- (1) His Majesty in Council has power during the continuance of the present War to issue regulations for securnig the public safety and the defence of the Realm, and as to the powers and duties for that purpose of the Admiralty and Army Council and of the members of His Majesty's Forces and other persons acting in His behalf; and may by such regulations authorise the trial by courts-martial, or in the case of minor offences by Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, and punishment of persons committing offences against the regulations and in particular against any of the provisions of such regulations designed—
- (a) to prevent persons communicating with the enemy or obtaining information for that purpose or any purpose calculated to jeopardise the success of the operations of any of His Majesty's Forces or the Forces of his Allies or to assist the enemy; or
- (b) to secure the safety of His Majesty's Forces and ships and the safety of any means of communication and of railways, ports, harbours; or
- (c) to prevent the spread of reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm; or
- (d) to secure the navigation of vessels in accordance with directions given by or under the authority of the Admiralty; or
- (d) otherwise to prevent assistance being given to the enemy or the successful prosecution of the War being endangered,
- (2) Any such regulations may provide for the suspension of any restrictions on the acquisition or user of land, or the exercise of the power of making by-laws, or any other power under the Defence Acts, 1842 to 1875, or the Military Lands Acts, 1891 to 1903, and any such regulations or any orders made thereunder affecting the pilotage of vessels may supersede any enactment, order, charter, bylaw, regulation or provision as to pilotage.
- (3) For the purpose of the trial of a person for an offence under the regulations by court-martial and the punishment
1265 thereof, the person may be proceeded against and dealt with as if he were a person subject to military law and had on active service committed an offence under Section 5 of the Army Act:
§ Provided that where it is proved that the offence is committed with the intention of assisting the enemy a person convicted of such an offence by a court-martial shall be liable to suffer death.
§ (4) For the purpose of the trial of a person for an offence under the regulations by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction and the punishment thereof, the offence shall be deemed to have been committed either at the place in which the same actually was committed or in any place in which the offender may be, and the maximum penalty which may be inflicted shall be imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term of six months or a fine of one hundred pounds, or both such imprisonment and fine; Section seventeen of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, shall not apply to charges of offences against the regulations, but any person aggrieved by a conviction of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction may appeal in England to a Court of Quarter Sessions, and in Scotland under and in terms of the Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Acts, and in Ireland in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Acts.
§ (5) The regulations may authorise a court-martial or Court of Summary Jurisdiction, in addition to any other punishment, to order the forfeiture of any goods in respect of which an offence against the regulations has been committed.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), paragraph (c), after the word "of," to insert the word "false."
This, and three other Amendments standing in my name, are designed to recast or make some alteration in paragraph (c) of Sub-section (1) of Clause 1. The Clause as it at present stands gives power to His Majesty in Council to make Regulations to prevent the spread of reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm. On the Second Reading of this Bill it was pointed out that this went a very long way, and that it might lead to a suspicion in the public mind that the Sub-section might be used for the purpose of protecting the Government or for undue concealment from the public of the course of the War. I understand that the Government would be glad to receive any 1266 legitimate criticism of the wording, and that they are prepared to accept the first three Amendments standing in my name, and to accept an Amendment similar to the fourth Amendment which I have on the Paper, if the wording were a little changed. To make quite clear the effect of these Amendments, I will read the Sub-section as it would stand after the insertion of the Amendments. The paragraph would read:To prevent the spread of false reports, or reports likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty, or alarm, and to interfere with the success of our arms by land or sea, or prejudice His Majesty's relations with foreign Powers.I think that covers any possible ground in connection with this Sub-section, and I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendments altering the paragraph in that sense. I personally recognise very fully both the desirability of the censorship and the extreme difficulties of carrying out the duties. I listened to what fell from the Solicitor-General on the previous occasion, namely, on the question of withholding news, that even if a mistake is made in regard to it, it does not boar comparison with the importance of not allowing anything to be published which could possibly injure the success of our Forces; and, therefore, I quite agree that it is not a matter which this House or the public would be well advised in criticising with great nicety or severity every single act of the censorship, and asking why a particular word was omitted, or why a particular reference was not allowed to be made. At the same time, while I recognise all that, I do most honestly and sincerely admit that, the difficulties of those who are discharging their duty entitle them to the most favourable consideration possible. But those who are responsible for the censorship would be the first to agree that nothing would be more disastrous than that any impression should get abroad that the censorship was used for political purposes or even purposes of undue concealment or misfortune or anything of that kind, merely because they were likely to prove embarrassing or disagreeable or hurtful to the reputation of the forces. I am very glad that the Government have seen their way to accept these Amendments, and that they fully recognise the desirability of carrying out the censorship with strict regard to the principle which underlies any popular Government.
