HC Deb 13 January 1916 vol 77 cc1803-7

The Admiralty may by order direct that all or any of the officers and men borne on the books of any of His Majesty's ships shall, whilst serving on shore, be subject to military law under the Army Act, and, while such an order is in force, the officers and men to whom the order relates shall for disciplinary purposes be subject to military law under the Army Act in like manner as officers and men of the Royal Marines when so subject.


I have an Amendment to insert, at the beginning of this Clause, the words "During the continuance of the War" ["the Admiralty may"]. From what has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman I assume that I need not move this, because it will be met in another place.


interposed a remark which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.


Then I will not move this Amendment. I beg, however, to move, after the word "subject" ["on shore, be subject"], to insert the words "for disciplinary purposes."

We have had this point already elucidated and discussed, and I am not at all satisfied with the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman gave. He said there are the words "disciplinary purposes" lower down in the Clause. Let me point out that if that is so, the whole of this first phrase might be left out and yet give everything for which the right hon. Gentleman contends. I think the Solicitor-General will appreciate my argument. If the whole and sole object of this Clause is to place certain men under the Army Act for disciplinary purposes the Clause will be perfectly sound and effective if it reads:—

"The Admiralty may by order direct that all or any of the officers and men borne on the books of any of His Majesty's ships shall for disciplinary purposes while serving on shore be subject to military law."

There is no reason for having what I might call a double-barrelled sentence here at all, if there is only one object to be attained. The first barrel of this sentence is that they should be subject to military law under the Army Act. I have turned up the Army Act, a copy of which is available for any Member. Here may I point out to the hon. Member for Durham that if he wants to instruct his mine-sweepers and other friends as to what their duties are under the Army Act he can get this book from the Library, as they have so many surplus copies that they are only too glad to give them away, and he can send them out to the Navy, which can then have many pleasant hours. There are a great number of the portions of this Act not disciplinary at all. It is very long, but it is only Part I. which is disciplinary. Then there is another very long part which is about enlistment, Part II.; Part III. about billeting and impressment of carriages; Part IV. about general provisions; and Part V. about definitions, and many other things. I want these men, therefore, restricted to Part I. of the Army Act only, and I believe that is the intention. It is not necessary to have this double-barrelled sentence, the first barrel of which shoots them into the Army Act as a whole. My legal argument may be all wrong, and a great lawyer may very easily confound a humble layman. At the same time, I think there is some point in my argument, and I do not think a number of words are put into a Bill without there being a meaning for it.


I really hope this will not be pressed, because it is quite unnecessary. The Order to be made is in a very simple form, and says that these men while serving on shore shall be subject to military law. When that Order has been made they are subject to military law for disciplinary purposes, and then there are the further words,

"in like manner as officers and men of the Royal Marines, when so subject."

So that although the Order is in general terms, the effect is limited in two ways—firstly, to imposing military law for purposes of discipline, and secondly, to imposing only such parts of military law as relate to officers and men of the Royal Marines when so subject. It would be unnecessary to require all these details to be stated in the Order, as the Order has no effect except in that sense, and if made in the form prescribed the effect will be to subject the men to this law for disciplinary purposes only as prescribed in the latter part of the Section. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment.


What the right hon. Gentleman has said is very satisfactory in intention, and I have no doubt in other ways as well. Now we have it on record, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move to add, at the end of the Clause, the words "provided that no person shall be punished twice for the same offence."

I am not quite clear that this is not necessary. When, exactly, does a man on shore pass from military to naval discipline?


When the Order is made.


But when the Order is made in London, and being sent to a place at a distance, such as Gallipoli, the poor man may have been under conditions different there. He may have been sent down to a place to be tried by court-martial, may be back again, having suffered his punishment, when the Order comes, and may then find that he is under military orders. He might even be in danger of being punished twice. The case is a remote one, but this is a provision often inserted in some similar Acts of Parliament, and I hope that, at any rate, some attention may be given to it, and if it is found that there is any substance in it, I think it might be added in another place, as in the case already conceded.


My hon. Friend referred to the text of the Army Act, but I think he should have pursued his inquiries a little further into that Act. Section 46, Clause (7) says:—

"An offender shall not be liable to be tried by court-martial for any offence which has been dealt with summarily by his commanding officer, and shall not be liable to be punished by his commanding officer for any offence of which he has been acquitted or convicted by a competent Civil Court or by a court-martial."

And Section 157 says:

"Where a person subject to military law has been acquitted or convicted of an offence by a court martial, he shall not be liable to be tried again by a court-martial in respect of that offence."

The Naval Discipline Act, as is shown very clearly in the Manual of Navy Law, contemplates, though it is not so expressed, that if the accused has been tried already for the same offence he may plead that fact, and he cannot be tried again. I think my hon. Friend will see that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. It is, I may say, extremely far-fetched.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

CLAUSE 2 (Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.