§ Order for Committee read.
§ Mr. BOWLES moved—"That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they 930 have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, and to embody clause 4 and Parts 1, and II. of the Second Schedule to the Bill in a separate Bill." I move this Instruction, he said, upon three main grounds, which I hope will have some weight with the House, and even with the right hon. Gentleman. The House will be aware that clause 4 of this Bill is of a large and far-reaching character, and whatever may be said on its merits the proposals it makes are at any rate different in kind from not only the whole of the rest of the proposals of the Bill, but, so far as I know and have been able to ascertain, from any proposals that have been made in the Army (Annual) Bill in former years. The House will see that leaving clause 4 outside altogether the rest of this Bill is directed, as I have always believed the Army (Annual) Bill should be directed, to amending the Army Act and making small alterations in the military code in the interests of discipline. That is one of the objects to which the Army (Annual) Bill has hitherto been confined. But clause 4 is entirely different, because it proposes to make a great organic alteration for good or for evil in the methods by which the Army is administered. It proposes to make a great organic alteration, whether rightly or wrongly, in the powers and duties which at present vest in the Secretary of State. The Secretary for War is the only Minister responsible to this House for the Army, but we have in clause 4 a proposal which goes far beyond any affair internal to the Army, and it touches directly for the first time in this Bill questions closely affecting the powers and the position of this House as expressed through the powers and duties of the Secretary of State. This clause is different in kind to any other clause in the Bill.
§ Then there is this second consideration, which appears to me to be of great importance. If clause 4 and the second schedule are kept in this Bill, this change, which is a tremendous one, will have to be decided under circumstances which, although perfectly proper in an Army (Annual) Bill of an urgent character, which must be passed before a certain date, are quite improper in the case of the change which is now proposed. This is a Bill which must be passed before the end of this month and within the next few days, therefore it is an urgent and necessary matter. The proposals, however, contained in clause 4 are not urgent. The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors ever since the abolition of the Commander-in-Chief and 931 the Adjutant-General have gone on in the situation in which the right hon. Gentleman now stands armed with his present powers. This clause is not urgent in the interests of the War Office itself, and in any case it could be much better considered separately and later than upon this Bill. It does appear to me that any proper or adequate consideration of this proposal must involve an inquiry into many matters which have never yet been brought before the House. When we are asked not to delegate but to transfer permanently to the Army Council powers and duties which are only conferred upon the Secretary of State, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Adjutant-General, surely it is necessary to inquire what is the Army Council, and what is the object of conferring upon that body these powers? That inquiry is not an easy one, but an inquiry into the real meaning of what we are doing by clause 4 must necessarily be a very long and tedious one, and one which it is quite impossible for the House to undertake adequately upon this Bill here and now.
§ Finally, in asking that clause 4 should be placed outside the scope of this Bill and dealt with separately, I am only asking the House and the Government to do what the Government themselves did a few months ago. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman requires these powers, but if they are really necessary the only way in which this House ought to grant them is in a separate Bill, which we should be entitled to discuss in all its stages under conditions and circumstances which cannot apply to the Army (Annual) Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman requires this clause the course he took last year of putting it in a separate Bill is the proper course to take as far as this House is concerned. It is not a proper thing, and it is straining the powers of Government and asking a very great deal of this House to use an Army (Annual) Bill for a purpose of this kind, which it has never been used for before. The Secretary for War cannot find any precedent for asking powers of this sort in a Bill like the Army (Annual) Bill. For these reasons, because clause 4 and its schedule involve a proposal of very great magnitude entirely different to any other principles contained in this Bill, and different from any which have been placed in any Army Bill before, I am asking the House to do what the right hon. Gentleman himself asked us to do a few months 932 ago in a similar situation. I earnestly hope the House will favourably consider the Instruction which stands in my name on the Paper, which I beg to move.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I wish to say a word or two to emphasise the arguments which have been addressed to the House by my hon. Friend. As my hon." Friend has stated, the question of the merits or demerits of clause 4 do not arise upon this Motion, and the only question before us is whether the House is going to agree to consider this clause at all now, and whether it is proper to consider it at the present moment. I will submit reasons why the House ought not to accept the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward for immediate decision. In the first place, there is no question of urgency, and the questions dealt with in clause 4 might very well wait for the introduction of a separate Bill dealing with this subject, which is really necessary before any steps can be taken.
My next submission is that the proposal contained in clause 4, although it is within the letter of the sub-title of the Bill, is really outside its spirit. While subjectively it may be in the same category, objectively it is in a different category altogether. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the respective sub-titles of the Army Council Bill and this Army (Annual) Bill. The Army (Annual) Bill is one to provide during twelve months for the discipline and regulation of the Army, but the Army Council Bill is a measure to transfer permanently to the Army Council certain statutory powers and duties of the Secretary of State for War and other officers. Now these two things are not in pari materia at all, and I put it to the House that this proposal is not really at all what it purports to be, namely, an amendment of the Army Act. It is really a constitutional step of which the amendment of the Army Act is the outward and visible sign. What is this constitutional step'? It is that for the first time Parliament is asked to recognise the existence of a body called the Army Council.
Let me press this point upon the House. The Army Council was created by Letters Patent, supplemented by an Order in Council, and therefore it is the creation of the Executive authority and the Executive authority alone. Parliament, as distinct from the Crown, has never given any official recognition whatever to the existence of this body to whom it is now pro 933 posed, in the corner of this Bill, to transfer the Statutory powers of the Secretary of State. A proof of that will be found by comparing the preambles of the respective Bills—namely, the Army Council Bill and the Army (Annual) Bill—whereas in the Army (Annual) Bill you find in the preamble not one single word about the Army Council. If you turn to the Army Council Bill you find, quite rightly and properly, it is provided that: "Whereas by an Order in Council dated so and so, it is provided that the Secretary of State is to be responsible to His Majesty and to Parliament for all business of the Army Council other than that business which the Secretary of State reserves for himself, etc." The preamble of the Army Council Bill starts off by a recital of the fact that the Army Council has been created, and that because of that creation certain steps ought to be taken by Parliament. This Bill, on the other hand, does not ever recognise the fact at all, either in the title or in the preamble, that an Army Council exists. Officially and Constitutionally, up to this moment Parliament has no knowledge of the existence of the Army Council. While that is true of the Army (Annual) Act and of the Army Council Bill, it is also true of the Army Act itself. Through the whole of the 190 clauses and the four schedules of the Army Act there is not a single word even hinting at the existence of the Army Council. I mention that because clause 4 of this Bill is designated as an amendment of the Army Act. It is something far more than that, and I strongly press the Constitutional aspect on the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not profess to have anything more than a nodding acquaintance with Constitutional law, and I would not ask the House to accept a statement on such a subject from myself, but I go to a higher authority. I appeal to Csesar—to the right hon. Gentleman himself. Last year, when the Army (Annual) Bill was before the House, the hon. Member for the Blackpool Division moved an Amendment to draw attention to this very point. Seeing that certain powers were given to the Commander-in-Chief, and that there was no Commander-in-Chief in existence, the hon. Member for Blackpool proposed an Amendment substituting in clause 42 of the Army Act, for the words "Commander-in-Chief" the words "Chief of the General Staff." The right hon. Gentleman resisted that Amendment, for the very reasons which I have endeavoured to put before the House, and for which this In- 934 struction is proposed. He said that this Amendment, although it might technically be necessary, was really not worth pressing, because he was going to deal with the whole subject shortly:—He had not yet had an opportunity of bringing forward the Army Council Powers Bill but he hoped to introduce it later in the Session. He named to pass it as soon as he got an opportunity, but until that Bill became law it was impossible to deal with these mere formalities.I agree that all this business of amending the Army Act by substituting the words "Army Council" for the words now there is a mere formality, but the right hon. Gentleman rightly said that it was a formality which this House ought not to undertake until a Bill had been brought forward to deal with the general subject. The right hon. Gentleman amplified his statement later in the same debate, when he said:—The only use of the Act of Parliament was to put right what was in substance right and what was constantly working. That would have to be done by a Bill outside this Act, and that would be the proper tune to amend the Army (Annual) Act.That is our case, and it is a case which I believe is absolutely irrefragible.
Motion made and Question proposed: "That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, and to embody clause 4 and parts I. and II. of the second schedule to the Bill in a separate Bill."—[Mr. Stewart Bowles.]
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane)
The point put by the hon. Members for Norwood and North-West Lanarkshire would have been much more appropriate if they had put it in the form of a question designed to elicit "information. I think I shall be able to show in a moment that the attitude of affirmation which underlay their speeches is an attitude without foundation. I am sure they do not desire to go back to the system abolished by the late Government in 1904, under which there was a Commander-in-Chief and the old statutory Adjutant-General. What was done was to sweep that away, and to substitute an organisation as nearly as possible an exact reproduction of the Board of Admiralty. The powers were distributed, and the position of the Secretary of State was made clear. He is responsible to Parliament for everything done by the Army Council collectively, or by any member of it; he has power to apportion business or to withdraw any business; and the conception of the change that was made by the Order in 935 Council was that that would be a working system. I am glad to say, after between three and four years' experience of the system, that it is not only working well, but is working better every day. It is more business-like than the old system, and the distribution of functions has led to the much more efficient despatch of business. I do not for a moment assume that the House wishes to go back on that system. "But," said the hon. and learned member for Lanarkshire:—The Army Council was set up only by Letters Patent and Order in Council, and Parliament knows nothing about it.I was a little surprised at that suggestion coming from so accurate a lawyer as my hon. Friend. There is an Act which, I think, he has not only heard of, but has had a great deal to do with, namely, the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, throughout which the Army Council is treated by Parliament as the effective body. In the first provision it says, "The Army Council shall pay the associations …." It is not any of these old officials who are now superseded, but the Army Council right through is treated by Parliament as the body to which the powers of that Act are entrusted. Therefore, I pass without further comment from the suggestion that Parliament has not dealt with or recognised the existence of the Army Council.
Now I come to the substantive point. I take together the points made by the hon. Members for Norwood and North - West Lanarkshire. The first thing said by the hon. Member for Norwood in particular, and I think also by the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire, was that advantage has been taken of the Army (Annual) Bill to make a great organic change. There is no great organic change made. All that is suggested is that in the Act containing the working machinery by which the maintenance of the Army is carried on, the language should conform to the facts. The facts are that the Army Council has been in existence for nearly five years, and that the language of the Army Act is unintelligible to anybody who has not a great deal of technical knowledge, for the simple reason that it was drawn up when there was a Commander-in-Chief and the old statutory Adjutant-General and no Army Council, and that language stands intact to this day. In deed, the position of the Minister for War in this House is not always an easy one. On the one hand, he is reproached for 936 allowing to go on from year to year an Act the language of which is not in harmony with the existing machinery, and, on the other hand, if he tries to alter it, it is said: "Oh, this is most improper; you are introducing great organic changes." There is not a single Amendment proposed to be made in this Bill which is not of a merely minor and purely administrative character. There is no organic change proposed; there is no question of principle inserted. All that is done on each and every occasion is to bring the language of the Act of Parliament into harmony not only with the facts but with the existing working machinery. For instance, the Commander-in-Chief is named in the Army Act, and it is plain that there is no Commander-in-Chief. I take as an illustration a case which sometimes happens, where a non-commissioned officer is convicted for an offence by a civil court, and it is necessary that he should be reduced to the ranks. That would have been done by the Commander-in-Chief. What happens to-day is that the prerogative has to be invoked. The Secretary of State has to send a submission to the Sovereign; that submission has to receive the imprimatur of the Sovereign, and come back, if approved, to be adopted by the Secretary of State. The prerogative has to be made use of even in so simple a matter as that. The result is that the time of the Secretary of State is taken up by doing purely mechanical work which ought never to occupy his time—almost clerical work. That is merely an illustration of the kind of work which takes up my time, which is really unnecessary, and which ought to be put right. Then the hon. Members said: "Why do you not do this as you proposed to do it last year—by a separate Bill?" Last year I proposed to transfer to the Army Council not merely statutory powers created by the Army Act but statutory powers created by the Defence Act, the Reserve Forces Act, and other statutes. I confine myself here, and I am bound so to do—otherwise there would have been great force in the point taken—purely to things which are within the Army Act. I am proposing to transfer nothing that is not within the four corners of the Army Act; therefore it is strictly relevant to the Army Act to amend it by making its language harmonise with the language of the Order in Council. That is why it is not necessary to bring in a separate Bill on this occasion. No great organic change being proposed, no ques- 937 tions of substance being dealt with, but merely questions of drafting, no attempt being made to transfer powers created by other statutes such as the Reserve Forces Act and the Defence Act, it is proper to amend the Army Act on the occasion in the year when we do habitually amend it.
