§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think we ought to have some explanation of this Bill. The Government no doubt have some reason for bringing it in, but it does seem to me a rather extraordinary time to introduce a Bill which deals with the discipline of the Navy. I was under the impression that the discipline of the Navy was all that could be desired. If it is not, and if it is necessary to amend the Naval Discipline Bill, surely something of this sort ought to have been done before the War began. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Lambert) is in his place, because it will give mo the opportunity of obtaining from him some of the reasons why this Bill is introduced. I remember once we were told that what the House of Commons suffered from was that we had the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. It is now day-time, and I do not know why we have not had the greater light to explain the Bill. But I will ask the lesser light, if he will slay for a moment, a few questions. I want to know why it is necessary to bring in a Bill of this sort at the present moment:, whether it is wise to alter the discipline of the Navy during the War, and how it is that in Clause 1 the penalty of death is done away with. As I read the Bill, if there is a mutiny on the ship the death penalty could not be inflicted. It is possible I have misread the Bill, but, if I have not, it might be amended in Committee. It is a serious thing to alter the rules of discipline in the Navy at the present time, and I think we ought to have an explanation from the Government.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I should like to ask one or two questions about this Bill. I do not think there is anything much in it except for the first Clause, which says,
"A sentence of death shall not be passed on a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act for striking, or with any 1178 weapon attempting to strike, or drawing or lifting up any weapon against, his superior officer, and accordingly for Section sixteen of that Act the following Section shall be substituted."
The Clause further says,
"Every person subject to this Act who shall strike or attempt to strike, or draw or lift up any weapon against, or use or attempt to use any violence against, his superior officer, whether or not such superior officer is in the execution of his office, shall be punished with penal servitude or such other punishment as is herein-after mentioned."
If that threatening attitude of a junior officer to his superior be accompanied by mutiny, I imagine that the Naval Discipline Act holds as it was, and that the penalty of death would still be enforced. But a man may lose his temper and strike, or attempt to strike, an officer or a senior petty officer. The death penalty for such an offence would be outrageous, but if that action be accompanied by mutiny—which we should all agree is the greatest possible offence you can have on a ship—the whole sentiment of the Service would be averse to having the penalty of death abrogated. I should, therefore, like a clear exposition of the Clause.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir J. Simon)
The Noble Lord will appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara) prefers to explain the Clauses of this Bill, and I do not want to take upon myself that which he is prepared to do. Clause 1, if my recollection serves me rightly, provides that the penalty of death shall not attach to the offence of striking, or raising a weapon for the purpose of striking. The phraseology is familiar to those who know the Naval Code. As long as there is the possibility of the penalty of death attaching to an offence against naval discipline, it can only be dealt with by the machinery of court-martial. It is quite impossible for the officer commanding a ship to exercise disciplinary punishment, or deal summarily with an offence which involves that possible consequence. Of course, in a very grave case, such as that of striking, which was directly associated with mutiny, of course, a court-martial would be inevitable, because mutiny is a more serious offence than striking. On the other hand, if it be only some explicable, or mistaken, action, then it is better not to make a court-martial, 1179 with all its formalities, an absolute necessity, but to deal with the offence summarily. That is the object of the Clause. I think the Noble Lord will see that the Clause, while it maintains the traditions of good discipline in the Navy, on the other hand adds considerably to the machinery which he knows so well.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I understand exactly what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, and I think he sees my point also. This ought to be put in the Clause, as you may have a very great amount of confusion at a moment of extreme urgency and some lamentable occurrence, such as mutiny through irritation, in which the penalty of death ought never to be relaxed It would appear that, under this Clause, under all circumstances the penalty for mutiny would be penal servitude and not death. It should be made more clear, unless indeed the Government are of opinion that the penalty of death should be done away with altogether.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
The House will see that the Bill proposes certain amendments of naval law which are recognised as necessary and expedient as a result of war conditions. We propose to take the opportunity afforded by this Amending Bill to make some further alterations, not necessarily the result of war conditions, but which appear to be desirable as a result of experience. I will state quite broadly the principles on which we are altering the Act of 1866, and I will take care to answer the question put by the Noble Lord as to how far the death penalty is relaxed.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Now. Under Section 16 of the Act of 1886, the maximum penalty for striking or with any weapon attempting to strike or drawing or lifting up any weapon against a superior officer in the execution of his office is death. As the Noble Lord knows, that Section deals with certain other offences which are punishable with regard to the maximum sentence by penal servitude. The maximum penalty for attempting to strike 1180 otherwise than with a weapon, or for using or attempting to use violence against an officer being in the execution of his office is penal servitude. The maximum penalty for striking or attempting to strike, or drawing or lifting any weapon against, or using or attempting to use violence against a superior officer, not being in the execution of his office, is penal servitude. All this is provided for in Section 16 of the Act of 1866. We propose to substitute the following for Section 16:—
"Every person subject to this Act who shall strike or attempt to strike, or draw or lift up any weapon against, or use or attempt to use any violence against, his superior officer, whether or not such superior officer is in the execution of his office, shall be punished with penal servitude or such other punishment as is hereinafter mentioned."
