HL Deb 18 November 1915 vol 20 cc405-7

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)


My Lords, on this side of the House we entirely accept the decision come to in Committee. But as there is now complete latitude to the War Office with regard to the regulations to be made, and as even the association with which my noble friend Lord Desborough is connected is not necessarily part of the Bill, I should be glad if the noble Lord the Paymaster-General could tell us whether it is the intention of the War Office to bring these Volunteer corps under military discipline and for them to take the oath of allegiance, and also whether it is the intention of the War Office that only men of non-military age should be enlisted, as was the intention and practice of the associations under which these Volunteer corps have hitherto been formed. The matter is now entirely open to the War Office; and I think, even in relation to the conversation which has just taken place, that it is highly desirable that there should be no back-door by which men of military age could escape from any obligation which may ultimately be imposed.


My Lords, I thought it was made sufficiently clear, in the course of the debate the other day, that the Army Council have absolute discretion as to the corps which are to be recognised. It is possible that the noble Viscount opposite had in mind certain Volunteer corps which exist in Ireland. If that is so, I will take them as an illustration. There are in Ireland three kinds of Volunteers. There are the Ulster Volunteers, the National Volunteers, and a new force which I understand has recently been created on the model of the English Volunteers. It seems to me quite evident that there is considerable distinction between these different bodies. The two which I first mentioned are obviously political bodies; they came into existence in virtue of the political situation, and perhaps I might be allowed without exaggeration to express the opinion that they came into existence for the purpose of fighting one another. Their position is quite different from that of the Volunteer corps which exist in this country. Then there is the third force in Ireland to which I have referred. I think everybody would be disposed to admit, in whatever part of the United Kingdom a force may be created which is intended to serve the purpose for which the force now created in this country exists, that it would be extremely ungracious to refuse it. Therefore I presume that in adopting the principle of recognition the Army Council will bear in mind the exact objects of these Volunteers and the purposes for which these corps were created. Let me remind my noble friend that the Bill only covers the period of the duration of the war. Therefore I take it—although I have not been expressly instructed on this point—that before the Army Council recognise any body of Volunteers they will naturally, as seems to me only reasonable, insist upon some form of attestation in the terms of the Volunteer Act referred to in this Bill. Under the terms of that Act these Volunteers would, amongst other things, take the oath of allegiance. With regard to the other point raised by my noble friend—namely, the question of military age—I must again insist upon the fact that discretion rests with the Army Council; but it seems to me quite obvious that if a force consists largely of young men of military age who ought to enlist in the Army it is not very probable that that force will be recognised. I hope that this explanation, which I have had to give in a rather unexpected manner, will satisfy my noble friend.


My question was a general one and referred equally to all corps; I was not alluding to corps in any particular part of the country. I do not wish to see any corps recognised which may he in opposition to the Regular Army.


My Lords, we are much indebted to the noble Lord opposite for the answer he has given, and the clear way in which he has explained what corps will come under the operation of this Bill. Up to now it has been rather uncertain as to which corps would be placed under the Bill and which would not, and I am sure it will be a great satisfaction to the corps themselves and to people generally throughout the country to know the exact position.

On Question, Bill read 3a and passed, and sent to the Commons.