HC Deb 13 April 1937 vol 322 cc909-27

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

I beg to move, in page 5, line 4, after "soldier," to insert "in writing."

I want to enter a strong protest against the Committee being asked to start the consideration of this Bill when only three-quarters of an hour of the normal Parliamentary day is left. It will be in the memory of Members of the Committee that we had something which I, at least, regarded as an honourable pledge, that this Bill would not be taken at an unusual and inconvenient time. It is a shocking thing that this Measure, which is one of increasing importance in the light of the developments in the Defence Services, should be taken at a time when only a minority of the House are prepared to interest themselves in it, and when that minority has already had a long day on other matters. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury is not treating Members of Parliament properly in this respect—neither the Members on his own side nor the Members on this side. Yesterday it was known that if the Measure did not come on before about 9 o'clock, the Government would not attempt to take it. After 9 o'clock was too late an hour yesterday for the adequate discussion of the Bill. It was all wrong on Monday, but it seems to be all right on Tuesday. I for one protest very strongly against that treatment.

This Measure deals with the conditions which are to govern the men serving in the armed forces for the ensuing year. It is true that it is an Army Annual Bill, but that is no reason why we should treat it as a matter of routine and as something of no account. During this last year the Secretary of State for War has been compelled to make all sorts of changes in order to induce recruits to come into the Army. He has had to alter time-worn institutions, and it seems to me that, in addition, substantial changes will have to be made in the status of the private soldier. He is no longer going to be treated as the inferior creature; that he is so regarded now is manifest in every line of the Army Act, as modified by subsequent Army Annual Acts. He is a citizen soldier with full rights, an intelligent thinking being, a political person and not merely an instrument of war. He is entitled as a soldier still to be a citizen, and to be treated as a citizen, and the rules and regulations which we are so easily inclined to pass each year, which were originally passed in 1881, are out of date as compared with the general social conditions of the people and the general political outlook of the people.

I make my protest most strongly against being called upon to start now to debate this Measure, with the dilemma in front of me that either I must scamp the job, which I believe is a job which should be done thoroughly and carefully, or subject myself and other Members to undue and undesirable physical strain. If the Parliamentary Secretary is determined to inflict this on the Committee to-night, I hope that on subsequent occasions he will try so to order his business that he will not be in the position of having to say "This is the only possible night in the whole Parliamentary year when this Bill can be passed." It is preposterous that he should be saying that. He has not been subjected to obstruction in getting through Government business, but has had every possible aid. I cannot think of a single bit of obstruction during the present Session, and we have had the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule nearly every night, and yet he says that this Measure can be got through only if it is taken during the night, a most unfair treatment of the Members of the House of Commons.

The Amendment I have moved is admittedly on a minor point, and may be regarded as too trivial to be worrying about, but it would make a tremendous difference in the relationship of the soldier to the Army. It deals with the right of a man to be discharged immediately when he returns time-expired from foreign service. This Bill proposes to amend the basic Act by adding the words: Provided that the competent military authority may, with the consent of the soldier, delay his discharge, so however that he be discharged within three months from his arrival. He is asking for a longer term of service than can be demanded of the soldier. He is asking to extend the effective service time of the soldier, he says only with the soldier's consent, but I want to have that consent made certain; I want that consent as a real, definite and individual thing. I want the soldier actually to state in writing that he is willing to do this extended period of three months so that there will be none of this "Step forward everybody who is ready to go on for another three months—and God help anybody who does not step forward." That sort of thing has been all too common in the practice of the armed forces. If the man's contract of service is to be extended with his consent, that consent should be definitely stated in writing as any other ordinary business contract would be, between two citizens. We are asking for the private soldier the ordinary rights of the civilian citizen in this matter.

Sir V. Warrender

I want to rise straight away, because I think the hon. Gentleman has not quite understood the object of this Clause.

Mr. Maxton

A common mistake I make.

Sir V. Warrender

It is to enable soldiers who have finished their service with the Colours to be retained in the Army and to continue to draw their pay and allowances, so as to enable them to go on a training course, or to go on furlough and enable them to—

Mr. Maxton

There is nothing about that in this Amendment.

