§ Sir I. PHILIPPS
At the moment I wag interrupted I was trying to point out to the Committee that it is more necessary 1297 for soldiers to have a Court of Appeal to which they can bring their cases than for the man in civil life, because in the Army each case in turn goes up from one rank to another—from the brigadier to the major general, and so on up to the Army Council, and there is a great tendency, naturally, for the same view to prevail throughout the different ranks in the same profession. In my own experience I have felt the necessity for some such Court as this military Court of Appeal. It is very difficult, however, for the outsider to know how necessary it is, but if that could be judged by the number of letters I have received each year when I have brought this matter forward from officers and men who feel that they have a grievance, the necessity is proved to be very great. One of the great proofs of the need for this Court is that having the Court would remove the feeling of grievance which now undoubtedly prevails. The Army Council is a pure autocracy. There is nothing beyond it. My right hon. Friend now the Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Macpherson) last year told us we could go to the Crown. Shortly afterwards I had a document presented to me which described this procedure. It was a case in which an officer did appeal to the Crown and in the end the Secretary of State wrote to him exactly the same letter as was written before the case went to the Crown, so that there really was proved to be no appeal beyond the Army Council.
We have had two cases during the War in which by special Act of Parliament Courts have been set up to overrule the Army Council. In those cases the Army Council were found to be in the wrong, and in one case general officers of high rank were severely censured. These are the only two cases the public have had before them during the War, but it is a very bad average. We can only base our case on what we know, and there is no doubt to my mind that there are a large number of cases in which, if an appeal could be made to an outside body, better justice would be administered than is today. I believe, too, it would be of great assistance to the Army Council to have such a body. It is difficult to bring forward cases, but if my right hon. Friend will only call for the last hundred cases of appeal to the Army Council and pick out one of them, I think he would be very doubtful whether, even in that case, it would not have been better to have gone to 1298 a Court of Appeal. It was said last year it would mean all the evidence being gone over again. Does the Court of Appeal in civil cases go through the evidence again? No such proposal was put forward by me. I took it that what the French call a dossier would be sent to the Court of Appeal. Now if a man appeals under Clause 42 of the Army Act the Army Council is the final arbiter of his destinies, and if he is not satisfied with the decision of the Army Council, I suggest he should have the right to appeal to an Appeal Court consisting of two military officers, two civilian gentlemen, and a judge of the High Court. If such a Court of Appeal were set up it would give great confidence to the public and to the men in the Army, and at the same time it would relieve the Army Council of a great deal of stigma which at present attaches to it in a great number of these cases.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend does not expect me on behalf of the Government to accept—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend does not expect me to accept the important proposal he has just commended to the Committee. I do not see how the business of the Army could be carried ion on the basis of his proposition. The Army Council under the Crown is the highest body concerned with the discipline and efficiency of the Army, and what my hon. and gallant Friend proposes is that those who have to examine into these cases and who have given their opinions after most careful consideration, and, possibly, after the pleasure of the Crown has been expressed, should have those opinions reviewed at the instance of one who is discontented with the state of affairs and that the case should be remitted to another Court which is to review the whole question and if necessary over-ride and reverse the decision and censure the high military authorities that have come to the conclusion. We cannot agree to procedure of that kind. When one is dealing with a question of law or a question of criminal justice a Court of Appeal is of the greatest value. I know when I was Home Secretary the Court of Criminal Appeal had just been introduced and it proved to be an enormous advantage in all matters affecting questions 1299 of law or the guilt or innocence of accused persons regarding specific charges. But when you come to matters of opinion, matters where only precedent can guide, these certainly are not matters which you can properly deal with in a tribunal such as the hon. Member suggests. You must stand or fall by the opinions of those who are responsible to decide. The kind of cases which my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind are cases which are not questions of guilt or innocence, but are cases where a man's efficiency has been called into question.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Or questions whether the knowledge of the individual is such as to make his retention in the Service undesirable. These are questions which do not form the ordinary basis of legal inquiry, and to set up a Court of Appeal to deal with these matters, to take them out of the hands of the Army Council and to have them reviewed by a Court which would have the power to reverse the decision of the Army Council, would have the effect of absolutely paralysing the machinery for the administration of the Army. We certainly could not agree to any such course, and I could not ask members of the Army Council to go into any cases with the certainty that after their opinion had been declared they are to be pilloried before another tribunal. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not press his proposal. On another occasion perhaps he might present it in a more workable form which would enable some kind of tribunal to be set up which could deal with these matters before the decision of the highest military authorities was obtained. I am not prejudging what our attitude would be in regard to such a proposal, but certainly it will not be open to the fatal defects which obviously attach to the one now before us.