I would point out that the situation is very much simpler than it was two years ago. By the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act all the powers conferred upon the Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of State, and the old statutory Adjutant-General by the Volunteers and Yeomanry Act have already been transferred to the Army Council. Therefore, I am able to leave the Defence Act and the Reserve Forces Act alone for the present, and to confine myself strictly to an attempt to give the House an intelligible Army Act which they can read without being confused by constant references to functionaries who do not exist, and whose powers cannot be exercised. Nobody has suggested that by these Amendments any responsibility of Ministers is in any way infringed or diminished, or that there is any attempt to tamper with financial administration. That is not affected in any way. What is done will be seen if hon. Members will turn to section 77 and the subsequent sections regarding the Secretary of State, and again to section 42, and the sections which deal with the Commander-in-Chief and the statutory Adjutant-General. There is simply a transfer to the Army Council, not of all powers, but of unimportant powers which are merely clerical and administrative. All the important powers are kept in the hands of the Secretary of State. Even as regards the whole of these, care has been taken in clause 4 to preserve in express terms the responsibility of the Secretary of State to Parliament. If this Bill passes I shall be responsible to Parliament the day after it is passed exactly as much as and no less or no more than I am to-day. All that will have happened is that the Order in Council and the Army Act will have been brought into harmony. The hon. and learned Member for North-West Lanarkshire asked:—Is it appropriate to transfer powers from the Army Act, which is a permanent Act, by a Bill which is to operate only for a year?We have in the Army Act itself every word of the Code. In the Army (Annual) Bill, which we pass every year, we always amend the Army Act, and bring it into conformity with the requirements of the day. The difference made now will be 938 that the Code will be brought up to date and made intelligible in a way it has not been brought up to date before. It is said that there is no urgency in these matters. All I have to say is that if the House knew the amount of my time which is wasted in purely mechanical and unnecessary work which ought never to fall on the head of any Department, it would not be said that there is no urgency. What is now proposed ought to have been done long ago. Then it is said that this is not the occasion on which to do it. Well, I think I have shown that this is the occasion. I have confined my Amendments to Amendments in the Army Act pure and simple, and I have not dealt with other Acts which would have necessitated a separate Bill. I trust I have satisfied the House that there is absolutely nothing behind this except what I have stated. I have used my utmost endeavours to get the Bill into shape. It has been drafted by one of the most eminent draftsmen. I have been through every line of it myself, and I trust that if the House allows the clause in the Bill to pass as it stands a substantial contribution will be made to rendering the Code of the Army intelligible to hon. Members and to the public generally.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I shall hardly deal at all with the merits of the clause which we shall have other opportunities of discussing. The only remarks I shall make will be in reply to the observations of my right hon. Friend. In regard to the existence of the Army Council and the manner of its existence we cannot put our case more plainly than in the words of the Secretary of State himself. He was asked last year by what statutory authority the Army Council exists, not before the Territorial Army Bill, but after the Act was passed, and he answered distinctly that the Army Council was created by the prerogative of the Sovereign, exercised through Letters Patent. I will not enter upon the question of the prerogative being extended to such things. It is not my intention to raise that question, but I would refer those who are interested in it to the two speeches of the late Sir William Har-court, in which he denied the existence of any such prerogative. We are told that this is carrying out the Esher Report. I would like to know what Lord Esher's view was on that subject.
§ Mr. HALDANE made a remark which was inaudible in the Press Gallery.939
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
You said that the policy of the late Government was in accord with the recommendation of the Esher Committee, viz., that the Army Council should be made like the Board of Admiralty. The late Government accepted the Esher Report on that point, but they did not carry it out. It has not been carried out by this Government, and it is not being carried out by this Bill. Is that denied? There is no resemblance to the Board of Admiralty, and the speeches of Lord Spencer and Lord Ripon, in another place, against the Army Council Bill, were as clear as possible on that subject.
Let me put aside the points which arise on the speech of the Secretary of State. I also put aside the question whether there ought or not to be a Commander-in-Chief. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that this was a question of policy. It is the opposite policy which is pursued by the present Government in India, and it was recommended to this House last week in a dispatch which gives an opposite set of reasons to those which have been advanced here in regard to a Commander-in-Chief in this country. I will not touch upon that further than to point out that there is an extraordinary discrepancy.
The ground given for proceeding with this Bill is that great urgency exists, and that great inconvenience is caused to the Secretary of State and others by the present system. We have never had any ground whatever stated either by the late Secretary of State or the present Secretary of State to show that there was urgency or inconvenience, except one, and that is in the case of the reduction of a non-commissioned officer to the ranks. I pointed out last year in the debate which has been quoted, and I think two Members on the other side of the House also pointed out, that it would be perfectly easy to deal with that by a purely disciplinary Amendment in this Bill. That is not a matter of urgency. There would be no difficulty in dealing with that at all, or with any point of that description, so that I think that argument can hardly stand. The Secretary of State assumes two things. He assumes that the saving of his responsibility covers everything, but he knows the weak point in that argument. The right hon. Gentleman has always a second string to his bow, and he says: "I am a Member of the Army Council, and therefore, so far as responsibility goes, the Army Council is centred in me." No one can doubt the responsibility of that body. It is a body 940 which is sometimes the Secretary of State—both in this Government and the late Government—and sometimes quite different, according to the view which suits the circumstances of the moment. The Secretary of State has explained to-day, and he also explained in his speech on the second reading, that this Bill is to bring the Army Act into consonance with the actual law as it exists—the actual law so far as the Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant-General are concerned. But what we are dealing with now are the powers of the Secretary of State. The account which the Secretary of State gave was that in 1904 the office of Commander-in-Chief was abolished and by an Order in Council all his powers were transferred to the Army Council, subject to this, that by express provision in the Order in Council it was made clear that the responsibility of the Secretary of State should remain unchanged. The right hon. Gentleman has repeated that statement to-day as to his responsibility remaining unchanged. It has already been pointed out by the Seconder of the Motion that the preamble of the Army Council Bill did give certain safeguards by explaining the meaning of the Bill, which are altogether wanting now. One part of the preamble of the Army Council Bill is taken out and put into clause 4, sub-section (b), which says:—Nothing in this Act shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State under the Order in Council dated the tenth day of August nineteen hundred and four, respecting the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament.That is an extraordinry way of preserving the responsibility of the Secretary of State to Parliament. We know what are the arguments which have been used by the Secretary of State outside the House. I should like to give one or two specific examples of the working of this responsibility. In a note referring to clause 4 I find the following paragraphs:—
"This clause transfers to the Army Council the bulk of the powers of the Secretary of State.
"The powers excepted from transfer include those where the Secretary of State acts as a channel of communication to and from the Sovereign (e.g., sections 42, 70, 95, 103, 115 (1), 140 (3)."
The Notes do not mention section 88 of the Army Act, which, however, is referred to in the schedule. If the House will turn to that section they will find that, in immi- 941 nent national danger, the King in Council by proclamation may order soldiers otherwise transferable to reserve to continue in Army service. Sub-section 2 makes it lawful for the King by proclamation to order a Secretary of State to give directions for that purpose. There is a vast Constitutional difference between the King ordering an Army Council to give powers affecting liberty, even though the Secretary of State is its principal member, and the present Constitutional position of the Secretary of State standing alone. That is a serious responsibility, directly undertaken by the Secretary of State. That is what is transferred to the Army Council, and I say that it is wholly different from the collective responsibility of the Board. To speak of them as if they were entirely outside of himself is a totally different thing from the responsibility to Parliament of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. HALDANE was understood to dissent.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I do not think it is the same thing. Of course, technically, some Minister is responsible for every conceivable act of the Crown. It is a convenient fiction, but does my right hon. Friend assert that the Constitutional principle is sufficient?
§ Mr. HALDANE
Does my right hon. Friend really suggest that the Secretary of State is not to act except on the advice of the Army Council?
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I would refer my right hon. Friend to section 115 of the Act. Again, another section empowers any justice by warrant in emergency, signified under sub-section 1 of section 115 to impress by requisition carriages, horses, and vessels. The "officer of a Secretary of State" of the present law gives more real responsibility than the substituted "officer of the Army Council." I say there again I should much prefer the direct Order of the Secretary of State to the Order of the Army Council.
§ Mr. HALDANE who was indistinctly heard in the gallery, was understood to say: It is stated "and as signified by the Secretary of State."
§ Sir C. DILKE
That is in a general way; but with regard to provisions which apply to the whole civilian population, I should prefer the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State. I do not think that these constitutional powers ought to rest upon technicalities. I know that to a 942 lawyer of great ability and great brains like my right hon. Friend they may mean the same thing, but they do not mean the same thing. We are dealing with a power which interferes most gravely with the population of this country; and, therefore, I should prefer the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State. There is a statement in the Bill which does not seem to me to be perfectly correct as to guarding these responsibilities. There was in the Army Council Bill in its latest form a clause—clause 1, sub-section 1A—which states that nothing in clause 1 is to affect the communications to or from the King, which have to be made by or through the Secretary of State. It is stated that has been preserved. I do not see where it is.
§ Mr. HALDANE who was again very imperfectly heard in the Gallery, was understood to say—" It is preserved in this way. The Army Council Bill confers all the statutory power en bloc. This time we are conferring only the specified powers contained in the sections."
§ Sir C. DILKE
I am prepared to accept that as a matter of drafting, but it does not remove my objection to the constitutional form of the Bill. But it is better to be on the safe side regarding provisions of this kind. It is notorious, and nobody is more aware of it than my right hon. Friend, that no one knows the exact state of military and constitutional law. There is the greatest possible doubt on every point. There always has been great objection to deal suddenly with so delicate and so transcendentally important a matter in its possible consequences. That you are doing without knowing that the House of Commons did not receive with welcome or with enthusiasm either the first or the second form of the Army Council Bill; but now we are asked to deal blindfolded with the matter.
§ Mr. HAZLETON
I think the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway has made out a very good case in support of this Instruction. On a certain point I listened with considerable astonishment to the speech of the Secretary of State. He said that this Bill makes no important organic change in the Army, and that the Amendments for the most part are drafting Amendments. I presume that he considers if important Amendments were to be made in the Army Act a separate Bill ought to be introduced. What about the question of billeting? Under the Army Act it is confined to licensed premises, but—
I think that the Secretary of State with reference to this Instruction declared that when he introduced the Bill of last year it covered a wider ground than what this clause 4 under the Army Act covers, and that he could not cover the whole of the ground with reference to the Army Council in a clause of the Act of this year. The very reason for introducing the Bill of last year in the form in which he did was conclusive evidence of the importance of the subject, but he takes from that Bill portions to which there are many objections and puts them into this Bill. This is the first opportunity which the House has had to consider a grave constitutional change. I find that the Bill of last year was introduced without any explanation, and was dropped without any explanation, and the right hon. Gentleman must have felt that it was a Bill which involved a great constitutional change, and he ought to have got the sanction of Parliament to it. Surely to take from that Bill the highly contentious matter which it contains and put it into the Army (Annual) Bill of this year shows the necessity of our raising the question which we have done. He said that the reason for this change—this extraordinary change—in procedure was because he found himself constantly doing work which might be conveniently carried on by the Army Council, and he made the most extraordinary admission that the Army Council has been carrying out functions affecting the Army for a number of years, but he knows that for any failure of the Army Council to do its duty he is directly responsible to this House. If this clause 4 passes the right hon. Gentleman will be able to shelter himself behind the Army Council. The right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway has spoken of one section of the Army (Annual) Act with reference to vehicles and carriages in the case of imminent emergency. That is to say, the change which has been made gives His Majesty the power directly to direct the Army Council—that is to say, His Majesty will be able to direct the Army Council and not the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible to this House, so that the right hon. Gentleman is incorrect in saying that the power in that respect is invested in himself. No, Sir; the point made by my hon. Friend near me is that the jealously-guarded responsibilities of the Secretary of State will be taken away from him, and therefore from the veto of this House, that is so far as 944 the Army Act is concerned. Not only does clause 4 deal with the duties of the right hon. Gentleman, but it also deals with those of Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant - General. Surely a longer statement should be made by the Secretary of State for making the extraordinary change which he has done. The point made by the right hon. Baronet opposite below the Gangway, which he did not finish, was that only part of clause 4, that with reference to the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State, is under this Order in Council, and that His Majesty might possibly exercise powers without this House having any knowledge of the intentions of the Government in the matter. It is a fundamental change. It is that on which we base our arguments. It is a change which we are not prepared to accept at a short notice. It is a change that strikes at the root of the command of His Majesty's forces. So that in future instead of being able to shelter himself behind some officer of the Army Council, with which this House has nothing whatever to do, the right hon. Gentleman should in all these matters answer for the whole Army Council himself. Another point I should like to put to him is this: He complains that his duty has been rather too much for him. He in no way gave the House to understand in what direction it lay except with one slight exception, in regard to a non-commissioned officer. He did not mention the fact about enlistment, which I take to be one of the most crucial parts of this alteration of clause 4, allowing the Army Council to deal with enlistments of men for His Majesty's forces. He did not deal with that, but he did deal with some small details with regard to non-commissioned officers. The arguments were unequal to the weight of the changes, and I myself feel very strongly that the right hon. Gentleman has taken a rather unfair advantage in pushing this clause 4 in the manner in which he has done. He has done all this by what has been very properly described as a side wind in the Army Council Bill, and we shall take an opportunity at the earliest possible moment of showing that we are not prepared to sit down under such tactics in a matter of this sort. I shall have much pleasure in supporting my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I think on this occasion I shall be obliged to support those opposing this suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. It is only necessary to look through the Memorandum supplied showing the Amendments of the Army Act 945 which are proposed by the Army (Annual) Bill to see that this is an Act that is going to have a very considerable bearing on many subjects, though they are not included, as it were, within the terms of the actual clause we are now debating. It is only necessary to look through this Memorandum and the 101 clauses mentioned to see that in almost all the affairs of the Army the Army Council is to be substituted, and is to decide everything in place of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. I say that is the wording of this Memorandum. I noticed the right hon. Gentleman has supplied us with very elaborate information. He has drawn a black line through the words he is going to strike out and he has put in italics the words he intends in every clause to put in. So we now have the information, though it is very late, and the Bill dealing with this Constitutional question at the same time. This Memorandum clearly shows that it involves the whole process of the administration of martial law and military discipline in this country for the future if this clause 4 becomes law. All appeals, even those mentioned by my hon. Friend in reference to billeting, all appeals have to be submitted to the Secretary of State. In future they will have to be submitted to a nebulous sort of body, described as the Army Council. The right hon. Gentleman saj's I shall be a member of the Army Council. I shall be responsible or the Secretary of State for War shall be responsible for everything the Council does. I have my doubts. There seems to be a tendency on the part of all Departments to get Committees behind which they can shelter themselves and to use the Committee largely as buffers against questions and criticisms in this House. I prefer to deal with the Secretary of State, and to make him responsible in this place to Parliament rather than to transfer those enormous powers to the Army Council as proposed under clause 4. This looks a very small measure. To read this clause which it is proposed should be struck out it looks as if it were not worth the trouble of doing it. It is only 20 or 30 lines. It looks simple enough, but one has only to look at the Memorandum to see that it involves hundreds of alterations. There is hardly a subject, if this becomes law, in which the rights of the soldiers, and even the civilians, would not be subjected to a nebulous body called the Army Council.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I think my hon. Friend might have taken the trouble to go to the 946 Library to get a copy of the Order in Council which I placed there this morning. If he had done so he would have found at the very beginning of the Order in Council at 10th August, 1804, which regulates my responsibility to Parliament, these words:—The Secretary of State is to be responsible to His Majesty and Parliament for all the business of the Council.
