HC Deb 10 May 1897 vol 49 cc179-80

For removing doubts, it is hereby declared that the power under section twenty-four of the Volunteer Act 1863, to make rules with respect to a Volunteer Corps shall extend, and be deemed to have always extended, to rules for securing the efficiency of the members of the corps, and that a fine for the breach of any rule made under that power shall not be deemed to be a civil debt.

MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

moved after the word "power" to insert the words "and approved by Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department." He said that the Bill proposed to amend the Volunteers Act of 1863, under which the Courts had decided that if a Volunteer regiment made a rule and provided that for its violation a penalty should be incurred, that penalty was only a civil debt, which could not be enforced by imprisonment. The object of this Bill was to convert what at present was a matter of civil debt into a criminal offence, and the debt was in the last resort to be enforcible by imprisonment. The Act of 1863 provided by Section 24 that the rules which a corps made should be approved by the Secretary of State for War, but he held that the War Office was not the proper Department to have the power of revising and approving these rules. He was not speaking without book, because in the case of the Queen v. Lewis, decided by the Queen's Bench Division in May last year, the Court held that the rule which the Volunteer corps had made in that case was ultra vires. But the War Office had passed and approved the rule in that case, and, therefore, the check exercised by the War Office could not be regarded as any check at all. It was obvious that at the War Office they had not the machinery to check these rules, and, therefore, he proposed to sub- stitute the Home Office for the War Office.


said that when the purport of these rules was understood by the House, he thought hon. Members would be of opinion that the War Office was the proper authority. He contended that the hon. Member was taking advantage of a technical point to discuss matters which were not germane to the present Bill. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.


said the hon. and learned Gentleman had made no reply to his arguments. A few weeks ago the Lord Chief Justice held that the corps in the case to which he had referred actually made a rule which it had no power to make. He cited that case to show that the check of the War Office was no safeguard at all, as was shown by their having sanctioned that rule. He moved the Amendment simply in order that these rules might be checked in the way which he thought the Legislature intended when the principal Act was passed.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee to report progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.