HC Deb 29 March 1900 vol 81 cc776-9

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:—

MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

said he wished to point out that in the Act of last year the forces mentioned were 184,853, whereas in this Bill the number was put at 430,000. He merely desired to call attention to the enormous increase.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4:—

Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Flynn.)

But it appearing to the Chairman that the motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House, he declined to propose the Question thereupon to the Committee.


asked the Under Secretary for War to give him an explanation of the words "from time to time." The clause provided that the Secretary of State might from time to time vary the condition of service and extend the term of the original enlistment up to twelve years.


I have already announced to the House in respect to artillery that we propose to take enlistments for one year. As the law stood before, if an artilleryman wanted to re-engage after one year's service he could only re-engage for another eleven years. That is the interpretation placed upon those words by lawyers. I think the hon. Member is confusing service with the colours with the service of the Reservists. All we are asking for now is more elbow-room in dealing with a new problem.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:—


said he desired to know from the Under Secretary what was meant by this clause.


Our object is to make Sub-section 161 consistent with Sub-section 79. Sub-section 79 lays down that if a man is convicted of desertion or fraudulent enlistment he shall forfeit his previous service, but the Secretary of State may give it him back again. At the present time the Secretary of State has not the power to give him back that service. Sub-section 161 deals with cases of crime discovered after three years service. If a soldier behaves in an exemplary manner for three years he can have extended to him the benefit of Sub-section 79, and he can have also that service which he had previously forfeited.


contended that the forfeiture was only in regard to fraudulent enlistment, and desertion did not come into the section. He had studied the enormous number of alterations and amendments to this Act, and he would defy anybody but an expert to make either head or tail of the Army Act. He had asked before that the Act should be consolidated and put into a convenient form.


I do not profess to be an export upon the interpretation of legal documents, and I leave that to the hon. Member opposite. Upon the question of proper legal phraseology we are bound to be guided by our legal counsel. This Amendment has been very carefully devised to effect an object to which every single person in this House agrees, and I cannot accept the interpretation which the hon. Gentleman puts upon this section. I think I may take it that every hon. Member of this House would wish the Secretary of State to have power to forgive this forfeiture of service.


contended that it was no answer to say that the section had been carefully prepared. It did not need experts to interpret language of that kind, and if the Government intended to give the Secretary of State the power he asked for, a reference was required as to where the forfeiture came in under the Act.


I have not had my attention drawn to that point, but I will undertake to look it up before the Report stage is reached.


said it was no use trying to put him off in that way, and he begged leave to move to report progress.

Committee report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.