§ Mr. BOWLES
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that his responsibility to Parliament is regulated in the sense of being denned by Order in Council?
§ Mr. HALDANE
My responsibility to Parliament arises through the terms of my appointment, and the practice of Parliament. The Order in Council expressly expresses that, and takes care that nothing should in any way take from it.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
The more the right hon. Gentleman discusses the Constitutional question and his responsibility to the House the more certain it becomes that my Friends and I must press this question to a Division. This point, it appears to me, which is now under discussion is precisely similar to that of some years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman was in Opposition, and when it was stated that the proposal constituted such a great Constitutional change, such an alteration in the administration and management of the affairs of the Army, that it ought to be given notice of in a public Bill, that it ought to be dealt with in a separate legislative enactment, and that in no circumstances ought it be introduced into a Bill such as this, where there is no means at our disposal for proper discussion nor adequate time for discussing it. This Bill must, as I understand it, become law in a few days, and consequently we are bound to a limited period of time. If we are to discuss the other alterations we are bound to sit up practically all night. To push forward a great Constitutional change, such as the substitution of the Army Council for the Secretary of State, which may be a very important body, and may have all the ability necessary to manage the affairs of the Army, is a very serious matter. I do not think they can be held to be so closely and constitutionally responsible to this House as the Secretary of State is. There are punishments, I notice, for common soldiers and for officers, and these have previously come under the cognisance of the Secretary 947 of State, who could be questioned across the floor of the House as to his decision relating to them. For the future they are to be transferred—
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
Then I have mistaken entirely the clauses of this Bill. I come to the Memorandum, clause 137, and I find with reference to officers who absent themselves without leave or overstay the period for which leave of absence is granted unless a satisfactory explanation is given to the commanding officer or such officer who is responsible, that previously it reads "notifies as satisfactory to the Commander-in-Chief or to the Secretary of State," the Secretary of State and Commander-in-Chief are to be struck out and the words are to be put in their place: "approved by the Army Council," by which, as I say, the whole rights not merely of this House to question the right hon. Gentleman as to the justice of any decision that he may have given are not only abrogated, but the rights of every officer or soldier who thinks he may have been improperly dealt with to complain to his representative in Parliament, and through his representative to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, are also absolutely abrogated if this clause becomes law. Therefore I say, that is putting forward a Motion to-day which is the same Motion that was put forward when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were in opposition, and to which they objected, and hon. Members have just as good a right now for pushing their objection to a Division as the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends had then for pushing on their objection when
|Division No. 52.]||AYES.||[5.15 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Higham, John Sharp||Renwick, George|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hodge, John||Rowlands, J.|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hodge, Sir Robert Hermon||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hudson, Walter||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jowett, F. W.||Seddon, J.|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Kerry, Earl of||Shackleton, David James|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E.||Lupton, Arnold||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Cooper, G. J.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Stanier, Seville|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Macpherson, J. T.||Starkey, John R.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Summerbell, T.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Marks, H. H. (Kent)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Mooney, J. J.||Tukc, Sir John Batty|
|Du Cros, Arthur||Morpeth, Viscount||Valentia, Viscount|
|Duncan, C (Barrow-in-Furness)||Newdegate, F. N.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Wardle, George J.|
|Fell, Arthur||Nolan, Joseph||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Glover, Thomas||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||O'Grady, J.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Guinness. W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Bowles and Mr. Mitchell-Thomson.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Percy, Earl|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
§ they were sitting in opposition, and when a similar proposal was brought forward by their predecessors. It is a very important matter. Military law is such a terrible engine; it commenced with no law at all, and now the few safeguards which stand at present "ought not to be whittled away without the fullest discussion and opportunity of debate. We have not the opportunity of doing that to-day, and therefore I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to say that this action is perfectly reasonable. Even those who wish him well are just as anxious about this as those who wish him ill, and will object as strongly as-anyone in this House, oecause we believe that a great constitutional safeguard for the liberty of the subject, the right of the citizen and the soldier to appeal to this House and to the Secretary of State, is about to be whittled down by his action with regard to this clause 4. For these reasons, even if hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House did not force a Division, I would myself take a Division in protest against such action.
May I ask one question? It would assist us very much if the right hon. Gentleman would say what practical difference it would make to him and the Army Council if he did not get clause 4.
§ Mr. HALDANE
First of all, if we get clause 4, the Army Act will be an intelligible Act in the future, and not unintelligible; and secondly, the proper persons will sign the proper documents with regard to their proper business.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 71; Noes, 138.
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nicholls, George|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Alden, Percy||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Partington, Oswald|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Haworth, Arthur A.||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Hedges, A. Paget||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Higham, John Sharp||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Mobart, Sir Robert||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Barker, Sir John||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Holland, Sir William Henry||Rees, J. D.|
|Beale, W. P.||Horniman, Emslie John||Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Idris, T. H. W.||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Jardine, Sir J.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Branch, James||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Brigg, John||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Brooke, Stopford||Kekewich, Sir George||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Buchanan, Rt. Hon. Thomas R.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Lamont, Norman||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis||Steadman, W. C.|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Levy, Sir Maurice||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Lewis, John Herbert||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Clogh, William||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Strauss, E. V (Abingdon)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Mackarness, Frederic C||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Verney, F. W.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||M'Micking, Major G.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Maddison, Frederick||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Mallet, Charles E.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Duckworth, Sir James||Marnham, F. J.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Massie, J.||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Menzies, Walter||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Mond, A.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Falconer, J.||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Morrell, Philip||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr- Joseph Pease and the Master of Elibank.>|
|Halpin, J.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Myer, Horatio|
§ Bill in Committee.
§ [Mr. EMMOTT in the chair.]
§ (IN THE COMMITTEE.)
§ Clause 1 (short title) agreed to.
§ [Clause, 2. —Army Act to be in force for specified times. —(1) The Army Act shall be and remain in force during the periods hereinafter mentioned, and no longer, unless otherwise provided by Parliament (that is to say):—
- (a) Within the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, from the thirtieth day of April one thousand nine hundred and nine to the thirtieth day of April, one thousand nine hundred and ten, both inclusive; and
- (b) Elsewhere, whether within or without His Majesty's dominions, from the thirty-first day of July, one thousand nine hundred and nine, to the thirty-first day of July, one thou-
950 sand nine hundred and ten, both inclusive.
- (2) The Army Act, while in force, shall apply to persons subject to military law, whether within or without His Majesty's dominions.
- (3) A person subject to military law shall not be exempted from the provisions of the Army Act by reason only that the-number of the forces for the time being in the service of His Majesty, exclusive of the marine forces, is either greater or less than the number hereinbefore mentioned.]
§ Captain CRAIG moved to leave out in sub-section (a)"thirtieth day of April," and insert "thirty-first day of July." He said: I put this Amendment down not with the intention of pressing it to a Division, but of asking the Secretary of State for War whether it would be possible to make one date -when the Army (Annual) Act can come into force, both at Home and Abroad. It seems to me now such a 951 radical change is being made in the Act that it would be very fitting for the Secretary of State for War to try and arrange to have one date for Great Britain, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. I have never been able to understand why there are two dates for this particular Act coming into force and expiring, but I think it would be much more convenient if there was only one day, and the Act was in force the. whole time all over the Empire. I have only put the Amendment on the paper, however, with a view of raising the question, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain. I beg to move.
§ Question proposed: "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. HALDANE
My hon. friend has so reasonably proposed this Amendment that I will take him into my confidence and tell him the reason for having two dates. Whatever date may be put down for this Bill to come on for consideration there is an invariable tendency in the House to put off passing it to the last moment. It is not a Bill in which they delight, and there is a tendency to put it off. Whatever the date may be that you get it through, you do so just in time to circulate the provisions to the Commands at Home, but it has also to be communicated to Commands at a great distance. You cannot telegraph the whole of it, and you must allow time in order to get information of the changes that are made by Parliament and this House to distant Commands. Consequently you always have to allow a different time for it coming into operation at Home and coming into operation Abroad. You only get it through Parliament a few days before it is put in force at Home, and you have not got time to get a telegram containing the information 3,000 miles away. Consequently, it has always been the custom to have two dates for the Bill coming into operation.
The only question which arises out of that is that under this new Act powers are delegated to the Army Council. Will not that make a great deal of difference, because, instead of this Act being controlled by the Secretary of State, the Army Council will make their orders, and it may be possible to have the same day at home and abroad. The Army Council may make their orders in council and send them abroad in time.
§ Mr. HALDANE
No. The Army Council will be just in the same position as I 952 am. They will have the new powers, they will have the changes so far as home Commands are concerned, only a few days before they come into operation, and they will require time to tell distant Commands what the nature of those changes is.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
When this matter was discussed two years ago to the best of my recollection I understood that the Secretary of State for War gave us some intimation that he might be able on a future occasion to make these days conterminous, and, therefore, Sir, we were rather disappointed to find when we opened the Army (Annual) Act again this time that there is still the same difficulty about the dates.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Will my hon. Friend permit me to interrupt him? He is not quite correct. In those days we had three periods for the home, the Mediterranean and distant places. I undertook to reduce those to two, and that I have carried out. There were three days, now there are two.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
I understand that there were three days formerly, but still it was pointed out that it was inconvenient to have more than one. This year it is rather more important, because you are making by this Army (Annual) Bill very considerable alterations as to Army matters. Therefore, it becomes more important that there should be no difficulties arising from cross dates. On the last occasion I ventured to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the curious position the troops would be in if they were on the sea on their way from the Channel Islands to the Mediterranean. Then a very awkward question would have arisen as to when this Act came into operation. Although he has reduced the three days to two, there are still two days left, and if I might respectfully suggest, I would certainly say it is not the fault of the House of Commons that this Act is driven off to the last moment. If there is any fault, and if there is anybody to blame, surely it is the Government who do not make any attempt to bring it in in time and to have it passed and enacted on a day on which it would come into operation without having to go to this enormous expense of telegraphing. I certainly hoped, from the right hon. Gentleman's well-known ability and desire to have all these matters put in the clearest and simplest manner, that on this occasion we should find one date, and not three.
§ Amendment by leave withdrawn.953
§ Captain CRAIG, in moving to leave cut in sub-section (2)"while in force," said: I move the next Amendment in older to ask why the words "while in force" are included in sub-section 2 of clause 2. The section reads:—"The Army Act while in force shall apply to persons subject to military law." It has occurred to me that these words are not necessary. The Act would not apply, of course, unless it was in force. If it was in force it would naturally apply. If there was no Act it would not apply. The words appear to be quite useless in the context, and appear to me rather to confuse those who are looking at the two dates just immediately above in sub-sections (a) and (b). If the Army Act is in force one Army Act would be in force at home and another abroad during the three months, the period necessary for the various alterations to get to distant parts of the Empire. If the words "while in force" are necessary in the Act it ought to distinguish as to which part of the Act it refers to, whether to the new Act or to the old one. The words are either useless or else they are not sufficiently explicit.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The reason is this: We have just decided that it is expedient to keep the two periods. The next subclause says the Act shall apply to persons whether within or without His Majesty's dominions. The old Act does not apply to everyone for the same period and, therefore, it is necessary to make the words distributive and the words" while in force' are put in there for that purpose. There is another purpose for which they are put in. The keeping of this Act on foot is never allowed for more than one year, and this is the old customary phrase which fills the double purpose of providing what I have just pointed out and of acting as a reminder that Parliament does not allow the Army Act to continue indefinitely in force.
