HC Deb 01 April 1925 vol 182 cc1349-97

I beg to move, in page 3, line 37, to add the words (1) In Section four, paragraphs (1), (2), (6), and (7) shall be omitted. I am glad that you, Sir, have decided that the discussion may range over the whole question of the application of the death penalty to military offences, because I think it would be to the convenience of the House that we should con- sider this question as a whole. The object which I and those who are associated with me have in bringing forward these Amendments is to so amend our existing military law as to bring it into line with the ordinary conceptions of human justice. We think that, at the present time, it departs very seriously from those conceptions, and that the time has now arrived when it ought to be brought into line with them. This matter has been the subject of agitation on the part of the Labour party for several years. In the year before last, in Committee, no fewer than 106 votes were obtained in favour of the abolition of the death penalty and last year we obtained 136 votes. This year, I am happy to say, we have the full support of the whole of the Labour party—the Labour party officially is behind these Amendments—and we hope to get an even greater number of votes than last year. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking whoever may be responsible on the Government side for permitting this discussion to take place at this convenient hour of the day. It is a subject of sufficient importance to warrant the fullest attention of the House at the most favourable hour of the day. When the right hon. Gentleman the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury said last year that we were moving these Amendments, which he regarded as almost subversive of all military discipline, at a time when they could not be fully reported in the Press, and the country could not be informed of our action, he was, quite unwittingly perhaps, doing an injustice to those who are behind these Amendments. We desire nothing better than that the country should have the full facts in regard to this death penalty, and the way in which it operates, and we welcome the opportunity of discussing the matter so early in the afternoon.

Since the discussion last year, a Departmental Committee has considered this question and made a report. At the time when the Committee was appointed I, and many of my friends, expressed the view that it could serve no useful purpose. I am quite prepared to admit that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Walsh) had that Committee appointed in perfect good faith, thinking it might help us to come to a satisfactory decision on this matter, but it was a Departmental Committee made up of generals, admirals and an air-marshal, and I think it is quite evident that professional men of that character, who have grown up with the professional conception of discipline—a narrow conception, if I may say so—could not possibly bring to the consideration of this matter the normal view of the citizen, and that is the point of view from which this question ought to be considered. Now that we have the report of that Committee we find it is a very colourless one, making only very minor suggestions for remedying the evils which we are fighting. We are not at all surprised; we did not expect anything more from this particular Committee. In saying that I am not impugning the humanitarianism of the generals, the admirals and the air-marshal. Probably they are just as human as I and my friends are, but the fact of the matter is that the whole of their training and experience prohibits them from taking an impartial and a rational view of the question.

Before I deal with the main issue, I want to refer to two minor points in that Report. The Report says there may have been miscarriages of justice owing to harsh or unfair conduct of trials. I want to explain that we do not attach any importance whatever to the machinery of military law; it is the law itself with which we are primarily concerned. Courts-martial may be held under very difficult and trying circumstances, and I am quite prepared to say that, in view of those difficulties, the machinery of military law probably operates as well as it could reasonably be expected to do. Therefore, it is no part of our case that the machinery of military law does not operate fairly. The other minor point is the question of the differentiation between the treatment of officers and other ranks. On that point the Report says the law is, in fact, equal as between the officers and the other ranks. I am prepared to admit that to all intents and purposes that is true; but where we join issue is in regard to whether the application of the law is equal as between officers and men, and we contend that the records and the experience show that while the law may be equal between these two classes of soldiers it is applied in a much more harsh and ruthless fashion to the other ranks than it is to the officers.

I think I can best establish that point by citing one given case. Section 6 of the Army Act provides that if a soldier sleeps on his post, or is drunk, he is liable, on conviction, to suffer death. I have been at pains to go through the general routine orders in connection with the various campaigns during the late War, and I will give the Committee the case of an officer charged with an offence of this kind. A temporary captain who was serving in the Salonika campaign was tried for drunkenness when in command of a post in the front line. He was an educated man, or he would not have been a temporary captain, and he was in a position of great responsibility, because he was in charge of this post in the front line. He was charged with the offence of drunkenness, which is not an offence which could arise from any weakness of his, but is something which would be contributed to wilfully and deliberately. He was found guilty and he was sentenced. The penalty for a private soldier drunk on his post—not being in charge of the post, but being drunk on his post—is death. The sentence on this officer was that he should be dismissed from His Majesty's Service. There was a certain amount of ignominy attached to it, I admit, but he was sent home safely out of the danger zone for having committed this very serious offence of being drunk in charge of a post in the front line. I merely relate this in order to illustrate the fact, very well known in the Army, that the law was applied with much greater severity against the other ranks than it was against the officer.

Having dealt with those two minor points, and, after all, they are minor points, I want to come to the real heart of the question; that is, the question raised in the report as to whether there have been miscarriages of justice owing to the failure to distinguish between real cowardice and physical breakdown. I am going to say that no valid distinction can be made between what the Army calls cowardice and what medical officers would call nervous breakdown. This report speaks of real cowardice, as though there is some distinction between real cowardice and some other kind of cowardice. I venture to say, psychologically, no distinc- tion whatever can be made between cowardice as understood in the Army and what is known as nerve failure, and it is on that basis I propose to argue this case.

First of all, I am going to take cases of what are called cowardice. It is not necessary for me to tell the Committee that when troops are going into action on the battlefield they are subjected to a tremendous nervous strain. If they are in dug-outs before an attack, and are subjected to modern intensive bombardment, that in itself is a dreadful strain. If they are actually engaged in an attack they have to go over the parapet in the teeth of a bombardment and a hail of machine-gun fire, and, it may be, clouds of poison gas. That also is an intense and a tremendous nervous strain. These men are only human after all, and some of them, in the face of this strain, collapse. I want to give the Committee one or two instances of the kind of thing I am referring to.

Case No. 1 is that of a private soldier and the charge against him, was that the accused, when proceeding with a party for work in the trenches, ran away owing to the bursting of a shell and did not afterwards rejoin his party. He was executed. Another private soldier, after going over the parapet with his company in an attack, absented himself while the attack was in progress, and remained absent until the following day. In a third case the accused, from motives of cowardice, left the trenches during a gas attack. The fourth case is that of a lad of 18½ years of age, who ran away from a trench which had been subjected to bombardment for six days. The battalion holding the trench had suffered heavy casualties. This boy, I am informed by one of his comrades, was known to the whole company as a bundle of nerves. He was executed. He enlisted in August, 1914, when he was only 17 years of age. I want to say, in fairness to the War Office, that they probably did not know his exact age. The lad, in his enthusiasm and his desire to serve his country, had deliberately over-stated his age, so probably they were not aware that he was only 17 when he enlisted.

These cases, and they are merely typical of many others, are, I submit, clear cases of nerve failure. After all, these boys or lads are only as nature made them. You cannot call them vicious, you cannot call them criminal. The worst that can be said of them is that, subjected to a very dreadful ordeal, an ordeal which can only be understood and appreciated by those who have undergone it, they failed and have had to pay this dreadful penalty. I submit that is not in accordance with our ordinary conception of human justice. I want to add that out of the total number of executions during the War, more than 30 of them were executions of lads under 21 years of age, too young to be regarded as citizens of this country, but young enough to be shot in cold blood because their nerves failed them. I want to deal with the other class of case which is probably the most numerous of all, and that is the case of desertion prior to going into action. I think the House, if it is really going to consider this question fairly, ought to try to realise what is in the minds of those people who desert before going into action. One can imagine that before they desert there is a tremendous turmoil going on in their minds. There are wide differences as between individuals of temperament, sensibility and imagination, and the more sensitive a man is the more imaginative he is, and inevitably the greater is the strain of war upon him. You can imagine an imaginative and sensitive man, even before he gets near the front line, undergoing agonies of apprehension. Some of those men under this strain are unable to bear it and they collapse. There is a well-known Shakespearian quotation which pours scorn upon cowards— Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once. I submit that in accordance with the enlightened modern understanding of psychology, the only real difference between the valiant man and the coward is a difference of temperament, and you ought not to punish the coward because of something over which he has no real control. You have these men sensitive, imaginative and thoughtful, you have them worried about home ties, you have them with the urge to hang on to life, and I think that feeling was stronger over in France than upon any other battlefield. They see themselves being driven forward to the shambles, and they are like hunted animals. Their will falters and gives way, and they run away and hide. Here is a purely human problem. No State has a right to say to men of that sort, "Because your temperament has got the better of you and you fail in this great crisis, we are going to shoot you in cold blood."

There is only one tribunal at all which is fit to judge men of that sort, and that is not your present court-martial. The only tribunal which has any clear title to judge of a failure of that sort would be a jury composed of the man's own comrades. I say deliberately that if you try those cases of failure by a jury of the man's own comrades, never once would you find the man condemned to death. I do not know whether any hon. Members who are in favour of the retention of the death penalty dissent from that statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] I wonder whether the Treasury Bench dissents from it, because if there is any dispute in regard to that fact I submit, after all, that a jury trial of that sort is the fairest you can have. If the Government intend to retain this death penalty, I suggest to the Government and to hon. Members opposite that they should urge the War Office to institute, instead of courts-martial, trials by jury in this fashion, because I am perfectly certain that the interests of the men concerned would be safe under such a system as that.

