HC Deb 16 April 1930 vol 237 cc3051-9

Order read for Consideration of Lords Amendments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."—[Mr. T. Shaw.]


I am sure that we shall expect a statement from the Secretary of State for War or some Member of the Government as to the course that the Government propose to take.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)

I respond willingly. I have carefully read the Debate in another place, and note particularly one remark made by the Noble Lord who moved the Amendment which was made to the Bill. He said that in a comparatively small House, 354 out of a total of 615, the decision taken was taken by a majority of only 84. I am entitled to call attention to the fact that the House which amended the Commons' decision consisted of 57 members out of a total of 733. I thought I would call attention to the arithmetic, in order that we might form some idea of whether the criticism about numbers was well grounded or not. I have read the discussions with scrupulous care, and I do not see any new arguments from those used in this House. I respect very highly many of those who took part in the Debate, but I cannot say that I noticed any new point, nor did I notice any point more strongly stated or better stated than it was stated in this House.

The Government's position is that they disagree with the Lords in their Amendments and that the Government Whips will be put on against them. Equally, the Government Whips will be put on against the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne). The point having been sub- mitted to a free Vote of the House, and the House having decided the point, the Government accept that decision, and the Government Whips will be put on in its favour.


The Secretary of State for War said that be would not trouble the House with any Arguments, that he would not repeat any of the arguments used in the previous Debate. The arguments against the course which he is asking the House to adopt were arguments which on a previous occasion appealed to him so strongly that he testified to his opinion in the Lobby in opposition to the views of a great many of those with whom he is accustomed to act. The proposals having gore to another place, a similar latitude was exercised, and the question which will be before us in a few minutes is not whether we should support the Government in carrying the proposals which they have put forward as a responsible executive body, but whether the same latitude of opinion, apart from the guidance of the executive, shall not be allowed to the Second Chamber as has been utilised here. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) has an Amendment which reduces the difference between the two Houses to a very small point and offers to the Government the opportunity of obtaining this vitally important and, indeed, indispensable legislation in exactly the form in which they, as a responsible Administration, framed it and brought it forward. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should weigh the matter very carefully, because, undoubtedly, it is strictly within the competence of the Second Chamber to carry a modification of this kind, and if they should-of course, I do not forecast what their action may be—adhere to their view, and if they should take the same view as is embodied in the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend, they would, after all, only be standing on the same foundation of judgment and authority as was adopted by the Secretary of State for War, by the Secretary of State for India, by, indeed, the responsible Government as a whole when they originally introduced the Motion. The ground on which the Second Chamber would be standing would be a very strong one, and obviously their power to adhere to that ground, if they choose, would be inexpungable. The respon- sibility rests with the Government of the day for procuring assent for this vital and indispensable legislation, and part of their responsibility will be discharged by paying proper attention to the lawfully expressed views of other parties in the Constitution.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.

CLAUSE 5.—(Abolition of death penalty in certain cases.)

Lords Amendment: In page 4, leave out Clause 5.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. T. Shaw.]

Captain BOURNE

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the words restored to the Bill, in page 4, line 33, to leave out paragraph (3).

This is the paragraph which the Lords have reinstated in the Bill. As the Secretary of State for War has said, the effect of my Amendment, if accepted, would be merely to bring the Bill back to the form in which it was originally introduced in this House by the Government. I think we are entitled to assume that, when the Government introduces a Bill of this nature and importance, the form in which it is originally introduced in this House is the one which has the approval of the Army Council, and the one for which the Government as a whole is responsible. I feel reinforced in that argument by the fact that the Secretary of State for War expressed very strongly to the House the view that the Amendment made in the Bill was one that he could not support, and he went so far as to back up that opinion by voting against the Amendment in the Division Lobby. In a matter of this kind, we ought to pay great attention to the opinion of the Secretary of State for War.

