complete power to the Secretary of State and the Army Council. It may happen that local rules may be required for certain parts of the country, arid that different rules may be necessary for other parts. Our object, I understand, is that the fullest power should be given to the Secretary of State for War to authorise as many Volunteer corps as the circumstances of the war may require. Therefore I would leave the Secretary of State complete authority. At the same time I would insist that all these rules should be subjected to the criticism of Parliament. I think it is most desirable that an opportunity should be given to the public to know the character of the rules that are made. It is possible that the rules may be made under the Publication of Statutory Rules Act. Under that Act, as I understand it, the procedure is of three kinds. The first procedure is that notice of intention to make statutory rules should be published in the Gazette, and that then a certain period—forty days, I think—should elapse during which the public would have the opportunity of making their objections to and criticisms upon the rules. That is a form of publication which I do not advocate. Another form is that the rules when made should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament and that a certain period should be allowed to elapse before they came into effect. That seems to me to be the proper method of publication. But it may be objected that that would involve a certain amount of delay. There is, however, a provision in the Act by which the Secretary of State can declare that the necessity for making the rules is urgent, or he may give other special reasons for them, and then and there the rules take effect immediately on being made, but the regular procedure under the Act which I have explained would at the same time continue—the rules would come into operation, but they would, for I think a fortnight after being made, remain on the Table of both Houses and be open to criticism. But it is possible to provide a special procedure. It may he said that the rules should not come into operation until, say, fourteen or fifteen days or a month after they have been made. I should be quite satisfied with such an arrangement as that. If your Lordships would agree to vest the Secretary of State with the power of making rules and indicate that those rules should not come into operation until say a month or fifteen days after they had been made, I would be perfectly satisfied with the opportunity of criticism which the period of a month or fifteen days would allow.

Amendment moved—

Clause 2, page 2, after line 4, insert the following new subsection: (3) All regulations made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before Parliament within fourteen days after the making thereof; or, if Parliament is not then sitting, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament."—(Lord MacDonnell.)


I entirely agree with the principle suggested by the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment, but I hardly think he goes far enough. The whole of the arrangements with regard to Volunteer and all other military corps have hitherto been made by Statute, and although power to make regulations has been given in some Acts practically everything material has been laid down by Act of Parliament. In this case it is proposed to leave to the War Office very wide powers of making regulations, but I think that fair opportunity of public discussion of the regulations so made might be allowed without any material delay in regard to the matters which we wish to see advanced. Everybody knows, with regard to this question of Volunteers, that even at the present time serious questions arise, such as the terms on which they are accepted, their conditions of service, the taking of oaths, the degree to which they should be equipped or armed—these are all questions with which Parliament has hitherto dealt and which have not been left to the Public Department. This is an exceptional Bill for the war, and I quite realise that exceptional steps may be taken; but what I ask is that these regulations should be laid before Parliament and should not be enforced until fourteen days thereafter, during which time Parliament will have an opportunity, if necessary, of bringing any difficulties which may occur before the notice of the War Office. I would therefore move, as an Amendment to the noble Lord's proposed new subsection, to leave out all words after "Parliament" where that word first occurs to the end of the subsection, and to insert "and shall not take effect until fourteen days after being so laid." The subsection would then read— All regulations made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before Parliament and shall not take effect until fourteen days after being so laid. If it is objected that Parliament may not be sitting, then I am afraid we must take that possibility into account. But if such regulations were made, and the whole establishment of these corps set up, as it were, behind the possibility of criticism by Parliament, I think it would be a great evil.

Amendment moved to the Amendment— Leave out all words after "Parliament" where it first occurs, and insert "and shall not take effect until fourteen days after being so laid."—(Viscount Midleton.)


I desire to offer as strong opposition as I can to the Amendment. The one object of this Bill is to enable the country to obtain with little or no delay the services of some 309,000 men who have been drilling for something like a year. These men are wanted for a large variety of objects, but at present they have no warrant to act. The embodiment and calling out and regularisation of this large Volunteer force in England, Scotland, and Ireland may very well be the subject of mature and careful consideration. But the pressing object of this Bill is, as I say, to enable the Army Council to avail themselves of the services of this very large body of men. The noble Viscount who has moved this Amendment is a great advocate of economy, as we have more than once heard in this House. I venture to say that this Volunteer movement is about the only economical movement in connection with the war. A very large number of men have drilled, have put themselves into uniform, and have to a certain extent armed themselves at absolutely no cost to the country. They have done this with one object—namely, to do "their bit" in this war, being unable, through age or other disability, to go to the Front.