I want to make one other point. In connection with any kind of justice one essential is that it should be uniform and not of a variable quantity. It should not be one thing in one Court and another thing in another Court. I submit that military justice, so far as the death penalty is concerned, is a variable quantity, because it depends, to some extent, upon the nature of the general officer commanding. Here again I want to give an illustration. I have been through the general routine orders in connect ion with the campaign in France and in connection with other campaigns. I went through them in connection with Gallipoli under General Sir Ian Hamilton. I do not know this General. I have never met him, but I do know that in reading through those general orders issued by General Hamilton I was struck by the difference there was between the spirit of those orders and the spirit of other orders which I have read. I noticed there was a constant attempt to appeal to the moral of the troops, to encourage them, to hold up praiseworthy actions as models to be followed, and you did not get in those orders as in other orders an attempt to inspire the troops by the discipline of fear.

I think I can best illustrate the spirit I found animating those orders by telling the Committee this fact. There were five men belonging to a regiment of the Worcesters lying under sentence of death in Gallipoli, and the sentence had been confirmed by General Hamilton himself. The General went up the next morning to watch an action in Gallipoli, and he was so impressed by the gallantry of the troops in that action that he immediately sent down a message saying that those death sentences were not to be carried out, and he had them commuted to penal servitude. He published the whole thing in the orders and endeavoured by means of that act to encourage the rest of the troops to act in accordance with the traditions which had been followed in that particular attack that morning. I submit you have there an illustration of the difference there is in the way this military justice is carried out. I do not wish to make any invidious distinctions or cast any reflection upon any particular Commander-in-Chief, but I am bound to say, in reading through the routine orders in connection with the campaign in France and Flanders, that I never detected anything like the same humanitarian spirit which I found in the orders issued under General Ian Hamilton.

I wish to make my position quite clear. I say the more this law is examined by any impartial body of men or women the more it is clear that it is doing a great injustice to innocent men. It is punishing them for faults beyond their control. We hear a good deal about our being the guardians of the rights of the citizens of this country, but I do not believe in a system which divorces the soldiers from the rest of our citizens. There has been far too much of that in the past. The soldier is only a citizen in uniform. You have in the present state of your military law this position; a soldier may be very honest and very industrious and he may be a good husband and a kind father; he may have every quality that a good citizen ought to have and yet, if he gets on the battlefield and fails in the supreme test of nerve power, as the law stands you are prepared to shoot him in cold blood like a dog. I say that the State has absolutely no right to do that kind of thing. The War Office, as a matter of fact, is conscious of the fact that it has no case in abstract justice for continuing this death penalty for this offence, and what does it do? It falls back on the plea of military necessity. You find it in this Report, which says: It is absolutely essential for military purpose that the death penalty should be maintained. I invite this Committee to consider what that means. It means that it is not possible to get British troops to fight, and fight effectively, unless you have hanging over their heads the menace of the death penalty. If it does not mean that, then it has no meaning at all, and this is really the kernel of this plea of military necessity, that in order to get your Army to fight effectively you have to hold over its head the threat of the death penalty. What becomes of all the talk about patriotism and devotion to duty, and a desire to defend our country, and all those kind of sentiments which were so often on the lips of politicians and of generals during the War? What becomes of all those sentiments if we have to fall back upon this plea of military necessity?

After all, that is an ignominiously low estimate of the motives which govern the soldiers in the field. It is not my estimate at all, but the estimate of military commanders themselves. I think it is an insult to the whole of the British Army. Even if it were true that the Army could only be kept fighting by means of this death penalty, I would still claim that you have no right to insist upon the death penalty, and I will tell the Committee why I take up that position. I hold that there can be no really just war unless it is one waged between men who freely engage in that war because they believe in the justice of the cause for which they are fighting.

If you have got to keep the men fighting by saying to them, "If you do not fight we will shoot you in cold blood," then I say you have no right to keep them fighting at all. What is happening, in effect, is that the non-fighting people, the civilians, the people in the Government, or the people in the high ranks of the Army, are compelling soldiers to fight in a cause in which they are not prepared to fight, under the threat of being executed. I say there is no justification whatever for compelling our fellow-citizens to do that.

I want to push this point a little further. Even on the question of military necessity, the War Office is not on sound ground. I refuse to believe that this sanction of the death penalty is so absolutely indispensable as the War Office tries to make out. There is a wonderful proof to the contrary in the experience of the last War. We had engaged, in the last War, two Australian Army Corps. These Australian troops fought, but not a single Australian soldier was executed. We executed Canadians, Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen, New Zealanders—we executed men of all these nations, but we did not execute one single Australian soldier. The reason for that was that the Australian Government said that their soldiers must not be executed. Is it suggested that, because the death penalty was not operating against the Australian soldiers, they fought with less determination, with less courage, than the other troops? If that be not suggested, and I. think it is not, is the Minister going to rise in his place to-day and say that the Australian troops may be trusted to fight with courage and determination without this dread death penalty hanging over their heads, but that British troops are not to be so trusted? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to get up in his place to-day and say that?

I am going to put to the right hon. Gentleman one specific question. I do not care how much of the rest of my argument he ignores, but I am going to put this one straight question to him: If the Australian Government was not prepared to put upon its own troops the painful necessity of shooting some of their comrades in cold blood, is he not prepared to see that the same condition is applied to our British troops? That is a plain specific question, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman, whatever else he ignores, to give a plain, unequivocal answer to that question. I have already spoken longer than I intended, but I want to say this in conclusion. I am very glad to think that the whole of the Labour party is behind this attempt to abolish the death penalty. I am not standing here moving this Amendment in any humble suppliant fashion. I am not asking this Committee to agree to the abolition of the death penalty as a concession. I am standing here, in the name of the Labour party, demanding the abolition of the death penalty as a simple act of justice. I demand it because I claim that I know the feeling of the private soldiers in the British Army, as I know the feeling of the ex-service men in this country. I demand it on behalf of the fighting men themselves. I demand it on behalf of the parents of those fighting men, and I demand it on behalf of the great mass of the people of this country, who want to see human justice take precedence over so-called military necessity. I beg to move.


I venture to intervene in this discussion for a few moments. Before I deal with the points that have been raised by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), may I say, as he has said, that the party for which I speak this afternoon is grateful to the Government for giving us the opportunity, for the first time in many years, of discussing such a very important question as this during the earlier portion of our sitting? In the old days it was always discussed in the earlier hours of the morning, and we always thought it was rather a shameful proceeding to discuss a question of this magnitude during those hours. May I also say that, in common, I am sure, with the rest of the Committee, we are indebted to the hon. Member for Shoreditch for his very clear, lucid, and able statement of his point of view? I may say straight away that I do not take that line, nor does the party for which I am speaking this afternoon. It was my lot for many years, during the War, to defend the action of the Government on more than one occasion when the War was in progress in its various theatres.


In Ireland, particularly.


Yes. The conclusion to which I came then, after very careful consideration of all the facts, was that, the moment a nation entered into the dread arbitrement of war, human civilising conditions were at an end, and a new condition of things had, unfortunately, arisen. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that the Army as a whole was against capital punishment. I think that what the Army as a whole is always, and has been always, anxious to maintain, is discipline. You will find men who have been through campaign after campaign, who will tell you that the first essential for an army is discipline; and, unfortunately, it has been the experience of all great armies and of all great commanders that some such speedy deterrent as this, exemplary in its character, is a dire necessity. It is a great misfortune that that should be so.

The hon. Member, towards the end of the speech, made a point of the Australian attitude to capital punishment. It is very difficult to discuss a question of that kind on the Floor of the House of Commons, because we are all grateful for the magnificent assistance which that great Dominion gave to us in the greatest crisis of our history. Towards the end of the War, two Australasian corps were engaged. They were as magnificent a body of men as any that were in the field, but I think I can say this without hurting anybody's feeling, that there was tremendous difficulty with regard to discipline among the Australian troops when they first came over. This is not the moment, nor am I the man, to discuss the gradual evolution of things, but I think the hon. Member who preceded me would agree, if he had the opportunity of considering the record of the Australian Army Corps, that they had their difficulties, and their commanders had their difficulties, just as much as, if not more than, in certain circumstances, the commanders of the other armies.

The Labour party as a whole may be inclined to take the view that capital punishment should be abolished in the Army, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. I believe that most of them take the view that it should be abolished in civil life, and they are perfectly entitled to take that view also. They are also determined, if they can, to abolish war, and they are entitled to take that view, too; and, indeed—[An HON. MEMBER: "Are not you?"] Certainly. Indeed, that is the thing that we all desire. But we have to face grave and serious facts, and serious conditions in the world. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Shoreditch to say that we have no concern at all with the machinery of the administration of the criminal law in the Army; but, if the criminal law is to exist, as it does exist, and must, unfortunately, exist for some time to come, the administration of that law is a matter of very great concern to the House of Commons, and I am convinced that the hon. Member, in his research into the records and the routine orders, must have come to the conclusion—as, indeed, he admitted—that during the War the criminal code of the Army was administered fairly and humanely.

I defy the hon. Gentleman to say that there was any differentiation—indeed, there is no differentiation—in the code as it stands, between the officer and the private soldier. The hon. Member referred to the case of an officer. I could not quite gather the evidence, because I cannot think of an officer being drunk on outpost duty, but he referred to some such evidence of that kind, and he said that the punishment which was allotted in that case, for what in other circumstances is regarded as a case for the death penalty, was simply dismissal from the Service. The Committee must remember that there is always an alternative, in every given case, to the death penalty. The court-martial can always give a less penalty; and it is also to be remembered that, if a less penalty is given by the court-martial, no higher authority can alter that penalty by increasing it. I think that during the War I had occasion to examine as many reports of courts-martial as any layman in the country, and I was convinced that everything that could fairly be put forward in the interests of the man tried was put forward. It is a mistake to suppose that the court-martial officer is a prosecuting counsel. He is nothing of the kind. I am speaking now about that part of the question which we have to face in any case, whether the Labour party think so or not, namely, the humane administration of the code as it exists. We have to face that, because the code is going to continue to exist, and it is our duty to see, if that is the case, that it is humanely administered. I put forward the proposition now that it is to the great credit of the British Army as a whole that that code was humanely administered, without any differentiation between officer and man, during the whole course of the campaign.