The broad effect is that penal servitude will be the maximum penalty in all cases contemplated by Section 16, and the death penalty disappears in this case. It has this other aspect to which I will call attention: Death no longer being the maximum penalty, it is open to the commanding officer to deal with the case summarily, if in his judgment the circumstances justify, and to award, as he can do under his proper authority, up to three months' imprisonment or detention. Of course, he can also apply for a court-martial if he thinks the circumstances justify it. The Noble Lord will know that the gravity of striking cases varies very considerably. The offence sometimes arises between men very nearly related in rank who fall out on some small point of difference of opinion and dispute. We desire to have the power of discrimination as to the method of trial. We desire to place it in the discretion of the commanding officer to deal with such cases by summary jurisdiction; otherwise, of course, there must be a court-martial, and in any case the maximum penalty is to be penal servitude. I gather the Noble Lord wants to know whether the death penalty will still remain in any other part of the Naval Discipline Act, 1866. Certainly it will remain as the maximum penalty for mutiny or incitement to mutiny, for spying, for treacherously aiding the enemy, for misconduct in the presence of the enemy, and for desertion of post in the presence of the enemy. I think these are all, but I am not quite sure, and, at any rate, in those cases the death penalty will remain, as these offences are not affected 1181 by this Clause. I think I have made the object of this first Clause perfectly clear, that in those cases mentioned, where the death penalty has been the maximum penalty, it will no longer be so, but penal servitude will be the maximum penalty for all purposes arising under Section 16 now to be amended by Clause 1 of this Bill.
As regards Clause 2 of the Bill, I wish to point out that, under the existing law, the punishment for absence without leave is limited to ten weeks' imprisonment or detention. Undoubtedly that is sufficient in time of peace, but absence without leave in time of war is a much more serious offence—indeed, it is almost as serious as desertion—and therefore, in Clause 2, we propose to amend Section 23 of the original Act so as to make it possible, where it seems desirable, to impose a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment in war time only.
Section 46 of the original Act sets out a number of places other than those on the high seas in which men of the Fleet may be assembled, and it enacts that all offences committed in such places may be tried and punished under the Naval Discipline Act, whether they are offences against ordinary law or against naval law. Clause 3 of his Bill adds to the list of such places, the addition being necessary as a result of modern developments in the work of the Fleet. The precise alteration proposed is that we shall add to the list of places mentioned in Section 16 of the original Act these words—
"or in any other premises held by or on behalf of the Crown for naval or military purposes, or in any canteen or other place frequented by seamen which may be prescribed by the Admiralty."
Then we propose an addition to Section 46, to cover a situation concerning which there has been some doubt—the taking into custody, trial and punishment, by naval law, for an offence against naval discipline, of a person after he has actually left the Service. We propose to make this proviso by adding these words:That except in cases of offences of mutiny or desertion, proceedings under the Naval Discipline Act must be instituted within three months after the person affected has ceased to be a member of the Service.We adopt this provision from Sub-section (1), Section 158, of the Army Act. Section 56 of the original Act sets forth the 1182 authorities having power to try offences, and it enacts that the power vested by the Section in an officer commanding a ship may under certain circumstances devolve on others who may be in command for the time being of detached parties. We propose to amend Section 56 to cover all possible cases not fully provided for in the original Act where devolution of authority now appears necessary, and consequentially we shall amend Section 50, which sets forth the persons having power to arrest offenders. These particular proposals are the explanation of the necessity for Clauses 5 and 7 of the proposed Bill. I come to the next point. Under the Act of 1866 there are cases where imprisonment may be accompanied by subsequent dismissal from the Service and there are cases where imprisonment cannot be so accompanied. We propose to add to Sub-section (7) of Section 53 of the original Act, which reads, "the punishment of imprisonment may be inflicted for any term not exceeding two years," these words—
"and may be accompanied with a sentence of dismissal from His Majesty's Service."