§ Mr. BOWLES
This is not a matter of principle, but now that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has called attention to it it appears to me that these words are as he says, either unnecessary or not sufficiently explicit. As I read this sub-section it amounts to this, that so long as there is any Army Act it shall apply to persons subject to military law, whether within or without His Majesty's dominions. I do not see how these words really cover all they are intended to cover, namely, the 954 discrepancy in the period. So long as the Army Act is in force, I understand its provisions would apply to persons without the country as well as within.
§ Mr. HALDANE
That is just the effect of the preceding clause. The Army Act is to remain in force during the period hereinafter mentioned, and no longer—in the United Kingdom for a year, and elsewhere for a year beginning on a different date. We say, therefore, in the next clause, the Army Act "while in force" shall apply. It is not in force in the United Kingdom when you get to the end of the first period, and it is in force at the other places.
§ Mr. STEWART BOWLES
My point was that though the Act would not be in force in the United Kingdom, yet if it were in force anywhere it would still be in force and would apply.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I pledge my legal reputation for what it is worth as to the meaning of the words. The preceding section says the Act shall be in force distributively.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
Is not this an illustration of the difficulty which arises from these two dates, and from the positions in the Kingdom and without? Supposing a soldier is in England in March, and he remains for two or three days in May, he is clearly liable to this Act; but supposing he is sent to Gibraltar, he would find that the new Act would not be in operation, and that he was under the Act passed last year. Then supposing he is brought back to England again, he finds another set of laws entirely, and therefore it is necessary, I suppose, in this clause to have in these words "while in force," in order to make them applicable to the different state of circumstances of the man in question as to where he might be on a particular date. We were in hopes that we should have seen the last of these difficulties, but as we have passed these two dates we have to provide some special words to show that this Act is-only to operate while it is in force in-various places with regard to the people who are there. If the Secretary of State considers on reflection that it is desirable that soldiers who are moved about should find themselves at different dates under different military regulations, it seems to me to be a very inconvenient and illogical state of affairs. We can only, of course, agree to these words "while in force" 955 remaining in as the best attempt which can be made under the circumstances to try and make intelligible to the poor soldier what law he really is under in the various places where he may be stationed.
Which Army Act does this particular sub-section (2) refer to? The right hon. Gentleman has already explained that one Army Act is in force at the end of this month, but it is not in force abroad, and the old Army Act has to do abroad until July, and yet in this clause he says "The Army Act." What the clause means to convey, I presume is the two Army Acts, the expiring one and the new one with which we are now dealing, as the case may be. If that is so I think this sub-section should be altered in some way, because it says it shall apply to persons subject to military law. As we know, a great many people are subject to military law who are not lawyers themselves. It seems to me a very difficult matter to construe as at present worded, and I think the ancient formula, "while in force," may be dropped because the preamble sets out so distinctly that the keeping of the standing Army is not allowed except with the consent of Parliament in time of peace that no one could possibly mistake it, and these words seem to be absolutely absurd. I do not like to divide where the right hon. Gentleman has staked his legal reputation on the subject, but at the same time it appears to be rather absurd for the Committee to be passing the words which appear to be either absolutely foolish or at least are confusing. I shall not press it, but I am not at all satisfied.
§ Mr. HALDANE
It is drafted in the proper form. The difference arises because it is necessary that there should be a difference between the time at which the Act begins to operate in this country and in distant parts of the Empire. That being so, what is said is that the Army Act which is kept alive by this Bill while in force shall apply.
§ Mr. R. HAZLETON
I do not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman, because according to my interpretation of this subsection there are two Acts in force at the same time, one in the United Kingdom and the other abroad. Why, therefore, should not this Act read instead of "Army Act," "Army Acts"? The sub-section is very confusing.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has any objection to altering the time at which the Act should be enforced?
§ Mr. HUGH LEA
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what force this Army Act has with Colonials who are serving in the King's Dominions beyond the seas, say the Yeomanry in New Zealand or Australia, and whether in the event of their committing any offence from a military point of view, such as would come within the scope of the Army (Annual) Act, they are liable to be punished under it, or whether it is only our men recruited in Great Britain and then sent to the Colonies?
§ Mr. HALDANE
That is a natural question to put. No, they are not under the Army Act. They have all their own Army Acts, and their own code of military law. Later on in the Bill there is a clause which enables them to apply our Army Act in the over-sea Dominions if they wish in certain contingencies, but at present the Army Act does not apply, and they have their own local military codes.
§ Mr. HUGH LEA
Then in that case we have our men recruited in this country and sent abroad, say to South Africa, serving under one military code, and committing offences which are far more drastically punished than those for which the Colonials under their code escape scot free.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I did not say that. Our men, wherever they are, are under this Act. The Colonial Governments have got their own, which apply to their own troops. It is in very few places outside South Africa that the self-governing Dominions have Imperial troops. It used to be so, but it is not so now. They have their own code, and they regulate their affairs in their own way. Our troops are always under one code of military law.
§ Mr. HUGH LEA
What I want to make clear is whether the Code the soldiers will serve under is ours, which is more drastic than the Code under which the Colonials serve?
§ Mr. HALDANE
There are at present no considerable body of Colonial troops serving side by side with ours. The Colonial Acts are collected in two volumes. 957 The provisions in some cases are very arbitrary, but in the main they are substantially parts of our Act.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
If soldiers serving in Jamaica were to come to England they would be under the Act as amended.
§ Lord EDMUND TALBOT
A case occurred recently of an officer on duty in plain clothes who refused to pay the toll demanded by a toll-keeper. That point is dealt with by No. 1,694 in the King's Regulations, and he was not entitled to travel as he was in plain clothes on duty. I want to ask what redress has the toll-keeper, not knowing the King's Regulations, and how can he demand his toll from an officer travelling in that way?
The sub-section simply enacts that the Army Act, while in force, shall apply to certain persons and the Noble Lord has asked a question as to what toll-keepers should do under certain conditions.
§ Question: "That those words stand part of the clause" put and agreed to.
§ Question put: "That this clause, 2 stand part of the Bill."
In the case of soldiers, either officers or rank and file, going abroad during this period of two months during which the old Act is in force abroad, under which Act would the soldier be dealt with for an offence committed on board steamer? I cannot conceive how those on board would know of the new Act, and would the matter be submitted to some higher authority on arrival?
§ Mr. HALDANE
The answer to that is contained in section 2, sub-section 1 (b): "Elsewhere, whether within or without His Majesty's dominions." It would be under the old Army Act. If he is on a British steamer he is out of the United Kingdom—he is elsewhere.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
There was one question I was out of order in mentioning a moment ago, but I think on discussing the whole clause I would be entitled to refer to it, and that is when this proposed Act is to apply. I see at the present time it finishes on 30th April. I was hoping that there might be some alteration in the date, for the simple reason that one has to pass this Act rapidly in the most busy part of the Session. I take it for granted—as the Secretary of State smiles—that he thinks that is a good reason, so as to reduce discussion on it to as small limit as possible. I think it would be most desirable that he should alter the date to somewhat later in the year, or nearer the middle of the year, rather than just a few weeks after the opening of the Session, which makes it almost impossible to discuss the matter in the way we should like to discuss it. I admit it is usually a formal affair, but it is quite clear for the future, with the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Army, it is not going to bo a formal affair, and that we are going to have very drastic Constitutional innovations introduced in this Bill and that we are practically going to alter the whole law as to military discipline. Therefore, it is important that the date should be fixed, so that there could be ample discussion. I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of putting the date back further, so as to allow more ample time.
§ Mr. HALDANE
If I put the date to the dog-days, say the 31st of July, I would be told I had put it at a too advanced date, while now we could have a pleasant all-night sitting. The fact is, whatever date is put down, it will always be squeezed to the last moment. That is not the fault of the Secretary of State, it is the fault of the superior powers that be.
§ Mr. HUGH LEA
May I ask if there is any reason why a copy of the Army Act cannot be given to every recruit on enlistment, so as to prepare him for some of the pitfalls he is liable to.
That is not a question that arises on whether this clause stand part of the Bill or not.
May I ask whether it is in order now to move that this clause do not stand part of the Bill until that point of mine has been considered'?
§ Question, "That the clause stand part of the Bill," put and agreed to.
§ Question put, "That clause 3 stand part of the Bill."
§ The CHAIRMAN was understood to say that hon. Members would be in order to discuss the several items of the schedule.
§ Mr. RENWICK
This clause raises a very serious question in regard to the victualling houses. It is well known to the House that there is an extremely limited number of licensed houses now in the districts where they are most likely to be required for billeting. My attention has been called to the fact that in the schedule the payments to owners of such houses are utterly inadequate. For instance, if you refer to the schedule you will find that "stable room and ten pounds of oats, twelve pounds of hay and eight pounds of straw" are to be given for each horse for 1s. 9d. No licensed victualler could afford to supply horses, and especially the large number he would be likely to have, for that sum. It is well known that the time he would be called on to billet those troops would be a time of imminent national danger, when no man living knows what would be the price of fodder: therefore the licensed victuallers are alarmed.
If the hon. Member desires to discuss that or any other particular item he should wait until the schedule.
§ Mr. RENWICK
I have tried to keep to the clause itself. The clause contains this: "There shall be paid to the keeper of a victualling house for the accommodation provided by him in pur- 960 suance of the Army Act the prices specified in the first schedule to this Act." Therefore it lays down the price that the licensed victualler is to receive for something he is called upon to do, not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the nation. I maintain, and I think it is perfectly rational to claim, that if a licensed victualler is called upon to do something not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the nation, the nation ought to treat him liberally.
What the hon. Member is dealing with is the particular price put down in the schedule. The particular criticism he is making does not apply here.
§ Mr. RENWICK
With great deference to your ruling, I would again submit that this clause is the pith of the whole question. The clause fixes what the licensed victualler is to receive, and mentions an utterly inadequate price.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
If we are to discuss the actual amount of the price the proper place to do it is on the schedule, but may I point out that what my hon. Friend intended to put to the Committee is this: That to fix the schedule of prices at all might be a very serious hardship, having regard to—
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
Is it in order to discuss whether there should be a schedule or no schedule to this clause?
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
May I respectfully point out that in sub-section (c) of clause 108A, which we are coming to, there is a special provision with regard to-these very things that may be supplied by persons other than the keepers of victualling houses—
If the hon. Member has any remarks to make on this clause which are relevant to the Question before the House that the clause stand part of the Bill I shall be very glad to hear him. If he is simply asking me whether an hon. Member is in order that is a point that I have already decided.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
May I point out that on the question of licensed victuallers billeting is in the original Act? We here are only adding to the original Act. It; s for that reason that the clause can be discussed in the schedule.
§ Mr. HAZLETON
There are considerable changes made in the Act this year with regard to billeting into which I cannot enter on the discussion of this clause, but it is impossible to think that the changes that are proposed have no connection with the existing law, and therefore I think that this Committee ought to object to the form in which this clause was proposed. This clause says that there shall be paid to the keepers of a victualling house for the accommodation provided by him in pursuance of the Army Act, the price as specified in the first schedule of this Act. We cannot discuss the schedule upon this clause, but it is obvious to anyone reading this Act that when you come to a later clause in the Act the regulations with regard to prices are entirely different. Now, I want to know from the Secretary of War, why is it proposed to put into an Act of Parliament prices that shall be paid proprietors of victualling-houses, whilst it is reserved to the Army Council or some other body to make and fix the prices that shall be paid to people other than licensed victuallers. For my part I fail to see why there should be any distinction drawn between the proprietors of licensed houses and other people who are going to be forced under the new clauses in this Act to make provision for billeting. I think it a rather extraordinary thing. The right hon. Gentleman has proposed very many changes, which many members of this Committee resent in the Army (Annual) Bill this year, and I think since you are making a change at all, you ought to have made a change in this matter as well, and be consistent, and apply the same principle to people in general as he proposes to apply to proprietors of licensed houses. I do not think he can make any case for differential treatment. The fact remains that in the permanent Army Act there is a schedule stating the prices, and that may, or may not, be a just and fair and reasonable schedule. But if it is I fail to see entirely why the same principle has not been applied in the later clauses in this Act, which we shall be discussing later on. I would ask the Secretary of State for War to give us some explanation in this matter.
§ Mr. RENWICK
Might I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman kindly to give us his opinion on the point. Is it fair to the licensed victualler to ask him to accept normal prices for articles in abnormal times? That is really the point I would like some information on. I think we are entitled to get it.