The Sunday before last. I went down to the very large ordnance works at Didcot. I did not go alone, because from various parts of Oxfordshire and Berkshire 900 Volunteers in uniform marched in sections and squads from their various localities to special trains which took them to those ordnance stores; and only yesterday morning I heard the colonel in charge there say that it would have been absolutely impossible for him, without the help of those Volunteers, to have despatched the enormous number of trains which there were in Didcot siding on that particular Sunday. As a matter of fact, these Volunteers, at no cost to the country, unloaded 209 trucks, some containing very weighty objects such as gun carriages, and these were handled with method and despatch by the Volunteers. Although these men are willing to give up their time and feed themselves while doing this work, they are under this disability, that supposing they are injured in carrying out this work they have, until they are regularised, absolutely no claim for compensation in respect of any injuries they may suffer. As a matter of fact, one man was rather severely injured. I think that in doing this work for the country these men might at least have the protection afforded under this Bill of not suffering permanently for injuries which they incur in their efforts to carry out these duties for their country.

This movement has been largely extended at Oxford. I happened last Sunday to have the honour of shoving a truck in company with the Professor of Political Economy, the Public Orator, the Professor of Geology, and the Professor of Anthropology at Oxford; and these gentlemen and many more Volunteers are going to turn up next Sunday, when we hope to have 1,500 men assisting in this work. What we want to secure is that these men, when working at a place like an ordnance store, should be ipso facto under military law for the time being. I have had several conversations with the War Office authorities with regard to this matter, but they say it is absolutely essential for them to get this Bill before they can issue any such regulations as would meet the case to which I have referred. There are something like 20,000 Volunteers out at the present time. They have been asked to come out; they are round the coast; they are digging trenches north and south of London; they are guarding railways and ammunition works—but they have no status. What the Volunteer wants is that when he is asked by a General Officer Commanding to perform a certain duty, he should then ipso facto come under military law; arid, on the other hand, that he should be compensated for any injury he receives and be immune from any civil action in case anything should happen when he is performing these duties. Therefore I strongly oppose anything that would cause delay. I know, as a matter of fact, that many branches of the Army Department are anxious at the present time to employ the services of these men, and the men will come forward provided they get proper protection. They do not want pay, but they do want to be given a status when called upon to perform these duties. I am not opposed to any reasonable publication, but if the proposal means a very long delay—Parliament, for instance, might not be sitting—before you could call out men to do this work which the country wants done, I think it would be a great misfortune.


I am sorry I did not see my noble friend before he spoke, because I should like to have pointed out to him that in my opinion Lord MacDonnell's Amendment, with the addition proposed by my noble friend Lord Midleton, is really a protection of the Volunteer. With the experience that my noble friend Lord Midleton and I have had in connection with Volunteer regulations and the War Office, I can assure Lord Desborough that the Volunteer corps themselves ought to think twice before they subject themselves to the domination of the War Office without any security that Parliament is going to cheek the proceedings of that Department. It would be a danger to leave a Public Office to do whatever it pleased, and to impose whatever regulations it liked upon this body of free men. My noble friend thinks that these Volunteers are not going to ask for any money contribution. I am not so sure of that. That was the claim of the old Volunteers, but I do not know that a very long time passed before they asked for some contribution from public funds. It was not in the shape of pay, I admit. They asked for camp allowance, a contingent fund for uniform, and so on; it all grew by degrees. If you have not the protection of Parliament, the War Office, having at one time made grants to these Volunteer corps, could by a stroke of the pen take them away, and Parliament would have no power to interfere unless it happened to find out about the matter through sonic other process; at any rate, it would not have an opportunity of interfering before the mischief was done.

