HC Deb 24 April 1893 vol 11 cc1010-3

Lords' Amendments considered.

Page 4, line 4, sub-section 1, leave out 21, and insert 14.

*MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, & c.)

Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that this Amendment, which has been introduced in another place, has been introduced with the idea of making the words of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, exactly consonant with what I gave the House to understand would be the practice of the Department. I said, as was evidently the intention of the Bill, that the commanding officer should have power to give punishment to the extent of 21 days, but that a Circular would be issued directing that that power should be restricted for the present to 14 days. Exception has been taken in another place to the very idea of the Secretary of State for War, although he is responsible for the discipline of the Army under him, interfering, as it is said, with an Act of Parliament. But I am afraid that that is an operation that goes on every day, because the Queen's Regulations in many instances lay down directions for commanding officers and others responsible for discipline, always within the limit laid down by law. What was proposed to be done was strictly within the powers given by Parliament, and it was thought desirable to make the restriction in the meantime at the commencement of the new arrangement. The House of Lords have thought that it was undesirable, and they have made this change, substituting 14 for 21. It is, I admit, in the direction of the general sentiment on the subject in many parts of the House of Commons when the Bill was before us; and at all events, even if I were disposed in any way to dispute the action of the House of Lords, there is no time to do it now, because this Bill requires to become law before the end of the week. Therefore, as there is no time for further disputation in the matter, I invite the House of Commons to agree with the Lords' Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree to the Lords' Amendment."—(Mr. Campbell-Bannerman.)

MR. HANBURY (Preston)

said, he would like to call the attention of the House to the way in which, the right hon. Gentleman persisted in trying to pass a Bill which was of such enormous importance to the Army. The Bill had been hardly considered in this House, and the right hon. Gentleman would admit that on both sides of the House a good deal of information with regard to the Bill had been brought out at the last moment, and one of the pupils who learned the lesson most quickly was the right hon. Gentleman himself. What did the right hon. Gentleman now do? A most important Amendment was introduced in another place; and without any warning whatever, without any Notice on the Paper, at a time which was certainly most unusual—when Members came down expecting Private Business to be discussed—the right hon. Gentleman, on this the second occasion when the Bill was before the House, again attempted to rush it through. He could only say that he was perfectly content to wipe his hands of the whole affair, because he did not think it was the proper way to deal with such an important Bill. It was utterly impossible, without any information whatever before them, without any Notice that the Bill was to be discussed, to discuss it properly on the present occasion. All they could do, as he would do, was to move that the House do not agree with the Lords' Amendment.

Amendment proposed, "That this House do not agree to the Lords' Amendment."—(Mr. Hanbury.)


Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that the course taken is precisely the usual and ordinary course, and I have not departed in any respect from the practice of the House. This particular Amendment which has been introduced in another place is in the direction of a good deal of what the hon. Member himself said.


said, he would like, if he were in Order, to move an Amendment to the Lords' Amendment. He would like to substitute seven days for 14.


The Question is that the House do agree with the Lords. The course for the hon. Gentleman to take is to negative the proposition.


said, he saw no reason whatever to disagree with the Lords' Amendment, and he supported the proposition.

*COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

thought it would be advantageous for the Army to have 14 days substituted for21. He would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell them whether he proposed now to issue any Memorandum, or whether this Amendment, if agreed to by the House, would prevent any necessity for issuing a Memorandum, He fully agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Preston as to the course which had been taken without Notice being given to the House.


said, some people had clearly expressed the opinion that these disciplinary changes which had been introduced into the Army Bill without explanation as to their immediate cause were due to the necessity the Government felt as to extra discipline in case the War Office had to use British troops in Ulster. It was the only explanation he had heard, but he did not say that he admitted it himself. He should certainly support his hon. Friends in any course they might take, because he thought they ought to know what was the reason for these strict disciplinary changes.

COLONEL R. GUNTER (York, W. R., Barkstone Ash)

considered that the increased power given to the commanding officer would add very much to his position, and save a great number of small courts martial.

Lords' Amendment agreed to.

Lords' Amendment, Clause 10, Subsection-3, to leave out Sub-section 3.


This is a purely consequential Amendment.

Lords' Amendment agreed to.

On another Amendment dealing with the hearing of evidence.


said: The words as they stood might have been read as implying that the commanding officers should first give his decision, and then hear the evidence. This makes it more plain.


complained that these Amendments were not printed, and thought the right hon. Gentleman was rather transgressing the ordinary Rules of the House, as there was no information before them.


said, it was abundantly clear that the right hon. Gentleman did not himself understand the Amendments, and he suggested that he should lay them in some shape before the House.


The right hon. Gentleman has not departed from the usual practice.

Question put, and agreed to.

Forward to