§ Sir I. PHILIPPS
My right hon. Friend was wrong in suggesting that I was questioning the efficiency of the Army Council. It is, of course, purely a matter of military knowledge.
§ Colonel YATE
I am sorry that the Secretary of State has taken up such an unfortunate attitude in this matter. He has suggested that the proposal might be put forward in some other form. Will he 1300 himself bring forward a proposal? Will he try to inquire into this matter? There is the very greatest dissatisfaction in the Army. Men feel very much aggrieved in many cases because they have no redress at all. I have had lots of letters in which such cases have been brought to my notice. There was a case occurred last year in which troops were sent out to India in the hot season, and they suffered terribly during the train journey. An unfortunate general officer was turned out of his appointment, although he had nothing whatever to do with this particular administrative act; be was simply turned adrift, and is now unemployed. There ought to be somebody before whom such cases could be laid. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of members of the Army Council. I do not know whether they had that particular general before them or inquired into the case. There must be some Court to which men in such cases can appeal. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to consider this question and see whether something cannot be done, so that an officer or man who is aggrieved and who is turned out of his appointment without any redress whatever may have some appeal? At present there is no one to whom he can appeal, except probably the man who ordered him to be deprived of his appointment.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will undertake to give the matter consideration. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friends that I make a point of considering any of these matters which are raised in debate, reflecting upon them afterwards, and discussing them with my military advisers. I will certainly discuss this matter with them with a view to seeing whether any machinery can possibly be set up which would lighten the burden now resting on the Army Council, without derogating in any way from their final and supreme authority. I do not say that it is not possible that some machinery may be found, but I cannot hold out any hope at this stage.
§ Sir I. PHILIPPS
The whole object of Section 42 of the Army Act is to obtain justice. That is all we want. I would thank my right hon Friend very much for the way in which he has received the proposal, and I ask leave to withdraw the Clause.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.1301
|Accommodation to be provided.||Maximum price.|
|Lodging and attendance for soldier where meals furnished||…||…||Sixpence per night.|
|Breakfast as specified in Part I. of the Second Schedule to the Army Act||Sixpence each.|
|Dinner as so specified||…||…||One shilling and twopence each.|
|Supper as so specified||…||…||Fourpence each.|
|Where no meals furnished, lodging and attendance, and candles, vinegar, salt, and the use of fire, and the necessary utensils for dressing and eating his meat||Sixpence per day.|
|Stable room and tea pounds of oats, twelve pounds of hay, and eight pounds of straw per day for each horse||Two shillings and fourpence per day.|
|Stable room without forage||…||…||Sixpence per day.|
|Lodging and attendance for officer||…||…||Two shillings per night.|
|Note.— An officer shall pay for his food.|
§ Lieutenant-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I beg to move, in the fifth paragraph, to leave out the word "sixpence" and to insert instead thereof the words "one shilling."
I would point out that for lodging and attendance, candles, vinegar, salt, the use of fire and the necessary utensils for dressing and eating meat, a person who billets a soldier is allowed sixpence a day under this Schedule. That amount has not been altered for many years past and is totally inadequate at the present time. I have a letter here from a lady in my Constituency who keeps a public-house saying that she had twenty soldiers billeted on her for which she was paid 6d. per day per head for all these things. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this matter cannot be taken into consideration, and the sum of sixpence increased to a little more. It may seem a small matter, but is not so small as it appears, because the effect of it is that it makes the Army unpopular and the billeting of soldiers unpopular, and that is a very bad thing for the country.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I am afraid that I cannot meet my hon. and gallant Friend as I should be glad to do. I cannot think that the grievance is so real as it appears to him, although I am quite certain that some complaints have been made on the insufficiency of the amount that is allowed. On previous occasions on billeting matters there have been the loudest possible complaints, but with regard to this particular point I have had no complaints whatever for months past. I am quite sure that if the grievance were real and widespread I should have heard a great deal more about it. I cannot look upon the case as having been made out.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1302
§ Lieutenant-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I beg to move, in the sixth paragraph, to leave out the words "two shillings and fourpence," and to insert instead thereof the wordssixpence per day and forage at current Government contract prices.This raises the question of the billeting of horses. The rate of 2s. 4d. a day is inadequate. The cost of 10 lbs. of oats alone is 2s. 3d., the hay would cost another shilling, and the straw a good deal more, so that the total cost would be something in the neighbourhood of 4s. at the present prices, instead of 2s. 4d. a day. I suggest that the figures in the Schedule want looking into. I do not wish to press the Amendment, as I understand the Government do not wish to give way on the matter to-day, but I suggest they should look into it, and alter the rates at some future date.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I am glad to give the assurance for which my hon. and gallant Friend asks. I will look into this question and see whether or not there is a case to be met
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported; as amended, considered; read the third time, and passed.