§ Mr. ACLAND
This clause has nothing to do with that at all. It only relates to normal times, and not to abnormal times
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
How can it be said that this clause relates only to normal times? Is not it a fact that a large number of people coming down to a village and demanding food would constitute abnormal times and necessarily increase the price of commodities for all the residents in that village, and therefore in that way produce abnormal times? Wherever there is an Army on the route it must produce an abnormal set of circumstances from the point of view of the local inhabitants, and must necessarily put up prices against the permanent residents in the locality, and it is trifling with the Committee for the hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. ACLAND
I was using abnormal times in the sense used by the hon. Member, namely, in times of war.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
He did not say anything about war. It is within the recollection of the House. I appeal to my hon. Friend whether he said anything about war. He was referring to what we all know to be normal and abnormal. He did not say a word either as to the result of war or what exists in time of peace, and I think still that the more you look at this thing, when you are told you must be guided by the schedule, the greater is the injustice imposed upon those upon whom is cast the obligation of providing these necessaries of life. At the average profits on what they sell, and also upon those who labour for themselves and their own family, and who are to be subject to almost starvation prices because of the schedule imposed by the right hon. Gentleman, a schedule which will give him and those he acts for, and the War Office, all they need at the expense of the ordinary and permanent civil population of any district in which any portion of the regular forces may pass while on the march.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
There is only one question relating to this matter that I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman. I quite agree that it is impossible for the 963 right hon. Gentleman to treat the two classes of possible billeting accommodation on the same footing, and when one takes into consideration that the presence of soldiers in licensed houses is going to add considerably to trade in other ways, which cannot happen in private houses, the circumstances are not on a par—
§ Mr. MADDISON
I rise to a point of order, so that the Committee may know where we stand. Is not it a fact that the clause we are now discussing only gives power to pay, but does not state the prices? It does not discriminate between one and the other, and, therefore, the only thing is the power to pay these prices. The prices are not stated.
I was listening to the hon. Member for Stoke, because I do not quite see what particular point he was seeking to make, but the hon. Member who has raised the point of order is quite correct in saying that this clause merely says that there shall be paid to victualling houses for the accommodation provided such prices as are specified in the schedule of the Act. It is quite in order to ask whether these normal prices were to apply also in abnormal times. A general question of that kind is quite in order.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I am pleased you have not ruled me out of order on a point I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman. I quite agree there is a difference. They must be treated differently because the circumstances are entirely different, but I want to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to sub-section (a) of 108 (a) to these words: "and the same provision shall apply as if reference to victualling houses and keepers of victualling houses "—which we are now dealing with—" included reference: to such public buildings, dwelling houses, etc., etc." I hope that that is limited in some way, and that the prices that are enumerated for victualling houses are not the prices that are going to be imposed on dwelling houses.
§ Mr. HALDANE
It is limited by subsection 3 (c) of the same clause. This very clause we are discussing, and the schedule which I must not refer to because it goes into the prices, was carefully considered two years ago. There was dissatisfaction in the House with the old schedule, and the schedules were redrafted and the price increased, and I believe they gave satisfaction at the time, but I do not want even to approach the discussion of the schedule. I only wish to say that this clause is not 964 a new clause, but the old clause drawn up two years ago.
§ Mr. HUGH LEA
In reference to the prices specified in the schedule and the prices referred to in sub-section c to be paid to the occupier, nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that the circumstances are very different from what they were years ago. Within the last nine or ten years heavy burdens have been put on them, and I take it that the Budget shortly to be introduced will, if anything, increase those burdens.
If the hon. Member wishes to deal with the prices he must wait until the schedule is under discussion.
§ Mr. MADDISON
Is it in order to refer to prices? How is it possible to deal with prices which are in the schedule?
I think the hon. Member is out of order in referring to prices, and I was about to stop him.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
I presume we shall be at liberty to vote against this clause remaining portion of the Bill, especially if we gave notice, as I propose to do, of an Amendment to clause 108 (a), which would make the price they would fix by regulation of the Army Council apply not merely to occupiers, but to everybody, and our objection to this clause is that they make a cast iron set of prices. The prices are fixed in the schedule. We are not dealing with that point now. The point we are dealing with now is whether there should be any prices fixed in the schedule, which should be absolutely cast iron prices, incapable of alteration, notwithstanding the number of troops which it might be needed to send to a small place, and notwithstanding whether there is war, an emergency, or whatever there may be. Under these circumstances, what does this clause do? This clause makes it absolutely impossible in a victualling house to be paid either more or less than the price fixed in the schedule. We did discuss this 965 at very considerable length two years ago. Some of us sought to try and find a way out of the difficulty, but did not succeed. The Secretary of State for "War has provided us here, it seems to me, in sub-section c, clause 108 a, with a formula for getting out of this cast iron difficulty. And the formula is provided with regard to the very point of paying somebody who does not happen to be a licensed victualler—the price to be paid for accommodation furnished, food and fodder supplied, especially such as may be fixed by the regulations made by the Army Council, with the consent of the Treasury. If the few words are left out of section c of clause 108 a it will make this clause 3 capable of being left entirely out, and it will give, I am sure, a great deal more satisfaction to the Committee if that course were
|Division No. 53.]||AYES.||[6.18 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)|
|Alden, Percy||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Myer, Horatio|
|Allen. Charles P. (Stroud)||Hart-Davies, T.||Nicholls, George|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Astbury, John Meir||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||O'Grady, J.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Partington, Oswald|
|Barker, Sir John||Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Hedges, A. Paget||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Beale, W. P.||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Higham, John Sharp||Radford, G. H.|
|Bennett, E. N.||Hobart, Sir Robert||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester) lack, Arthur W.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hodge, John||Rees, J. D.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Holland, Sir William Henry||Richards, Thomas (W. Montmouth)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Horniman, Emslie John||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Branch, James||Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Brigg, John||Hudson, Walter||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Idris, T. H. W.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Jardine, Sir J.||Robinson, S.|
|Buchanan, Rt. Hon. Thomas R.||Jenkins, J.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Byles, William Pollard||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Rowlands, J.|
|Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Jowett, F. W.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Kekewich, Sir George||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Clough, William||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Seddon, J.|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lamont, Norman||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Lewis, John Herbert||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Cox, Harold||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N.W.)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lupton, Arnold||Steadman, W. C.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lynch, H. B.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Summerbell, T.|
|Duckworth, Sir James||Macpherson, J. T.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||M'Micking, Major G.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Essex, R. W.||Maddison, Frederick||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Mallet, Charles E.||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E.)|
|Falconer, J.||Marnham, F. J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Massie, J.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Ferens, T. R.||Menzies, Walter||Verney, F. W.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Micklem, Nathaniel||Walters, John Tudor|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Molteno, Percy Alport||Walton, Joseph|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Mond, A.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Glover, Thomas||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wardle, George J.|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
§ adopted. Because we are not discussing at the present moment whether 6d. a night is sufficient, that is not the point. What we are discussing is whether there shall be a schedule to say whether so much per night is to be the actual amount to be paid in any event or in any circumstances. Whilst I protest against the inclusion of this clause in the Act, I do so, giving notice when the proper time comes, that we shall move an Amendment to this other clause, so as to make the prices to be fixed by regulation applicable to all kinds of people, whether they may be licensed victuallers or not.
§ Question put: "That clause 3 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 177; Noes, 45.
|Whittaker, Rt Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Watt, Henry A.||Wilkie, Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and the Master of Elibank.|
|Weir, James Galloway||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Halpin, J.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hay, Hon. Claude George||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Banner, John S. Harmoed-||Hazleton, Richard||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hodge, Hermon-, Sir Robert||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Houston, Robert Paterson||Stanier, Beville|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kerry, Earl of||Starkey, John R.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Kilbride, Denis||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Cralk, Sir Henry||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Du Cros, Arthur||Morpeth, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Renwick and Mr. W. W. Ruther ford.|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Murphy, N. J. (Kilkenny, S.)|
|Fell, Arthur||Newdegate, F. N.|
|Forster, Henry William||Nolan, Joseph|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred|
§ Clause 4.—Transfer of powers to Army Council. —There shall be transferred to the Army Council—
- (a) All powers and duties conferred or imposed on a Secretary of State under the provisions of the Army Act specified in Part I. of the Second Schedule to this Act; and
- (b) All powers and duties conferred or imposed on the Commander-in-Chief and the Adjutant-General under the Army Act:
§ Provided that—
- (a) Nothing in this section shall affect the validity of any rules, regulations, orders, or other documents made or executed by a Secretary of State under any of the powers hereby transferred, but all such rules, regulations, orders, and documents shall until revoked by the Army Council have effect as if made or executed by the Army Council; and
- (b) Nothing in this Act shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State under the Order in Council dated the tenth day of August, nineteen hundred and four, respecting the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament, and regulating the distribution of business amongst the members of the Army Council, and the powers and duties transferred to the Army Council by this section shall be deemed to be business within the
968 meaning of that Order, and any part thereof may be reserved to the Secretary of State accordingly.
Mr. BOWLES moved to leave out the words "there shall be transferred to the Army Council," and to insert instead thereof: "It shall be lawful for a Secretary of State himself to assume or, by order in writing under his own hand and subject to any limitations and conditions set forth in the order, to transfer for the period specified in the order to any member of the Army Council, and by similar order at any time to resume to himself again, any of the powers and duties next hereinafter mentioned (that is to say):—" He said: It has already been remarked once, and it will probably be remarked again, that we have not even now had from the right hon. Gentleman any real reason—I, at any rate, have been unable to understand—for asking for the transference of these very great powers. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has trotted out again the lay figure of the degraded noncommissioned officer as his only and sole excuse for this clause. Does the right hon. Gentleman really ask the House of Commons to make this great alteration—for it is a great alteration—merely on the ground—and it is the only ground that he has alleged—that through the abolition of Commander-in-Chief, if a non-commissioned officer, sergeant or officer, is degraded in the ranks, is it necessary to send the papers out to His Majesty and others? If not, the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps tell us what other grounds he has. For the moment he has been asked several times, and the sergeant's story is the only one that he has
been able to tell. That story is as old as the world. Certainly it is as old as the abolition of the Commander-in-Chief years ago. It is not, as I submit, sufficient ground for this change. That is the only ground the right hon. Gentleman has been able to allege. That being so, we are entitled to say that we are dealing here with a proposal which he has brought forward merely and solely as a matter of convenience—departmental convenience to the right hon. Gentleman and to the heads of Departments at the War Office. It is nothing else. Therefore, merely to serve the departmental convenience of the right hon. Gentleman and the heads of Department of the War Office, and to do what can be done perfectly well by an express clause in this Bill if he desired, we are asked to make an absolute transfer subject to one limitation—with which this Amendment of mine is concerned—of very great powers from the Secretary of State and other authorities to this new body, the Army Council. I say that is far too heroic a remedy. The ground upon which this transfer is asked in Parliament is altogether too slender. I want to ask what security has this House, or even the right hon. Gentleman, that the responsibility of the Secretary of State will be, not merely technical, but real. The only thing that saves from the absolute transfer of these powers is the responsibility of the Secretary of State, not the ordinary responsibility which attaches to him as Secretary of State, but his responsibility under the particular Order in Council, which is sufficiently specified, and which if it were withdrawn or modified would leave this House and the right hon. Gentleman face to face with the absolute transfer of the whole of these powers to the Army Council to make whatever use they chose of them. That is far too far for the Committee to go. Therefore I propose here alternative machinery. I say it is unnecessary to transfer the whole of these powers to the Army Council, lock-stock-and-barrel, and I say that the powers which the right hon. Gentleman takes upon himself rest entirely on the Order in Council, and can be rescinded at any moment, and if it were rescinded or altered, it would leave the House without the slightest remedy against the Army Council, in whose hands these powers would rest. In my alternative machinery I suggest that if the right hon. Gentleman really finds it necessary to make a change, he should bring into his own hands all the powers set out in this schedule, and then, as a matter of conve-
nience, empower himself to delegate this authority to any member of the Army Council, or any other person, and let it be expressed in the Act. I suggest that there should be inserted the words of my Amendment:—
It shall be lawful for a Secretary of State himself to assume or, by order in writing under his own hand and subject to any limitations and conditions set forth in the order, to transfer for the period specified in the order to any member of the Army Council, and by similar order at any time to resume to himself again, any of the powers and duties next hereinafter mentioned.
§ The Committee will observe that I do not propose that the right hon. Gentleman should be empowered to transfer those powers to the Army Council as a whole. What is the Army Council? The Secretary of State, in answer to a question which I put to him in May last on that point, said that the Army Council consists of seven members, four of whom are soldiers and three civilians, the latter including the Secretary of State. This is a matter of very great importance. I understand that the decision of the Army Council is to be taken by a majority of votes, but I think the Committee will be entitled to know how that may be. The right hon. Gentleman says there has been no dispute, but that is no answer. Suppose this Order in Council of 10th August, 1904, were altered in any particulars referred to in the proposed clause, the transfer of these powers then would be absolutely in the hands of the Army Council to exercise without any possibility either on the part of the House or the right hon. Gentleman to restrain them in case of emergency, or if they exercised their powers wrongly. That is a state of things which this House ought not to enact, and which the right hon. Gentleman does not want to enact, and which could be avoided by the adoption of some such machinery as I proposed. The real truth is that we ought clearly to state what we mean to have done. I am sure the House cannot desire merely on a question of Departmental convenience to entrust to a body, whose members are changing from time to time, and as to whom there is no real personal responsibility, to transfer in any real sense to such a body powers which at this moment do reside and ought to reside effectively and solely in the Secretary of State. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman desires it. He says that he means to 971 keep his responsibility. I suggest to him that unless Amendments are made in section (B) of this clause his real responsibility and the responsibility of this House is not kept, and it appears to me to be in the interests of Parliament, of this House, and almost equally in the interests of the right hon. Gentleman himself, that some Amendment of this clause, short of the absolute transfer which is proposed, should be adopted as being absolutely necessary in the interest of everybody concerned. I shall await with great interest what the right hon. Gentleman may have to say, and I hope that he will tell us what security the Secretary of State and the House of Commons have as against the abuse of these powers by the Army Council, on which there is a permanent majority, as I understand, of soldiers, the members of which are always shifting about, and against which body as a whole there is no real responsibility that could be exercised by the House.