I shall most certainly support the Amendment moved by my noble friend below me (Viscount Midleton), and I do so from my own experience and my own conviction. Now that these Volunteer corps, through the Central Association, have requested Parliament to put them under Statute, I think they ought to be very careful that the Statute provides that Parliament shall be continually taking care of them and that they shall not be handed over to the sweet will of a Department. After all, what would the delay mean? I cannot imagine that the delay in approving of the regulations in Parliament is going to be anything like as long as the time that will be taken in framing the regulations themselves. I am afraid the War Office is so busy that it will be some time before it is in a position to issue regulations that will suit the fancies of all the corps and also of the Central Association.

I am entirely with my noble friend Lord Desborough in his anxiety that these corps should be made as much use of as possible. But he has himself shown us that certain corps are being already used. It is quite true that they have not got the status of soldiers, but in many cases they have given a promise that they will be obedient as soldiers; they are honourably carrying out that promise, and are being utilised all over the country in various ways. Therefore I submit that my noble friend has arrived partly at his aim, which is that these corps should be used, and I urge upon him that in the interests of the corps themselves he should accept the advice of my noble friend Lord Midleton, who has had great experience of the action of the War Office and of the effect of giving Parliamentary opportunity of supervising Volunteer regulations.


I rise to support the Amendment. I am quite sure that we are all in sympathy with what was said by Lord Desborough as to the anxiety we feel that these Volunteers should receive the recognition they desire. But I think that in providing for the recognition of corps formed under special circumstances and for special purposes Parliament should be aware of the conditions under which they are to be recognised and employed. The whole point of this Bill is the regulations; the regulations are really the effective part of the Bill, and it does occur to me that there will be many matters of interest as to the constitution, the method of employing, organising, and working these Volunteer corps which will have to be settled in the regulations. Lord Desborough himself gave a number of forms of recognition—compensation, and so on—which he desired. His security for getting those forms of recognition would be that he should have an opportunity in his place in Parliament of seeing the regulations, commenting upon them, adding to them, deducting from them, or suggesting improvements. The Amendment would give my noble friend the opportunity of providing the protection for the Volunteers to which he very properly attaches so much importance. My belief is that it is really necessary that in some form or other Parliament should have an opportunity of seeing what the Department propose to do about these Volunteers, whether they mean to treat them fairly, and whether they mean to make provision—I give this merely as an instance—for enlisting men in these corps who are of military age for other purposes. There are a number of points of this kind that one can think of, and in my opinion Parliament ought to have an opportunity of seeing and commenting upon the regulations made under this Bill. I do not think this would cause any delay. Further, I believe that the provision in the Amendment would operate in the interests of these Volunteer corps, which we all have so much at heart. I feel that the War Office ought not to be left to make any regulations they like without check, and I cannot think that the possible delay in requiring that the regulations should be laid on the Table—I doubt whether there would be any delay—is really a sufficient answer to the desirability that the regulations should not come into force without Parliament having an opportunity of seeing what is proposed.


I am diffident of expressing any opinion on this subject, especially after what has been said by the three noble Lords who speak with so much weight and experience. Their arguments, of course, would be unanswerable in time of peace, but it must be remembered that we are at war. We have a Fourth Line composed of a quarter of a million men, who have been clamouring for some time for recognition and for employment. It seems to me that you could not throw cold water on the aspirations of these gallant men more successfully than for the War Office to have to say to them, "We are very much obliged to you for your offer; we should be glad to employ you, but the fact is that Parliament is not sitting and therefore we have no power whatever to make regulations, and you must wait until Parliament meets again." For the reason that this is a matter of emergency I earnestly hope that the noble Viscount opposite will not press the Amendment, which he has sprung upon us rather unexpectedly at the last moment.


I should like to say a word with regard to the question of delay, which seems to be regarded by many as a matter of much importance. Since the beginning of the war I think six weeks is the longest time which has elapsed without Parliament sitting, and it is very unlikely that we shall have any longer period than that when we shall not be meeting. It seems to me, therefore, that the delay which would occur by requiring that the regulations should be laid before Parliament would be infinitesimal compared with the importance that matters of this kind should be subject to criticism by both Houses of Parliament.


