HC Deb 16 November 1917 vol 99 cc812-26

(1) The number of principal Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries capable of sitting and voting in the Commons House of Parliament shall be increased to five, and accordingly Section four of the Government of India Act, 1858, and Section one of the House of Commons (Vacation of Seats) Act, 1864, shall have effect as if the word "five" was substituted for the word "for" wherever that word occurs in those Sections:

Provided that nothing in this provision shall affect the operation of Section nine of the New Ministries and Secretaries Act, 1916, so long as that Section continues in force.

(2) In addition to the Under-Secretary of State one of the Secretaries to the Air Council shall not by virtue of his office be incapable of being elected to or of voting in the Commons House of Parliament.


I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).

In addition to the Secretary of State, this Bill provides for the Under-Secretary and that a second Under-Secretary, who may be a Member of this House, may be appointed by the Government or the Minister. The general feeling in this House and of the public outside is that it is very undesirable to have any more additions to the number of His Majesty's Government. When the Bill for the Ministry of Reconstruction was under discussion, a very strong opinion was expressed that the limit of numbers had been reached, and according to my recollection, the result of that representation was that an Amendment to that Bill, similar to this Amendment, was accepted by the Government. I do not know the total number of Ministers at the present time.


At the present moment?


At the present moment they are conspicuous by their absence. But the total number of Members of the Government who are Members of this House and Members of the House of Lords had, it. was suggested when the matter was last discussed, about reached the century. If the Household appointments are added there is not much doubt the century has been reached. Nothing undermines confidence in this House more than the existence of too large a number of Members who are Ministers and who owe direct allegiance to the Government. The main function of this House is to criticise the Government. If a very considerable percentage of the House of Commons are Ministers, the power of criticism largely disappears. I quite concede that this important Department, with its large spending powers, should have a Financial Secretary. I see no necessity for the Financial Secretary being a Minister or a member of the Government. That principle was accepted by the Government when it was first constructed, because the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was not a Member of this House, and it was considered possible for him to discharge his important duties without his holding a seat in the House of Commons. They recognised that principle. But there is another and more serious

Subject to the specific modifications made in Part II. of this Schedule the, Army Act shall apply with respect to the Air Force with the substitution of the term set forth in the second column of the following table for the terms set forth in the first column of that Schedule wherever those terms occur in the Army Act.

point of view. The Government have great influence by patronage, and by influencing votes and opinion through their power, to make appointments to Ministerial posts. Every additional official appointed and added to the number of appointments does give the Cabinet and the Prime Minister an undue power of influencing public opinion. I do not suggest for a moment that any Member of this House would be in any way influenced by the fact that a post is becoming vacant, or that a new post is to be created, and so long as the appointments were limited there were always enough, Members in the House of Commons to provide effective criticism, and, if necessary, a proper opposition. This matter has become accentuated, and is more important owing to the absence of the official Opposition, and it cannot be organised, because it has accepted the position that it does not work as .an organised whole, but only through individual members of it, according to their individual judgment. I hope that the Government will not resist this Amendment, and will not press for this extra secretary. There is still another point of view. There is a feeling growing up throughout the country that the Government is extravagant, and that its expenditure is going up—


The Government is quite willing to accept this Amendment, and as it is the fact that this financial secretary would not be appointed for some time, they do not press the matter further.

Amendment agreed to.