Clause 6 therefore gives discretion in every case to accompany imprisonment with dismissal. Take, for instance, a charge of embezzlement. It is not now necessarily punishable by dismissal from the Service. I think I am right in saying you cannot accompany the punishment of two years' imprisonment for embezzlement with dismissal.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am speaking of the punishment of two years' imprisonment. We say that in every case there shall be discretion to say that a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding two years may be accompanied with a sentence of dismissal from His Majesty's Service. That is the justification for Clause 6.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Does that mean that a man may be dismissed without a court-martial on a sentence inflicted by a commanding officer?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Over two years or under two years? Is any officer to have power to sentence a man to two years' 1183 imprisonment and to accompany that sentence with an order of dismissal from the Service without a court-martial?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think the summary jurisdiction of an officer only goes up to three months' imprisonment, but if a Court awards two years' imprisonment then we propose it shall be in its discretion to accompany it with a sentence of dismissal.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think so, as at the present time the summary jurisdiction does not go beyond three months. But a court-martial may award up to two years' imprisonment for particular offences. It may not say now that the men shall be dismissed from the Service, but we think it desirable that in future it should have that power. I come next to Clause 8. Here we have the necessity for an amendment of the original Act which has been revealed by war experience. Under Section 59 of the original Act a court-martial must be held on board ship; that is an established rule from which there is no variation. We propose to add these words—
"unless the Admiralty or the officer who ordered the court-martial in any particular case for reasons to be recorded on the proceedings otherwise direct, in which case the court-martial shall be held at such convenient place on shore as the Admiralty or the officer who ordered the court-martial may direct."
The reason for that modification will be obvious. In war time it may be necessary for a ship on which a court-martial is being held to go to sea in the middle of the hearing, and therefore that is an impracticable method of dealing with these cases. Again, you may have to hold a court-martial where for the moment there may not be a ship at all, and in view of these possible disabilities we propose the addition to Clause 8, which I have just read to the House.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not know whether he would have power to appeal under any other Regulation, but if I were 1184 asked the question on the matter off-hand I should say "Yes."
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The Regulations will not give him that power. As he has not got that power, we are taking nothing away in that respect.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Are you taking power to try a man by court-martial anywhere—in London, for instance?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Member will see the provision in the Bill is this—
"unless the Admiralty or the officer who ordered the court-martial in any particular case for reasons to be recorded on the proceedings otherwise direct, in which case the court-martial shall be, held at some convenient place on shore as the Admiralty or the officer who ordered the court-martial may direct."
That is the proposal. I put that forward as very urgently necessary, or it may be necessary as a result of experience.
§ Sir JOHN JARDINE
Will the ordering of the court-martial to take place at any place on shore include the cae of foreign States? For instance, supposing a ship is near or at the coast of an allied State, can the Admiralty or the officer commanding order the court-martial to be held on shore?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am not sure, and I do not wish to give any answer of which I am not quite sure. In Clause 9 we propose to insert a provision, the absence of which has caused trouble. We propose to adopt the practice already in vogue in the Army under Section 163 (d) of the Army Act. We propose to take power to produce the "Navy List "or the "Gazette" as evidence of the status and rank of an officer and to make these documents legal evidence. Section 73 of the original Act provides that where a sentence, has been passed by court-martial and the offender is serving it, a second court-martial can impose punishment to commence at the expiration of the previous sentence; but if the offender is undergoing sentence as the result of summary punishment, then the court-martial cannot impose a sentence to commence at the end of the summary punishment. It must commence at once.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not say that. If the offender is undergoing punishment for one court-martial, the next court-martial can make the sentence commence at the end of the first; but if he is undergoing punishment awarded by the summary jurisdiction, the court-martial sentence must begin at once.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly. In any case the sentence of court-martial must begin if the offender is undergoing summary punishment. It would have to begin at the moment, whether he serves the whole of the summary punishment or not. We propose to take power, in regard to persons already undergoing summary punishment, that if a court-martial is then held for some other offence the court-martial punishment may commence at the close of the sentence of summary punishment. We propose to take that power by substituting the words "under this Act" for the words "by court-martial" in the original Act. Let me explain the reason for that. Supposing you have a man in detention barracks for an offence for which he has been punished by summary jurisdiction, and supposing that, while there, he commits an offence by striking a superior officer, he is court-martialled and under the existing law his punishment by court-martial would have to commence at once. We think it might be desirable to let him finish in that case the punishment inflicted by the summary jurisdiction and commence the court-martial punishment at the end of it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I know, but we think it may be better he should finish his punishment and then commence the punishment inflicted by the court-martial. That is the reason for the alteration of the words "by a court-martial" into "under this Act." Clause 11 makes an interesting proposal which will specially commend itself to everybody. We propose to take power to enable the coming into operation of a sentence to be suspended until the order of committal is issued. That will be affected by the words in Clause 11:—
"the case may at any time and shall, at intervals of not less than three months, be reconsidered by the Admiralty or committing authority, and if on 1186 such reconsideration it appears to the Admiralty or committing authority that the conduct of the offender since his conviction has been such as to justify a remission of the sentence the Admiralty or the committing authority shall remit the whole or any part of it."