It is rather distressing to hear two noble Lords opposite (Lord Midleton and Lord Harris) express so much distrust of a Department with which they were both connected. I hope that I shall not eventually find myself in the same position. All that I have to say on the subject of the Amendment is that the War Office do not regard it as necessary, and they consider that the period prescribed in it is unnecessarily short. What the War Office suggest is that if any subsection of the kind is inserted it should take the usual formula, such as exists in the Territorial Act—namely, that the regulations should be laid before Parliament. "as soon as may be" after they are made. That is the view which the War Office take of this particular Amendment, although, as I have said, they do not consider it necessary.


I venture to think that there are two considerations which your Lordships may well bear in mind in connection with this Amendment. In the first place, the whole of this legislation is emergency legislation. The movement of which my noble friend Lord Desborough is the head is an emergency movement, and the Bill recites clearly, in words, that the services of these Volunteer corps may be accepted for a limited purpose—the purpose of this war. If that is true, does it not follow that we ought to be careful to avoid anything which might occasion long and certainly indefinite delay in giving these corps the recognition which they so much desire? There are, my noble friend told us, 309,000 of them who welcome this proposal, receive it with open arms, and who certainly will be greatly disappointed if, owing to what will seem to them red-tape considerations, they are kept waiting a long time for the decision of the Department. That is one argument why we should avoid delay.

The other point which I think we should bear in mind is this. It is perfectly reasonable to insist—as noble Lords opposite have insisted—that these regulations should be made fully public and should be open to public criticism. Cannot that be secured somewhat in the manner which the. noble Lord who moved this Amendment (Lord MacDonnell) desires? My noble friend who represents the War Office pointed out, I think with force, that to stipulate that the regulations arc to be laid before Parliament within fourteen days of the making of them might lead to trouble. Some hitch might arise in the printing or the publishing, and owing to some technicality the whole thing might be shipwrecked and have no effect. But if your Lordships will accept the formula which I understood my noble friend Lord Newton to propose on behalf of the War Office, that danger would disappear. If my noble friend's formula were accepted, the subsection would read thus— All regulations made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made. That, I am told, is a form of words which occurs in other Statutes and with which people are familiar.

My noble friend Lord Midleton wants to go a great deal further. He desires that the regulations should be laid before Parliament, should remain on the Table for a certain number of days, and should not have effect until that period of time had elapsed. That is a very serious proposition. Supposing the regulations were to see the light at a time When Parliament was not sitting. The Volunteer corps might be kept waiting weeks or even months before the regulations could be laid. I think in war time my noble friend's precaution is greater than the circumstances of the case require; and I appeal to him as an old War Office man that in a matter of this kind and in an emergency like this he might very well trust the Army Council to use wisely the opportunities afforded them by this Bill.


It seems to me that two points of difference have emerged in this discussion. On the one hand, Lord Midleton is desirous that the War Office should have the benefit of Parliamentary criticism upon the rules before they are finally made. On the other hand, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, it may well happen that delay would be injurious, and that it may be desirable that the rules should be at once acted upon. All that is provided for under the Publication of Statutory Rules Act. As I pointed out in my opening remarks, there are three procedures under that Act. Two procedures are dilatory. But the Act provides specifically for the occurrence of the case to which the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, referred. There may be cases of urgency, or there may be special reasons for which it is desirable to make the rules and bring them into operation at once. That is provided for by Section 2 of the Act to which I refer—namely, 56 and 57 of Victoria, cap. 56—under which the regulations can be brought into operation at once; but before they become final they have to go through the regular procedure of criticism before both Houses of Parliament. Therefore if you make the rules under the existing law you provide for immediate effect if the circumstances require it, and, on the other hand, you provide for the full and detailed and leisurely Parliamentary criticism which is also necessary. However, I do not desire. to put my judgment against that of Lord Midleton or Lord Harris, who have had very much greater experience of these matters than I have, and I am perfectly willing to accept any decision to which the House may come.


