My Lords, I desire to ask His Majesty's Government for what reason eligibility for promotion to warrant rank is withheld from the permanent staff of the Imperial Yeomanry, having regard to the statement of the Secretary of State for War on 10th February, 1902, viz.:—Warrant rank is confined to the Regular Army and Militia who are liable to be embodied for long periods,and to the fact that the Yeomanry force is now also liable to be embodied under the Militia and Yeomanry Act, 1902. I put this Question on behalf of a very deserving body of men, who are placed in positions of considerable responsibility in the Yeomanry force—men who are selected for their efficiency and conduct, and who are only retained in the force as long as they are efficient and well behaved. Their comrades holding a similar position in the Militia are eligible for warrant rank, whilst they have been hitherto refused it. It is unnecessary for me to state on what grounds it has 761 been refused. I believe every Committee that has sat at the War Office on Yeomanry matters has invariably recommended that the non-commissioned officers on the permanent staff of the Yeomanry should be eligible for this promotion. This privilege, however, has been invariably refused. Last year, as your Lordships will see from the quotation in my Question, the Secretary of State stated distinctly that "warrant rank was confined to the Regular Army and the Militia, who are liable to be embodied for long periods." Since that time, however, the Militia and Yeomanry Act has been passed, and the Yeomanry are now liable for a long period of embodiment. Therefore I am unable to see why eligibility to promotion should any longer be refused to these permanent sergeants in the Yeomanry. So far as the reasons given by the Secretary of State are concerned, it is inconsistent any longer to refuse this privilege; and therefore I ask the Question in the hope that His Majesty's Government will at length admit the reasonableness of this claim.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of HARDWICKE)
I have no reason to take exception to anything which the noble Lord has stated in asking this Question, nor can I dispute any of the facts he has mentioned, but I will call attention to the extract from the answer that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War gave in the House of Commons and which appears in the Question. That extract was part of a reply to a Question addressed on the subject of the Volunteers, and not in connection with the Yeomanry at all; and the Secretary of State, in stating that warrant rank was confined to the Regular Army and the Militia, who were liable to be embodied for long periods, merely stated a fact as the facts were at the time. Had the Yeomanry been under the same conditions as the Militia at that time he doubtless would not have made that answer to the Question, because if he did not feel disposed to grant warrant rank to the Yeomanry he would not have stated that it was merely confined to the Militia who were liable to embodiment for long periods. I would like to point out that the conditions of service in the 762 Militia and Yeomanry are very different. The Militia non-commissioned officers are eligible for warrant rank, but they are employed practically the whole year.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The recruits are at the depots for forty-nine days preliminary drill in addition to the training of one month, and Militiamen are allowed to, and do, go up for preliminary drill, at all periods of the year. Therefore I state, without fear of contradiction, that Militia sergeants are actively employed the whole year round. As regards the Yeomanry sergeants the case is different. The training is only sixteen days. The preliminary drill of a Yeoman consists of twenty drills only, and for an efficient Yeoman ten drills, and the only work that a non-commissioned officer in the Yeomanry has to do during the rest of the year is to instruct Yeomen when they come up for that instruction. I do not think the noble Lord can deny that for the greater part of the year the Yeomanry non-commissioned officer has not a great deal to do. I would also point out to the noble Lord that at present many Yeomanry regiments are under strength; and though I do not wish to shut the door to granting warrant rank to Yeomanry non-commissioned officers, I fear I cannot hold out any immediate prospect of warrant rank being granted. When the Yeomanry regiments are up to strength the matter will be again considered, and it is possible that the Secretary of State may then be able to take a more favourable view of the matter than he is able to do at present.
§ LORD WENLOCK
Might I ask the noble Earl how many regiments are below strength? There are regiments to whom neither of the reasons given for withholding warrant rank would apply, and I should like to ask how long it will 763 be before those who are already up to their full strength will have the privilege. The noble Earl seemed to consider that Yeomanry non-commissioned officers have very little to do as compared with the Militia, but I believe they have far more work in uncompleted regiments than they would have if the regiments were up to their full strength.
The noble Earl the Under-Secretary tells the House that the Secretary of State will reconsider the question when the Yeomanry regiments are up to strength. I fail to follow the bearing of the answer. Does warrant rank depend on the strength?
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The simple fact is that, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, this is not the moment to grant this warrant rank; and for this reason, that when once you have given warrant rank you cannot take it away. You have, therefore, to be very careful in choosing your sergeants for that position. As Yeomanry non-commissioned officers are not always actively employed, and have a great deal of leisure on their hands, it is necessary that care should be exercised not to grant this rank to officers when we have not had sufficient experience of their capacity.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I should like to ask how many Yeomanry regiments are below strength. In many counties I know they are above strength. I hardly think that the answer given by the noble Earl is satisfactory to the Imperial Yeomanry, which fine fighting force ought to be encouraged. They feel that an unmerited snub has been administered to the non-commissioned officers of the Imperial Yeomanry in not putting them on the same footing as Militia non-commissioned officers, especially as the new Act has now come into force.
I cannot help expressing regret that I have not received a more favourable answer. The fact is that there are many regiments of Yeomanry at the present moment up to strength, and if it is legitimate some time or other that regiments on full strength should have this privilege 764 accorded to them, why should it not be granted now to those regiments which are up to strength? But I think it is unwise to apply that test. The strength of the Yeomanry is a purely arbitrary standard. I can assure my noble friend, who has not had quite so much experience of the Yeomanry as I have had—
I thought so from what the noble Earl said, but I can assure him that a Yeomanry sergeant-major has quite as much work to do as a Militia sergeant-major.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I have nothing to add to the reasons that my noble friend has given, but I do not like the remark of my noble friend opposite, that a snub had been administered to Yeomanry non-commissioned officers, to pass unnoticed. It is only quite recently that the Militia have been given warrant officers. They were given warrant officers during the war, and I do not think there is any necessity to institute a comparison between the particular work done by the two classes of officers. The cases of the Yeomanry and the Militia non-commissioned officer are so dissimilar that I greatly doubt whether any just parallel could be drawn between the two. I strongly deprecate the view that any snub has been administered.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I am sorry the noble Lord considers my answer unsatisfactory. I told him distinctly that I did not wish to shut the door to giving this warrant rank, but that it could not be done at the present moment.