5.0 P.M.

I read that admirable Report which has been placed in our hands to-day. It is a very significant fact, which I knew as a fact myself before, that in 89 or 90 per cent. of the cases which were tried by courts-martial and where the punishment might have been and actually was the death sentence, the sentences were reduced. There is no such record in any civil Court in the country. It was very wisely pointed out by Lord Darling's Committee that, if these cases had come to the Court of Criminal Appeal, hardly any of them could have been considered, because the Court of Criminal Appeal can only consider questions of law. But before the actual execution takes place, every single court-martial case is carefully gone through by the best legal brains in the Army to see that there is no legal flaw. If there be a legal flaw, the whole procedure is invalid and the man gets the benefit of the doubt and the sentence is quashed. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch suggests that the proper way to try a man in such an unhappy poition would be by a trial before his own peers, by trial of soldiers. I do not know what the experience of many Members of this House was, but I made it my duty to find out the exact circumstances of trial by court-martial and the death sentence, and the Committee will be surprised to realise that very often the man's own comrades are as bitter against him as anybody else. When he fails at a pivotal point by—call it what you like, by cowardice or any other action, to support his pals and his chums—he may be a pivot man—all their lives are in his hands for the moment, and when the real crisis comes they find that he has failed them. I do not think that my friend would find that the private soldier in the same regiment who was thus jeopardised would be as lenient as he supposes. The facts, so far as I can gather them, are quite the reverse.

I am anxious that improvement should be made in the machinery of the administration of the code. The hon. Member for Shoreditch referred to the orders of Sir Ian Hamilton. I think they were very admirable orders, but they were in no way better than the routine orders in the other commands. The man who is tried by court-martial is, first of all, tried by field general court-martial. That is reviewed by the Corps, by the Army commander, by the Judge Advocate-General, by the Commander-in Chief and the permanent authorities and by the Adjutant-General, all at headquarters, and all that is humanly possible to avoid a mistake is done. As I said, in 89 or 90 per cent. of the cases the confirming authority, the Field-Marshal commanding-in-chief, actually reduced the sentence. If you are going to have an army at all, you must have exemplary discipline. My hon. Friend suggests, and that must be the view of his party, that it you are going to have an army at all, and if you are going to have discipline—because without discipline you cannot have an efficient army—you might have, instead of the death penalty, penal servitude. I was largely instrumental, along with, I think, General Childs, who was then at the War Office, in introducing an Act which was called the Suspension of Sentences Act. We are told very often, those of us who take this view, that the real way to make a soldier good and efficient is to apply moral suasion. That is the very foundation of this Act. When a man's sentence was promulgated and he was enduring this penal servitude or imprisonment, as the case may be, he was carefully watched, and after four, and sometimes nine, months, if it was thought that he was likely to be an efficient soldier and be influenced by the moral suasion of his comrades, he was allowed out and allowed to go back and join his own unit, or somebody else's. That did a great deal of good.

But take the case of the alternative to the death penalty, what deterrent is it when the men are in the front line? The chances are—indeed it is certain—that a man who is going to let his comrades down at that moment will know that the death penalty is abolished and that very likely he may be sent to penal servitude and that he is certain to remain away behind, and that the moment the war is over he is certain he will get an amnesty. I am convinced that the view which has been taken by all the distinguished officers and by many civilians in connection with this matter, the view that was taken by the Darling Committee and by the Committee that has recently reported is the right one. We all regret the necessity, the military necessity, of enforcing discipline, but if it is to be enforced, there is no other way at present known in which it may be so effectively enforced. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army in the Field, the Army Commander, none of these men, who are just as humane as anybody in this House, like to carry out that sentence, but only do it when they feel it is in the interests of victory, or of the nation as a whole, or the battalion, or of the corps I was very glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman said of the humanity which generally prevails on an occasion of that kind.

I do not think I can usefully add anything more except this, that we realise the military necessity for a code as it is, but while we realise the dire necessity of having such a code we regard it as our duty to see that there is no vindictiveness in the administration of the code, that that code is to be used sparingly, as a last resort, and that the offence for which capital punishment can and may be granted must be a clearly defined offence. If we are assured of that, we accept the necessity of having a code. I should like my right hon. Friend in the course of his reply to say whether it would not be possible to get one or two more offences placed in what are called the secondary lists. I am glad they have abolished to all intents and purposes capital punishment for offences at home, and I think the House is glad. It is a step, the Labour party will agree, in the right direction, because capital punishment can only be justified in the stress and strain of war, and when war does take place I would beg my right hon. Friend to see, and I am sure the Adjutant-General will gladly assist him, that the offence for which that punishment may be given is a clearly defined one. I know we introduced several improvements during the last years of the War in the actual trial of the man who is about to be condemned for an offence of this kind. There may still be much room for improvement in that direction, and I would ask him to consider whether some such improvement could not yet be made. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman who preceded me covered so much of the ground and that we are likely to have a Debate which will be of very great consequence to the future of the Army. I need hardly say that anything that can be done from these benches where I now stand for improvement in this direction will be gladly done.


The point which has been brought before the Committee is one which is a most grateful subject to be able to raise and most ungrateful to oppose, and therefore if is with difficulty and with a great sense of responsibility that one rises to oppose the Amendment. I think the Committee listened with great interest, not only to the speech of the hon. Member, who moved it very well, fairly and very carefully, but also listened, I am sure, equally gladly to the very courageous speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson). I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for two points raised in the speech of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). He alluded to the difference between the punishment awarded to an officer and to a private soldier or other rank guilty of the same crime. I may say that ever since I was a student at Sandhurst and studied the Army it always did seem to me that there was on the surface great discrepancy in punishments. The right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty quite rightly pointed out that, in addition to such lesser punishment as the Act may mention, there is always discretion in regard to a private soldier. But I do say that where it is a case of an officer imperilling the lives of men in the field, either through cowardice or any other cause, I myself would be quite willing, if the hon. Member is willing to level up instead of level down, to join him in that. I think there is no doubt that the penalty of cashiering, perhaps, does not for every-one carry quite the same amount of terrible disgrace and stigma as it did many years ago when the penalties were first imposed. Many years ago officers came chiefly from what you may call the rank of the county families, and if any officer was cashiered it was equivalent to a death sentence. He could hardly live in the county at all and it was a most terrible stain. Nowadays I have heard of one or two cases where officers were cashiered in the late War and those who met them afterwards could only say that they did not seem to show much signs of having undergone a stigma. Therefore, if the hon. Member will ask me to level up instead of level down I will do that with him.

The other matter he alluded to was the case of the Australian forces not having the death penalty. The right hon. Gentleman alluded also to it. The hon. Member when he spoke appealed to the Secretary of State for War to say something on that subject. He knows that it is a very ungrateful task to deal with that matter at all, because we owe a most enormous debt of gratitude to the Australians for the magnificent way they came to our help in the War. We know how all through the War they performed almost incredible acts of gallantry, especially in Gallipoli, and it seems a most ungrateful task to say "you are drawing invidious comparisons between the Australian forces and the others." I think it my duty to say, as the hon. Member has raised that point, what my small experience was. Owing to being over 50 years of age when I went to France, I was for a considerable time unfortunately compelled to be at a certain large base called Etaples. There one had not only English troops but Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders. I repeat, so that there shall be no distortion of my remarks in the Press or anywhere else, that 999 out of every 1,000 Australians were the most magnificent men, but they had a residue—not the trembling, shrinking nervous lads the hon. Member has referred to—who were constant deserters, and constantly appearing as deserters after hiding in the woods. They were big burly fellows, very fond of gambling at Crown and Anchor. They were armed with revolvers. In two cases at least we had Australians who were murdered by these very desperadoes. They used openly to boast that gambling and making money was a better game than being killed in the line. They were very stout men, and they were always breaking away from their escorts on the way to Rouen Prison, and in more than one case they managed to break out of Rouen Prison. It is not always the poor man who is suffering from overstrung nerves who deserts from the line, but very often men deliberately doing it. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in the interests of the other men themselves you have to protect the troops in the field. This subject has been discussed many times, but owing to it being discussed in the early hours of the morning, it has not received the same chance of full consideration that I hope it will get to-day. We have this advantage now, that we have the most exhaustive Report of this Committee, which has gone into the whole thing, not with any wish merely to carry on a tradition—because it is a tradition—and has made certain recommendations. I think the Committee may safely go upon the recommendations of the Committee.


The whole Committee should be grateful for the spirit and restraint with which this very difficult but important question is being debated. It is not a matter on which anyone would wish to make loose charges or to level accusations against people who differ from the point of view one takes, but it occurs to me that it is an entirely good thing that once each year when this Bill comes before us the House should review its opinion upon this important matter which affects the lives of soldiers in the Army and elsewhere. My hon. Friend who introduced the Amendment said he spoke for the Labour party, and I assume the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) equally spoke for the Liberal party. In that case the Labour party appears to stand alone for the moment in asking that the Committee should agree to abolish what many of us feel is the wrong conclusion that it has come to in the past. I am quite aware of all the arguments which can be used on the other side by hon. Members who have a far greater knowledge of the Army than I have, or can ever have. They suggest "we would do this thing if we could but we dare not do it. It is so important to have this supreme discipline in the Army that we are bound to hold this terrible punishment in our hands. "That is a very weighty argument to use, and I should be very much affected by it did I not remember that the same arguments were used about the retention of field punishment No. 1, which, after years of agitation and appeal, we finally got abolished. I should feel greatly inclined to agree did I not remember that the same arguments were used year after year by specialists in Army administration in favour of the retention of flogging in the Army. This House, year after year, had to deal with the question until finally it, and not the Army Council, abolished it, and I have yet to learn that the discipline of the Army has been affected adversely by that attempt to humanise the administration of our national services.