I am most anxious to see the question from the point of view of Lord Desborough and Lord Lansdowne, but I must point out that the protection for which I have asked is not given in the least by the subsection as suggested by the War Office. It really amounts to this, that Parliament is merely to be seized of the matter as soon as conveniently may be. I do not wish to quote past speeches by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne advocating that regulations should be laid before Parliament for very much longer periods, and that Parliament should have power to annul them, but I would remind him of what occurred in 1907 when the Territorial Force Act was passing through Parliament. Not merely were the Government induced to allow Orders in Council to lie upon the Table of Parliament for forty days, but it was provided also that Parliament within those forty days should have power, by an Address, to annul any Order without prejudice to the making of a new Order. I do not ask for anything of the kind here, but I do ask that Parliament should have the power of criticism before the regulations actually take effect. I do not ask for forty days; I suggest fourteen days. As Lord Oranmore has pointed out, Parliament is almost continually in session now, so that there would not be likely to be any delay comparable to that occupied in the making of the regulations. I should be sorry if in this matter the whole responsibility should rest on the War Office, and so far as I am concerned if I have any support I should like to take the sense of your Lordships' House on the Amendment.


I cannot help thinking that what the noble Viscount has said is an excellent illustration of the difficulty of discussing this Bill upon the hypothesis that we are in times of peace. He referred, indeed, to speeches by Lord Lansdowne directed to what should be done in times of peace. But at the present moment not only are we in times of war, but if one looks at the face of this Bill it is obvious that it contemplates regulations being made in case of the appalling consequence of the invasion of this country. Supposing such a terrible possibility were believed to be imminent, would the noble Viscount require that the regulations which the War Office would then be compelled to make for the effective control of this force should be laid before Parliament and not become effective until Parliament had had an opportunity of discussing and criticising them? I cannot help thinking that anything more lamentable could hardly be imagined. Yet that is the very essence of one of the objects to which these regulations must be directed. Might I say a word as to the effect upon these Volunteer corps of having the regulations laid before Parliament and having them subject to criticism and discussion. I suggest for the noble Viscount's consideration that it would discourage them immensely. They do not desire, I should imagine from what has been said by Lord Desborough, to have regulations of this kind made the subject of Parliamentary debate. They are quite prepared to act when the War Office thinks that regulations should be made, and to have them operate instantly on their being made. I respectfully suggest to the noble Viscount that the considerations which I have urged are reasons why he should not press his Amendment.


With great respect to the noble and learned Lord, is it fair to represent as a matter of such emergency a question which has not been taken up at all until 309,000 Volunteers have been enrolled and which has now been before Parliament a considerable time and to suppose that a further delay of fourteen days is likely to have the effect of annulling all the advantages of this Bill? It is putting it too strongly to suggest that the emergency is so very great as to make it necessary for us to override all possible safeguards. There is, in my opinion, grave danger that these emergency regulations may be pressed through in such a hurry that false steps may be taken against which Parliament should have a right to enter a protest.


What is the purpose for which this Volunteer force has been called into existence? It has been called into existence for the possible emergencies of those later stages of the war when not only the Regular forces but the ordinary Second Line have been fully used up. It is essentially an emergency force; It is essentially a force which will be required, if at all, at the very shortest notice; it is essentially a force which will continue to exist only so long as the war lasts, and which will be wanted only in case of urgent peril. In those circumstances is it reasonable that the regulations which are required before this force can be made effective should be submitted to Parliament to be discussed? It seems to me that the theoretical considerations which have been urged, and which are no doubt true when you are laying down the constitution of a force in time of peace, are beside the point now. Here we are dealing with what may prove to be a national emergency in which the supreme command of the forces is the only means that can be taken to put these corps into shape and make them available. In those circumstances it seems to me that the immense preponderance of military and public considerations are adverse to the Amendment.


I should like to say a few words on this subject as a Volunteer who has considered the matter a good deal and talked about it with many other Volunteers, and who is to some extent aware of the attitude of the War Office towards us. I am sure we do not feel at all apprehensive of that danger of oppressive regulations against which I gather it the purpose of this Amendment to defend us, but I can assure your Lordships that we do feel apprehensive of further delays in recognising us arid providing for our status, and we fear very much indeed that such delays may prevent our being of great service when upon some sudden emergency, the nature of which cannot now be forecast, a good opportunity occurs for using us. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, does not wish to propose anything which would depress and discourage the Volunteer movement. But might I point out to him, when he speaks of only fourteen days delay, that this is not the full measure of possible delay. The full measure of possible delay that might be occasioned by his Amendment before any regulations could take effect is eight weeks. There is serious prospect that some way of making use of the Volunteers may suddenly arise, and that it may be important to decide upon that use of them immediately. This Amendment might have the consequence of delaying and thereby spoiling the whole use of the Volunteer movement. That is the most serious evil that could happen. I believe that the acceptance of this Amendment by your Lordships would be felt by the Volunteers generally as a severe mortification.