§ Sir S. BUCKMASTER
I think it is right to express my gratitude for the kind and sympathetic words in which the Noble Lord has referred to the duties which I have to perform. The speech that he has made renders it quite unnecessary for me to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes because he has expresed better than I could the exact principles which I think are required in the discharge of my duties. I agree with him entirely in saying that this office should have no concern with politics. I did my best to make plain when this matter was before the House on the discussion of the Gracious Speech from the Throne that that was my firm and fixed opinion. If it were once thought in the emergency of a great national crisis the Government had called into existence a body whose function it was to colour the nation in their favour, that would be an abuse of the confidence of the nation, and a use of a great national emergency for a very base end. I also agree that the idea of keeping back news from the public, because it is disagreeable to disclose it, is a policy that should never be pursued. It is, and always has been, my opinion that the country should be taken as far as possible into the confidence of the Government and every department of the Government, and I have no sympathy whatever with the view that difficulties may be concealed until they are forgotten, or that disasters should be concealed in the hope that something may happen in the interval which will divert public opinion from the fact that the disaster has occurred.
Having said that, I think I should secure the assent of the Noble Lord if I add that it is possible that there may be occasions in which full disclosure of events or disasters might not be desirable, and, of course, the real difficulty of the office that I hold is to know exactly when that can be done, and with the assistance of the Departments, by whose directions I am regulated and controlled, to follow the line, which is not always clear, between the one case and the other. I think, having said that. I need say no more in accepting these Amendments, except that I am glad that they should be introduced, because it is my desire, as far as possible, that the functions and duties of my office should be made plain. It is only by that being done that it may be possible and it may be a long time after the office 1268 has ceased to exist, that the mists of misunderstanding and misrepresentation by which at the present moment the work of this office is surrounded may be ultimately cleared away.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In paragraph (c), after the word "reports," insert the words "or reports."
§ After the word "disaffection," insert the words "to His Majesty."
§ Leave out the word "alarm," and insert instead thereof the words "to interfere with the success of His Majesty's Forces on land or sea or prejudice His Majesty's relations with foreign Powers."—[Lord Robert Cecil.]
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1) (c), at the end, to insert the wordsto secure the free enlistment of all British subjects willing and anxious to serve in His Majesty's Forces.The effect of this Amendment would be to empower His Majesty's Government to make Regulations directed against such offences as interfering in any way whatsoever with the free enlistment of any British subject anxious to serve in His Majesty's Forces. The House and the country rejoice to know that at the present moment, speaking broadly, all parties in the State are joined in the effort to obtain recruits for His Majesty's Army in prosecuting this War, and the unusual spectacle is seen of men of all parties attending meetings for that purpose. But it must be admitted that there is a small an exceedingly small, section of people in this country who, on occasions, have taken steps, either by the Press or by speeches, to discourage recruiting. I believe that they are a very small section, and a section which we in this House, and the country at large, treat with the greatest contempt. But when these cases occur, they ought, I think, to be met by proper legislation, and the offences committed by those people ought to be laid down and made the subject of proper punishment.