That power will be valuable in the case of good men who, perhaps after a time of great strain, have done something very wrong for the first time in their career. It introduces a kind of probation into the service, which will be of great value in enabling a man to regain his character if by his subsequent good conduct he wipes out the offence for which he has been sentenced. It would also have another effect, although I hope, believe and trust that this will not often arise. If such case arose, it would enable the awarding officer to deal effectively with a man who may conceivably commit an offence and thus secure detention or imprisonment with a view to escaping from distasteful duty. The provision will have a twofold effect. It will enable an order to be made suspending the sentence until the man has performed the distasteful duty, although I believe the most likely application of it will be to enable a man to restore his character. The new proposal deals also with the possible case of the imposition of a new sentence during the time the actual operation of the previous sentence was in suspense. Clause 12 deals with the change of the place of confinement of a prisoner. Under Section 75 of the original Act of 1866, it is for the Admiralty or the Commander-in-Chief on a foreign station to make an order in writing if any change is sought to be made in the place of confinement of any offender in prison or sentenced to be in prison, or detained under the Naval Discipline Act. The necessity of obtaining the approval of the Admiralty at home or the Commander-in-Chief of a foreign station may involve undesirable delay, so we propose to add to the original Act in Section 75 the words empowering also "the Senior Naval Officer present" to exercise the power which the original Act gives.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, I think the Commander-in-Chief at a foreign station will have the only power to determine that We do not affect his jurisdiction. Under 1187 Clause 13 of the Bill we propose to add to Section 90 of the original Act a provision affecting both the Army and the Navy, so that when bodies belonging to either of the Forces are serving with or attached to the other Force, they may be properly subject to the disciplinary control of the senior officer, irrespective of the Force to which he may belong. At present an officer in one Force is not a superior officer within the meaning of the Naval Discipline Act as regards members of the other Force of a lower rank than himself. Under Clause 13 regulations will be framed which will define the conditions in which such power may properly be exercised. Here we are adopting a new provision similar in character to one which has already been added to the Army (Annual) Bill for the purposes of the Army. Section 90 of the original Act makes provision respecting hired ships in His Majesty's service in time of war, and invests the commanding officer of every such hired vessel with the powers which an officer commanding has, in the matter of naval discipline, in respect of the members of the crew of the ship he commands.
Under Section 90 of the original Act, if it should arise that a hired ship in His Majesty's service in time of war went to sea, and a deserter, for instance, was left behind, no provision is clearly made for the punishment of such a person. He has signed on for a particular ship, whereas the naval rating agrees to serve in His Majesty's Navy. The distinction between the two terms of service would create, and possibly has created, a difficulty in the sort of case I have suggested. In the case of the deserter belonging to the hired ship his commanding officer has gone, and there is no jurisdiction for bringing him to trial. We propose, therefore, that in the absence of the officer commanding the hired ship, the offender may be dealt with by the officer commanding the ship or vessel, or station, in which he may, for the time being, be held in custody. I am sorry to have to go into such detail, but I think the subject demands it. I have stated fully the consequences of the Clauses in this Bill and their full purpose. The Bill makes an interesting rectification which I have to state to the House. Under the Statute Law Revision Act, 1893, the Preamble to the Naval Discipline Act, 1866, was struck out. These words have been used as a Preamble to every Naval 1188 Discipline Act since 1661. These are the words:—
"Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the government of the Navy, whereon, under the good Providence of God, the wealth, safety and strength of the Kingdom chiefly depend,"
then follow the words,
"Be it enacted,"