§ Question proposed: "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ Mr. HALDANE
It is difficult for me to conceive that the hon. Member has been speaking seriously in what he has said. What he is in effect asking me is that the Minister who is charged with the most complicated and difficult business of looking after the affairs of a body so widely spread as the Army, has to have heaped upon him every kind of detail. Any system more calculated to lead to red tape and obstruction of business cannot be conceived. It has been tried in the past, and it has been protested against over and over again. The policy which is embodied in this Bill is the policy of the Government, of which the hon. Gentlemen, I believe, was a supporter. It was brought in as a clear indication of the policy of the late Government, and it is the policy of the present Government. It has been asked for by successive Secretaries of State, and I take the responsibility of declaring to the House of Commons that without some such provisions as these it would be impossible for the Minister to do his duty to the House. The hon. Member referred to the illustration which I gave, and spoke of it as if it was the only one I had to support my proposal. There are 30 or 40 powers here which I could refer to. I do not wish to be charged with responsibility of handing over lunatics, for example; I do not wish to be charged with 972 the duty of making deductions on pay or pension in the case of a bastardy order; I do not want to be a post office to receive notice, and be responsible in regard to letters; I do not want to be charged with every small detail as to the working of the pension system, because if I had to do all these things I could not do my proper business or discharge my duty to the House. The very essence of the Order in Council which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition passed through and made a law of the land in 1904 was this, that the business should be distributed, and that the responsibility should be put upon individual members of the Council for individual work on the Council, and that the Council as a whole should be responsible for the general discharge of their duties. It seems to me that the responsibility of Parliament and of the Secretary of State are strictly preserved. This has been done, and has been working as the law of the land to the great advantage of the Army for the last four years. If you pass the Amendment which the hon. Member asks us to pass the statutory powers, which are very small powers—indeed, the unimportant powers—are to be transferred, and the important powers are to be reserved to the Secretary of State. I challenge any Member of this House to point to any important power which it is proposed to transfer. The statutory system would not correspond with the system under the Order. The transfer deals with nine-tenths of the whole business arising, not from powers under the Army Act, but from powers which have have been arranged by the Government of the day for the work of the Army Council. To pass the words which the hon. Gentleman proposed to substitute for the words in the Bill would simply be to make the system under the Act completely different from the work of the system under the Order in Council. I cannot conceive of greater confusion than would result from the adoption of the proposal which the hon. Member has made, and I trust that this House, which after all really does want, I think, to try to make the administration of the Army more effective than it is at present, will not take a step which can do nothing but raise obstacles all through.
§ Sir CHARLES W. DILKE
I would suggest that if we left out the earlier and more important words of the clause, we might then discuss what is to be substituted for them. With regard to the tragic picture drawn by the right hon. Gentle- 973 man, all I can say is that this is the original programme of Mr. Arnold-Forster, who only said: "They kept on saying that they ought to have this power." After introducing the Bill in 1904 he dropped it, and he was under the impression from what he said in the debate on the Territorial Army Bill that that Bill had never been introduced, and he believed that a copy of it which we showed him was a draft, and it was a draft. Nevertheless, the Bill was introduced and passed the House of Lords, but it was never taken up in this House. If the Secretary of State for War had really meant what he said in answer to the interruption of my hon. Friend opposite about his powers and his responsibility as Secretary of State I should call him "the worst of the Stuarts." What I understood him to say was that the responsibility was based upon the Order in Council.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I am certain the word "recognised" was not the word used when my hon. Friend was interrupted. I think, however, it was a slip, and it went no further than the words we have before us. The words in the Bill are extraordinary. The Bill provides that "Nothing in this Act shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State under the Order in Council dated the 10th day of August, 1904, respecting the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament."
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
My right hon. Friend does not seem to see the point. The notion that you should rest the responsibility of the Secretary of State on a prerogative Order in Council—
§ Mr. HALDANE
I deny as emphatically as I can that I ever said anything of the sort. I expressly negatived any such suggestion. What I said was that the words of the Order in Council were in harmony with the position that a Minister of the Crown, by virtue of his office, was fully responsible to Parliament, and there was nothing in the Act of Parliament to alter that.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I come back to the words of the Bill we have before us that: "Nothing in this Act shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State under the Order in Council dated the 974 tenth day of August, 1904, respecting the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament." Those, I think, are very dangerous words, and when that Order in Council appeared the matter was not left alone by the House of Commons, and a very hot Opposition was manifested to the use of those words and to that doctrine. The history of that matter, very briefly, is this: There was a declaration by the Government, as my right hon. Friend said, that the policy would be based on an imitation of the Board of Admiralty, and that was the recommendation accepted by the Government; that was the policy which the right hon. Gentleman also said was the policy of his predecessors. There were Letters Patent issued on 12th of February, 1904, and these showed what many of us thought in this House was a very dangerous doctrine.
Then came the first Bill of 1904, which was afterwards withdrawn, and this was followed by the Order in Council. I do not care from what person or party that principle may have come, I think it is a very dangerous innovation, in face of the extraordinary difficulty of understanding military law which one may see illustrated in all the many disputes which have occurred over and over again during the famous Childers time, the Cardwell time, and the Panmure time, when a Constitutional dispute arose upon these particular points. Then came the mysterious paragraph, which I have here in several forms. It is a paragraph which appeared in "The Times" Naval and Military Intelligence. It says:—It is notified by the War Office that the appointment of Commander-in-Chief having lapsed, the powers conferred on that officer by section 183 (2) of the Army Act have for the time being reverted to the King, and all applications for the summary reduction of noncommissioned officers serving elsewhere than in India or on active service have for the present to be submitted to His Majesty.When we asked about that paragraph we got no information. The Secretary of State said there never was a notification issued by the War Office, and that it was only a notification published in one military district only. It never was made clear, but it showed that there were influences and currents at work in the War Office tending different ways. I think that throws a considerable suspicion upon the whole basis and construction of this clause, and the Bills which this clause has followed. May I give one practical point which I think bears upon this question? My right hon. Friend seems to think that his responsibility is complete, he being 975 Secretary of State, although he sits as a member of the Army Council. The right hon. Gentleman's account is very much like that of the Governor of the Bank of France in reply to an American commissioner by whom the very same question was put as that which has been put to the Secretary of State. He was asked what would happen if they were not unanimous, and he replied, "The Regents had as much power as he had himself, and they always were unanimous." That is the position of the Secretary of State. His responsibility as Secretary of State is quite a different thing in this House from his responsibility only as the Army Council.
Let me ask a question to illustrate this. Any Secretary of State can sign and do other, and he may sign for any other. The instructions of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury were signed "R. A. Cross." Anw Secretary of State can sign and do anything for any other. But can any other Secretary of State sit as Secretary of State as a member of the Army Council? No. That at once shows the difference between a Secretary of State's position in this House and his responsibility and position as a member of the Army Council. The Admiralty has been mentioned, but the First Lord of the Admiralty has not the powers of the Secretary of State, and all-important decisions are conveyed to the Admiralty not through the First Lord, but by a Secretary of State. That is a notorious historical fact. In the historical instance of the Danish fleet the Board of Admiralty were not informed of the intention to capture or destroy that fleet, and they acted on the direction of a Secretary of State.
I do not think it is necessary for me to keep up this debate, and all I wish is to put on record the opinions we entertain on this question. I do not think a word has fallen from the Government to make us doubt the wisdom of caution which we are trying to impress upon them. I am more profoundly convinced than ever of the dangerous nature of this Bill within the Bill, and of its totally unnecessary character. I think it is perfectly useless to attempt to carry any further a discussion in which I have now said all I wish to say.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
On this question I quite share the feelings of the right hon. Baronet opposite. I think, in his reply, the Secretary of State for War did my hon. Friend behind me less than 976 justice. What was the substance of his reply? The right hon. Gentleman said that there was such a mass of detail involved, and such a mass of red tape, that without this proposal it would be impossible for him to carry on his business properly. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that this suggestion would make the transfer of any of that red tape impossible, but nothing is further from the actual situation. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is most undesirable, and, indeed, most inexpedient, that a Secretary of State should be constantly refering to a mass of details involved in red tape. The question, however, is not a matter of these details, because there are other powers transferred which are far from being matters of red tape. It is not so much the details and the powers transferred, but the point we take objection to and about which we are anxious is one to which we have as yet had no answer at all, and it is as to the conditions of the transfer. I think you are using enormous engines to effect a small purpose—in fact, you are using a steam hammer to crack a filbert.
This clause is, in the first place, to start with, an absolute transfer. In the second place, it subjects that right of transfer to a right of reversion in the event of the Secretary of State deeming it desirable. That right of reversion is not put specifically into the terms of the Statute, but it is the same right of reversion which exists now under the Order in Council, and that will apply. What guarantee has this House that that Order in Council will continue to exist in the form in which it exists to-day? It rests not upon the action of this House but upon the prerogative, and that is the great difference between the Amendment of my right hon. Friend and the words of the Bill. My hon. Friend proposes to give statutory authority to the Secretary of State on this question. The Order in Council is no Parliamentary security at all; and we contend that it should be made statutory, and put into the words of an Act of Parliament. This is a matter over which Parliament can properly assume and exercise a direct control. I think the House will see the point at issue, for it has been made clear by the right hon. Gentleman, and from the Constitutional point of view it deserves most serious consideration. Before this debate closes I hope we shall get a specific answer on this point from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
The hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire made one statement, with which most of us will be obliged to disagree, namely, that it was not so much the question of the details of the powers that were to be transferred as the method of the statutory authority that was to be given for the transfer.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not want the hon. Member to misunderstand me. I quite agree that the actual details are very important. What I meant was that the exact point raised by this Amendment was not so much the details of the powers as the conditions of the transfer.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I take it for granted that now is the time to discuss the whole question, and therefore I am obliged to dissent from that point of view. I say, that the details are so important that we must consider them before we can get the proper focus of the object which the right hon. Gentleman has in view. Seeing that he has declared that no important power is to be transferred, it is a surprising thing that it takes a Memorandum of some 16 foolscap pages of closely printed matter to enumerate all the powers transferred by this particular clause. On pages 1, 2, and 3, it is true, I do not notice there are any powers transferred—there are some alterations; the Army Council is mentioned in place of the Commander-in-Chief or the Adjutant-General; and we go on until we get to paragraph 77, where we find several important powers are transferred by this clause. For instance, the original enlistment of a person under this Act shall be as follows, either for the whole of the term of his original enlistment in Army service, or for such portion of the term of his original enlistment as may be from time to time fixed by (at present) a Secretary of State directly responsible to this House. For the future, if this clause becomes law, the Secretary of State will be responsible only in so far as he is part of the Army Council. Consequently that is a very important proviso, and one that has to be taken to account. Then with reference to general or special regulations, varying the conditions of service—
I think the hon. Member is discussing a point which does not arise on this Amendment. He must not go now into all these details; they may be raised on subsequent Amendments, and more particularly on the schedule itself.
Then they are not in the clause. Everything which is being transferred is in the schedule.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I am supposed to take this Memorandum drawn up by the Secretary of State as explaining what clause 4 does.
The hon. Member does not seem to understand that we are not now discussing the question "That the clause stand part." What he is discussing does not arise on this Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
Am I to understand that at present it is impossible to discuss the details of the powers proposed to be transferred?
I wish I could make the hon. Member understand. The Amendment is that the words "There shall be transferred to the Army Council" shall be left out and some other words put in. What is transferred to the Army Council is not included in the Amendment at all. That follows. The particular thing to which the hon. Member is alluding is actually in lines 15 and 16 in so far as it is mentioned in the Bill itself, and it is also in the schedule.