I said that in this country these offences are exceedingly rare. I wish I could say the same for Ireland. I am sorry to say it is notorious that there is in Ireland at the present moment a strongly organised and very largely subsidised effort, and I should like to know very much where the 1269 money comes from to subsidise it, to restrain recruiting and to prevent men from enlisting in His Majesty's Forces, and to hold out this country and this War to the contempt of the Irish people, and to prevent Irishmen, who certainly as a rule and in times past have served a gallant part in His Majesty's Army, and who are doing it to-day abroad to prevent them from joining His Majesty's Forces. An even more regrettable fact is that the efforts of these contemptible and traitorous men have met with a certain degree of success in Ireland because, although there is a large number of Irishmen serving in His Majesty's Regular Forces, men who enlisted before the War and reservists, yet the response of recruits for the New Army in Ireland has not been as satisfactory as we could expect. We have every reason to believe that that unfortunate result is due in no small degree to those disloyal and traitorous utterances, sometimes on platforms and more generally in the Press. I am not going to give the House many nauseous samples of the utterances to which I refer; but there are four Irish papers at the present moment, with a widespread gratuitous circulation in Ireland, in which these grossly seditious utterances have been found: the "Irish Volunteer," which professes to be the organ of, at any rate, a section of the National Volunteers, "Sinn Fein," "Irish Freedom," and "The Irish Worker." I have had the misfortune to read a good many extracts from these papers, and the key-note of their utterances is, "Do not, you Irishmen, fight for dirty little England." I believe that that very expression has been used again and again; "let England fight her own battles; do not let Irishmen give help to England; Englishmen do not want to fight their own battles, they want Irishmen to fight them for them." Anything more grossly and criminally untrue cannot be imagined. The "Irish Volunteer" of the 10th of October has an article headed, "No recruits from the West," and in the course of a violently worded article it says:—The motto of the British Government is to get rid of the Irish Volunteers by having them slaughtered by the Germans.That is the kind of appeal that is made to the Irish peasants to prevent them from enlisting. As recently as the 7th November the same paper says:—Our only path to the glorious happy Ireland of our aspirations lies through the downfall of the British Empire.1270 Upon that they found the argument, "You must not fight for the British Empire; you must not enlist in the armies of the British Empire; because to do so would be to prevent the realisation of our aspirations." One more quotation, and I really apologise for giving publicity to these disgusting utterances. I only do so for the purpose of showing that there is a real need for suppressing these things in Ireland. If Irish law is in any way deficient to deal with these papers, I hope the Home Secretary will, by inserting this Amendment, obtain an easy way of dealing with the offences which have undoubtedly been committed. In November one of these papers said:—Ireland would be better off were she a protectorate of the German people.The inference from that is, I suppose, that Irishmen ought to enlist in the German Army. But they do not go so far as that, because they say:—Ireland is neutral. If the British Navy gets the worst of the coming fight, we shall have our German friends coming over the Irish sea.That is the sort of thing that is going on in Ireland, and I am sure that the Home Secretary as deeply disapproves of it as any other Member of this House. I have given these quotations to show that there are people in the United Kingdom who misuse the freedom of the Press; therefore, I think, it is only fair to ask the right hon. Gentleman to insert my Amendment, so that he may make proper regulations under the Act for dealing with offences of this very gross character.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
My labours, I regret to say, have not allowed me the opportunity of making so full a study of the papers which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to as he has been able to devote to them. But I am sure that he will be glad for me to add to his account of them the fact that has struck me in such articles as I have read, that however bitter the feelings of the writers of the articles may be against this Government and this country they are no less bitter against the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford and the party which he leads in this House. He would wish me to say that as otherwise the use of the term "Nationalist" in relation to these papers and these articles might be likely to mislead the British public into thinking that the Nationalist party, which has shown itself throughout 1271 most zealous, energetic, and enthusiastic to the cause of the British Empire in this War, is in any way identified with the articles in question. Having said so much, let me go on to say that I am sure the whole Committee associates itself thoroughly with the expressions of abhorrence which here follow from the hon. and learned Gentleman in regard to the articles themselves. There is hardly need for me to say that this Amendment, if it were necessary to insert it in the Bill, would be accepted with hardly a dissentient. But the hon. and learned Gentleman will see, if he looks at the Bill, that we already have these powers without adding these words. He will, too, agree, I hope before I finish, that to add these words would not be to strengthen the Bill but might have the effect of weakening it. If the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at the Bill he will see that the first words in Clause 1 are:—His Majesty's Council has power during the continuance of the present War to issue regulations for securing the public safety and the Defence of the Realm.I cannot imagine any action that would be more appropriate to the Defence of the Realm than to secure the free enlistment of British subjects willing and anxious to serve in His Majesty's Forces. We have construed the powers of the Bill as enabling us to do the very thing in respect of which the hon. and learned Gentleman asks for precise words to be inserted. The Order in Council, which is now in draft, and which we hope to be passed when this Bill is passed, includes powers of this kind, and I should deprecate inserting special words in the Bill which might have the effect of appearing to limit the general powers which are conferred upon the Government by these larger and more general words at the opening of the Clause. I am sure if the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at the first Order in Council of 12th August, which was passed after the first Act was passed by this House, he would see in the second paragraph that:It shall be lawful for the competent naval or military authorities or other persons duly authorised by them, whether for the purpose of securing the public safety, or the Defence of the Realm, where it is necessary so to do …1272 Then follow a number of definite enactments. We hope the words do allow us to include in the Order in Council provisions precisely of the kind which the hon. and learned Gentleman desires. For that reason, though I entirely agree with the object he has in view, I would ask him not to press this Amendment.