HC Deb 23 July 1918 vol 108 cc1752-6

Order for Second Reading read.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

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

The object of this Bill is to get rid of the property qualification which has been in existence for a very long time. It existed if I remember aright, before the year 1757, when the Militia was under the Home Office. It was reaffirmed in the Militia Act, 1882, when it was made quite plain that unless you had a very substantial holding in the county you could not be appointed to be a deputy-lieutenant of that particular county. When Lord Haldane, who was then Secretary of State for War, introduced the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act in 1907 he made provision for constituting the lord lieutenant of each county to be the president of the Territorial Force Association for that county. He also obtained His Majesty's assent to the rule that nominees for the appointment of deputy-lieutenant should be qualified either by ten years' commissioned service or by good service as members of the County Association. All this was done to encourage the Territorial Force and to encourage recruiting for that particular force. During this War it has been found that the restrictions precluded the appointment of gentlemen not possessing the necessary statutory qualifications who had in other ways rendered exceptionally valuable services to the military forces of the Crown in connection with recruiting, Red Cross, and the volunteer movement.

Accordingly in April, 1915, the King commanded that existing qualifications should be extended, in order to provide for the recognition of such special services. The foregoing rules, namely, those of 1915, and the provisions made in connection with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, secure the nomination of suitable candidates for the appointment of deputy-lieutenant, but it appears that there is difficulty in rendering them effective owing to the fact that gentlemen otherwise eminently qualified to become deputy-lieutenants do not always possess the statutory property qualification. In such a category are found many officers of the naval and military forces, whose incomes are derived from salary, pay, etc. We also found among officers members of the professional classes and others dependent on their earnings, many willing and able workers in the national cause—many business men, who had really no great property qualification at all, but who did reside in the county. The Government therefore thought it wise and proper that these men should have the same right to be appointed deputy-lieutenant as other people who happen accidentally to possess the property qualification, and it is really to give us the right to appoint as deputy-lieutenants such men who reside in the county, and who have done good service, whether they have the property qualifications or not, that this Bill is now introduced.

9.0 P.M.


I think the right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on having brought in this measure, which does not make the property qualification necessary for the appointment of deputy-lieutenant in counties. It was a good thing, I think, that the position of deputy-lieutenant was confined to men who have given military service either in the Army or the Territorial Forces, or in the Navy. Now conies the question of dealing with deputy-lieutenants in two ways. The first is to exclude the property qualification, and the other is to appoint men who have held positions connected with the Naval, Territorial, or military Forces. I think the right hon. Gentleman has erred in two matters, on which I propose to move Amendments in Committee. He said it was desirable that a deputy-lieutenant should be resident in the county. Several times during his speech he used the expression, "resident within the county," whereas this measure goes outside the county, and men who are resident within seven miles of the county may be appointed to the position of deputy-lieutenant. That is one of the points to which I object. I should say that there is not a single county in the country where men suitable for this appointment would not be found within the county, and there is no necessity whatever for going outside to appoint someone resident within 7 miles. In Committee I shall move to leave out the words "within seven miles thereof." The other point to which I object is in paragraph (b), which says that men may be eligible for the position of deputy-lieutenant where they have acted in a civil capacity in connection with the naval and military services. I submit that they ought not to be included, and that the position of deputy-lieutenant should be confined to men who have been in the Army, Navy, or Territorial force—that is, the position should be confined to military men. That was set up in the Act of 1907, and it has been a great success up till now. From what my right hon. Friend says, not only military men would get these posts, but clerks associated with the Navy or Army, and men who have in any way done work for the Services, would be eligible for the position. I submit these words, which include the appointment of civilians, should be deleted, and in Committee I will move an Amendment with that object, so that the appointment will be confined to men who have rendered military service and who have residence within the county.


When I first read this bill and before the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of it, I must say that I thought it had nothing to do with the War, and I was prepared to make a protest on that ground. But my right hon. Friend has shown that while it may not be a military measure it has arisen out of the circumstances of the War, and, therefore, I quite admit that there is a case for bringing in the Bill at the present time. I would like to thank him for removing the property qualification, and I only wish to make one criticism in support of my hon. and learned Friend behind me. I shall take the opportunity in Committee of supporting my hon. Friend's Amendment. If a man has simply made money through services he has rendered in connection with the Army or Navy I do not think such a case should be included. I cannot think that my right hon. Friend wants to give the privilege to a man who has simply been manufacturing munitions or has been doing something for which he has been handsomely remunerated. I do not think that such a service should qualify a man in some special way for this post. As the Bill is worded we might have men who would be considered as having been connected with the forces, but who had really occupied some lucrative civilian post or had done some business in connection with the Army. If the idea is that a civilian has really served the forces by doing something very effective, and which has not been the means of his making money or profit in so doing, then I see no objection to it. One thing that I wish to warn the House against is that it is exceedingly unpopular in the country that men who have cottoned themselves up to some Government Department and made large profits by so doing then receive Orders, or become qualified for posts, for which they would not otherwise be eligible. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to satisfy us in Committee that there is no intention of regarding as a qualification for a deputy-lieutenancy the fact that a man has had a lucrative post with the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force. Generally speaking, I welcome the Bill.


May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on introducing this Bill? We all know, I think, that since the commencement of the War there are many gentlemen resident in the counties who have done very loyal and valuable service to the Crown in recruiting and in many other ways connected with the War, and I personally welcome as a step in the right direction that these men, although they may not have the property qualification, are yet to be eligible for this recognition, which is an honourable position which some men covet. I am quite at one with the terms of the Bill, and think that the 7 miles radius outside of any particular county should be preserved, because I know of my own knowledge of gentlemen who have done the services to which I have referred who may have their place of business in the county and have done the service in the county, and who might not quite be resident within the four corners of the county, and would thus be debarred if the 7 miles radius was struck out of the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Pratt.]