and so on. Those words were proposed to be struck out and I have no doubt were struck out, literally and legally, by the Statute Law Revision Act, 1893. Notwithstanding that fact, I have to stand here and say that that Preamble has ever since appeared in the Naval Discipline Act. Clause 15 of this Bill proposes to give due and proper authority for the retention of those words. Clause 15 further gives due and proper authority for the continuance in Section 86 of the original Act of the definition of the terms "Admiralty" and "Lord of the Admiralty," which definition, curiously enough, was similarly struck out by the Statute Law Revision Act, 1893, but which definition, singularly enough, has continued to appear in print ever since. We now propose in the Bill before the House to give proper authority for its retention.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am quite certain that everyone who values the history and traditions of the Navy will welcome the announcement that the famous and moving Preamble used in every old Naval Discipline Act is to be restored by this Bill to its proper position. As regards the general question, I would like to make one observation. There is a tendency on the part of His Majesty's Government to use too freely the indulgence which the House is anxious to give to them in these difficult times. It was a misfortune for the House, and especially for those Members who have already spoken, that they were obliged to intervene before there had been any statement from the Minister as to what this Bill was about or what the meaning of these Clauses was. The right hon. Gentleman very courteously offered his apology to the House. He had been taken by surprise by the rapidity with which business had passed, and he made a very full and frank statement the moment he was ready to rise. I suggest to him that in a Bill of this character, under present circumstances, there is more than usual reason for following a not unusual practice and prefacing to the Bill a memorandum explaining its provisions. The 1189 statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made is just that class of statement which, in ordinary times, Ministers, in order to suit their own convenience and to save their own time, put into a memorandum and not into a speech, and the fact that the House is treating Ministers with exceptional indulgence under present circumstances is not a reason for Ministers failing to supply the House with the information they can in the way that is most convenient to the House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will receive that very gentle and mild protest in the spirit in which it is made, and, if they have occasion to introduce legislation of this kind, will circulate a memorandum with the Bill which will give the House an explanation which the Bill itself does not afford.
On one or two specific points raised by the right hon. Gentleman I should like to make some observations. First in regard to Clause 1, which amends Section 16 of the previous Act. Section 16 of the original Act is one of a series of seven Sections grouped together, and my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) and my Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford) feared that Clause 1 applied not merely to Section 16, but to Section 10, the first of the Sections of the original Act so grouped under a single heading. The right hon. Gentleman has made it quite clear that that is not the intention of the Board of Admiralty. I hope he will satisfy himself before he proceeds with the Bill in Committee that he has done nothing in the new Bill to alter Section 10. I speak as a layman and subject to correction on points of drafting, but I think it would be worth while that Clause I should be especially stated as modifying Section 16 and having no reference to the other Sections of the original Act.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It will be satisfactory if that is done. Then I turn to Clause 3, which is intended, as explained by the right hon. Gentleman, to extend the provisions of the original Act which relate to offences committed on board ship and in other places over which the Admiralty has jurisdiction to places of a type not described or covered in the original Act, but in which the Admiralty now has jurisdiction.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I quite understand their desiring to take this power in respect of other premises held by or on behalf of the Crown for naval or military purposes, or in any canteen. But then you go on to say, "or other place frequented by seamen." Those are extremely wide words. I do not know what they are intended to cover, but they would apply to the whole City of London.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Does not that show that this Bill requires very careful consideration in Committee, and that there is at least a possibility that the Admiralty are doing a great deal more than they are prepared to defend, and, I hope, a great deal more than they intended? A Naval Air station would be a place under the jurisdiction of the Admiralty, and it would be premises held by or on behalf of the Crown. But do they mean to apply these words to any public-house in London where seamen who are in London happen to be? Do they mean to apply them to any street in London where a group of seamen may happen to be? The words are so wide that I think the right hon. Gentleman must give us a much more exact definition of what I believe the Admiralty want, and what I think they are entitled to ask, than is given in the words as they are here. The one illustration which the right hon. Gentleman has given is one on which everyone will agree. The words are so wide that wherever you find half a dozen sailors, if there was no naval establishment in the neighbourhood, I believe they would cover that case, and I think that is more than the Admiralty ought; to have, and I believe it is more than they have any intention of demanding.