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am not quite sure that I followed the argument of the Home Secretary in this matter, because if it were valid it seems to me that in order to be consistent he ought to strike out paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of the Clause, because after all they are only specific examples of the general powers expressed by the words of the Clause. The words of the Clause are:—His Majesty in Council has power during the continuance of the War to issue regulations for securing the public safety and Defence of the Realm, and as to the powers and duties," and soAnd it goes on to sayand may by such regulations authorise the trial by court-martial, or in the case of offences by Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, and punishment of persons committing offences against the Regulations and in particular against any of the provisions of such Regulations designed.And paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) are examples of what may be done under the general words, and are so intended to be. The Home Secretary thinks if he puts in another example it may weaken the powers of the general words. Surely that cannot be right. I quite agree it would be possible to draft this Bill without any examples, but if you do give examples, I should have thought you should give examples covering all the kind of Regulations you intended to issue. However, this is a matter of little importance, and I am sure my hon. Friend does not care a bit whether his particular words are accepted or not. What he desires and what we desire is an assurance from the Government that they will prevent what is becoming a public scandal in this matter, and although we were told at question time to-day that for six weeks they have done nothing, we respectfully press upon the Government that it is their duty to take action in this matter, as they would, if similar occurrences took place elsewhere, and to see that the law is respected in all parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not propose to refer to the question discussed, because it is a matter rather for the Irish Executive, and I gathered at Question time to-day, from the Chief Secretary and the Solicitor-General that they are going to devote their attention to it. So far as this question is concerned, I associate myself entirely with the remarks made upon the other side of the House. It is very painful that such stuff should be circulated in any part of the United Kingdom, and the sooner it is put a stop to the better. If these words, however, were inserted in the Bill, their effect might be very different from what is intended. We hear that in Borne cases men were asked not to enlist because they were working in armament firms, or at supplies for the Government; and while they are willing and anxious to enlist they were told they were better employed providing ammunition. I am afraid if these words were inserted they might include within the scope of the Bill persons who are working in ammunition and armament firms. I am afraid there would be difficulty on that ground. It seems to me that the criticism of the Noble Lord was very effective, and if all these things are covered by the general Clause, it would be better not to put in a specific proviso on account of this matter.
§ Mr. CAVE
I am not very much impressed by the argument of the hon. Member opposite, because the only object of this Amendment is to authorise the trial by court martial of certain persons. I cannot conceive that regulations would be made designed to compel the enlistment of men whom it is not desired to enlist in His Majesty's Forces. I think that is a sufficient answer to the hon. Member. I rise mainly to support what has been said by my hon. Friend. I hope that, after the arguments we have heard to-night the Government do intend to act in this matter. There is no country in the world where during a time of war the publication of articles such as we have heard read to-night would be allowed to continue. No matter how contemptible the articles or the authors are, the fact that they are printed in a paper which has some kind of circulation is reason enough to take steps to suppress them. I am sure the country would support the Government in any measures which are necessary to deal with this matter. I think we may understand from the absence of any disclaimer that steps of that kind will be taken at an early date.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
I hope the Government realise what a serious matter this is. I have heard of an instance in addition to those mentioned by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Butcher) and I would like to ask the Home Secretary to give a pledge that he will deal with this matter.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Member probably did not hear what the Chief Secretary said on this subject. He will understand that this matter is within the jurisdiction of the Irish Department and is being dealt with by the Chief Secretary.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I understand that the Home Secretary is willing to give an assurance that he will deal with this very matter in the Order in Council shortly to be brought out, and make it an offence under the Defence of the Realm Act to have such incitement as I have read to prevent recruiting. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has given that assurance, and that he will introduce into this draft Order some regulations which will have the desired effect of preventing such gross and abominable publications as those to which I have referred.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have not the draft with me, but so far as my recollection goes, there is a Clause in the Order in Council dealing with this subject, but if there; is not I will inquire further into the matter.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Before committing myself definitely I want first to see what other powers we have, and if the powers are not there I will put them in, but I cannot say definitely until I have inquired into the matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to add the words,It shall be lawful for the Admiralty or Army Council—These powers which at ordinary times might appear to be very remarkable are powers with which the House have already been accustomed in other respects. These powers are desired to secure that the Government can obtain the highest maximum possible output of the factories or workshops in which arms, ammunition, warlike stores, or equipment are manufactured. I am sure that the Committee will agree that it is most desirable that every step should be taken which will assist the Government in securing as abundant a supply of arms and ammunition as the country is capable of producing. These powers may not have to be used. In other cases we have similar powers, and I do not think, except in the case of railways, they have been put into operation, but it is very necessary to have some reserve power of this kind in order to secure the maximum output, and I would ask the Committee to allow me to have this Amendment to the Bill in the form in which I have read it
- (a) to require that there shall be placed at their disposal the whole or any part of the output of any factory or workshop in which arms, ammunition, or warlike stores or equipment, or any articles required for the production thereof, are manufactured;
- (b) to take possession and use for the purpose of His Majesty's Naval or
1275 Military Service any such factory or workshop or any plant thereof, and Regulations under this Act may be made accordingly."