The provisions of the Army Act mentioned in tile first column of the following table shall be modified or excepted as provided in the second column of that table, and new Sections shall be inserted as provided in that table.
Section of Army Act. Modification or Exception.
163 (1) … In paragraph (b) for "Army Council" there shall be substituted "Air Council or the Army Council" in paragraph (c), "air-force circulars" shall be substituted for "army circulars," and in paragraph (d)" air-force list" shall be substituted for "army list."
175 … Sub-sections (3), (5), (6), and (9) and in Sub-section (7) the words from and including "subject to this qualification" to the end of the Sub-section shall be omitted.
The following Sub-section shall be inserted after Sub-section (1):—
"(1A) Any officer of the naval or military force of the Crown who is attached, or lent to, or seconded for service with the air force, subject, however, to the modifications contained in this Act, and with this exception, that if the members of the, body of the air force with which any such naval officer is serving are themselves subject to the Naval Discipline Act he shall remain subject to that Act."
In Sub-section (3A) "auxiliary air" shall be substituted for "territorial."
In Sub-section (4) for "troops or portion of troops" there shall be substituted "air force or portion of an air force."
In Sub-section (7) "air force" shall be substituted for "troops."
In Sub-section (8) "any part of the air force" shall be substituted for "a force."
In Sub-section (10) "air force" shall be inserted before "officers."
In Sub-section (11) "an air force" shall be substituted for "a force," and for "the regular, reserve, or auxiliary forces" there shall be substituted "the regular, reserve, or auxiliary air force."
176 … The following Sub-section shall be inserted after Sub-section (1):—
"(1A) All petty officers, non-commissioned officers, and seamen and soldiers of the naval or military forces of the Crown who are attached or lent to the air force, subject, however, to. the modifications contained in this Act, and with this exception, that if the members of the body of the air force with which any such petty officer or man of the naval forces is serving are themselves subject to the Naval Discipline Act he shall remain subject to that Act."
In Sub-section (5) "or the militia reserve force" shall be omitted.
181 … For the following expressions, namely—"territorial force, the battalion of militia, or the battalion or corps of yeomanry or volunteers," "territorial force or militiaman," "territorial force or militia" (wherever those words occur), "territorial force, a battalion of militia, or a battalion or corps of yeomanry or volunteers, as the case may be," "territorial force, militia, yeomanry, or volunteers," and "volunteers or the territorial force," there shall be substituted "auxiliary air force."
Paragraph (d) of Sub-section (4) shall be omitted.
183 … In Sub-section (2) the words from "and in India" to "may appoint" (both inclusive) shall be omitted.
For "general officer" there shall be substituted "general or flag officer."
In proviso (a) to Sub-section (4) "air force" shall be substituted for "army."
In proviso (b) the words from "and in India" down to "may appoint" (both inclusive) shall be omitted.
186 … For "auxiliary forces" there shall be substituted" auxiliary air force."
190 … Sub-sections (3), (9), (12), (13), (14), (16) and (22) shall be omitted.

Amendments made: In Part I., leave out the words "or authorities," and insert instead thereof the words "whether such words are used in the singular or the plural."

After "163 (1) (d)," insert "and 181 (5)."

After the word "necessaries," insert the. words, "except in Section 156 (7)."— [Major Baird.]

Notice had been given of the following Amendment by Sir I. PHILIPPS:

In Part II., after paragraph on Section 39 of the Army Act, insert:


This Amendment is not in order. The matter is provided for in the Army Act, which is adapted to this Bill.


I should like to submit that the Amendment is in order, because owing to its being a new organisation the Air Council have not got the experience and knowledge of the Army Council, and the Admiralty. Therefore I contend that it is within order to adapt the Act and make it suitable to the Air Force.


The Schedule is governed by the Clauses, save that the Army Act is to be adapted to this Bill. The Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman would set up new conditions.


Three entirely new crimes are brought within this Bill which: are not mentioned in the Army Act. If it is in order to bring in a Clause including new crimes, I submit respectfully it is in order to bring in a new Court to try those. crimes, and that is really what I am, seeking to do.


I think not. The crimes to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman, refers are matters peculiar to the service in which the men will be engaged, and that brings them within the purview of the Army Act.

Further Amendments made: After paragraph on Section 122 (6) of Army Act. insert the words,

"130 (5). At end shall be inserted:

Provided that this Sub-section shall not apply to a person imprisoned in England."

In paragraph on Section 163, after the word "In," insert the words "paragraph (a), 'any of ' shall be omitted in.

