HC Deb 29 June 1925 vol 185 cc2015-6

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that previous to November, 1918, there were no written Regulations dealing with the civil rights of naval ratings at general elections; that on that date permission was given to officers and men to address political meetings in plain clothes and for ratings to attend political meetings in uniform; and that paragraph 6 of A.M.O. 3349/1922 has been cancelled and no officer or man may in any way, even privately, take part in an election; and if he will issue an A.M.O. reverting to the older practice?


It is the fact, first, that there was before 1918 no written Regulation specifically prohibiting the participation of naval officers or men in general elections or political campaigns, but the unwritten rule of the Service was well understood and was generally observed. The special directions giving certain liberty of action in this matter were issued for the December, 1918, election, solely owing to the fact that general demobilisation was in progress but not complete and that therefore the Navy, like the Army at that time, contained numbers of officers and men whose service was for the War only, and who were reverting to their normal peace statue as civilians. After the War it was recognised that this rule was really only applicable to the special circumstances of the demobilisation period and it was therefore cancelled as stated. With regard to the last clause of my hon. Friend's question, the effect of the foregoing is that a reversion to the pre-1918 practice has taken place; for though restrictive rules were not at that period codified the custom and rule of the Service prior to 1918 gave no encouragement to, but discountenanced, the participation in political campaigns of serving naval officers and men.