Sir V. Warrender

I am not talking about the Amendment; I am talking about the Clause. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point is that a man's service shall not be extended by three months unless he is willing that the service shall be so extended, but no man's service is extended under the Clause unless he is willing that that should be done. Indeed, in anticipation of the passage of the Bill, a form has already been prepared in draft which a man covered by the Clause would be required to sign. On this form it says: I … hereby consent to my transfer to the Army Reserve, or my discharge, being delayed for such period as will enable me to complete a maximum of three months' service from date of disembarkation, on the understanding that, should I obtain civilian employment before that date, I shall be transferred to the Army Reserve, or discharged, on such date as will enable me to take up such employment. There is no possible chance of any man suffering as a result of the Measure we are adopting under the Clause.

The hon. Gentleman's Amendment is, therefore, unnecessary, because it is not the practice in the Army to obtain the soldier's consent to any procedure without getting him to sign a document. In view of my observations, I hope that the hon. Member will not wish to press the Amendment.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

I am rather astonished that the Government cannot accept this simple Amendment. When the right hon. Gentleman announced to the House that he was going to take this course, in order to be quite sure, in the first place, of giving a man the chance of obtaining training, and then the chance of getting a job, it was clear that there was a certain danger such as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), and when I received the Bill I made a note to ask what steps will be taken to make it quite clear that this is to be voluntary. The method now is, or it used to be at any rate, to let the man go about a fortnight before his discharge, and then give him a kind of 14 days' leave. I was going to ask the right hon. Gentleman where the man is to spend the extra three months. Is he to spend it in barracks, or is he to be discharged and allowed to go home during that period? The right hon. Gentleman's intention was definitely to allow a man three months for the purpose of gaining training or of finding a job without being thrown on the streets.

The Financial Secretary has told us that the man is to sign a certain form. Signing forms is a very formal matter in the Army. Soldiers are not like people who are used to reading carefully all the forms that they sign, and I should have thought that the best way to make it quite clear to the soldier that he was voluntarily signing for another three months, in order to gain some good for himself, would be to give him a chance to submit that definitely in writing, and I do not understand why the War Office cannot agree to accept this Amendment, which is simply designed to make more clear what was evidently in the mind of the War Office, but might rather do harm than good if the man does not clearly understand that it is a voluntary action on his part.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

At the beginning I thought very little of this Amendment, if I may respectfully say so to the hon. Member who moved it, but, having heard the explanation of the Financial Secretary to the War Office, I am at a loss to understand why he refuses to accept it. He has told us that there is a form which is intended for the purpose of obtaining the consent of the soldier. That form, presumably, has to be signed, and, if so, why object to the Amendment, which says that the soldier's consent must be obtained in writing? That is precisely what the Financial Secretary to the War Office intends, and, if that is the intention, why not say so in explicit terms, so as to put the matter beyond all doubt? That is the simple point at issue, as I understand it, unless there is some further explanation to offer. Perhaps the Secretary of State himself has some further explanation to offer to the Committee and, if so, we shall be very glad to hear what it is; but if there is no further explanation beyond that which has been given already, I cannot understand why the Amendment should not be accepted.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

I hope we shall have some further explanation as to why these words cannot be accepted. I desire to point out to the Committee that without these words, although the War Office has this benevolent purpose in view, in the event of the present international situation resulting in a war the men coming into this position might be quite easily commandeered for those extra three months. It would be very easy for the War Office to take that line without having to come to Parliament to obtain statutory power to do so. I hope we shall have some explanation why these words should not go in to make the matter explicit. Men who have served their time are entitled to a definite statement with regard to the position in which they are being placed. I would insist on a real answer being given why the Amendment is not being accepted, because, on the Minister's previous statement, it is evident that what he should have said is that he considered it unnecessary because this is what they were going to do, but some of us have so little faith in the National Government and in the War Office that he was quite willing to meet our lack of faith and put in the words.