It seems to me that this Amendment is one of the most important which can come before the Committee on this portion of the Bill. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Norwood is not so great as at first sight might appear. In one case the Secretary of State proposes to transfer practically the whole of his powers to the Army Council, and in the other my hon. Friend desires to deal with one man, and one man only. Many of us and the people in the country are not 979 aware of the actual constitution of the Army Council. We are accustomed to deal in this House with a Minister, who is prepared to answer for his Department, but it this clause stands as at present we shall lose that power. The Mover of the Amendment proposes to give the Secretary of State not only the power to delegate his authority, but also the power to recover it at any time if he thinks fit. Although the right hon. Gentleman was very fiery in his reply to my hon. Friend, could anything be fairer than to reserve to him the right when he gives away a power to take it back again? The answer of the right hon. Gentleman rather astonished me. He said that the Amendment would complicate matters and still further entwine him in red tape. Nothing of the kind. He complains of the many offices he has to perform at the present, and the next moment he assures us that this delegation of authority will not in any way interfere with his responsibility to this House. But he cannot have it both ways. If the right hon. Gentleman says, "There is really nothing in what I am doing; it is a mere matter of form; the Army Council so far have carried on the work of the War Office and done all that is necessary to be done; I am merely legalising their hitherto illegal action," it is not right to turn round the next moment and assure us in the vehement fashion he adopted a short time ago that really he had so much to do that he and other War Ministers felt it necessary to split up the work and devolve it on somebody else. We have here the very Order in Council to which so much reference has been made, and so far as any devolution of work is concerned it could hardly be more concise or clear. Under the Order in Council of 10th August, 1904, the Secretary of State is responsible to His Majesty and to Parliament. Could anything be more satisfactory than that it states that business is to be specifically transacted in the following divisions and it actually goes on through them all—Chief of the General Staff, Second Military Member, Adjutant-General, Third Military Member, and so on. For the Secretary of State to say after that that something must be done to take the work off his shoulders, and then at the next moment to say it is always on his shoulders in any case, and that he must be responsible to Parliament, seems to me quite absurd. The Secretary of State for War being a civilian, Members of this House, being mostly civilians, are accustomed to give 980 an interpretation of what is desired by the Army Council in civilian phraseology. But under this scheme the right hon. Gentleman is transferring all his powers to the Army Council. Hardly a Member of this House besides himself and the Financial Secretary knows who the Members of the Army Council are, or whether the military members dominate over the civil. Therefore, when a decision has to be taken in any important matter, under this new regulation, instead of being decided with the civilian mind with regard to the temper of this House and the country, we may find things being done from the military point of view. That is a change in the Constitution itself. To delegate to the Council the authority which hitherto has been held by the Secretary of State as a civilian is rather to reverse the position of affairs. Far be it from me to criticise in any way the Army Council; I do not wish to do so; I merely say that it is a Constitutional change which is being sprung upon us by a back door at a late hour. The Mover of the Amendment said that he was quite prepared that the Secretary of State should delegate his authority to anybody, but under the Amendment it is necessary to have a member of the Army Council to act for him in his absence if he goes abroad and desires to delegate his authority. I think that is where my hon. Friend has rather failed in his Amendment. Instead of giving the Secretary of State's authority to one of his colleagues in the Cabinet he gives it only to a member of the Army Council. I object to that, and I have placed in the Chairman's hands an Amendment to add after the words "Army Council" the words "or Minister of the Crown." If that Amendment were accepted it would safeguard every interest one could possibly conceive.
The hon. Member cannot move that Amendment until the words are left out, and I then put the question that the other words be inserted.
Then with regard to the defence made by the right hon. Gentleman. So far it has been a defence on very small matters indeed. He has not once really grappled with the situation or touched the vital point at issue. The right hon. Baronet opposite was perfectly right in saying that all through these debates the right hon. Gentleman has failed to recognise the gravity of the step he is proposing to take. I shall support my hon. Friend's Amendment, although I do think it might possibly be improved.
§ Mr. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
I think the right hon. Gentleman will not complain of a little time being spent on this very important Constitutional change. The right hon. Gentleman gave as his reason why these various responsible duties were to be handed over from the Secretary of State, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Adjutant-General to the Army Council, that the Secretary of State was troubled dealing with a large number of unimportant details. The instances he gave of unimportant details were bastardy, lunatics, and Post Office matters. Now what occurs to me to point out is that if such matters as bastardy and lunatics were a nuisance to the Secretary of State, how much more of a nuisance will they be to the Army Council. [Laughter.] I am sorry hon. Members laugh, because I wish to point out that you cannot get rid of lunatics and bastardy. They have got to be dealt with by somebody, and I should have thought that the Secretary of State himself or the Army Council could easily have deputed some subordinate to look after these matters. If the Secretary of State had to sign his name to bastardy orders 20 times last year, I venture to say that is the outside, for I cannot imagine that the whole of the Army would be going in for this to such an extent as to make it impossible for the Secretary of State to attend properly to his duties on account of being interrupted continuously with these matters. The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my hon. Friend's argument. My hon. Friend asked: "What is the constitution of the Army Council?" Are the Committee not entitled to know, if all these extensive powers are to be handed over to the Army Council, something more about the constitution of the body? May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the question he was asked: "How do they vote?" The right hon. Gentleman said: "We have never had a vote, because we have always been unanimous, and the question has not arisen." I was very much surprised to hear that answer. I have no doubt it is strictly correct, but I was sorry to hear it, becaues if the Army Council, with the right hon. Gentleman upon it, have always been unanimous up to this date, I do not think that speaks very well for the Army Council. We should have been glad to hear that there had been real differences of opinion. That would have indicated that some progress was being made and that the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out to his military 982 colleagues that it is time they learned something about their own business. If they have had no differences of opinion, it is time that they had some. My point is that we should not pass this section handing over these extensive powers. We are entitled to be told what the body is, how it is constituted, how it intends to work, and generally the nature of its constitution, and how it votes. I think the Amendment before the Committee is an important and valuable one. It gives the Secretary of State an opportunity of retaining not only nominal power but real responsibility in his own hands. If you allow the power to be transferred, it is all very well by some Order in Council to retain the nominal responsibility, but how can we hold the right hon. Gentleman absolutely responsible for something when he gets up and tells us that the Army Council did it? We do not know that body, and we cannot turn them out. He may have been out-voted in the Army Council for anything we know. This shadowy and irresponsible body cannot be got at. We ought not to-be asked wholesale, so to speak, not retail, to hand over all kinds of powers to a body of whose constitution we know nothing. I think I am in order in mentioning one or two of these powers. They include powers about the liberty of subject, length of service, most important matters of principle and of administrative detail, and not only are the powers of the right hon. Gentleman to be handed over, but also those of the Commander-in-Chief. I am one of those who join in the protest against handing over all these responsibilities to a shadowy and irresponsible body, and I think before we are asked to do so it would have been more reasonable if the Secretary of State had given some explanation as to what this body is.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
I wish to deal with the question as to the manner in which the Army Council votes. This is a very serious matter. Either it votes in secret—
I allowed this question to be asked, but I do not see that it concerns this Amendment at all. The constitution- of the Army Council is known—or can be known by any hon. Member—and all these questions of detail as to how they conduct their business do not arise on this Amendment.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
When you say that the Army Council constitution is well 983 known, I would point out that we have been unable to get any information either from any public document or from any statement by any Minister in the House of Commons as to how the body works and carries out its duties up to now. We have always been given to understand that practically the Council is the creature of the Secretary of State, that he practically appoints or dismisses them, and that they are not free to exercise their duties as they like. If they do not follow out his views they would be marked down for removal as soon as convenient. No one can for a moment suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is not a strong Secretary of State for War. All his friends and enemies agree in recognising that he is a Minister of force and strength, and one who, having 'determined upon large schemes, drives them through with all the energy and ability he is known to possess, and, therefore, this question is one of primary importance when dealing with the transfer of authority from the right hon. Gentleman to this, what I can only call, nebulous body. After your ruling, I shall not pursue the subject. I wish to put this question—How does that body exercise its functions—
Imust pointout again to the hon. Member that the question does not arise on this Amendment.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
The right hon. Gentleman says that unless the powers in regard to the smaller duties which he seeks to transfer to the Army Council are so transferred, he will still remain in what I think I may accurately describe as the morass of detail, and will be tied up by red tape, so that he cannot do his duties as Secretary of State. If he takes as an analogy a large business institution, say a bank, I would ask what would any man in this House think if the manager were to say that he is not responsible for even the smallest detail connected with the performance of the work in his office? If the office boys lost two or three pounds' worth of penny stamps would the manager be entitled to say that he could not be held responsible? We hold the Secretary of State responsible, just as the bank manager is directly responsible for any big and small act. My hon. Friend referred to some of the powers which the Secretary of State wishes to place upon the Army Council under these clauses. There is one regarding which it seems to me the right hon. Gentleman should give us some 984 explanation. I refer to the fact that he proposes under clause 88 of the Army Act, which is referred to in the schedule of this Bill, to transfer to the Army Council the power to call out the reserves for permanent service in the event of national peril. Surely that is a matter which should be made absolutely the duty of—
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
May I, with all respect, submit that the wording of this clause says that there shall be transferred all the powers referred to in Part I. of the second schedule. I gathered from an earlier ruling that it would be out of order to discuss the general powers which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to depute to the Army Council.
§ Mr. HAZLETON
To my mind the outstanding fact which this discussion has made perfectly clear is that the Constitutional hold of the Secretary of State and of the House of Commons over the armed forces of the Crown are by this Bill being very seriously impaired. I think the Secretary of State is technically correct in the position which he has taken up, because we find that under the Order in Council of August, 1904, the first paragraph read as follows:—That the Secretary of State is to be responsible to His Majesty and Parliament for all the business of the Army Council.Under that the Secretary of State certainly retains his technical responsibility, but it can be altered at any minute by a stroke of the pen on the part of the Crown. Furthermore, even though he does retain his responsibility, supposing this Order were never altered or varied in any way, it is quite plain and obvious to every sensible person that in so far as the powers which the Secretary of State used to exercise are transferred under the Bill, in future the real authority will be the Army Council, and the Army Council alone. I think that every sensible person will see that so far as the powers of the Secretary of State are transferred under this Bill the real authority will be the Army Council, and the Army Council alone. Let me take an illustration. Supposing any power which the Secretary of State has transferred under this Bill comes up to be exercised by the Army Council. What 985 happens? I am not in a position to give any details, but what would actually take place? But supposing one particular-stance was brought forward, and that the Army Council took one view and the Secretary of State took another? If he differed from the Army Council he would be in this position. He would either have to oppose the Army Council or to override the decision of the Army Council and come to this House and define his position. Would the Army Council sit quietly under such circumstances? If the matter were of real importance, they would hand in their resignations. That is not a situation which the Secretary of State for War would, under ordinary circumstances, be prepared to meet, and rather than stand out against the decision of the Army Council he would give way, and in giving way he would transfer the real power, the real authority, and the real responsibility from his own shoulders to those of the Army Council. In practice, whatever the technical position of the Secretary of State may be, the step which this Committee is asked to take is one of a very serious and grave character.
§ Mr. BOWLES
We are bound to see in a matter of this importance what these arrangements are, and to look at them from every point of view. When a difficulty arises it will be a real difficulty and a national difficulty, and it may arise at any moment. Whether the issue is to be in the hands of a majority of the Army Council or in the hands of the Secretary of
|Division No. 54.]||AYES.||[7.40 p.m.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Duckworth, Sir James||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Lamont, Norman|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Everett, R. Lacey||Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis|
|Barker, Sir John||Fenwick, Charles||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Ferens, T. R.||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Beale, W. P.||Fuller, John Michael F.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Beauchamp, E.||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Lynch, H. B.|
|Bell, Richard||Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Branch, James||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Maddison, Frederick|
|Brigg, John||Hart-Davies, T.||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Brodie, H. C.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Marnham, F. J.|
|Buchanan, Rt. Hon. Thomas R.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Massie, J.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Haworth, Arthur A.||Menzies, Walter|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hazel, Dr. A. E. W.||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles||Hedges, A. Paget||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Henry, Charles S.||Mond, A.|
|Cleland, J. W.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Clough, William||Horniman, Emslie John||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Idris, T. H. W.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C (Kincard.)|
|Corbett, C H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Nicholls, George|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jardine, Sir J.||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)||Partington, Oswald|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
§ State of this House it is a matter which will arise under the powers transferred under this section.
§ That being so, I think the Committee is entitled to know more about the matter. Is the power to be left to a majority of the existing Army Council—a majority of persons who may be constituted by the Crown—or merely to a portion of the Army Council? Are we really doing anything or nothing? Are we making a change or not?" Is the right hon. Gentleman in the same position or in a different position? That is a question which he has not answered. Surely it is susceptible to a simple answer. The demand is made that he is responsible to this House with regard to the exercise of these powers. Does the Secretary of State reserve to himself any part of the powers, and, if so, by what authority? Certainly not by the authority of this House, but by an Order in Council—that is, by the stroke of a pen. The responsibilities of this character which ought to be exercised in times of stress should be reserved for the Secretary of State to deal with. Unless the right hon. Gentleman can tell us what it is we are doing—to what body of persons we are handing these responsibilities, and under what conditions the transfer is being made—I am very sorry to say that it will be my duty to put the House to the trouble of a Division.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause":—Ayes, 134; Noes, 70.
|Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Simon, John Allsebrook||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Radford, G. H.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Weir, James Galloway|
|Raphael, Herbert H.||Spicer, Sir Albert||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Richards, Thomas (W. Monmouth)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Ridsdale, E. A.||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Strachey, Sir Edward||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Robinson, S||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Rogers, F. E. Newman||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)||Waiters, John Tudor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and the Master of Elibank.|
|Seely, Colonel||Walton, Joseph|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Silcock, Thomas Ball||Watt, Henry A.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Guinness, W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds)||O'Grady, J.|
|Alden, Percy||Halpin, J.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood||Hazleton, Richard||Renwick, George|
|Barnes, G. N.||Higham, John Sharp||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hodge, John||Rowlands, J.|
|Brace, William||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Houston, Robert Paterson||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hudson, Walter||Seddon, J.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Jenkins, J.||Shackleton, David James|
|Cave, George||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jowett, F. W.||Stanier, Beville|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Kerry, Earl of||Steadman, W. C.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)||Summerbell, T.|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Macpherson, J. T.||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Markham, Arthur Basil||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wardle, George J.|
|Edwards, A. Clement (Denbigh)||Morpeth, Viscount||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Essex, R. W.||Newdegate, F. N.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Fell, Arthur||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Glover, Thomas||Nolan, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Mitchell-Thomson and Mr. Bowles.|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)|
§ Captain CRAIG moved to leave out from the word "that" to the words "Army Council" in sub-section (a). He said: This Amendment of mine is to leave out practically sub-section (a) of this clause 4. The reason I move it is to endeavour to obtain some information from the Secretary of State. So far we have received nothing from him in explanation of the great change which clause 4 is about to make. It strikes me this part of the clause is the beginning of the delegation of powers. It seems to immediately place the Army Council in a position superior to that of the Secretary of State for War. We have been fighting to keep him in his position at the head of the Army, and responsible to the House of Commons and the country. If one reads carefully the phraseology "nothing in this section shall affect the validity of any rules, regulations, orders, or other documents made or executed by the Secretary of State under any of the powers hereby transferred, and all such rules and regulations shall until revoked by the Army Council have effect as if made or executed by the Army Council."