I want to deal with this question of the alleged necessity for retaining capital punishment in the Army. My hon. Friend has illustrated the case of the Australian army, and it is valuable just as showing that on the whole a modern nation, knowing its own sons as well as we know ours, did think sufficiently well of them to trust them with its honour to hold its name in good repute without holding over them this dreadful penalty of capital punishment. It may be true, as the hon. and gallant Member for Southport (Lieut.-Colonel Dalrymple White) said, that here and there there was a black sheep among the Australian soldiers, but when all is said and done they wrote a page at Gallipoli which will last throughout all time and we can afford to think of the larger and better motive of the Army than to sort out one or two who failed in their duty. I want to ask the Committee whether we can really trust ourselves to the judgment of the officers who have the terrible responsibility of administering this sentence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty pointed out that the sentence is revised by one officer going to another of a higher grade, until finally it goes to the Commander-in-Chief and then to the Advocate-General. I do not know about Army administration in that close sense but I should be very much surprised to learn that with all the multifarious duties the higher command has upon its shoulders, especially the Commander-in-Chief, these matters of an individual man can receive that detailed attention which this House I think would like that they should. The Advocate-General in any case is unable to enter into the psychology of the particular man concerned.


The Judge Advocate-General is not allowed to enter into the psychology of the matter. His duty is confined to seeing whether the whole of the proceedings of the Court which condemned the man are in accordance with the law. He is not allowed to take any extraneous matter into consideration.


I am obliged to the hon. Member for his unasked help in dealing with the matter. It is precisely because he does not deal with the psychology of the matter that his judgment is to be distrusted.


May I supplement what the hon. Member has said? The Judge Advocate-General reads and re-reads the case and sees that it is valid in law. He is at General Headquarters with the Adjutant-General and the Commander-in-Chief, and the Commander-in-Chief takes into account all the psychology of the matter.


I was proceeding to deal with that point when I was interrupted. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty said these matters were carefuly gone through to discover a legal flaw. I am certain in the matter of the legal flaw we can trust ourselves absolutely in the hands of the officers concerned, but is any effort made to discover the human flaw, the flaw in the psychology of the man who is to suffer the death penalty? That is really the criticism I want to level against that. My feeling about the officers in this matter is that the whole business must be hateful to them. It must throw upon them so dreadful a responsibility that they would almost do anything rather than face it. All that we admit. But they review the matter and they have this obsession that it must be done. It is the tradition of the Army. They are in the grip of a machine, and they are not always able to bring to bear upon it that human factor which is so essential in these matters.

Another point I desire to urge is the character of the young men concerned. During the late War officers and others in the Army deliberately encouraged or connived with young persons to lie about their age, and many boys went into the Army at 16. I knew one myself who went into the Army at 16. Others were drawn from the slums of the great cities, and they gave the best they had. They went out to the service of their country with as pure an intention as any man who served, from wherever he might come. But what were they? Very frequently men of poor blood, men of poor vitality, men without any mental discipline, not always able to stand up to the trials and difficulties of modern life. They were not properly instructed. This country had grudged every penny that has been spent upon their education, and has left them undeveloped in that way. Then when this supreme trial comes upon them here and there a man fails to stand against it. This is a matter of the human equation in the end. Who knows what any of us could stand in these matters? When we understand somewhat the processes of the human mind, we know how easy it is for a very brave man to succumb at some moment of temptation. That is what we desire to remember in this connection. All men have not equal powers of resistance. It may be, in the matter of human philosophy, that the man who tries and fails has made a better fight of it than the man who has won through, and is the braver man of the two. Consider the position. A boy drawn from home is put into this position of supreme difficulty. Suffering all the agonies of weariness and hunger, he has a sudden collapse of morale. As a rule, the collapse is temporary. If the thing passed over, he might be as brave as the best, but some sudden brain-storm comes upon him, and makes him unable to stand up against it.

May I illustrate to the Committee my point by mentioning, what I have mentioned before in this House, the case of an army other than our own. In the Civil War in America, Grant was always apt to sentence a man to death for some fault of military discipline, and Lincoln used language to Grant about it which I would not dare to use in this House. He asked, "What good would it do to shoot him? What good would it do to anybody for the man to be shot?" Lincoln never signed those orders for sentence of death, with the result that he got an Army that believed in him; an Army that was full of faith in the father of the country. There is not a man in this House who will say that the Army of America suffered because of the great humanity of Lincoln, and the great trust that Lincoln put in it. I can illustrate the point by the case of William Scott, who was found sleeping at his post. He had been on tramp for long hours and human nature could stand out no more. He was tried and sentenced, but Lincoln pardoned him, whereupon the boy asked to be sent back to his regiment to fight. He was sent back, and in the very front of the battle he was killed. He proved as brave as any man in the American Army.

We feel that this House will do the right thing if, while it stands for the concessions that the Committee are recommending, it will each year try to go a bit better, until the time may come when we can take this dreadful penalty out of our administration of the Army.

Captain GEE

So far, this Committee has looked upon this matter with the seriousness that it is entitled to do. It is a very good augury that, at last, we are discussing this serious question from 4 o'clock in the afternoon, instead of after 11 o'clock at night. I was very much struck by what was said by the hon. Member who opened the Debate, when he used the expression "conception of human justice." I would like to ask the Committee, which body of men is more likely to have a higher and nobler conception of human justice—a body of men sitting in one of our criminal courts, where a man is being tried for his life, or a body of men sitting in a criminal court on the battlefield, or close by the battlefield, such court being composed—I say this with all respect to the legal profession—of cold, hard-headed, legal men? I wonder whether hon. Members will agree with what the hon. Member said when he implied that such a court had no conception of the matter at issue. The members of such a court are living with, and may be dying with, the man they are trying. It is a mistake to think that courts-martial have no conception of humanity. No court of justice in the land is carried out with greater feelings of humanity than courts-martial are carried out in the British Army.

I am surprised when we are told from the opposite side that this Report is a very admirable one. With their ardour for getting rid of capital punishment, why did not they do it last year, when they had an opportunity?


We tried.

Captain GEE

Instead of my hon. Friends forcing the matter to a Division—


We did

Captain GEE

They were quite content—


I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend does not wish to misrepresent us. We did force the issue to a Division against our own Government last year.

Captain GEE

Then this Report, an official document, is wrong, because it distinctly states that the Amendments moved in Debate on the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill, 1924, were postponed, on the understanding that they would be referred to this Committee.


We cannot help what is in the Report. I am speaking within the memory of hon. Members who were present last year—and the OFFICIAL REPORT will confirm me—that we carried our opposition into the Lobby.

Captain GEE

That does not alter the point I am making, that we are told now by the Mover of the Amendment that the whole of the hon. Members on the benches above the Gangway are solid on this matter. In that case, the party opposite have been converted since last year's debate. I shall have a little more respect for the hon. Member's statement when I hear some Member on the Front Bench opposite say that they are going to give it the backing of the party. We have been told that military law operates unfairly. The hon. Member spoke of the difference of treatment of a private soldier found sleeping on his post, who could have been sentenced to death. The hon. Member was very careful in pointing out that the penalty might have been death, but he refrained from saying that the death penalty was inflicted. There is a great deal of difference. On the other hand, he deliberately made a statement that an officer who was found drunk at his post was only cashiered. That sentence was carried out.

I hardly think my hon. Friend has read the Report very carefully, otherwise he would not have raised this point. He could not have raised a weaker argument than to say that the law works unfairly between officers and men. During the whole of the War, among the 7,000,000 of men, there were only two cases where men were executed for sleeping at their post.


The case I mentioned was not a case of sleeping on the post, but of drunkenness on the post. A private soldier never has an opportunity of becoming drunk at his post.

Captain GEE

I do not think the hon. Member really grasps what I said. I referred to a private soldier who was found sleeping at his post. That is what the hon. Member mentioned. The soldier could have been sentenced to death, but he was not. On the other hand, an officer who was found drunk on an outpost, was tried and cashiered. My contention is that the hon. Member could scarcely have selected a worse case to prove his argument, because of the seven millions of men on active service during the War there were only two cases where men were sentenced to death for sleeping at their posts, and the sentence was carried out. With regard to the next point, I may say in passing that I have received a most callous document from the War Office: After a service of 35 years, one receives a cold, typewritten slip stating Having reached the age of discharge, your name will appear in the Gazette. Therefore, I am no longer subject to military law, and I can talk. What really happens on active service is that, instead of framing a crime in order to get men tried for offences where they can be sentenced to death, there is scarcely an officer belonging to any party in this House who has not himself, or, if he has not done it himself, he knows of many cases where it has been done, namely, where the crime has been deliberately altered from desertion to absence so that the man could not be sentenced to death. That is done, and everybody knows it.