The noble Earl, Lord Desart, seems to have misapprehended what has already taken place with regard to these Volunteer corps. Exactly the same regulations govern the three associations which have been formed in the United Kingdom to regulate the Volunteer movement, and the first of I those regulations is that it is to be clearly understood that only those can be registered as members of this corps who are not eligible through age to serve in the Regular or Territorial Army or are unable to do so for some genuine reason, which has to be recorded in the corps register; and those who come within the latter category must agree in writing to enlist it specially called upon to do so. There fore you could not have a greater control than the War Office is exercising through the existing associations, and that is one of the reasons why I was anxious, when we were discussing Clause 1, that the existing associations should not be entirely ignored in this Bill. The noble Earl seemed to think that six weeks plus fourteen days constitutes no very great delay. There are received every day at the offices of the Central Association applications for these men to be used at once in order to relieve men who are so urgently required to go and fight the battles of the country abroad. A short time ago the General Officer in command of the London District asked us for 500 men for road purposes. Volunteers could easily be found to do this work, but as soon as the General Officer learned that they were not attested he said he could not take them. He was informed that we had had no trouble so far, and that these men had carried out all the orders that had been given to them. He replied, "That is not the point. I cannot have Men under my command who may not carry out orders." One of the objects of this Bill is to empower the Army Council to draw up regulations to secure that these men, when their services are availed of, should ipso facto come under the Army Act, and be free from any civil disabilities which they might incur in the discharge of their duty. It is not so ranch a question of calling out 300,000 men to protect this country from invasion; the question is one of using the services of these men in guarding railways, ammunition factories, and so on, for which their services have already been utilised. This Bill, I hope, will enable the services of these men to be more largely used at little or no cost to the country.


I am anxious that there should be no misunderstanding on this matter. The Amendment which we are inclined to support would not delay for an instant the coming into operation of the regulations. The effect of Lord MacDonnell's Amendment, as amended by my noble friend behind me (Lord Newton), would simply be that it would be obligatory on the War Office to lay all regulations before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made.


I accept that.


In the circumstances that have been explained by the noble Marquess and by the noble Viscount (Lord Haldane), the Amendment as proposed by the War Office satisfies me.


I will not press my Amendment.

Amendment to the Amendment (by leave) withdrawn.


I move my Amendment to Lord MacDonnell's Amendment. The proposed new subsection would then run, "All regulations made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made."

Amendment moved to the Amendment— Leave out all words after ("Parliament") and insert ("as soon as may be after they are made"). —(Lord Newton.)

On Question, Amendment to the Amendment agreed to.


It is now proposed that the following new subsection. be added to Clause 2, "All regulations made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after they are made."

On Question, new subsection agreed to.


My Amendment to Clause 2 raises, as the noble Marquess pointed out, the important question whether the War Office should be directly responsible for recognising Volunteer corps or whether they should have the intermediation of such associations as have been brought into existence by the special circumstances of each ease in the last year or two. Before the Territorial Force Act was passed Volunteer corps were not recognised directly by the War Office, and I have no recollection that there was any intermediation of any association in those days. As a result, as the noble Lord knows, the location of different arms was very inconvenient. You had masses of Artillery in places where they were of no use, and the Secretary of State had to incur a good deal of obloquy because he had to do away with arms where they had been in existence for twenty or more years, and put in those places an arm which had not been there before, and create the old arm, which had been done away with in one place, in some other. It is simply a question of what the War Office prefer. Would they rather recognise these associations direct or guarantee the substantiality of the movement in the neighbourhood—the respectability of the officer who is prepared to take command, and so on? I do not know that I can offer a direct opinion one way or the other. On the whole, although I move this Amendment I agree with the noble Marquess that it is better for the War Office to be directly responsible. But is it; worth while to pay such a bad compliment to the associations that have already come into existence and done so much? I take it that if the War Office is going to take over the recognition direct and impose the reaulations, there would be nothing for the associations to do. Their métier would disappear; there would be no use for them; they would cease to exist. That is rather a bad compliment to pay them. There has been another ominous warning from the noble Marquess to-night, as there was the other night from Lord Newton, as regards this force. The noble Marquess pointed out that it is only going to he used for the term of the war, and Lord Newton warned us that it would be some time before the War Office introduced regulations. Between these two warnings I am not quite sure that the Volunteer force is going to have a very long existence under regulation. Therefore as there are associations in existence which have been extremely useful for the purpose of introducing these corps to the War Office and which presently would be useful in giving information as to the persons who are officering the corps, I think on the whole it would be better to recognise their existence and give them a statutory position.