§ That is to say the Army Council is immediately placed superior to the Secretary 988 of State. It is for the Army Council to give orders and to execute the powers which the right hon. Gentleman so far has been carrying out with very great success and credit. But certainly that is not right. I am not learned in the law in any sense of the word, but I take it the latter part is even the worse. "These documents shall until revoked by the Army Council have effect as if made or executed by the Army Council."
§ The sting is to be found here in this part of the clause, because it appears that a Secretary of State for War who has been hitherto supreme is now only to rule with the consent of a superior council. His acts must receive the approval of the Army Council. Is it to be taken that this clause 4 puts the Secretary of State in the position that I have outlined? Is he or is he not superior to the Army Council, and if he is supreme in the Army Council is he supreme only when he receives a majority of votes in the Army Council? And then when he comes down to this House is he voicing his own sentiments and those of his colleagues as a Minister of the Crown, or is he voicing the sentiments of the Army Council, whose approval he has secured by 989 a near majority? That is the crucial point. So far, at all events, anything done and spoken by the Secretary for War has been taken to be a Ministerial action, taken by the right hon. Gentleman on the part of the Government, and with a full authority of the Government, and quite rightly so. Now, it appears the right hon. Gentleman is to come to this House as a member of the Army Council and speak for them, and only after his suggestions have received the approval of the Army Council. Another point arising on this part of clause 4 is this: The whole of this clause, so far as I can make out, is divided into sub-sections under letters a, b, c, and d. In all other parts of the Bill the sub-sections of clauses are denoted by numbers, but here they have had recourse to letters. "Nothing in this sub-section shall affect the validity of any rules, regulations, orders, or other documents executed by the Secretary of State under any of the powers hereby transferred." Now I object to the phraseology of this sub-section, which seems to convey that there was some power transferred by this section a, whereas there is no power transferred by any part of this sub-section a, but it is transferred by a foregoing paragraph, also under the letter a, in the early part of the clause, and therefore I really think there might be something better done in the way of drafting if they wanted to carry out the idea of the Secretary of State as to throwing over the powers he hitherto possessed into the hands of the Army Council, not one of whom anybody in this House knows anything whatever about. It is chiefly with a view of elucidating these things, and of getting some explanation of the meaning of the whole thing from the Secretary of State that I put this Amendment on the paper, and also with the view of having an explanation of the phraseology which really cannot be properly understood.
§ Question proposed: "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ Mr. HALDANE
I will tell the hon. Member in two or three words what it is that is done, and first of all as to the general position of the Army Council. The Army Council is a body brought together and owing its vitality and life to the Order in Council. It is the body which is presided over by the Secretary of State for War, who has supreme power to withdraw all business or any particular business 990 from the Council, and who is responsible to the King and to Parliament. He is responsible for the exercise of the prerogative in regard to this body, and it comes to this, that virtually he can overrule it. That being so, his position is this: He allows business to be transacted by the Army Council. It is distributed among the individual members, and while everything goes smoothly it goes on in that way, and discussions take place between the Secretary and the members of the Council, and, as I say, everything goes on perfectly smoothly. If any question arises on which there is a conflict of opinion the Secretary of- State would, of course, be bound, in virtue of his responsibility to this House, to make his views prevail. Now I state that in order to make clear the meaning of the words to which the hon. and learned Member refers. The words are: "Nothing in this section shall affect the validity of any rules, regulations, orders, or other documents made or executed by a Secretary of State under any of the powers hereby transferred, but all such rules, regulations, orders, and documents shall, until revoked by the Army Council, have effect as if made or executed by the Army Council." These words are put in for a purely technical reason. The power of making these regulations which the Secretary of State is transferring to the Army Council, which henceforth will make them subject to the potential control of the Secretary of State, of which I spoke, having been transferred, unless some words of this sort were put in, it might be argued that the power had been removed from the Secretary of State to make them. Consequently, this sub-section is put in as a common form sub-section, and is put in by a very competent draftsman, in order to make it plain, that the existing regulations have not come to an end. This section does not make anything retrospective. It only says that "the rules, regulations, orders, or other documents" signed by the Secretary of State, under powers which are not now continuing, are to continue in operation until powers of correcting them are effective. It is a pure common form clause, put in by a very competent draftsman, who drew this clause, to prevent any difficulty in the construction of it.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman just said that he could overrule the Army Council on any question, and that it is in his power to 991 make his will prevail, but he did not tell us quite how that operation was to take place.
§ Lord BALCARRES
Yes; under the Order in Council, but under this sub-section he gives the Army Council, as such, powers which hitherto have been vested in the right hon. Gentleman of revoking certain "rules, regulations, orders, or other documents made or executed by a Secretary of State under any of the powers hereby transferred." It is provided that these powers, which have hitherto existed, under the sign manual of the Secretary of States, shall continue in force until revoked, not by the Secretary of State, who is responsible to Parliament, but by the Army Council, which is not responsible to Parliament.
§ Lord BALCARRES
That is just the point. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he has power to overrule them to any extent, why is he transferring to them under this sub-section a general power to revoke the rules?
§ Mr. HALDANE
To relieve himself of an enormous mass of detail and of the obligation to do everything himself. What would be thought of the head of a business who tried to do everything himself? He must delegate to some of his managers the powers to control the details of his business or he would become bankrupt. He remains responsible, of course.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I agree that the head of a firm must transfer to the heads of departments numerous responsibilities to deal with them, but in doing that no head of a business will transfer to his subordinates the right to regulate the rules, documents, etc., by which he himself is affected. That is what he has done. Nobody has got any objection to the delegation of what he calls the red-tape duty, of deciding whether a non-commissioned officer is to lose his rank or not, or anything of that kind. If those responsibilities really weigh upon him, by all means let him fix upon some authority who shall carry out those duties and be responsible to the right hon. Gentleman, who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament. The whole complaint which the right hon. Gentleman 992 has either not appreciated or not met is, that in carrying out this useful measure of delegation he has removed some of his own responsibility to Parliament.
§ Mr. HALDANE dissented.
§ Lord BALCARRES
Well, he has given power to the Army Council to remove these responsibilities, and he has stated in this particular sub-section a that they shall have power to revoke certain rules, regulations, orders, and other documents which hitherto have been under his control.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Circumstances may change, and just as the Army Council may make new regulations, they must have power to revoke an exisiting regulation, always subject to the supreme control of the Secretary of State.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I do not wish to press the matter unduly, but it appears that the Army Council is to have power to make the new regulations. I do not think it will be the Secretary of State who will have the power to make the regulations. I am entirely in favour of taking off his shoulders the decision of such questions as to whether a non-commissioned officer should lose his rank, but there is no reason why he should give them the power to revoke documents which hitherto could not be altered without the sole sanction of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. RENWICK
I sincerely hope that the Committee will believe me when I say that I think I am interpreting their desire that we do not wish to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of any power which he possesses. Personally I wish he would not get rid of his powers, because I have such confidence in the right hon. Gentleman that I think we should be glad to entrust him with any fresh power that he wants, but this section deprives him of power and this House of power, and gives it to a body over which we have no control. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has control over this Army Council, but then I wish to know why he gives them the power to revoke regulations which he has put in force. It seems to me that instead of the right hon. Gentleman having the power, the Council has the power, and I ask again why does he give the Council that power? I think it is a reflection on a Minister of the Crown, who is responsible to this House, that he 993 should give away power in the way that is mentioned in this clause. We are justified in asking who is putting pressure on the right hon. Gentleman in this way? Depend upon it, pressure is being put, and it is not being put without some reason. Is it the Cabinet? Is there any pressure which the support of this House can get rid of? If so, we will give it, but we are not prepared to allow him to give away powers which we feel so much pride in conferring upon him. The right hon. Gentleman says he has delegated certain powers. Does he feel that he has too much to do? If so let him appeal to the House for another secretary or two. We are quite willing to give it, but we object to giving them to this nebulous body. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will, not from the legal point of view, but from the lay point of view, tell us, Has he the right to override the Council or has the Council the right to override him? Surely it must be one or the other, and that is what we want to know. If he has the right to override the Council we maintain that the Council has no right to revoke any order or regulations which he may make. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten us first on this point, Who is putting pressure upon him? Is it his own wish that he should delegate these powers, because we wish to distinguish between delegation and the mere giving away of these powers? By delegation I mean the appointment of subordinates to carry out his orders without giving up any of his power. Or is it some pressure from the Cabinet or some other body which is causing him to act in this way?
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
In his reply a few moments ago the right hon. Gentleman told the Committee that he overrode the Army Council. If that is so why is it necessary that he should come to Parliament and ask it to pass an Act enabling him to depute certain powers to his creatures? Surely in that case it is no more necessary for him to come and get powers to confer certain duties upon them than it is for any man in the City to get power to depute certain work to clerks in his office.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The cause is this very antiquated and out-of-date expression in the statute which I am trying to get rid of by this Bill. I cannot by the exercise of my authority repeal a statute.
§ Mr. CLAUDE HAY
If there are on the Statute Books certain antiquated 994 words which interfere between the right hon. Gentleman and the Army Council then the Army Council is to some extent independent of the right hon. Gentleman, and they are not his mere creatures as he has told us. He said this Army Council was to all intents a friendly body at which matters concerning the administration of the Army were discussed. If after discussion the right hon. Gentleman found that body did not take his view he withdrew the business from the Council or he overrode them by saying that if they brought up a report or voted in a particular direction he would take action exactly the contrary to their decision. That, I understand, is the position. If that is so how on earth can he say at the same time that he is barred from exercising that veto and from transferring certain duties to this Council because there are certain words upon the Statute Book. The two things are absolutely inconsistent, and the right hon. Gentleman has surely led the House into some error in the matter.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will clear up the subject. Until we get a clearer definition I do not believe anyone will be satisfied that these words are simple and innocuous words or that the whole of these proposals are so small and insignificant as he would have us believe. We all believe there is some motive behind these proposals, and there is unquestionably in all quarters of the House a suspicion of some ulterior motive lying behind them, and we are determined to know exactly what the result will be when this Bill becomes law.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
Is it too late to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw this clause? I think we have made it clear, at all events some of us have tried to make it clear, that we have not the slightest objection to the Secretary of State delegating all his powers relating to all sorts of administrative matters. But it is perfectly montrous to hear from him that he is obliged to waste his time by doing the trivial administrative and executive things which he has referred to.
If the hon. Member will look at the actual Amendment he will find that his remarks do not apply to it. Other hon. Members, too, are referring to the original transfer of these powers. We are not dealing with that now, but with what seems to be more or less a consequence of them, which is more limited.
§ Mr. W. W. RUTHERFORD
I recognise that the whole discussion ought to have been confined to the regulations which he has himself actually made, and which it is proposed by this clause shall remain in force until the Army Council revokes them. That raises the very important question that by statute, if we passed the clause in this shape, this Army Council will have the power to revoke the regulations and orders laid down by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and will have the power to revoke documents which he in his capacity of Secretary of State has actually signed. Our objection to that is this, that immediately we pass that we lose as a House of Commons our control over the whole of these matters, and we have allowed the Secretary of State to permit himself to be overridden by the Army Council with regard to all these regulations and documents, and we have lost our power as representatives of the people to bring him to account, and to see that these matters are dealt with in accordance with the Constitution of the country. The right hon. Gentleman told us just now that he was practically supreme in the Army Council, and that if the Army Council did not agree with him he has a short and easy way with the Army Council, and he will practically suppress them. But I presume he will do that, not in his capacity as Secretary of State, because the Secretary of State has parted here by statute, if we pass the clause in this shape, with these very powers that we are calling in question. They are not merely the administrative powers and regulations and documents which are referred to in the clause, but powers of initiation and of laying down matters of principle of the greatest possible importance. In the absence of some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, we on this side of the House will be bound to go into the Lobby to record our vote against these proposals. We object in the strongest possible way to the House of Commons being deprived of its powers to deal with the orders, regulations and documents, and rules referred to.
And it being a Quarter past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.