I was very interested in what the hon. Member said about Gallipoli and General Sir Ian Hamilton. I had the great honour of serving in that campaign and under that distinguished General. I very much regret that in a Debate of this description any individual general should be named, because it is rather invidious. The extraordinary thing is that the hon. Member said that these things are not published in General Orders. It was done in every regiment, in every corps, and in every division right throughout Gallipoli and France. I am speaking with knowledge. The very case that the hon. Member referred to took place in my own division. We had two cases in a particular regiment, just before the Battle of Arras. Both these cases were awaiting trial for a crime for which they could have been sentenced to death. The men volunteered to go out and retrieve their characters. They did so. Not once, but over and over again cases of that sort took place, and in every case not only was it referred to in Army Orders in praise of the men but it had to be mentioned there in order that the man's record of crime could be expunged.

Something has been said about the threat of execution. I regret very much that that statement was made. I am speaking as, perhaps, the only man in this House who has ever had the great distinction of being elected to this House after serving 22 years in the ranks, from a private upwards. Therefore, I know something about this matter. I have served 35 years in the Army, and I am told by the hon. Member that men cannot be got to fight without the treat of execution and the threat of death. I would refer the hon. Member to what the men in the ranks think of this sort of thing. I will tell him exactly what the men in the ranks really do think. It is a quotation from a statement made in this House: An officer who had risen from the ranks visited, some time ago, 27 units, 27 serjeants' messes, 27 corporals' rooms, and 27 canteens. In each one he put the question, 'Would you prefer to be tried by the men who are living with you, the men you fight with, and perhaps the men you die with, or by others?' In every case he received the unqualified answer that they preferred to be tried and dealt with by their own officers. I want, if I may, to allude to what I think the most important point. It war mentioned by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell). That is the human factor. I say frankly that if the human factor were not attended to, to a very large degree, I should be with the Mover and supporters of this Motion. During the whole War we had only 287 cases of officers and men who were executed in the British Army, and under 350 all told, including natives. Never has there been a war in the history of war in which there were fewer executions in proportion to the number of combatants engaged. Let us see exactly what happened. Again I am speaking with a certain amount of authority, not from the legal point of view, because that is not my subject. I had many court-martial officers to advise me, including one or two hon. Members of this House, and when I was stuck over a legal question I never worried my head about it. I simply got on the telephone and they came to see me and put the thing right. They were responsible for the legal aspect of the matter. I am going to deal now only with the human factor, which I agree with the hon. Member for East Woolwich in saying is the most important.

I was sorry that the Secretary of State for War, in his wisdom, did not see fit to hand round this little green book which was issued to such people as myself to guide all those who were concerned in looking after the human factor in all courts-martial. This is my own court-martial book. I used it during the War. It distinctly states that it must be quite understood that absence is not sufficient to prove desertion, and therefore at the very start you have the human factor, because it gave inexperienced officers—and there were many gallant men who were inexperienced—the loophole to alter desertion into absence. That was the reason why we had so very few crimes of desertion in the Army. This is too serious a thing to be hurried over lightly. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I go step by step. First of all, this tells us that the death sentence must not be carried out without the sanction of the commander-in-chief, and it must be forwarded to him through the usual channels. What are they? I feel certain that some hon. Members are not aware of these usual channels.

It starts off by saying that in these cases of the recommendation of the death sentence the recommendation of the reviewing officers must—it is not a case of may—be given as to whether the sentence should be carried out or commuted, and the reasons for the recommendation must be given. Here is the routine. A man of my own brigade has been tried by a field general court-martial for desertion or any offence you like of which the extreme penalty can be death. The first thing that happens is that when the proceedings have finished the decision was handed to me as Staff Captain of Brigade. When I received it it then went on to the first reviewing officer, the Brigadier-General. The Brigadier-General in nearly every case made careful inquiry into that man's character, his temperament, his physical health and everything about him, as to which he consulted with his battalion commander and in many cases with the man's own company commander. Then, having had the opportunity of finding out about this man and according to this cold-blooded legal book—we have it all set down there—that must be done. This is the proper point to consider from the soldier's point of view. This is the human point of view. The words of the book are Character from a fighting point of view of the soldier concerned, his previous conduct and the period of his service with the Expeditionary Force. That is the first thing that the brigadier-general had to inquire into. Then came the state of discipline of the battalion or unit in the Service, and next the opinion of the commanding officer, not that of the brigadier-general, but that of the man's battalion commander, the man who lived with him, who knows exactly the conditions which prevail and knows the existence through which the man has been going. The commanding officer's opinion is based on his own personal knowledge, or that of his officers, of the soldier's character, as to whether the crime was deliberately committed or not. Then come the reasons why the various reviewing authorities recommend that the extreme penalty should be inflicted. Then there is this extraordinary statement which shows the human factor: By these reports the Commander-in-Chief hopes to insure that a good fighting man is not shot for absence arising from, for example, oversight or a drunken spree. If that is not the human factor I should like to know what it is. But it does not stop there. The brigadier-general then goes on to the divisional commander. A special motor cycle order is taken on to the divisional headquarters, and it is a case of Heaven help the staff captain if there is much delay, because that man who is awaiting the promulgation of sentence is going through a mental hell as to whether he is going to be shot or not. It goes to the divisional commander and then to the corps commander. All those reviewing authorities must put in writing whether the sentence should be commuted or executed.

Finally, it gets up to the Army Headquarters, and then it is not hurriedly done. There is always a delay of two or three, or sometimes more, days, and on more than one occasion I myself have received, not through the ordinary channels, but direct from headquarters, a memorandum referring to some particular case and asking for some more information about the man, and it is 21 headquarters, after the Advocate-General has gone into the legal side and the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief and the Adjutant have gone care fully through all these human documents, sent in by the Company Commander and the Battalion Commander and the various reviewing authorities, that the decision is arrived at as to whether the extreme penalty should be carried out or not. To realise the spirit in which this is all done we need only remember that of the thousands of cases in which death sentences were promulgated in only 11 per cent. of them were the sentences carried out. Therefore I feel after this plain, unvarnished statement of the facts that I cannot do anything else but oppose this Amendment.


I have listened to the very interesting speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee). As far as I have been able to follow him, what he had to say resolved itself into this: first, that every possible precaution is taken to see that no mistake can be made, and, in the second place, that only in a very few cases is the extreme penalty carried out. So far as I and, I think, the hon. Members who are associated with me, are concerned, we have never suggested any carelessness in carrying out these decisions. That is not our case. The numbers quoted by the hon. and gallant Member seem to us to be only another reason why this penalty should be taken away altogether. What we object to is the psychology of the whole thing. The psychology seems to be wrong. Hon. Members may probably go wick in their memory to the days when we landed at Calais, or one of the other landing ports, and on the following morning, before going up the line, the trops were paraded, and then on every occasion certainly when I was present, the very first thing about which we were told was the number of soldiers who had been- tried by court-martial for various offences under this Army Act, and the officer always finished up solemnly, "He was sentenced to death and the sentence was duly carried out."

6.0 P.M.

That is an aspect of the psychology of this matter which we on this side are endeavouring to bring before the Committee. We think it altogether wrong. We think that that was a wrong spirit to put into men in the Army at the outset of their career. Reference has been made in this Debate to the difficulty of distinguishing between real cowardice and a physical breakdown. I may put the question whether there is such a thing as real cowardice. Because a man after some intensive training cannot manage to get up enough ferocity to stick a bayonet into, another man's stomach are you going to stamp him as a coward? A man may be a coward in the morning and a hero at night. [HON. MEMBERS: "The rum ration!"] Certainly the rum ration had a considerable effect. I have known men, estimable, good, peaceful citizens when they joined the Army, who before the issue of the rum ration could not say "boo" to a goose, but who a few minutes afterwards were prepared to kill the Kaiser and all his hosts. There is very great difficulty in arriving at a definition of what cowardice is. If I were asked to give a definition of cowardice, with which, I think, most hon. Members would agree, I should define a coward as one who is afraid of danger. If that is a correct definition, then the biggest coward whom I ever met was an officer who had won the Victoria Cross for gallantry. It was common knowledge that that young officer afterwards—he had been sent home to Blighty, as we called it, and had come back—-as a result of his terrifying experiences, for which he was rightly rewarded, if he heard a shell drop half a mile away was all of a tremble. No one would suggest that that man was a coward. It was really a case of an alteration in the man's physique caused by his experiences. How many men were there—men who did not, perhaps, distinguish themselves, or whose acts were not brought to the notice of the authorities—who had had similar terrifying experiences which had shaken their nerves? There were, I think, many very gallant men whose acts of bravery were not noted. I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, and to other ex-service Members of the House, that, generally speaking—this was my experience—it was the latest arrival who had the most courage.

I had the privilege of taking part in the Debate on this Bill in the last Parliament, or the one before, and I then said something which caused many hon. Members to laugh, though it was not a laughing matter at all. I said that the first time I saw a shell burst I was not frightened at all, that I felt curious and wanted to see all about it. That was the attitude of the soldier who had just arrived. He was brave to the point of foolhardiness. If statistics were available, I think it would be found that an enormous number of casualties were sustained in every engagement among officers and men newly drafted out, whose first engagements it was, because they were so anxious to prove to everyone that there was no fear about them. They were brave to the point of foolhardiness. This Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on page 4 puts the point that soldiers find the conditions of modern war almost beyond endurance. If that was so in the last War, surely, with all the improvements, or to use a more appropriate word, with all the inventions introduced since that war, the next war will be an even greater trial of human endurance. That being so, I want to postulate this to the House: that there is no such thing as real cowardice unconnected with physical or mental breakdown.

