HC Deb 17 April 1918 vol 105 cc420-2

"At the beginning of Section 179 (a) of the Army Act the following Sub-section shall be inserted:

(1)The Army Council may direct from time to time that any officers or soldiers of the Regular Forces shall, under such conditions as may be prescribed by Regulations made by the Army Council and the Air Council, be temporarily attached to the Air Force;

(2)"—[Mr. Macpherson.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The question has been raised on more than one occasion as to the position as regards discipline of airmen in command depots and military hospitals, and there has been considerable doubt as to the statutory powers to attach members of the Air Force to the Army without their consent, though it is quite clear from Section 176 (1) A of the Army Act that airmen may in certain contingencies be so attached; but there is no provision as to the circumstance or manner in which such attachment may be made, or whether the consent of the airman so attached is absolutely necessary. The only expressed pro visions for attaching soldiers to the Air Force are those contained in Section 3 of the Air Force Constitution Act passed last year, under which the attachment must be with the consent of the soldier, or subject to the right on his part to raise an objection. The attachment here referred to is for a lengthy period. The powers of attachment for temporary purposes without the consent of the soldier may perhaps be implied. Under Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 184 of the Army Act it appears to be clearly implied without any express provision to that effect that soldiers may be attached to the Navy and sailors to the Army, and there would seem to be little doubt that similar power is implied of attaching soldiers to the Air Force. However, it is much safer on a matter of such general importance, affecting the whole status of the airman or soldier concerned, to rely not upon implied powers, but upon expressed powers. This proposed Amendment will, I hope, meet the difficulty so far as attaching soldiers to the Air Force is concerned, and if this passes a corresponding Amendment will automatically be made in the Air Force Act, with the necessary modifications, so as to enable airmen to be attached temporarily to the Regular Forces.

Brigadier-General MacCALMONT

The Committee is entitled to some slight further explanation, or at any rate my hon. Friend should understand that there may be some slight objection to this. I have not had the advantage of legal training, which I believe he has had, but the word "temporary" in this Clause seems to me to open up a great many difficulties. He is no doubt aware that this will open up the question of promotion in the Regular Army—that is to say, if an officer goes away from his regiment and is attached to the Air Force, though he is not doing duty in his regiment or the Army, he is filling a vacancy, and he is entirely stopping the promotion of his juniors. There has always been a Regulation with regard to Egyptian Army officers who are entitled to be seconded there for a certain period. At the end of ten years an officer was either struck off the strength of the Regular Army or went back to his regiment. I think that in this case there should be a clear understanding that "temporary" does not mean for a great number of years, and that the prospects of promotion of Regular Army officers will not be thereby affected. A particular instance comes to my mind in which an officer has been attached to the Royal Naval Air Service for a considerable number of years, certainly for some period before the War. He is still flying. So far as I am aware, he is in the meantime filling a vacancy as a major in his regiment, where a senior captain, who is a very deserving officer, cannot be promoted to his majority. I should like some assurance that the rights of the regular officers to promotion will not be interfered with by this Amendment of the Army Act, and that there will be some limit to the period which will be allowed under it.


I think that the whole of that question was discussed on the passing of the Air Force Constitution. Rill in this House, but I will certainly bring the points which my hon. Friend has raised to the notice of my military advisers. I am quite certain that they would not propose a measure of this sort, which is only making definite what so far has been implied, that would in any way be detrimental to the best interests of any officers.


I think that the Army will be satisfied with the reply which the hon. Member has given, because it is essential that officers who are transferred to the Air Force should be seconded in their units, and that units should not suffer from their absence. In other words, both the rank and the pay of the rank should be available for the officer who does the duty, and not for the officer in the Flying Force who is doing air work.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.