HC Deb 13 April 1937 vol 322 cc907-8

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

10.12 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I should like to ask for some explanation of the exact effect of the Amendment proposed in the Army Act, because I see that it gives the power to the billeting officer to accept accommodation of a more limited character for the troops in billets than that specified in the Army Act. My experience is that such accommodation was generally limited enough in all conscience, as far as the private soldiers were concerned, and it cannot be in keeping with the idea of the Secretary of State for War that the soldier in the future should be housed better than in the past to give this power to the billeting officer to accept more limited accommodation than the Army Act has hitherto required him to provide for troops. I hope it does not mean that what the Secretary of State for War somewhat ostentatiously gave on the day when he was introducing his own Estimates, is now to be withdrawn by this provision.

10.14 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

May I ask what are the circumstances which led to the alteration of this law? On the face of it there does not seem to be any alteration, as far as I can gather by examination of the Clause and of the Memorandum, but I take it that the object is to clarify the position. It seems to me that, if it was so clear before, some incident or incidents must have arisen which have made this change necessary. As a matter of fact, it deals largely with the case of emergency, but I understand we have rough-and-ready Estimates, and we are very much more limited in our knowledge than we are in ordinary conditions. I should have thought there might have been a second look at the position with a view to improving it.

10.15 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Victor Warrender)

All that this Amendment does is to clarify the powers which the military authorities have. There is laid down in the Army Act what the standard requirement is to be for the billeting of troops, but it may be necessary to ask for a lower standard of accommodation in conditions of emergency, when the authorities may be required to supply merely sleeping quarters for soldiers without making arrangements for feeding. As it was not clear in the Act that the military authorities are entitled to requisition a lower standard of accommodation, this Amendment is being made in order to clarify the position. It is no new departure. It is merely stating in the Act the principle that the greater includes the less.

Mr. Lawson

It has always been fairly clear that there was power to requisition outhouses and certain places connected with a hotel rather than the hotel itself in cases of emergency, or schools or places of that description, without the necessary feeding or the utensils for cooking, and so on. I thought it was so clear in the Clause dealing with emergencies that there must have been some circumstances which led up to this Amendment.

Clauses 5 and 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.