HL Deb 29 March 1878 vol 239 cc184-5

THE EARL OF SANDWICH asked the noble Lord who now represented the War Office in that House, Whether Militia Officers could absent themselves without leave from their regiments in order to attend to their Parliamentary duties?


said, that officers of the Militia who were also Members of Parliament had conflicting duties to perform—their military duties, and their legislative duties. Their Parliamentary duties over-rode all others; and the Parliamentary duties of officers had always been regarded as over-riding military duties. The military authorities had always granted leave to officers to enable them to attend their Parliamentary duties. At the same time, his noble Friend, as the commander of a Militia regiment, must know that his officers were under the Mutiny Act, and that he could give them any orders and assign to them any duties performed by regimental officers. If thay did not fulfil them or pleaded Parliamentary duty, and he did not consider their excuse satisfactory, he could bring the matter under the notice of the authorities, and the officers might have to make an election as to the duty they would continue to perform. A case was brought under the notice of the Duke of Wellington, in which an officer absented himself from his military duty and alleged that he did so in the performance of his Parliamentary duty. The Duke of Wellington placed him under arrest, and refused to release him on that excuse. He did not say that the authority of the Duke of Wellington was conclusive on the point; because, in another case, an officer absented himself from his military duty to attend a Parliamentary Committee to which he had been summoned as a witness. He was tried for desertion of duty, and a conflict between the Military and Parliamentary authorities ensued. The latter concluded the case by deciding that an officer called as a witness before a Parliamentary Committee could plead exemption from military duty, and that in the case of such a person no leave was necessary. A case bearing on a question somewhat similar to that raised by his noble Friend was before the Law Officers for their opinion. As officers of Militia were not engaged at military duties throughout the whole year like officers of the Army, but only for a short time, he was sure they would have the good feeling not to put their commanding officers to the inconvenience of raising a question on which there was a conflict of opinion.