I listened with very great attention to the Debate on this subject, and it seemed to me that the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) and other hon. Members were founded upon a totally false assumption. The hon. Member for Shore-ditch, who served with distinction in the War, based the whole of his argument on the improbability of war on a large scale in the future. I do not anticipate that in the lifetime of any hon. Member of this House we shall see another war on the scale and under the same conditions as the war between 1914 and 1918. If hon. Members turn up the history of this country, they will find that between the Great War and the Napoleonic War we were involved only in two campaigns of any magnitude. One was the Crimean War and the other was the Boer War. We have fought innumerable campaigns in different parts of the world, none of them on a very large scale. We had two campaigns in Afghanistan, one in Scind and others in China, Abyssinia, West Africa, two in South Africa and two in Egypt. Is there any person in this House who would prophesy that we are not likely to have a frontier war in defence of our own position to ensure peace in our own territories? When you are dealing with a war of that sort, the experience gained in the Great War is a totally fallacious basis to go on. There, the men were up against high explosives and an uncomfortable life in the trenches. It was not my own fate to serve under those conditions. [Interruption.] I served in another theatre of war. But I do realise that heavy shell-fire is a thing which is liable to make a man fear. When, however, you are engaged in the kind of war in which we engaged in the last century, what really irks people is not the danger to life, but the incessant fatigue and marches, and the great privations inseparable from a frontier campaign. If hon. Members will study the accounts of the American Civil War, they will find that the greatest difficulty arose from desertions. It was that which affected the strengths of the North and South armies when they went into battle. It was not because the men were afraid to fight, but because they became tired to death of the eternal routine of marches and counter-marches.

In a war of that sort, if it should be our fate ever to undertake it again, the greatest danger of desertion would arise from the fact that the men might become fed up, It is a complaint which is very easily infectious on active service, and it certainly was in the American Civil War. I think in this case we should take the advice of those who have been responsible for conducting military operations and have had a wider experience than any of us who took part in the Great War can possibly have had. The conditions of that War are not likely to be repeated, and we are legislating on this occasion, not for a large Army, either voluntary or conscript, raised from among our fellow citizens, but for the professional Forces of the Crown.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to second the Amendment.


I suggest that the House would be sadly lacking in a sense of its own dignity if it were to discuss the merits of this question again. This House is the duly elected representative House of the people, and, after considering this question on its merits recently, it came to a unanimous decision on a free vote in favour of the abolition of the death penalty for desertion. In these circumstances, it seems to me an arrogance and impertinence and a piece of astounding audacity on the part of another place, which has been described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) as a worn-out anachronism, to presume to attempt to override the decision of the elected representatives of the people, come to without any hesitation. The House should not demean itself by once again debating the merits of the question and should reject the Lords Amendment.


I would ask the Secretary of State to consider very seriously whether he ought not to accept this Amendment. It simply restores the position originally taken up by the Government. It simply restores the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman himself, and also the Secretary of State for India, voted for, and which no Member of the Government voted against. It does seem to me that in these circumstances the responsibility of the Executive is very considerable. The Executive thought fit to allow a free vote of the

House on this question. They are perfectly entitled to do that, but when they find themselves confronted by an equally free vote, I do not see why they should decline to accept the responsibility. This House, in the present circumstances, ought to be guided by the attitude of the Executive, and, in view of what has happened in another place, I do not think that the Executive can disclaim responsibility. If the Amendment is accepted, we go back to the position which was originally taken up by the Government, which the Secretary of State himself warmly commended to the House, and for which he himself voted. If he accepts this Amendment, the House of Commons will probably be able to present a united front to the House of Lords on this question, because the Amendment does not go nearly so far as the Amendment which has come down from the other House. No one in any quarter of this house denies that the House of Lords does occupy some position in the Constitution of this country, and, if the right hon. Gentleman persists in declining to accept any responsibility on behalf of the Government, a very grave and serious situation will arise, because, if a clash on this issue takes place, and the other House does not give way, the right hon. Gentleman may be compelled to accept responsibility for having no discipline at all in the Army. In these circumstances I think he ought to consider very seriously whether he would not be well advised to accept this Amendment, when there might be a reasonable accommodation between the Houses. If there is no accommodation, it seems to me that an almost impossible situation will arise.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 194 Noes. 50.

Division No. 259.] AYES. [11 58 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Barnes, Alfred John Brooke, W.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Brothers, M.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Bellamy, Albert Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M. Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Brown, Ernest (Leith)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)
Alpass, J. H. Benson, G. Burgess, F. G.
Ammon, Charles George Bentham, Dr. Ethel Burgin, Dr. E. L.
Angell, Norman Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Caine, Derwent Hall.
Arnott, John Bowen, J. W. Cameron, A. G.
Ayles, Walter Broad, Francis Alfred Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Brockway, A. Fenner Charleton. H. C.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Bromley, J. Chater, Daniel
Church, Major A. G. Law, A. (Rosendale) Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Cluse, W. S. Lawrence, Susan Ritson, J.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)
Compton, Joseph Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Romeril, H G.
Dagger, George Leach, W. Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Dallas, George Lees, J. Rowson, Guy
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lindley, Fred W. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Dickson, T. Logan, David Gilbert Sanders, W. S.
Dukes, C. Longbottom, A. W. Sandham, E.
Duncan, Charles Longden, F. Sawyer, G. F.
Ede, James Chuter Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Edmunds, J. E. Lunn, William Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) McElwee, A. Sherwood, G. H.
Egan, W. H. McEntee, V. L. Shield, George William
Forgan, Dr. Robert MacLaren, Andrew Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Freeman, Peter McShane, John James Shillaker, J. F.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham. Upton) Marcus, M. Shinwell, E.
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.) Markham, S. F. Simmons, C. J.
Gill, T. H. Marley, J. Sinkinson, George
Glassey, A. E. Marshall, Fred Sitch, Charles H.
Gossling, A. G. Mathers, George Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)
Gould, F. Matters, L. W. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Messer, Fred Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Middleton, G. Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Mills, J. E. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Milner, Major J. Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Groves, Thomas E. Montague, Frederick Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Morley, Ralph Sorensen, R.
Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Mort, D. L. Stamford, Thomas W.
Hammersley, S. S. Moses, J. J. H. Stephen, Campbell
Hardie, George D. Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent) Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Harris, Percy A. Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick) Thurtle, Ernest
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Murnin, Hugh Tinker, John Joseph
Haycock, A. W. Naylor, T. E. Tout, W. J.
Hayes, John Henry Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Noel Baker, P. J. Turner, B.
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Oldfield, J. R. Vaughan, D. J.
Herrlotts, J. Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Viant, S. P.
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Owen, H. F. (Hereford) Walkden, A. G.
Hoffman, P. C. Palln John Henry Wallace, H. W.
Horrabin, J. F. Paling, Wilfrid Wellock, Wilfred
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Isaacs, George Perry, S. F. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Phillips, Dr. Marlon Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Picton-Turbervill, Edith Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford) Pole, Major D. G. Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Kelly, W. T. Price, M. P. Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Kennedy, Thomas Pybus, Percy John Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Kinley, J. Quibell, D. F. K.
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Rathbone, Eleanor TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Lathan, G. Raynes, W. R. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.
Law, Albert (Bolton) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) William Whiteley.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Ganzoni, Sir John Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Albery, Irving James Greene, W. P. Crawford Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Atholl, Duchess of Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kin'dlne,C.)
Boothby, R. J. G. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Smithers, Waldron
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Kindersley, Major G. M. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Thomson, Sir F.
Carver, Major W. H. Knox, Sir Alfred Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Todd, Capt. A. J.
Colman, N. C. D. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Colville, Major D. J. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Cranborne, Viscount Power, Sir John Cecil Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Womersley, W. J.
Dalkeith, Earl of Ramsbotham, H. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Elliot, Major Walter E. Ross, Major Ronald D. Sir George Hennessy and Sir
Ferguson, Sir John Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A. Victor Warrender.

SECOND SCHEDULE.—(Special modifications to be made in Part II of this Act for the purposes of its application, to the Air Force Act.)

Lords Amendment: In page 8, leave out from the end of line 33 to the end of line 5, in page 9.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. T. Shaw.]

Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their Amendments to the Bill.

Committee nominated of Mr. Secretary Shaw, Mr. A. V. Alexander, Mr. Boothby, Mr. Ernest Brown, and Mr. Shinwell.

Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. T. Shaw.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reason for disagreeing to Lords Amendments, reported, and agreed to.

To be communicated to the Lords.—[Mr. T. Shaw.]