"In paragraph on Section 175, after the word "troops," insert the words "and 'any of ' shall be omitted."

After the words "a force" insert the words "for 'such force' there shall be. substituted 'such part.'"

In paragraph on Section 176, after (1) (a), insert the words "In Sub-section (2), 'any of' shall be omitted."

After the word "force" [" Militia Reserve force"], insert the words "and, paragraph (b)."

In paragraph on Section 181, after the word "For" ["For the following expressions"], insert the words "any of His-Majesty's Auxiliary Forces, and His Majesty's Auxiliary Forces there shall be submitted 'the Auxiliary Air Force,' and for."

In paragraph on Section 183, after the word "to" rand in India to"], insert the words "in Council."

After the words "general or flag officer," insert the words "and after 'in the field,' there shall be inserted '(whether such officer is an officer of the Air Force, Army, or Navy).'"

After the words "shall be omitted," insert the words "and 'Air Force' shall be substituted for 'Army.'"

Leave out the paragraph on Section 186.

In paragraph on Section 190, after the word "omitted," insert the words,

"In Sub-section (4) for 'His Majesty's Forces,' wherever those words occur, and for 'His Majesty's said Forces,' there shall be substituted 'the Air Force'; and in Sub-section (5), for 'Army' there shall be substituted 'Air Force'; and in Subsection (8) the words 'from and including' to 'Royal Malta Artillery' (both inclusive) shall be omitted."—[Major Baird.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I desire to place myself deliberately on record as saying that this Bill has failure stamped on its face. Even now I would advise the Government to take that view, tear it to shreds, and bring in a new and an effective Bill. The majority of the few Members who have been present during this Debate are prospective or possible office-holders under the Bill. I know of no occasion during the last three years or more that have elapsed since the beginning of this terrible War—which, remember, up to date the Allies are not winning—I know of no measure presented by the Government, no matter how futile it has proved, which has not met the approval of the majority of the House, and which has not been presented by the member of the Government with that same air of unctuous rectitude with which they have ushered in this Bill.

I have a right to speak upon this subject, because years ago, and for many months absolutely alone, I have asked, implored, demanded again and again from the Government that they should produce a Bill which would constitute an Air Ministry. I have been received even with derision.


Counted out !

5.0 P.M.


A Nemesis has arisen, but that Nemesis has not come to cover me with the impression that it stands in accusation before the Government. To touch upon past history for the moment, I was impelled to this course by a clear vision, which has been fully justified, of the great and imminent peril which was presented by the possibility of an Air Service on the part of the Germans. I implored the Government to wake up in time and to recognise this great peril and to prepare something effective to meet it. But my appeal fell upon deaf ears; deaf ears, but always with a show of profound wisdom and total omniscience, which again and again I have discovered to exist on that bench with abysmal incapacity. What I will say now is this: If at one time an Air Service of even 10,000 aeroplanes had been created it might have proved decisive in this War; but time rolls on, months roll by, and whereas at one epoch a fleet of 10,000 planes might have retrieved the position now ten times 10,000 planes may prove insufficient.