What I have been most interested in, in this Report, is that the Committee stresses the evidence of Service witnesses. Indeed, one or two hon. Members who have opposed these Amendments to-day have also tried to bring in the point that men now in the Service would be opposed to this Amendment. What are the facts? At the end of the Report we find that at the seventh meeting of the Committee those who gave evidence were three soldiers of the Regular Army, and at the eighth meeting evidence was given by three soldiers of the Regular Army. I ask onyone who, like the last speaker and myself, has been one of the rank and file—the hon. Member got a little further than that and I did not—to picture the psychological effect upon the average "Tommy" of being ushered into the presence of an Air Vice-Marshal, an Admiral, a Vice-Admiral, a Lieutenant- General, and a Paymaster-Rear-Admiral and two Baronets. I do not know what were the functions on this Committee of a Paymaster-Rear-Admiral. The members of the Committee, besides having these wonderful titles and a string of letters after their name, I have no doubt, had more medals than they have ever seen battles. The six "Tommies" are duly ushered into the presence of these august gentlemen, and they are coolly asked whether they have any fault to find with the Army Act. They are then asked whether they do not think it would be a good idea in time of war to shoot a few of their own side occasionally in order to buck up the others. What did the Service men, these six soldiers, say? Unfortunately, we have not a verbatim report of the Committee's proceedings, but I strongly suspect that those six men said what all wise soldiers would have said in similar circumstances, and that is what their superiors expected them to say. May I quote from page 5 of the Report, which is a summary of the evidence: Both these officers and all other ranks regarded the purpose of the penalty not as vindictive, but simply as deterrent. The "other ranks" agreed that the purpose of the penalty was not vindictive but simply as deterrent. In other words, the "Tommies'' said, "If we are to be shot we are satisfied that though it is not exactly for our own good it is for the good of others." The old doctrine is, "I must punish you in order to teach you a lesson." The Army doctrine is, "I must shoot you in order to teach your comrades a lesson." The report also states that the effect of the penalty on the troops, "including the firing parties, was good." Parliamentary language will not enable me to express what I think of that sentence. It refers to the effect on the firing party who had to fire at one of their own comrades, shooting him in cold blood. That sentence makes me wish that for a moment or two I could be back in the ranks, so that I could express what I feel about it in military language. In Parliamentary language I can only say, "Tell that to the marines." One might as well argue that it is good for the moral character of the hangman that he should hang people. I think it would have been far more interesting if some of the Secret Service people had followed those six "Tommies,' after they had left the wonderful presence of these admirals and other people, back to the barracks and had listened while they talked the matter over with their comrades in the canteen. Their comments on the opinions which they had expressed before the Committee would have been very interesting, and possibly their language would have been a little more picturesque, but at any rate it would have been more truthful. I cannot understand why it is that this Committee, in its exhaustive deliberations, did not bring forward as witnesses not only those six soldiers of the Regular Army, but Service men who are no longer in the Army. The last speaker prefaced something that he said with a note of relief that he was no longer under the thumb of the War Office and was therefore able to speak.

Captain GEE

I said that only because the document I was quoting is one which is given to an officer while he is serving, and he has to give his word of honour that he will not make it public.


If the hon. and gallant Member had some hesitation about that, what is the position of the average "Tommy" who is hailed before this Committee and asked what is his opinion of the Army Act? Why did not the Committee ask ex-service men's organisations to put up half-a-dozen witnesses? They would have put forward witnesses who would have said exactly what they thought about this matter. We are asked to believe that fear instils courage. It is an extraordinary doctrine, which we challenge. Let me refer briefly to the Debate of last night, when we were discussing the question of accidents in mines. There were many differences of opinion expressed, but there was one thing upon which Members of all parties were agreed, and that was that whenever an explosion takes place in a coal mine and there is danger down below, there has never been such a thing known as a miner holding back or hesitating for one instant in risking his own life in the work of rescue. If a miner will take his life in his own hands and plunge almost to certain death when so engaged, why should it be necessary to threaten him with the pain of being shot in cold blood if he does not do it? The miner of to-day was the "Tommy" of yesterday; the worker of to-day was the soldier of yesterday. In our industrial life to-day, with calamities and disasters taking place, when the workman is asked to take his life in his hands he is always ready to do it without the fear of death being put on him if he does not do so.

We challenge the whole psychology of this proposal. Not a single, argument has been or will be put forward against the abolition of capital punishment- that was not put forward against the abolition of Field Punishment No. 1. Has it affected the discipline of the Army to abolish crucifixion? No hon. Member is prepared to get up and to say, "Let us go back to Field Punishment No. 1." For these reasons, I hope that the Minister will take his courage in both hands. The only people opposed to this change are possibly some of the old retired admirals or generals at the head of the Army, who have threatened to resign if we abolish capital punishment on the ground that the Army cannot be carried on without it. I do not think that they will resign. The bark of most of them is worse than their bite. To speak in this Debate and to say these things is a joy to which I have looked forward for a long time. I thank the House for having given me a patient hearing, and I hope hon. Members will pardon the strength of my language on this occasion. This is the only poor opportunity I have of "getting my own back."


My excuse for intervening in the Debate is, in the first instance, that I was a member of the Darling Committee which dealt with the whole court-martial system of the Army, and incidentally had to discuss a great deal of evidence concerned with the infliction of the death penalty. My other reason for rising is that I have had the honour of serving in the Army. The hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee) had a very honourable and prolonged career in the ranks and eventually became a commissioned officer, and continued that career successfully to the end. In the second instance we have had a speech from an hon. Member who was for a period in the ranks. My own position is probably unique, inasmuch as I started my career in a campaign of twenty-six years ago as a full lieutenant, and by easy stages descended through the various campaigns until I finished with the rank of full private. Therefore, if this Debate is to become a psychological Debate, I think that I am in a unique psychological position. The hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth told us of the procedure under the Army Act and said that it resulted in a very small percentage of sentences being carried out. There is another psychological point which the hon. and gallant Member neglected to mention. He did not remind the House of the feelings, not only in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief, who is the ultimate authority in the matter of the death sentence, but in the minds of all the officers through whose hands the report dealing with the matter has to pass. Take the case of the regimental or divisional officers. Of course, their first object, if they possibly can, is to save their own corps or regiment from the disgrace of having a death sentence. Therefore, as I know from my long and varied experience, every sort of quibble that can possibly be used is brought forward in favour of the man concerned, and, unless it is too obviously a quibble, it is accepted by the court in order to get the man off.

There is another point which, as I observed during my career in the ranks, applies to all cases of courts-martial. The British soldier, being well brought up—as we all are in these days of elementary education—knows that one must not hear false witness against one's neighbour, but he does not see any reason why he should not bear false witness in favour of his neighbour, and I am sorry to say he very often does so. Therefore, the trial of a man by court-martial, under military law, is not merely a fair trial; it goes very much beyond fairness. It is almost impossible, as far as my experience goes, for any real good soldier to be condemned by a court-martial, however guilty he may be. I remember a case which occurred late in my military career, when I was in a reserve regiment at home. There was a very clear case of a grave offence against discipline on the part of a non-commissioned officer. It so happened that I was only attached to that regiment, and as they had been extremely kind to me I felt that the duty of getting this non-commissioned officer off before the court-martial devolved upon me more than upon any other person. By a process in which, I am afraid, the law was severely injured, we got the non-commissioned officer off. This was a case where the offence was open and blatant and where 32 separate witnesses had seen it, and every one of these informed me on the night before the court-martial that they were prepared to swear, not only that the offence was not committed, but that the non-commissioned officer was not there and that the officer against whom the offence was committed was not there either.

I should like to return to the serious side of the matter. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also neglected to tell us that the number of cases of cowardice which get to the point of a court-martial is a very minute proportion of the whole. I happen to know of certain cases in my military career, and as I have been attached to so many different regiments, no one can possibly find out to which regiment I am referring. I know of case after case in which after orders had been received to go up to the front-line trenches, there were discussions—in the mess in the case of the officers, and in the ranks in the case of the men—as to some of our comrades whom we knew, or suspected, to be unfit to take part in a fight of any kind. The ingenuity which was used in any decent regular regiment to prevent either men or officers whose nerve was likely to give way from being subjected to the trial of trench work in modern warfare, was very great indeed. Even when we were actually in the trenches I have known cases of this kind. When I was serving as an officer in the trenches in front of Ypres I had my attention called by a man in the ranks to other men whose nerves were giving way, with the request that I should try, if I possibly could, to get them out of the trenches, on some excuse or other, before a really grave scandal to the regiment materialised. I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I think everyone who has been a member of the Services knows that such things are going on the whole time under active service conditions. One is always doing one's level best to prevent any disgrace resting upon the regiment, and, certainly, to prevent supreme disgrace falling upon one's very dear comrades whether in the ranks or among the commissioned officers. Therefore, I hope that those Members of the House who have had military experience on active service will remember that those cases where death sentences have been carried out, are cases which have been winnowed again and again, through the legal winnow and the psychological winnow and through the winnow of personal affection between comrade and comrade, before they get to the point where the sentence is carried out.


I am one of those people who have had no experience in the Army, Navy or Air Force, and I rise only to say that those of us who, in the past, have moved for the complete abolition of the death penalty—would have done so to-night had it not been for the fact that our friends sitting here have agreed to stand by the Amendments now on the Paper—when we come, as we shall come one of these days into power. I think that fact should be put on record, because last year we were severely criticised on the ground that when in office we were not doing that which we advocated when in opposition. As I understand it, our party is now pledged that when it becomes a Government again it will have this penalty abolished, and that this step will be taken by whoever is then at the War Office. On the general question of the death penalty, I would point out that only the other day the Secretary of State for War gave the case of two men—who belonged, I think, to the South Lancashire Regiment—who had never been in France, but who had absented themselves from the train at Waterloo, and were afterwards taken prisoners, brought over to France and executed there. I do not knew how anyone can defend the execution of those men in the light of the speeches we have heard to-night, but the right hon. Gentleman admitted only a week or ten days ago that such a case had occurred. In my view, capital punishment only deters the person who is killed; it has never proved a deterrent to others. The murders and crimes for which people are executed are not stopped by capital punishment, and every service man who has spoken in this Debate has logically proved that the death penalty is unnecessary.

