§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Cardwell.)
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he had no desire to oppose the measure; but there was something so novel in its provisions that he thought it ought not to be read a second time without some discussion. The main provision of the Bill was to reduce the term of enlistment to 12 years, with a power, if the authorities should think it desirable, to make it three years of actual service. But three years would be too short a time to make an efficient soldier. No doubt a vast number of good recruits might be got under the Bill; but when a young man had only spent three years in the Army, and then retired into private life, the few days that he might afterwards be called out for practice would not be enough to keep him in proper training. A young man, after serving his three years, would probably marry; and, having gone into some business, he would consider it the greatest nuisance to be called on afterwards for any long service. In his opinion, six years would have been a far better period to fix upon. He did not know whether his right hon. Friend intended to abolish pensions, but the Bill went a long way in that direction. He presumed that no bounty would be given; but the question was whether, if they did away with bounties, they would be able, on a pinch, to get as many men as might be required. The Bill was one that needed serious consideration and amendment in Committee.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he had long believed that a short term of service for a portion of the Army, such as that now proposed, furnished the best hope of drawing superior men into the Army, and of getting rid of many of the evils of which they complained at present. Of course, during the short service, men would not be allowed to marry; and in that way they would be relieved of the great inconvenience and expense of transporting soldiers' wives from place to place. He hoped his right hon. Friend would con- 784 sent not to enrol the men in the Reserve after their short service unless upon the recommendation of the commanding officer of the corps in which they had served. It ought to be considered as the greatest favour to be allowed to go into the Reserve. If only well-conducted men, and those who had shown some aptitude and taste for military duties, were permitted to enter it, in a few years they would have the most powerful Reserve of any country in Europe. Many a respectable young man, who would not think of enlisting for life or for a long period, would willingly enter the Army for three or four years, and his family would be glad that he should. As to the abolition of bounties, he thought that, instead of abolishing bounties altogether, it would be a good plan to accumulate them in the savings bank, so that the soldier might get the full benefit of them when he left his regiment.
§ MAJOR DICKSON
said, he believed the present Secretary of State for War was very anxious to promote the efficiency of the Service; but thought his good intentions had as yet been attended by rather barren and unsatisfactory results. Last year the right hon. Gentleman promised them many military reforms, laying especial stress on two things—first, that the War Office was to be reformed; and, next, that they were to have an Army of Reserve. It now turned out that the War Office was to be reformed by placing two new and highly paid officials on the Treasury Bench, unacquainted with the duties they would have to discharge; and, just when they had acquired some knowledge of those duties, they would probably have to give way to two other officials more ignorant than themselves. Thus the public service would suffer; but the Government of the day would have two obsequious followers. Now, they had a Bill before them by which it was proposed to give them an Army of Reserve in the course of three years. He objected to the Bill because it might not succeed in its object, and England might for the next three years be in a helpless position. He objected to it, first, because he did not think it would give them the Army of Reserve they expected; and next, because, even if it did give them that Army of Reserve, it would do so at the expense of destroying the Infantry of the Line. He did not think 785 there was sufficient ground for anticipating that any great number of the recruits joining the Army would be anxious to be discharged at the end of three years, in order to enter into civil employments; and, moreover, if they filled their regiments of the Line simply with men of three years' service, they would find they had made a great mistake when they got into a field of battle. It should be remembered that the high reputation possessed by our infantry of the Line, which had been extolled by Napoleon as the most magnificent in the world, had been gained by old soldiers, who had been accustomed to discipline and had learnt habits of obedience; and the experience of the Crimean and Indian campaigns showed that it would be unwise to place our reliance upon recruits. For those reasons he regarded that Bill as unsatisfactory. The only true basis for an Army of Reserve was the Militia. He would propose that every regiment of the line should have a Militia regiment attached to it which would wear the same clothing and bear the same title, and from which it should draw its reserves in case of need. When the regiment of the Line was sent upon active service, the Militia regiment attached should at once be embodied and become its depôt. The Volunteers were recognized by the State, and to them might be left the defence of our shores in case of attack. The Secretary of State ought boldly to face the question of reorganizing the Militia and making it an Army of Reserve. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider that measure, and remember that a soldier could not become acquainted with his duties and acquire thorough habits of discipline and obedience in the short space of three years.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he did not think it desirable at that hour to enter into the large question of an Army of Reserve—a subject which he had given notice of his intention to bring forward on going into Supply on Army Estimates. In his opinion, the Government would not be justified in reducing the regular Army before having some sufficient reliable Reserve, which he did not think that Bill, or any other plan before the Government, would give them. He did not, however, think they were wrong in bringing in that Bill, which would empower the Government to en- 786 list men for 12 years, and at their discretion allow them to retire at any period after three, five, six, or seven years' service, with a liability at any moment to be called into active service. He supposed they would take care not to have too great a number of three years' men only in the ranks at any time. The right hon. Gentleman limited the number of the Reserve to 60,000; but it would be better to take power for indefinitely increasing the number.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, he should like to learn from the Secretary of State for War, whether it was intended that soldiers enlisting, for 12 years, on completing that period should or should not have the right to re-engagement. His own opinion had always been that allowing soldiers who, had served 12 years to re-enlist, and serve for say other four, and then claim a pension, was a most expensive way of maintaining the Army. He trusted the Secretary of State would not give his sanction to any such course. The option was to be given to the Secretary of State of either enlisting men for 12 years certain, or of placing them at any time during that period in the Reserve. He thought there would be no objection, if there was no danger of war, in allowing a man before he had completed his full period of service to be put into the Army of Reserve, and his place to be filled up by a recruit. He hoped that power would be taken to give gratuities to short service men, when sent into the Reserve, of one or two months' pay, according to their term of service. This would send men away in a cheerful humour, and would have a good effect in inducing others to enter the Army.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, he had thought there was to be a retaining fee to those soldiers who entered the Reserve, and that the present rate of pension was to be continued to the men who served for 21 years; but this was not mentioned in the Bill. He would suggest that 34 was too young an age at which to fix the limit at which men might enter the first Reserve, because at that age men who entered the service at 18 were in their prime. He would further suggest that there should be some clearer explanation as to whether the two hours' drill was to be considered as commenced at the time the men marched out, or from 787 the moment at which the actual drilling was begun.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he presumed that the Secretary of State for War had adopted in the 6th clause the system of general rather than regimental service, from a feeling that, when men who had entered the Reserve were required to resume active service, there might be a difficulty in sending them back to the regiments in which they had served; but to embody the Reserves for active service would be the exception, not the rule; and, as the regimental system had such great advantages, he thought it would be well to make the general service system the exception, and the enlistment for regimental service the rule. There was one thing that never had broken down in our Army, and that was the regimental system. It had induced fathers to bring their sons into the Army, and elder brothers to bring their younger brothers in to serve along with them. The traditional predilection for regiments had been most valuable in producing cohesion.
§ LORD GARLIES
said, he hoped the Secretary of State for War would give some further explanation of the object of the Bill, which, so far as he could ascertain, seemed directed towards the establishment of a Reserve Force, without carrying out any system of shortening the period of service as indicated in the Preamble.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, I think the hon. and gallant Member for Dover (Major Dickson) was most unjust, though he did not mean to be so, in his criticism of the Bill. With regard to the reform of the War Office, the hon. and gallant Gentleman says the Bill provides for two large additions to salaries. Now, the Bill will not enlarge salaries. If the hon. and gallant Member objects to the proposal to have a Parliamentary representative of important offices, he objects to a principle which is the very mainspring of our Government—one without which there cannot be any Parliamentary control, and without which this House never can be sure that the public service is properly conducted. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman objects to short service he must be opposed to this Bill, one of the principal objects of which is to promote a shorter service; but I believe I may say that very many Gentlemen of great experience in Army matters are of 788 opinion that a system of short service is at the root of Army reform. If a man be kept constantly in the Army from his youth to an advanced period of his life he must be deprived of many advantages which men of all classes are found to very much appreciate. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is of opinion that the old soldier is the soldier we should look to. I hope the day will never come when this country will lose confidence in the old soldier. We have no intention of driving him from the British Army. We regard him as the centre and the pivot of the service; but we wish to have the young soldier combined with him. The object of the Bill is to have a Reserve Force; not, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposed, trained in the Militia, but trained in the Army, by the Army, and for the Army, and constituting in the moment of emergency a Reserve upon which the Army may rely. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to the Crimean War, and said the young soldiers in that campaign were less successful than the old; but he might have referred to Waterloo, and found that in the Army which gained that great victory there was a large proportion of young soldiers. The objects of this Bill are to shorten the service in the Army for the benefit of the soldier, and to form a Reserve Force of men who, trained in the Army, will always be ready to aid the troops on active service. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is very doubtful as to whether we shall get the same class of men as have hitherto served as old soldiers. But our object is to induce a new class to enter the Army. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says we shall not succeed. I am not saying whether we shall or shall not, because I am aware of the danger of prophesying in such matters; but I will say that this is an honest attempt to give young men an opportunity of entering the Army which was not offered to them before. We do not attempt to enlist them by bounty. I do not presume to say whether we shall succeed in inducing them to enter the Army without bounty; but the mischief of enlisting by bounty is so considerable, I think we are bound to do all in our power to put an end to it. We do not propose to deprive the soldier of the small advantage which the amount now given in bounty may be to him; 789 but we propose to give him that money in the shape of a reward for good conduct, believing, as we do, that it will be of greater benefit to him in that shape. The hon. and gallant Member opposite made several objections to the Bill; but I believe that his objections principally arise from the fact that he has not accurately understood the nature and provisions of the measure. It has been objected that three years is too short a period for enlistment; but that is the minimum and not the maximum period for the duration of the service. In cases where regiments have to go to India, that period will be extended to six years. No person having military experience, however, will maintain that a man cannot be made a good soldier in three years. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel North) has further objected that the recruit when enlisted would not understand the terms upon which he was to serve when he got into the Reserve Force. Those terms will, however, be specified on his attestation paper, and will be fully explained to him. When serving in the Reserve Force the soldier will receive 4d. a day, which will make his pay equal to that of the Royal Naval Reserve. I hope that by offering these advantages we shall succeed in inducing men to join the Army for a certain specified period, in which they will acquire habits of discipline and industry, with the view of retiring from it comparatively early in life, and of entering into various industrial pursuits, while they will always be available as a Reserve Force in case of need. The hon. and gallant Member has also objected that two hours' drill is not sufficient; but if the hon. and gallant Member will look at Clause 21 of the Bill, he will find that the clause intends to provide for the minimum of drill, in order not to interfere with the industrial occupations of the Reserve Force. If we were to require the regular and continual training from the Reserve Force which is required from the Militia, we should incapacitate the men from obtaining industrial employment, and thereby frustrate the object we have in view. Whereas, by only requiring for them the same amount of training as is undergone by the Pensioners and the Volunteers, we shall enable them to follow the various industrial pursuits in which they may be engaged. These are the objects 790 of the Bill; I am glad that there is no objection to its second reading, and trust that we shall be able in Committee to answer or remove any objections that have been made to its provisions this evening. The noble Lord (Lord Elcho) has said that he will be prepared on a future occasion to deal with the whole question of Reserve, and to show that what we are doing is not satisfactory; all I can say is, that I shall be perfectly ready to meet him upon the subject, and to show him that our present force is quite as large as any that we have possessed in time of peace.
§ MR. F. STANLEY
said, he wished to know whether it was to be understood, with respect to the 9th clause, that the soldier could claim the power of re-enlistment at the expiration of his term of service, or whether that was to be left entirely to the discretion of the Secretary of State?
said, that the late Sir George Lewis had quoted a remark of the Duke of Wellington, to the effect that if he had had his Peninsular regiments at Waterloo the battle would not have lasted until 2 o'clock.
said, that the soldier would have no right to claim to be re-enlisted at the expiration of his service; but unless he had a bad character he would be permitted to re-enlist, if he desired to do so.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.