HC Deb 30 May 1916 vol 82 cc2666-8

(1) During the present War it shall be lawful for the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, when so authorised by the Admiralty, to delegate to the several vice-admirals in command of squadrons forming part of that Fleet the power to exercise, in relation to the officers and men of ships which for the time being may for the purposes of this section be placed under the orders of the vice-admiral, all or any of the powers and duties conferred or imposed on the Commander-in-Chief by or under the Naval Discipline Act in relation to courts-martial or disciplinary courts or the carrying out of sentences passed thereat, and where such powers and duties have been so delegated, then, notwithstanding anything in the Naval Discipline Act or in any General Orders issued under that Act—

  1. (a) any such vice-admiral shall be able to exercise the powers so delegated notwithstanding that the Commander-in-Chief or any officer superior in rank to himself may be present;
  2. (b) the officers summoned to sit on a court-martial or disciplinary court ordered by any such vice-admiral shall (except in cases where the Commander - in - Chief otherwise directs) be officers of ships so placed under the command of the vice-admiral as aforesaid:
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  4. (c) the report of the proceedings of a court-martial or disciplinary court ordered by such vice-admiral in pursuance of the powers delegated to him shall be sent to that vice-admiral for transmission to the Secretary of the Admiralty.

(2) The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet may from time to time place under the orders of a vice-admiral for the purposes of this Section any ships whether belonging to the squadron under the command of that vice-admiral or not.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I simply rise for the purpose of asking the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to assure the people to whom this Bill is to apply that it does not mean any additional punishment to the punishments that are already in the calendar. When you have a Bill with a lame such as the Naval Discipline Bill it raises up in the minds of the men the idea that there may be some new punishment for old offences, or some new offence being set up. I feel certain that it would be to the advantage of the Bill, and that it would also be wiser, if these men, thousands of whom have gone into the Navy, and who have not, perhaps, become inured to the conduct of the Navy, were assured that this Bill does not introduce any new punishments, but that it is merely a measure for lightening the labours of the Commander-in-Chief, as intimated by the right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading of the Bill, by delegating certain of these powers to others.


I can give that assurance at once. Section (52) of the Naval Discipline Act is not affected in any way by this Bill. The purpose of this Clause is, as the hon. Member said, to lighten the labours of the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet. The effect of it is this, that if a court-martial has to be held on any person in any ship of the Grand Fleet present with the Commander-in-Chief, all the work of ordering and convening the court, and of generally supervising the work of the court, falls upon the Commander-in-Chief, because he is the senior officer present. The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet has in his Fleet officers who hold the Admiralty commission authorising them to order and convene a court-martial. In their time they have done so, and no doubt will do so again when occasion arises. Nevertheless, as the Commander-in-Chief is the senior officer of the Grand Fleet, the work falls into his hands. What this Clause does, and that is the whole purpose of the Bill, is to devolve upon his vice-admirals this power of ordering and convening a court-martial, each in his own squadron, exactly as they would do if there were no other ships there.


I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation.

Question 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.