Remember what the Germans are doing. They at last have wakened up to all the possibilities of air attack. Luckily for all of us they were hypnotised by their great Zeppelin "idea," an idea which though it has rendered large service has yet proved disappointing to their hopes, but now they have changed their methods entirely; they have determined, to use a popular phrase, to go nap on an air service. They have not begun by bringing in a ramshackle Bill, such as will break the impulsion of the man placed in charge of the measure and which in many respects bears the aspect, in a great crisis, not of meeting a menacing external problem but rather as being one of those measures with which we are familiar, which are intended to satisfy this House for the moment and to be a sop to the cerberus of the Press. The Germans have at the head of their business one man of considerable experience, of real enthusiasm, of great driving power, and they have instructed him to the full with all the powers for executing boldly, decisively, and quickly the conceptions which emanate from his brain. I see nothing in this Bill that will meet the machinations of Hoeppner at the head of the German air service. Remember this. That great as has been the peril with which we have already been menaced, I at any rate see the possibility—I hope it is only a possibility—which far exceeds in magnitude and danger anythng which we have yet experienced, and we do not get rid of this possibility by the opium dope of optimism. We are dealing with something analogous to the forces of nature, where our own state of mind has no influence on the result. We have been faced with the great external problem which is becoming more and more menacing, and when I kept pressing again and again for this measure I hoped that at length, having wakened up to the dread reality the importance of which cannot be magnified, this Government would have realised that this was perhaps the one avenue that remained to final victory. I hoped that, recognising this, those in charge of affairs would rise to the height of the occasion and plank their very existence on great, bold, decisive, and adequate measures. I thought they would recognise the futility, to say nothing else, of those incessant attacks of which they have been so proud on the Western front, that they would abandon their attempts to break through the Hindenburg line; that they would close that chapter, and save the consequent waste of men and material, and by the economy so effected have acquired greater power to concentrate on the Air Service. I had hoped that they would have created something in the style of a Napoleon Bonaparte. Whenever such a name is mentioned in this House it creates an impression of a Triton among the Minnows. But remember that, after all, he was the representative of a country which has been considered decadent up to the last three years, and that he lived a hundred years ago. What is the meaning of that greatness of a hundred years ago? What is the meaning of civilisation and enlightenment; and what is the meaning of your continual boasts in history if, at the great crisis, you are unable to produce a Man. You have not produced that man, and you have not produced adequate measures to face that great peril which is now menacing your very existence

Consider another aspect of this question. Who is going to be the Secretary of State? Whom are you going to entrust with the execution of this measure which is vital to the very safety of the country? What names are there mentioned? Is it the name of a great engineer? Is it the name of any man who has already stood forward before the public as one possessing bold ideas, great energy, great intellectual powers? That does not seem to be your method for searching for a man. You search for some journalist who has either the power to menace you or who has the talent to "boom" you. Are you going to put Mr. Bottomley in charge of this measure? [Laughter.] That suggestion excites laughter, but it is quite on a par with all the previous acts of this Government in the formation of successive Cabinets in the crises where the life of the nation have been threatened. Or if not Mr. Bottomley, will you put Mr. Smillie in charge of this measure? I do not know that either Mr. Bottomley or Mr. Smillie know anything about aeroplanes. It is possible that they may have studied these problems, that they may have devoted their great powers to the study of these problems, and that they are well acquainted with all that is necessary to fill such a post. The point is that they would not be chosen for that competence or for that efficiency, they would be chosen for Parliamentary reasons in order to secure this Government from attacks, or to bolster up still further, by Machiavellian methods, the majority which they enjoy in this House. I would remind the House, and particularly I would remind the country—because, if my words should even fail to go home now they will return with twentyfold force six months from this date, and will sink into the minds of people outside—it is one thing to satisfy this House, it is one thing to have a powerful Press tuned to action, just as Queen Elizabeth tuned the pulpits, to sound your praises in chorus; it is one thing to create an optimistic spirit; it is one thing to bolster up the reputations of men who are essentially small men and incapabale men—all that lies on one side of the question; on the other side, once again, is that great menacing exterior problem which you have never faced frankly, sincerely, and resolutely, which is pressing on your attention again and again, which is becoming more and more urgent, and which I say this Bill is totally inadequate to meet. In order to put my opinion definitely on record I would vote against this Bill—


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."


(seated and covered): The Closure has been put before any but one Member has had an opportunity of speaking on this Bill. During the whole course of this Bill, from Committee stage to Report stage, the discussion has been kept as carefully as possible within the strict procedure, and, if not, any matter was at once ruled out. In Committee stage the Chairman of the Committee ruled out my new Clauses, because he said they ought to have been Amendments. When we came to the Amendments, he ruled them out because they ought to have been new Clauses. The whole political trickery that it is possible to put into motion has been put into motion on this Bill, and now Members are coming from the smoking rooms and the tea rooms and crowding into the Lobby to vote, although they have not the least idea what they are voting for.


