§ LORD SAYE AND SELE rose to ask the Secretary of State for War how he proposed to deal with the National Reserve in the case of a national emergency. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount will tell us here, where he will be accurately reported, his intentions regarding the National Reserve in a time of national emergency. The National Reserve has been in existence now for about two years. The County Associations, for the most part, have done extremely good work in connection with it, and those County Associations which have held back have done so, I am quite sure, from a feeling that they were working in the dark. The Secretary of State for War has now plenty of information to go upon. He knows that he has, or can have, 150,000 men under forty years of age, containing a blend of Regular and Auxiliary forces—somewhere about half and half.
§ The National Reserve Regulations are excessively meagre at present, and can be boiled down into the few following words: "The County Associations may do exactly what they please with the National Reserve provided they do not expend more than a shilling per man per annum. That shilling may be expended on an annual parade; a certain number of rifles may be obtained on loan; and ammunition may be obtained on payment." I put it to your Lordships and to the noble Viscount that 800 a shilling per man per annum is not only inadequate, but is a ridiculous sum in connection with a National Reserve if that force is wanted at all. The Regulations mention an annual parade—well, a shilling per man per annum will not provide that. They also mention shooting as useful—the shilling will not provide that. Indeed, the shilling barely pays for efficient registration.
The noble Viscount is reported to have said—I do not pretend to vouch for the accuracy of the report—last month at the Guildhall—
The Territorial Force is not in a position which need lead any one to despair. All its units are there; it is equipped for war; it is commanded admirably by trained officers; it has attained five-sixths of the numbers necessary to complete it.
I pause to ask why we should not despair if the establishment of the Territorial Force is only five-sixths of that which has been fixed as the necessary establishment. I conclude that the further words of the noble Viscount are the answer. For the noble Viscount went on to say—
Behind it there is now the National Reserve, which at any time of national emergency we can mobilise in order to strengthen and stiffen the Territorial Force with veterans.
And then only yesterday the noble Viscount is reported as having stated, in addressing a Territorial demonstration at Barnstaple, that all military and naval organisation in this country depended on foreign policy. He added—
We did not need to make home defence our first concern. We were girt round by the sea, and so long as we had the Navy commanding that we could rely on the spirit of the citizens of the country.
The noble Viscount is also reported to have said, regarding the Territorial Force—
They had a percentage which made him feel very comfortable, particularly now that they had organised at the back a body of trained men who had completed their service to the State and were able to give a hand when there was a pinch.
I do not know whether a "pinch" and a "national emergency" are the same thing. The noble Viscount added—
The bulk of the Associations are well off in funds, and the organisation is working smoothly throughout the country.
I cannot understand how the County Associations can be well off and possess plenty of funds when they are only allowed a shilling a man per annum in regard to the National Reserve. That shilling, as I have
said, will not provide either of the two things which are essential if the National Reserve is needed at all. Having been an adjutant of both Line and Militia I can confidently say that registering these men is absolutely useless unless you can keep in touch with them, and the shilling will not enable you to do that. That is the first essential. The second essential is that facilities should be given for shooting, and the shilling a man will not enable you to give those facilities. It will, as I have said, barely pay for efficient registration. I beg to ask the noble Viscount the Question which stands in my name.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, my noble friend has taken a commendable interest in the National Reserve, but there is one thing which I observe he has not done. He has not studied the Regulations relating to the National Reserve. If he had done so he would have found, first of all, that the shilling per head given to the County Associations is intended purely for the secretarial work of registration and minor purposes of that kind. In the second place, he would have found that the National Reserve is not intended to be a body organised in military cadres and to be mobilised. He quoted from a speech of mine in which the reporter made me speak as if the National Reserve was a body which would be mobilised like other forces. I need not say that that is not so, and that I did not say so. The National Reserve is a register of men in this country who have had military training; it is a very comprehensive register, and comprises old and young—that is to say, as young as they can be after having gone through their time with the Colours. The way in which it is proposed to use that register is this. In the first place, to classify it—that the Associations do in a general way—and then, in time of necessity, to call for volunteers from it. In addition to that, the younger men have an opportunity, if they wish, to do something more definite, to take a definite engagement. They have the opportunity either of joining the Territorial Reserve, and in that case, of course, they receive uniform and pay when they are out, or, if they prefer it, of joining the Special Reserve, for which special arrangements have been made for them. Beyond that there is a class of men to whom, not in time of peace but on mobilisation, other opportunities of taking engagement will be offered. But 802 the bulk, or at least a large proportion, of the National Reserve must always consist of men who are old enough to be able to do little more than contribute by their military spirit and encouragement to the interest of their fellow-citizens in military subjects.
As regards parades, which my noble friend wishes to see they are most laudable things, but except upon rare occasions they ought to be local. If he would go to Austria or to Germany and look at the parades there of the men who correspond to the National Reserve here, he would see that every village and every place has its own arrangements under which these men come out, and a splendid thing it is in the way of example to their fellow-citizens. There are occasions on which, on another footing, bigger parades of the National Reserve may be held, but these are matters for voluntary arrangement. A great one is going to take place on June 8 in Hyde Park, at which the King has graciously signified his pleasure to be present to review the National Reserve; and there was a parade held recently at the Horse Guards, also made by private arrangement, and no doubt from time to time when convenient these parades will take place. But the average parade of the National Reserve ought to be a local matter, and does not require the machinery of which my noble friend has spoken.
I should add that, while people are getting very much better informed about the true functions of the National Reserve than they were, and while we think we have made them quite clear in documents, we still find obscurity of thought on the matter in certain quarters. We have therefore appointed an officer of great experience whose whole time is now being devoted to going round and explaining to the Associations and those connected with the National Reserve what its true functions are, the nature of the classification, the opportunities that exist for members of the National Reserve who are willing to take a definite engagement, and generally clearing up points of obscurity; and I think that my noble friend, when be has come in contact with this officer and has seen more of the working of the registration system which we have inaugurated, will find that it is not so obscure as he seems to think.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, no one can complain of the cordial manner in which the noble Viscount has spoken of the National Reserve, but I am not quite sure that the substance of what he said is as encouraging to that force as most of us would have perhaps desired. For, unless I mistook him, he seemed to think that the National Reserve itself, or the great bulk of that force, could not be looked upon as of any use in time of emergency, but were there simply as an encouragement to younger men to join the various forces which serve His Majesty.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
It is impossible yet to say what the numbers will be, but there is a substantial number of men who are too old to give more than moral assistance. I agree with the noble Marquess, however, that there is a very large body—some say they amount to 50 per cent., but I should have thought not more than 30 per cent.—who would be of immense war service.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am glad to have obtained that statement from the noble Viscount, because if his previous observation had gone out as he gave it, it would probably have had a damping effect upon the National Reserve. I know a good deal about the subsidiary forces of the Crown, and in my humble judgment a very large number of the men in the National Reserve—I should have thought a majority of them—would be of substantial use in time of emergency. They are trained men; they know how to fire; and if a moment of invasion came we should be very glad that we had these veterans to fall back upon. I only rose to prevent any misconception which might have arisen from the original words of the noble Viscount, and I am glad he has corrected them.