HC Deb 13 April 1920 vol 127 cc1628-9

"Section 19 of the Army Act (which relates to drunkenness) shall be amended as follows: After the word 'imprisonment' there shall be inserted the words 'for not more than six months.'"—[Major O'Neill.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

This raises the question of the punishment which it is at present possible to give for the offence of drunkenness. The maximum punishment now is two years hard labour. I think most hon. Members will agree that if a man is such an incorrigible drunkard that he deserves two years hard labour for drunkenness and nothing else, he is not worth keeping in the Army at all. This point was dealt with by the Committee on courts-martial last year, and they make the following recommendation: The maximum sentence for drunkenness in the case of a soldier of two years' imprisonment with hard labour, appears to us to be excessive. They say: If the Army Act is revised we recommend that various punishments and especially this one shall be re-considered. I raise this in order to ask the right, hon. Baronet what the War Office proposes to do with regard to amending this punishment and punishments generally.


The punishment dealt with in this Clause will be one of the punishments which will come under review by the Committee which is now sitting at the War Office. The hon. and gallant Member has another Amendment later on which deals with a similar matter. The Committee will review the whole code of punishment, and the whole of these matters will be given very careful consideration. As the Committee will have observed from the whole tone of the Debate, the direction and tendency at the War Office in all these cases has been towards leniency. Therefore, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the point which he has brought before the Committee will have special attention when the Committee which is sitting at the War Office comes to consider it.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.


I do not propose to move the next Clause, which seeks to amend Section 44 of the Army Act 1 did not know that there was a Committee sitting to consider the whole question of punishments under the Army Act. I think it was appointed many months after the Committee on Courts-martial made their Report. I should like, however, to move a new Clause relating to Section 56.


Will the hon. Member move it now?