We all know what excellent men and fine soldiers the Australians were and how the death penalty was not necessary for 99 per cent. of them. Hon. and gallant Members have proved that to their own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the House. They have also proved that out of 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 engaged in the last War, about 200 were executed for crimes set out in the Army Act. I think that is evidence to show that the Army, whatever else it may require to maintain discipline, does not require the death penalty. The arguments put up to-day have been put up in the past against all reforms of Army administration. We have been told that the Army would go to pieces if this thing were abolished, and that there would be no more discipline if the other thing were abolished; yet there is not a single service man, whatever his rank, who will stand up in this House and advocate restoring the old punishments.

I think hon. Members make a great mistake in seeking to maintain the contradictory propositions, first, that the death penalty need only be used very rarely and, second, that without it the Army would go to pieces. There are many things to which men must submit if they join the Army. Those who use force must expect to have force used against them. That is a perfectly logical position. If I tried to raise an army to fight for something I should expect an army to be used against me, but those of us who think that armies are unnecessary and that killing does not settle any question, feel that if you take any one of with whose principles and ideas you thoroughly disagree, and stand that person in the middle of that Floor and kill him, you will not prove his principles to be wrong; you will only prove that you are physically stronger than the person you kill, Therefore, I have no confidence in killing where human beings are concerned. I am sorry my hon. Friends sitting here have not gone the whole hog, but as they have gone a little way in our direction I do not propose to make any further speeches on the Amendments, and those who believe in the total abolition of the death penalty do not intend to move the Amendment to-night.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)

I think the Committee is possibly ready to come to a decision on the first of these Amendments, and I do not propose to make any long speech, especially as this question has been discussed on many previous occasions, but I feel it is necessary to announce the decision of the Government in the matter. We have had an extremely interesting Debate, in which this question has been threshed out from all points of view and in which we have had firsthand evidence from hon. and gallant Members who have been through every phase of life in the trenches, who have been present at courts-martial, and who have had personal experience of everything that goes on before a final decision is taken in these cases. No one listening to the Debate could fail to be struck with the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for Bosworth (Captain Gee) and the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who brought first-hand knowledge to bear upon the subject. In two successive years we have had two Debates upon this subject, and two Committees have considered whether or not the death penalty should be abolished. The first Committee was the Darling Committee, which took a great deal of evidence, which went into the matter carefully and which gave, I think, a unanimous Report against abolition. Then there was the Committee set up by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) presided over that Committee during the time when the evidence was being taken, but he went out of office, I think before the Report was made.


I went out of office when the Government left office, although it is quite true I was nominally Chairman of the Committee until 21st January, but that was only because there had not been a meeting up to that time to appoint a new Chairman.


I was trying to make it quite clear that I did not want to fix upon him any responsibility for the Report, because he was not in office at the time of the Report. His place as Chairman was taken by my hon. and gallant. Friend (Captain D. King), his successor in office, who, of course, and not the hon. Gentleman opposite, is responsible for the Report. The point I was making was that he was in the Chair when the evidence was taken, and so the picture that was presented by the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison), of the three soldiers coming in, three at a time, overawed with the brass hats, prevented from giving evidence which they would like to have given, giving something quite different from what they wanted to give, because they were browbeaten and afraid to tell their superior officers what they really thought, was somewhat fanciful. The hon. Gentleman sitting in front of him (Mr. Lawson) was the Chairman of that Committee. The hon. Gentleman had these three soldiers, one at a time, in front of him, and I am quite certain, from what I know of him, that he would not be browbeaten by any gentleman with a brass hat.


I never referred in my speech to anybody being browbeaten. I said it was not entirely wrong to expect that these private soldiers, ushered into the presence of admirals, vice-admirals, and rear-admirals, and then asked what was their opinion of the Army Act, would give only one answer, in 999 out of 1,000 cases, and that answer would be the answer that the people present expected them to give.


That Committee was really a very impartial Committee, and a very experienced Committee. I am perfectly certain that the Chairman of that Committee would have helped any witness who was in front of him, so as to be quite sure that he was getting the real views of that witness, and I am certain that he was not likely to allow witness after witness to come in and tell a parrot's tale. This Report is based upon that evidence and is unanimously in favour of the maintenance of the death penalty in serious cases. It is advised that there shall be some alterations, and those alterations have been accepted by the Government and are incorporated in the Bill which is now before the Committee. Those alterations call for important Amendments to the Army Ant, and I hope hon. Members presently will accept those alterations, which are in accordance with the Report of that Committee.

The case which, I think, has most impressed the Committee is the very serious and difficult question: Is there ever, or is there likely to be, a miscarriage of justice? Is it probable that a man will be punished, not for cowardice, but because his nerves have been broken? That was the case that the hon. Member (Mr. Thurtle) who moved the Amendment made, and he went on to say that you ought not to punish for cowardice at all. He said that cowardice was a state of mind, and that you ought not, therefore, to punish for it at all. I do not think, having regard to the evidence we have heard in this Committee to-day, there can be any doubt that every conceivable precaution is taken against a miscarriage of justice. Indeed, the hon. Member for Mossley told us how difficult it was to get a conviction at all in such a case as this by court-martial. Everybody conspires to find a reason why a conviction should not be made, and when a conviction has been made and sentence of death promulgated, or, rather, before it is promulgated, every conceivable step is taken to check the decision, to see whether it is completely in accordance with the legal requirements, and then to consider it on its merits, whether, after all, it is a sentence that ought or ought not to be carried out. The result, as hon. Members know, is that only 11 per cent. of the death sentences during the: War were in fact allowed to stand; 89 per cent. were altered by the Commander-in-Chief himself, not over here, but by the confirming authority there. He exercised his power of mercy, and he quashed 89 per cent. of the sentences of death. I think there cannot be any doubt that every precaution is taken against any miscarriage of justice in the course of these proceedings. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment gave various individual cases, which he quoted. Those cases, I suppose, came before this Committee, because the hon. Gentleman himself gave evidence before it.


Only some of them.


The hon. Member had the opportunity of put ting them all before the Committee.


I had not got them all at the time.


At any rate, the hon. Member put some of them before the Committee, and the Committee reported that the alleged failures of justice were cases which were often inaccurately and incompletely stated, and they found that no case was proved before them of any actual miscarriage of justice. I think this Committee is bound to accept that finding. It is not possible, in a Committee of this sort, to come to a final judgment about cases mentioned by an hon. Member here, however honest that hon. Member is, however much he wants to give the full case to us. It is impossible for Members of this Committee to come to a real, sane judgment upon a case that is necessarily sketchily put before it by an hon. Member. The Committee which reported could come to that judgment. They sat day after day for 10 or a dozen sittings. [An HON. MEMBER: "Far more than that!"] They sat at any rate for 10 or a dozen times with witnesses before them, and they considered the evidence, and could come to a judicial decision, and did come to a decision, namely, that there was not a single case proved before them of a miscarriage of justice, and that the allegations were frequently inaccurate and incomplete. I ask this Committee to adopt the Report, as we have adopted it, and to approve the judgment which they have given.

The hon. Member not only said that no one ought to be punished for cowardice, but he said: "Just think of the case of young men under 21, shot because their nerves failed," and he added: "That is not in accordance with our conception of justice." Of course, it is not, if we were dealing with normal times, peace times, anti normal conditions, but the hon. Member has to realise that the times when action of this sort has to be taken are not normal times; people are not even normal you have to deal with conditions which arise in the battle area, and you have to consider, not the man only, but his comrades. It is not so much a punishment as a deterrent that is aimed at. Take the case that the hon. Member himself mentioned, of a sentry sleeping at his post, and consider what that may mean. It may mean the lives of tens, even hundreds, of his comrades. It may mean the difference between the success or failure of a large operation, which may react upon thousands of lives.


Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the case of the drunken officer at his post in the front line?


I will do that in a moment, if the hon. Member will Allow me to finish this particular case, because, after all, it is a test. I do not want to see that sentry shot, any more than the hon. Member does, but he offers me no alternative. Something has to be done to protect the other men, that sentry's comrades, and something has to be done not to endanger the whole operation. What is his alternative? There is no alternative. It is no use saying that that man shall have penal servitude, that he shall be sent to the rear and put in prison. That is a very safe place, and there is no doubt that that would not be, in those conditions, the same deterrent as the retention of the death penalty. You have, as I say, to consider not merely the individual, but the lives of his comrades and the success of the operations. The hon. Member said: "What about the officer who was drunk in a forward post?" and he compared that with a soldier. I have made inquiries since he spoke, and there was not, I am told, a single soldier shot during the War for drunkenness.

As for the suggestion that officers and men are differently treated under the Army Act, there has been a differentiation in the past in some respects, especially under Section 18 of the Army Act, dealing with malingering, and I have an Amendment included in this Bill which turns the word "soldier" in that. Section into the words "a person subject to military law," which does include the officer. I am putting the officer and the man on precisely the same footing, and in nearly all—I think, in all—the important Sections now, the officer and the man will he on the same footing. Not that cashiering was not a very severe punishment, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southport (Lieut. - Colonel Dalrymple White) pointed out. At the time it was first in operation, practically all the officers came from, as he described it, the county family class, and cashiering an officer was to drum him out of society, and to prevent him living in the county, or practically to prevent him from continuing to associate with those with whom he formerly associated.