That is not a point of Order.


On the point of Order. May I ask you whether, before Members have even had an opportunity of signifying their desire to speak by rising, it is in order for a man to be put up by the Government after the first opening phrases of the first Member who rises to address the House on the Third Reading? I consider it a most improper proceeding.


The hon. Member will have an opportunity of voting against it.


Am I to understand that all this legislation is to be so conducted that there is to be no criticism, and that the only method which an hon. Member has to register his protest against this abominable form of Government is to vote against Bills for the conduct of the War?


The hon. Member has occupied a great part of the day in making protests. Almost the whole time has been taken up to-day by his speeches.


May I ask your ruling on this matter? The only reason I have taken up the time of the House is that other Members have neither the intelligence nor the patriotism to attend the Debate. There was not a London Member present.


Is the hon. Member prepared to tell or not?



The House divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 0.

Division No. 114.] AYES. [5.5 p.m
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward , Lindsay, William Arthur
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)
Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling Fell, Arthur Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham) MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh
Amery, Captain L. C. M. S. Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)
Anstruther-Gray, Lieut.-Col. William Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S.) Macmaster, Donald
Archdale, Lieut. Edward M. Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William Macpherson, James Ian
Baird, John Lawrence Foster, Philip Staveley Maden, Sir John Henry
Baldwin, Stanley Galbraith, Samuel Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel-
Barnett, Captain R. W. Gardner, Ernest Millar, James Duncan
Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.) Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Morgan, George Hay
Beale, Sir William Phipson Goldsmith, Frank Neville, Reginald J. N.
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland) Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Greig, Colonel J. W. Nield, Herbert
Bellaire, Commander C, W. Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones O'Grady, James
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Hambro, Angus Valdemar Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Harcourt, Robert V. Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.) Parker, James (Halifax)
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith. Harris, Percy A. (Leicester. S.) Parrott, Sir James Edward
Boyton, James Haslam, Lewis Pease, Rt.Hon.Herbert Pike(Darlington)
Brace, Rt. Hon. William Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire) Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)
Brunner, John F. L. Hewart, Sir Gordon Philipps.Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (S'ampton)
Burdett-Coutts, W. Hawins, William Albert Samuel Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)
Butcher, John George Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George
Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Prothero, Right Hon. Roland Edmund
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Horne, E. Raffan, Peter Wilson
Cecil,Rt.Hon.LordRobert(Herts,Hitchin) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Rees, G. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
Clyde, J. Avon Hughes, Spencer Leigh Roberts, Rt. Hon. George H. (Norwich).
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Hunter, Major Sir Charles Rodk. Rowlands, James
Colvin, Col. Richard Beale Jacobsen, Thomas Owen Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur
Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives) Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey) Shaw, Hon. A.
Cowan, Sir W. H. Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Sherwell, Arthur James
Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.) Kellaway, Frederick George Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)
Craik, Sir Henry Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr Smith. Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)
Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Currie, George W. Law, Rt. Hon. A. Boner (Bootle) Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Dickinson, Rt. Hon. W. H. Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald
Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B. Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Sykes, Col. Sir Alan John (Knutsford) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney) Yeo, Alfred William
Sykes, Col. Sir Mark (Hull, Central) Whiteley, Herbert James Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Terrell, Major Henry (Gloucester) Williams, Aneurin (Durham) Yoxall, Sir James H.
Tickler, T. G. Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)
Toulmin, Sir George Wing, Thomas Edward TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Walsh, Stephen (Lanes, Ince) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow) Lord Edmund Talbot and Capt. F. Guest
Wards, Colonel C. E. Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.
Wardle, George J. Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Billing and Mr. Lynch.

Question put accordingly, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.

Adjourned at a Quarter after Five o'clock.