I would make one other observation on Clauses 8 and 9. The right hon. Gentleman said this Bill was not absolutely strictly limited to the new needs arising out of the War, but was in part intended for subsequent regulation of the Navy during times of peace. I am not quite certain how far he includes Clauses 8 and 9 under the one or the other category. He suggests, in regard to Clause 8, the difficulty of holding courts-martial on board ship in time of war, but it seems rather odd that we should legislate in Clause 8 1191 about courts-martial, and in Clause 9 about the Navy at the very moment when the Government have abandoned the uniform practice of the Service of holding courts-martial, and have abandoned the publication of the Navy List. The action of the Admiralty in legislation and in administration does not seem quite consistent, and I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman, since he neither publishes a Navy List nor will hold courts-martial, might leave Clauses 8 and 9 to be considered at leisure "when perhaps the Board will once again give us a Navy List and resume the practice of holding courts-martial.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I desire, without in any way criticising the Bill itself, to ask a few questions from the drafting and legal point of view. I think the measure as a whole is satisfactory, but there are one or two questions I wish to ask. The Government proposes to re-enact the words of the Act of 1893, which I am wholly in sympathy with; but I wish to ask for general information whether this Bill has been drafted by the ordinary draftsman of the Government or by some special person connected with the Admiralty. There is a Clause in every Statute Law Revision Bill which provides that notwithstanding repeal, Acts shall still remain in force as if they never had been repealed, unless in a given eventuality. It is plainly the opinion of the lawyers of successive Governments who have been advising the House that the repeal of the Act of 1892 had no effect, because notwithstanding the repeal they had used the Preamble in every subsequent Naval Discipline Act. Why, then, twenty years after, should we suddenly discover that this repeal has actually taken placed I have known the Courts to hold, notwithstanding formal repeal in the Statute Law Revision Act, that in fact the repealed Section was still in full operation. Therefore I feel that this question is one of great nicety and it is not merely for the purpose of criticising this Bill that I raise this point, but only by reference to the fact that if you once re-enact this provision every lawyer will say the Navy has found it necessary to re-enact this provision and that the repeal had come into effect notwithstanding that the Preamble had been used in every successive annual Statute. It is only because of the general effect of this proposed repeal that I make this criticism.
1192 Here is another observation of the same kind. There is this remarkable provision in Clause 16, Sub-section (2), which I think, perhaps claiming some small experience of watching Acts of Parliament, is novel,
"A copy of the Naval Discipline Act, with every such enactment would be inserted in the place so assigned and with the omission of any portion of that Act directed by the Schedule to this Act to be omitted from that Act, and with the substitution of references to His Majesty for references to Her Majesty shall be prepared and certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments and deposited with the Rolls of Parliament, and His Majesty's printers shall print in accordance with the copy so certified all copies of the Naval Discipline Act which are printed after the commencement of this Act."
I am not clear that certain portions of that order are necessary, because if you look at the Interpretation Act you will find that the demise of the Crown is provided for, and surely it is no more necessary in a Naval Act to provide for the case of "His" for "Her" in the case of the demise of the Crown than in the case of any other Act, and therefore 'I suggest that unless there is some special reason connected with the Navy, this provision is wholly unnecessary. But what is the necessity for the provision in regard to the King's printers? This constantly arises in connection with the Army Bill. Year after year the new Act is brought into force by the same system of draftsmanship which is, I take it, in existence in connection with the Army Act, but has anyone ever seen the provision that the Clerk of the Parliaments shall deposit a certified copy with the Rolls of Parliament? Is not this an entire novelty in procedure in connection with Acts of Parliament, and if it be a novelty what is the necessity for it? I quite grant that the Government have, in connection with this War, to do a vast number of things for which changes are desirable which are necessitated as cases arise, but in the technique of the printing of Acts of Parliament the War has not created any change, and it has not created any change in regard to the printing of Bills and the Rolls of Parliament. Unless some precedent or some special necessity can be cited, I shall enter my protest as a humble student of Statutes against any provision of this kind.
As regards courts-martial, from what the right hon. Gentleman has said there 1193 is no change whatever made as regards the status of prisoners in the third Clause of the Bill. I think it is a mere matter of convenience in providing as to the places where courts-martial may be held. While that is so, I would suggest that, as a rule, everybody thinks of the accuser, and of the convenience of the Department, but there are few to speak on behalf of prisoners and accused persons. It is therefore all the more necessary in time of war, when you will not allow wages to be paid under certain circumstances in public-houses, to provide that you shall not appear to degrade the administration of justice by bringing a sailor suddenly into a certain place because there is no other place where he can be tried. I do not object if it becomes an absolute necessity, and if strong necessity can be shown, but I think that in the case of such a grave and reverend assembly as a court-martial it is far better that it should continue to proceed in a place, I will not say of more respectability, but of more orderliness of character. If you once lay down that a court-martial may meet in a canteen, or other rough-and-ready place of that kind—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to look at the Clause. I do not understand Clause 3 to deal with places where a court-martial may be held, but rather to deal with the offences which are punishable under the Act.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.