HC Deb 09 March 1915 vol 70 cc1349-50

At the end of paragraph (5) of Section ninety of the Naval Discipline Act, which relates to discipline upon hired ships in His Majesty's service in time of war, there shall be inserted the words "Provided that in the absence of the officer commanding such hired vessel, the officer commanding the ship or vessel or station in which such person may for the time being be held in custody shall have such power as aforesaid."


The right hon. Gentleman has said that Section 90 of the original Act, which makes provision in respect of hired ships in His Majesty's service in time of war, invests the commanding officer of every such hired vessel with the powers of a commanding officer in the matter of naval discipline in respect of members of the crew. I wish that was an absolutely accurate statement of the effect of Section 90, but the effect of what the right hon. Gentleman says is qualified by the fact that the hired vessel in question must be either commanded by an officer of the Navy, or be an aimed vessel.


I said in His Majesty's service.


Would not the hired ship be in His Majesty's service even if it was not an armed ship and did not happen to be commanded by a naval officer? The question has arisen about the transports and the discipline upon them. It is one to which I have called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and which has been brought much more authoritatively to his notice by the memorial of the very large number of officers commanding these hired transports. I could no doubt move an Amendment, but I did not like to do so. I only take the opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman that the Board of Admiralty should consider very seriously whether during the remaining period of the War these hired vessels, which are in fact transports constantly carrying a very large number of troops, should be commanded by officers of the Navy or of the Royal Naval Reserve, and therefore brought under the terms of Section 90 which it is here proposed to amend. I am quite convinced that if that could be done it would be an enormous relief to those who have to undertake this responsible duty of the safe-conduct of His Majesty's forces over seas.