I wish it were possible to get rid of war. If we could get rid of war and all its inconveniences and hardships, we could get rid of the death penalty, undoubtedly, but so long as we have to have an army, and a disciplined army, it is to the interests of the army that the death penalty shall be retained, in order, not that it shall be exercised—I hope it will be seldom exercised, as indeed it was seldom exercised during the War, when one realises that under 300 death sentences were carried out in all that large army—but for the purpose of acting as a deterrent and for the protection of soldiers and their comrades. I can only say that all the proceedings in a court-martial are carried out with the greatest care and impartiality. There is no callousness. There is a great humanity right through, from the start to the very finish, and whoever deals with any stage in the proceedings is influenced by a feeling of immense responsibility. I feel perfectly certain that, so far as justice can ever be guaranteed, it is guaranteed by the system in force in courts-martial.


I would like to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the very definite and specific question which I put to him at the end of my remarks, when I asked him whether, in view of the fact that the Australian Government refused to put upon its troops the painful duty of executing some of their own comrades, he did not think, with that example before him, lie might accord the same treatment to soldiers of the British Army. Will he be good enough to answer that specific question?


The hon. Gentleman is not quite right in relation to the conditions under which the Australians serve. The death penalty was not entirely abrogated in that case. There was a death penalty for mutiny, treachery, and desertion to the enemy. I do not, however, propose to accept the invitation to answer the question. I have not the slightest desire to make any comparison whatever between the Australians and ourselves. I cannot help thinking—of course, I am not suggesting it is intentional—that this question has a mischievous aspect, and an answer to it would not help the Committee, but would merely make mischief.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 320.

Division No. 68.] AYES. [6.48 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Sexton, James
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hastings, Sir Patrick Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hayday, Arthur Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Sitch, Charles H.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hirst, G. H. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smillie, Robert
Barnes, A. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Barr, J. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Batey, Joseph Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Snell, Harry
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Bromfield, William Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Stamford, T. W.
Bromley, J. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Stephen, Campbell
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Kelly, W. T. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Buchanan, G. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Sutton, J. E.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Lansbury, George Taylor, R. A.
Cape, Thomas Lawson, John James Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Charleton, H. C. Lee, F. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Cluse, W. S. Livingstone, A. M. Thurtle, E.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lowth, T. Tinker, John Joseph
Cove, W. G. Mackinder, W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) MacLaren, Andrew Varley, Frank B.
Dalton, Hugh Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Viant, S. P.
Day, Colonel Harry March, S. Wallhead, Richard C.
Dennison, R. Maxton, James Warne, G. H.
Duncan, C. Montague, Frederick Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)
Dunnico, H. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Fenby, T. D. Murnin, H. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Gibbins, Joseph Naylor, T. E. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Gillett, George M. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Welsh, J. C.
Gosling, Harry Oliver, George Harold Westwood J.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Palin, John Henry Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Paling, W. Whiteley, W.
Greenall, T. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Wignall, James
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Ponsonby, Arthur Williams, Dr. J. H (Llanelly)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Potts, John S. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Groves, T. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Grundy, T. W. Riley, Ben Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Ritson, J. Windsor, Walter
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F.O.(W. Bromwich) Wright, W.
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)
Hardie, George D. Salter, Dr. Alfred TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. T. Kennedy and Mr. Hayes.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Cobb, Sir Cyril
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.
Ainsworth, Major Charles Brass, Captain W. Cohen, Major J. Brunei
Albery, Irving James Briscoe, Richard George Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Brocklebank, C. E. R. Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Conway, Sir W. Martin
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.Derby) Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Cooper, A. Duff
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Cope, Major William
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Buckingham, Sir H. Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Astor, Viscountess Bullock, Captain M. Crawfurd, H. E.
Atholl, Duchess of Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Crook, C. W.
Atkinson, C. Burman, J. B. Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)
Baidwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D. Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Burton, Colonel H. W. Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert
Balniel, Lord Butler, Sir Geoffrey Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Butt, Sir Alfred Curzon, Captain Viscount
Barnett, Major Richard W. Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Dalkeith, Earl of
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Campbell, E. T. Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Cassels, J. D. Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Cautley, Sir Henry S. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Bennett, A. J. Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)
Berry, Sir George Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Bethell, A. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Dixey, A. C.
Betterton, Henry B. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Doyle, Sir N. Grattan
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Drewe, C.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Chapman, Sir S. Eden, Captain Anthony
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Edmondson, Major A. J.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Christie, J. A. Edwards, John H. (Accrington)
Blundell, F. N. Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Ellis, R. G.
Boothby, R. J. G. Clarry, Reginald George Elveden, Viscount
England, Colonel A. Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Rentoul, G. S.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Rhys. Hon. C. A. U.
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Jacob, A. E. Rice, Sir Frederick
Evans, Captain A (Cardiff, South) Jephcott, A. R. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Everard, W. Lindsay Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Falls, Sir Charles F. Kennedy, A. R. (Preston). Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Ropner, Major L.
Fermoy, Lord Kindersley, Major Guy M. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Fielden, E. B. King, Captain Henry Douglas Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Finburgh, S. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Knox, Sir Alfred Salmon, Major I.
Fleming, D. P. Lamb, J. Q. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Ford, P. J. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Forestier-Walker, L. Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Sandeman, A. Stewart
Forrest, W. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Foster, Sir Harry S. Loder, J. de V. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Lord, Walter Greaves- Sandon, Lord
Fraser, Captain Ian Lougher, L. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Lumley, L. R. Savery, S. S.
Galbraith, J. F. W. MacAndrew, Charles Glen Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Ganzoni, Sir John Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)
Gates, Percy McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Macintyre, Ian Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Gee, Captain R McLean, Major A. Shepperson, E. W.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Macmillan, Captain H. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Glyn, Major R. G. C. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Skelton, A. N.
Goff, Sir Park McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Grace, John Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Grant, J. A. Macquisten, F. A. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Greene, W. P. Crawford MacRobert, Alexander M. Smithers, Waldron
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Grotrian, H. Brent Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Margesson, Captain D. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K. Stott, Lieut.-Colon I W. H.
Hall, Capt. W. D'A (Brecon & Rad.) Meller, R. J. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Merriman, F. B. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hammersley, S. S. Meyer, Sir Frank Styles, Captain H. Walter
Hanbury, C. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Harland, A. Mitchell. Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Harrison, G. J. C. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Templeton, W. P.
Hartington, Marquess of Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Moreing, Captain A. H. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Haslam, Henry C. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)
Hawke, John Anthony Murchison, C. K. Tinne, J. A.
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Nelson, Sir Frank Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley) Neville, R. J. Turton, Edmund Russborough
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Waddington, R.
Henn, Sir Sydney H. Nuttall, Ellis Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Oakley, T. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Henniker-Hoghan, Vice-Adm. Sir A O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Warrender, Sir Victor
Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Hilton, Cecil Owen, Major G. Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Pennefather, Sir John Wells, S. R.
Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy Penny, Frederick George White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Holland, Sir Arthur Perring, William George Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Holt, Captain H. P. Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Homan, C. W. J. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Winby, Colonel L. P.
Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Philipson, Mabel Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Pielou, D. P. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hopkins, J. W. W. Pilcher, G. Wise, Sir Fredric
Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Power, Sir John Cecil Wolmer, Viscount
Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Womersley, W. J.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Preston, William Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R. Ripon)
Hudson, R. S. (Cumb'l'nd, Whiteh'n) Price, Major C. W. M. Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Hume, Sir G. H. Radford, E. A. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Raine, W. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Huntingfield, Lord Ramsden, E. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Hurst, Gerald B. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Rawson, Alfred Cooper TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Reid, Captain A. S. C. (Warrington) Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir Harry
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Reid, D. D. (County Down) Barnston,

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. THURTLE: In page 3, line 37, at the end, to insert the words: In Section five the following paragraphs shall be inserted after paragraph (6):—

(7) Shamefully abandons or delivers up any garrison, place, post, or guard, or uses any means to compel or induce any governor, commanding officer, or other person shamefully to abandon or deliver up any garrison, place, post, or guard which it was the duty of such governor, officer, or person to defend;

(8) Shamefully casts away his arms, ammunition, or tools in the presence of the enemy;

(9) Knowingly does when on active service any act calculated to imperil the success of His Majesty's forces or any part thereof;

(10) Misbehaves or induces others to misbehave before the enemy in such manner as to show cowardice."

7.0. P.M.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)

The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for

Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) is consequential on the last Amendment, and is out of order.


There are several other Amendments, but we do not propose to move any more of the Amendments dealing with the death penalty, so that there will be more time left. We believe that the discussion already has covered our point.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clauses 5 (Amendment of Section 18 of Army Act), 6 (Amendments of Section 46 of Army Act), 7 (Amendment of Section 47 of Army Act), 8 (Amendment of Section 57 of Army Act), 9 (Amendment of Section 71 of Army Act), 10 (Amendment of provisions as to impressment of carriages), 11 (Amendment of Section 137 of Army Act), 12 (Amendment of Section 138 of Army Act), 13 (Amendment of Section 163 of Army Act), 14 (Printing. of Army Act), 15 (Application to Air Force), 16 (Amendment of Sections 183 and 190 of Army Act), 17 (Definition of "Corps"), 18 (Amendment of Sections 44, 46 and 138 of Air Force Act), 19 (Amendment of Section 87 of Air Force Act), 20 (Amendment of provisions as to billeting), and 21 (Amendment of Section 175 of Air Force Act), ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The following proposed new Clause stood o71, the Order Paper in the name of Mr. MACKINDER: