HC Deb 05 April 1935 vol 300 cc764-5

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

3.34 p.m.


Can the Secretary of State tell us precisely what are the functions of the advisers referred to in the Clause? Secondly, what is the constitution of this body of advisers? Is there a proportion of Indians and of Britishers? Is any departure implied in the Clause from the practice which has been followed hitherto in this matter?


The Chapter which deals with the Secretary of State and his advisers begins with Clause 264 and as it deals with the duties of the Council, perhaps we had better not discuss it. Speaking generally, it is contemplated that the advisers would supervise the Services just as they do now.


This is rather important. Do I understand that as things are now these advisers can veto any proposal by the Secretary of State in regard to the Service questions which are involved in this Clause?


Yes, he has to obtain their advice—by a majority.


As this is the first Clause which brings in the question of the advisers of the Secretary of State, I should like to develop just a little further the argument raised by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones). I will not go very far. Unless we make a challenge here, we shall have lost our rights in respect of this Chapter. Obviously it would be improper for me to discuss now the full significance of Clause 264, but the Committee should realise that, in passing this Clause, we may in part invalidate the other provisions of the Chapter if by chance the advisers appointed by the Secretary of State happen to take a point of view fundamentally different from his. Of course, the Secretary of State appoints them, but, although the Secretary of State is a permanent institution, the individual holder of that office may be a changing person. Moreover, it is not a question of an actual majority, because, in one sense, the Secretary of State has a casting vote, since, under Clause 264 (7), all that is necessary is that at least half his advisers should agree with him. Again, I understand that these persons are irremovable. I want to know what is the significance of what we are doing. Supposing that we pass this Chapter and the Secretary of State can do all these things, and that we then find that he cannot do them unless he gets the concurrence of half his advisers, if he does not get the concurrence of half his advisers all the safeguards may crash.




It is conceivable that that may happen, and there is no power of over-riding it, because the appointments of these persons must run for five years, unless they resign or become incapable or infirm. I want the Committee to realise how far we are going in passing this Clause to-day. I challenge it now, but we shall be able to discuss the question properly when we get to Clause 264.

3.37 p.m.


My hon. Friend, no doubt unwittingly, has put a very curious construction on Clause 250. This is regarded as one of the principal Service safeguards, and I have been pressed to retain it by almost every representation that I have had from the Services. The Services regard it as a great safeguard that one-half of the Secretary of State's Council should be civilians, and that the Secretary of State in Service matters—such, for instance, as the question of the changing of the rules affecting the Services—should be forced to have the concurrence of the Council with him. I hope that this explanation will remove my hon. Friend's anxiety.

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