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Personally, I think this is a very useful and proper addition. I presume it is scarcely necessary to ask that any damage suffered will be compensated.
§ Mr. HOLT
That is rather a tall order. What guarantee have you that the Army and Navy will be reasonable in their requirements? We know by experience that when you allow military gentlemen to take control of everything they are most unreasonable. The requirements of the civil population are just as important to the Crown as any other section of the population—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and there really ought to be a guarantee that the Army and Navy will not be the sole masters, and that some balance will be struck in the interests of the civil population.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am fully in agreement with the Government, but is the 1276 right hon. Gentleman absolutely certain that these words, "warlike stores or equipment," will give him the powers he requires? They are doubtful words.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I will call the attention of the Attorney-General to the point, but my understanding of the Bill is that the word "equipment" does include clothing and boots required for the Army or Navy. I can only say, in reply to the hon. Member (Mr. Holt), that he must not forget the Government as a whole is responsible, and the Government have to be satisfied that the equipment is required for His Majesty's naval or military service. I cannot agree with the hon. Member that we ought to put anything in front of the requirements of the naval and military Services.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the words "under Section five of the Army Act," and to insert instead thereof the words "punishable with imprisonment or any less punishment."
This is a small drafting Amendment, and does away with one of the blemishes of the Bill. Legislation by reference is quite unnecessary in this instance. Then it does not say which Army Act is referred to. There may be another Army Act during this Session in which the number of the Sections may be quite different.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I am sorry I cannot accept my hon. Friend's Amendment. The words "punishment with imprisonment or any less punishment" would not convey the same meaning as the words proposed to be left out. If the Amendment were accepted it would mean there could be no punishment between death and two years' imprisonment, but there are other grades of punishment which might reasonably be adopted, such as penal servitude. I think it would be safer to leave the Bill in its present form.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I strongly support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I do not believe in the death punishment and therefore I would have any minor punishment which would be affective.
§ Mr. McKENNA
All the Clause says is that they are liable to the death punishment. It does not relieve the prisoner of his liability to that. It is merely adding a new punishment.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
If the Home Secretary is advised that this Amendment is not necessary at all, I do not wish to support it. Personally, I should think in such a case as is contemplated under this proviso the death penalty would be proper. I confess I am rather surprised at the Home Secretary's confidence that the words mean exactly what he says. I should have been a little doubtful myself, but if he is so advised by those more skilled in drafting than I am, I will not press the point. But when I find an offence singled out and the phrase used that those guilty of that offence shall be liable to suffer death, I should have thought the natural meaning of that expression was that they would be liable to suffer death and nothing else. The right hon. Gentleman must remember that in the only case in which the death punishment is possible under the ordinary criminal law you cannot substitute any less punishment at all. A person found guilty of murder must be sentenced to death and there is no alternative. At the same time I do not very much mind leaving the words as they stand with the construction he has put on them.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I consulted my legal advisers on the point to-day and I was told that the matter is quite clear. Still, 1278 I rather hesitate after the expression of opinion by so competent an authority as the Noble Lord. But my advisers were quite clear that this proviso merely adds to the power of the Court to inflict more severe punishment and that it does not in any way derogate from the power of the Court to inflict a minor punishment.
§ Sir F. LOW
Surely this is an amplification of Section 5, which, as it stands, omits the penalty of death and leaves penal servitude or something else. This simply adds to Section 5 the power to inflict the penalty of death.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.