Amendment moved—

Clause 2, page 2, after line 4, insert the follow ing new subsection: (3) Any such regulations may further provide for the establishment or recognition of associations of Volunteer corps and the constitution and management of such associations and the acceptance of the services of a Volunteer corps through such associations."—(Lord Harris.)


When I moved the first Amendment that stood in my name I was careful to explain that I hoped we had convinced noble Lords opposite that there was no desire whatever to put any slight on the associations, and I added that the War Office would be only too glad to avail themselves of their advice and experience. With regard to this Amendment, the War Office do not consider it necessary. They look upon it as redundant, because they consider they would have ample powers in this direction under the Bill. But I am not going to take the responsibility of opposing the Amendment if the noble Lord insists on it.


I should like to say a word in favour of the Amendment. It was felt in Scotland, in Ireland, and here in England that if all reference to the associations was omitted from the Bill it might be difficult for them to keep their authority over the bodies of which they are at the present moment in charge. Therefore if the War Office have no objection to the inclusion of this new subsection, which of course may be used or not as they like, I am sure that the reference in this Bill to the associations which have already done a good deal of work will be accepted by them as a compliment.


I think that from the Irish point of view it is desirable to leave the matter altogether in the hands of the War Office. Lord Desborough has referred to the association in Ireland. I have made inquiries about that association, and I find that it has not, except in very few places, touched that stratum of society which we desire to get into our Volunteer corps. Altogether during its existence it has managed to recruit only a little over 2,000 men, and that only in Dublin, Belfast and neighbourhood, and the City of Cork. In the rural parts of Ireland there is a disinclination to come under the association. They would much prefer there to be directly under the orders of the War Office, and I think myself that if they were directly under the War Office it would stimulate recruitment if by any chance men of recruitable age do get into our Volunteer corps.


We must, I think, all feel grateful to the associations to which my noble friend opposite has referred. They have done a great and valuable work, and I am sure there is not the slightest desire anywhere to appear indifferent to, or ungrateful for, what has been done. But I rather feel that if we were to put in the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord opposite we should appear to be prescribing the associations. It would be in the nature of a definite suggestion that this could only he done through the associations. Is it not much better in a matter of this gravity and urgency, where speed is desirable, to throw the whole responsibility on the War Council? If the War Council choose to avail themselves in any quarters of the services of the associations there could be no objection to their doing it, as they have done heretofore. But to put this subsection into the Bill would have the effect of imposing the associations upon them, which would be open to the difficulty pointed out by my noble friend Lord MacDonnell. It would also tend to somewhat more complication in the working of the Bill, and lessen that responsibility which many of us think ought to be borne by the War Office alone.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Area of service

4. An officer or member of a Volunteer corps whose services have been accepted under this Act shall not be liable, as such, to serve outside England and Wales, unless he voluntarily accepts liability for that purpose


I move to leave out "England and Wales" and to insert "the British Islands." The term "British Islands" is a somewhat unusual one, and it is, of course, a much wider term than "United Kingdom" By the Interpretation Act, 1889, Section 18 (1) the expression "British Islands" means the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland), the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. Were the words "England and Wales" retained, obviously the impression would be that the Bill was limited to England and Wales; but if the Amendment which I move is substituted there is nothing in the text of the Bill to exclude any part of the United Kingdom.

Amendment moved — Clause 4, page 2, line leave out ("England and Wales") and insert ("the British Islands"). —(Lord Newton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

The Report of Amendments to be received To-morrow, and Bill to be printed as amended.