10.37 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Duff Cooper)

There is no need to contemplate that taking men on for an extra three months who would otherwise be liable to discharge would play a great part in any future war. The main object of this change is to improve the position of the soldier when he returns from foreign service and give him a chance, if he wishes, to sign on for another three months during which he will be able to demand his discharge at any moment as soon as he obtains employment. During that three months it will be within the discretion of his commanding officer whether he spends it on furlough, on leave, with his battalion or at his depot. In the majority of instances it will be to his advantage to stay at his depot. If he has somewhere to go and wishes to get in touch with his friends after being away for three or four years he will not wish to stay on in the Army, but otherwise it will be better to stay and draw his pay during that period, with the alternative of leaving at any moment. In every engagement entered into there is a printed form. This case, in which change has been made solely for his benefit and not for the benefit of the Army, is analogous to others and there is a printed form already prepared. Hon. Members say, Why not accept the Amendment, as it will make no difference? I might as well say, Why, as it is not going to make any difference, insist on the Amendment? One reason why we hesitate to accept it is because, if the Bill is amended, it necessitates a Report stage.

10.39 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not the reason really this, now that we have had this further explanation, that the consent of the soldier is to be determined by any decision that the Secretary of State may take from time to time? For example, if he decides to withdraw the form, what is the nature of the consent to be sought for by the commanding officer? Is it to be merely verbal consent, and is there anything in the Act which prevents the Secretary of State withdrawing the form? There is nothing at all. It seems to me, now that the Secretary of State has intervened, that there must be something behind his refusal to accept this very simple and innocuous Amendment. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that, just as there is a demand that the Amendment should be inserted in the Bill in order to ensure that written consent should be obtained, so, since he has given an assurance that consent has to be obtained on a written form, no Amendment is required. I suggest that he might very well strike the balance in favour of the Amendment, and accept it.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot

Neither the Secretary of State for War nor the Financial Secretary has given the slightest reason why this Amendment should not be inserted in the Bill. In his last sentence, the Secretary of State addressed himself to the point at issue, and the only reason he advanced was that if we made an Amendment to the Bill, it would be necessary to have a Report stage. I am sure that no hon. Member has ever listened to a more fantastic argument. Are we to be deterred from putting in Amendments that may be thought to be necessary because it would necessitate our going through the ordinary form of Parliamentary procedure? All that is here proposed is to give statutory form to what the Financial Secretary has said will be the ordinary method of procedure.

The Secretary of State asked why we should prefer to put it in the Statute than to leave it to the Army authorities. Surely in these matters, when we are endeavouring to have some safeguard for the subject, whether he be a soldier or anyone else, it is always better to put it in the Statute if we can, for if we do not, it means that the War Office at any moment, on its own discretion, may waive the whole business of having printed forms and so on, and may simply rely upon a verbal statement. I will quote an example which recently came before us. A few days ago, when we were discussing the Army Estimates, the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) raised a case—I think it was in the Debate, but it may have been in correspondence which passed between the hon. and gallant Member and the Minister and which I happen to have seen—in which he said that in a certain court martial the rules of procedure which are laid down to govern courts martial had not been observed.

What was the reply made by the right hon. Gentleman? He did not deny the existence of the rule of the procedure; he did not even say that the rule of procedure had been properly observed; the reply he gave was that the particular rule of procedure was not authorised by the relevant sections of the Army Act and, therefore, had no binding effect. That shows how, even when there is a definite rule in the Manual of Military Procedure, the War Office is willing to waive it when it suits its purpose. It will not impede the purpose of this change, it will not affect it in any way, and it will not hamper the new procedure if we include these words. We are seeking to put a safeguard in the Statute, although we hope it may not be necessary. No reason has been advanced for not accepting the Amendment, and I hope that if it is not accepted, hon. Members will be ready to take it to a Division.

10.44 p.m.

Mr. Thurtle

I am utterly at a loss to understand why the Government will not accept this Amendment. I confess that the reason which the Minister for War has just given has filled me with dismay, because it means that, however good an Amendment may be, he is determined not to accept it because he does not want a Report stage. We have a whole series of Amendments on the Paper, but it seems that it will be hopeless for us to continue to discuss them. We may establish a very strong case, as has been established with regard to this Amendment, for any one of them, and the Minister may say, "There is a great deal in what you say and I can see the force of your argument, but I do not want a Report stage and, therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment." None of us wants to be obstructive or to delay the proceedings, but I feel that on this matter the right hon. Gentleman has taken up a thoroughly unreasonable and indefensible attitude. If the Amendment is not accepted I hope it will be pressed to a Division.

Mr. Buchanan

May I suggest that there is a simple way out of the difficulty, and that is for the Secretary of State to say that he will get the Amendment inserted in another place. That is a reasonable request, which I hope he will be able to meet.

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

When we put down Amendments to this Bill we did expect that some of them would meet with approval, but we have been told that we cannot expect any change in the Bill because it would mean a Report stage. The hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) has six Amendments down, and I presume he hopes that some attention will be paid to them. It seems that whatever he may say in support of them, no regard will be given to him, because it would mean another extra sitting. This is playing with Parliamentary procedure, and when such things are said, after we have been good to the Government on many occasions, it makes us feel inclined to make as much opposition as we can whatever the consequences may be. I have an Amendment on the Paper and judging from what has been said I shall be given the same answer. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will take this opportunity to move to report Progress so that we can test the opinion of the Committee on what has been said from the Government side. If no regard is to be paid to what we may say on any of our Amendments our proceedings are futile, and it makes us rather dissatisfied with Parliament.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Cooper

I should like to say one more word on this matter in order to prevent any misunderstanding. The hon. Member has used the word "futile." That is a word which can be used about the Amendment, because it would not achieve the purpose which the hon. Member has in view. It is said that there may be something behind this, and that the agreement should be in writing. I have pointed out that it is the intention of the War Office that it shall be in writing, and my hon. and gallant Friend has said there is a form prepared. Even if there were any trick in it at all, the Amendment would not in any way preclude the War Office from altering the form of the agreement, nor would it make it any more binding on the War Office to give the soldier certain terms when he signed the agreement. The whole of this alteration is designed solely for the benefit of the soldier, and if the Amendment were carried the War Office would still be at liberty to change the form of agreement the soldier would be asked to sign. While it would not affect adversely the Army Annual Bill to accept the Amendment, equally the Amendment would serve no useful purpose. I do not think hon. Members opposite will say that it would be carrying on the government of the country in the right way for the Government to accept any Amendment to any legislation provided it did not alter or interfere with its intentions. Every line and phrase of these Bills are subject to the most careful consideration, and this Amendment can do no possible good, although we admit it would not do any harm. But no Government can be put into the position of saying that it will accept Amendments simply because it thinks them harmless. This Amendment will do no good, and I do not think that the hon. Member himself can really argue that it will do good, or will make the position of the soldier safer.

10.51 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

The right hon. Gentleman's last appeal is infinitely worse than anything he has already said. He is saying that we must not attempt to get exact phraseology in Acts of Parliament, but leave it to him and the Army Council and it will be all right. But surely the right hon. Gentleman, holding his distinguished position, knows that this Army Act is one of the most important constitutional links in the whole of our make-up. The right hon. Gentleman probably realises that in these days, having regard to happenings in other countries, it is rather important that the civil power should be careful in its relations with the military power. The right hon. Gentleman comes to us and says, "Precision does not matter in these things," although there is this huge Army Act which consists of nothing but details. It is necessary in the Schedule to say that the price of a soldier's supper shall be 4d. and that the oats for his horse shall cost so much and that he shall have vinegar with his supper. Details like that they come down to. But here he says there is no need for precision in the important matter of three months' service, more or less.

The soldier has a right to discharge. He is tied to the last minute of his time. When he has completed his service abroad and comes to this country he is entitled to be discharged, but the right hon. Gentleman says, "Yes, but we will have another three months out of him." He says that these three months are entirely for the benefit of the soldier. You would think that the Army existed for nothing else but to provide soldiers with opportunities for visiting their relatives and with pay in their pockets. The Amendment he has proposed contains nothing about vocational training, nothing about going on holiday or to visit friends and nothing about drawing extra pay. It is merely an Amendment under certain conditions to give the War Office an additional three months of his Army service. That is all that is in the Amendment. We say, "Good enough; we are not opposing that Amendment." We are saying that we want assurances definitely in the Act that the soldier is a willing party to this extension of his service and that he should express it in writing. The Secretary of State says that he will do it in writing, but unless we decide this in the House there is no compulsion on the Army authorities to issue the forms they talk about. A captain may say to his sergeant, "Is Private Tommy Atkins ready to do an extra three months?" The sergeant says, "Yes, Sir." The captain says, "How do you know?" The sergeant replies, "He told me this morning going off parade," or "He told the corporal last night." Any way would be permissible if the House does not insist on the insertion of this Amendment.

If the Minister continues in his present state of trepidation, instilled into him by the presence of the Patronage Secretary, the Keeper of the House, the Franco of the free men, if the Minister is afraid to accept this proposal which he himself has admitted is reasonable, right and just, I certainly propose to divide the Committee. I would rather be saved from that necessity and the necessity of having interminable wrangles over every other Amendment which is on the Paper tonight, and continual Divisions, but if the Minister insists we shall have no option but to have a Division on this.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

I am really astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should have got into this tangle. I do not think that hon. Members behind him are very happy either. It seemed a very small thing, but since the Debate began a much bigger question has emerged. The question that has emerged is, are we to sit here debating very important matters expecting that our arguments on Amendments which have been moved will be listened to, or is the Minister going to accept no suggestions from the Committee, not only from this side but from the hon. Members behind him?

Mr. Cooper

That is not correct. I said that this Amendment, in our opinion, would serve no useful purpose. If there was any possible reason for accepting it that would weigh with me, but it is assumed that assent and agreement will be necessary.

10.59 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

The right hon. Gentleman said he would not accept the Amendment because there would be a Report stage. Behind that statement is a clear intimation to the House that he was not going to accept any other Amendment on the Paper. As the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has pointed out, this is one of the very important Bills of the year. You are dealing with the whole range of the soldier's life. This is an opportunity to give the soldier some consideration, and the conditions under which he works should have some consideration from the House. There is nobody who can use that opportunity better than Members on that side of the Committee, because from time to time they have used it for dealing not merely with the Army Annual Bill but with other matters which are only incidental. The protest of the hon. Member for Bridgeton has been justified by what the right hon. Gentleman has said. A comparatively trivial alteration was proposed by hon. Members who merely desired to make sure that what the Government, I believe, intend to do, will be done, but now the right hon. Gentleman has brought to light what I regard as the very serious question of whether or not there is any use in going on at this hour with the other Amendments on the Paper. In view of the very important question which has thus arisen, I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

Mr. Buchanan rose

The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)

I must point out to the hon. Member that I have the power to put this Question forthwith. If the hon. Member has a point of Order I will hear him, but I had already risen to collect the voices.

Mr. Buchanan

I think I was already on my feet, Sir Dennis, and I only wished to ask whether you would not allow the Minister to make a statement as to how long he intends to keep the Committee sitting to-night. I think on this Motion we might have a statement either from the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, as to their intentions.

The Chairman

That, strictly speaking, is not a point of Order, and I must point out to the hon. Member that there is no reason why the Minister should not at any time in the course of the Debate make an announcement of his intentions in that respect.

Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 184.

Division No. 135.] AYES. [11.2 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Paling, W.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Parker, J.
Adams, D. (Consett) Groves, T. E. Parkinson, J. A.
Adamson, W. M. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Potts, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Price, M. P.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Harris, Sir P. A. Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Ammon, C. G. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Ridley, G.
Banfield, J. W. Hayday, A. Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Barr, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Rothschild, J. A. de
Batey, J. Holdsworth, H. Rowson, G.
Bellenger, F. J. Hopkin, D. Seely, Sir H. M.
Bevan, A. Jagger, J. Sexton, T. M.
Broad, F. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Shinwell, E.
Bromfield, W. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Silverman, S. S.
Brooke, W. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Simpson, P. B.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Buchanan, G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, T. (Normanton)
Burke, W. A. Kelly, W. T. Sorensen, R. W.
Cassells, T. Kirby, B. V. Stephen, C.
Charleton, H. C. Lathan, G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Chater, D. Lawson, J. J. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lee, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G. Leslie, J. R. Thurtle, E.
Dalton, H. Logan, D. G. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lunn, W. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Watkins, F. C.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McEntee, V. La T. Watson, W. McL.
Ede, J. C. McGhee, H. G. Welsh, J. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Westwood, J.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Maclean, N. White, H. Graham
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) MacNeill, Weir, L. Whiteley, W.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Mainwaring, W. H. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Foot, D. M. Mander, G. le M. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gardner, B. W. Marshall, F. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Garro Jones, G. M. Maxton, J. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Milner, Major J. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Oliver, G. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grenfell, D. R. Owen, Major G. Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.
Acland-Troyto, Lt.-Col. G. J. Boulton, W. W. Colman, N. C. D.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Bower, Comdr. R. T. Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.
Albery, Sir Irving Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Boyce, H. Leslie Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S, G'gs)
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Bracken, B. Crooks, J. S.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.
Apsley, Lord Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Crowder, J. F. E.
Aske, Sir R. W. Bull, B. B. Cruddas, Col. B.
Assheton, R. Butler, R. A. Culverwell, C. T.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Cartland, J. R. H. Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Carver, Major W. H. Denman, Hon. R. D.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Cary, R. A. Drewe, C.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Castlereagh, Viscount Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Dugdale, Major T. L.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Channon, H. Duggan, H. J.
Belt, Sir A. L. Christie, J. A. Duncan, J. A. L.
Bernays, R. H. Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Dunglass, Lord
Blindell, Sir J. Clarry, Sir Reginald Eastwood, J. F.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Ropner, Colonel L.
Ellis, Sir G. Lloyd, G. W. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Emery, J. F. Loftus, P. C. Rowlands, G.
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Lyons, A. M. Salmon, Sir I.
Everard, W. L. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Salt, E. W.
Fleming, E. L. McCorquodale, M. S. Samuel, M. R. A.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Scot. U.) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Ganzoni, Sir J. McKie, J. H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A
Gluckstein, L. H. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
Grant-Ferris, R. Magnay, T. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Markham, S. F. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Grimston, R. V. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Spens, W. P.
Guinness, T. L. E. B. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
Gunston, Capt, D. W. Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Guy, J. C. M. Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.
Hannah, I. C. Moreing, A. C. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Harbord, A. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Nall, Sir J. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Hepworth, J. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Thomas, J. P. L
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Holmes, J. S. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Titchfield, Marquess of
Horsbrugh, Florence Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Turton, R. H.
Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Peake, O. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Hulbert, N. J. Perkins, W. R. D. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Hume, Sir G. H. Petherick, M. Warrender, Sir V.
James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Jonas, L. (Swansea W.) Porritt, R. W. Watt, G. S. H.
Keeling, E. H. Procter, Major H. A. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Radford, E. A. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Wise, A. R.
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Ramsden, Sir E. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Latham, Sir P. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Wragg, H.
Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Rayner, Major R. H. Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.) Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Leckie, J. A. Remer, J. R.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rickards, G. W. (Skinton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Liddall, W. S. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Sir George Penny and Lieut.-
Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Mr. Buchanan

On a point of Order, may I ask whether it is now possible for the Minister to make a statement on how long he intends to keep the Committee?

The Chairman

Order, order. An Amendment has been moved to insert "in writing." The Question is that those words be inserted.

Mr. Buchanan

There are a number of Amendments from one of the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters, and tomorrow is a very important day.

Mr. Lawson

May I draw attention to the fact that the Government took too much for granted and they are taking this matter too light-heartedly? There are some very important Amendments, one that I am sure that will take a considerable time, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say that he is going to let us go at an early stage.

Mr. Shinwell

I desire to submit that a most extraordinary statement has been made by the Secretary of State for War in the course of the previous Debate. It was to this effect, that this Bill had been perfectly drafted and had been carefully considered by experts, and, that being so, there was no reason why an Amendment submitted by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) should be accepted, however reasonable it might appear to be. That was a very extraordinary statement. I have quoted the right hon. Gentleman accurately, I think.

The Chairman

I cannot see how that is a point of Order.

Mr. Shinwell

My point is that, in view of that statement, is there any purpose in proceeding at all?

The Chairman

That is entirely a matter of opinion, and not a point of Order.

11.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)

This afternoon at Question Time, the Deputy Leader of the House in his announcement of business to the Leader of the Opposition, pointed out that the Government were losing a day to-morrow on account of giving time for a Vote of Censure on the situation with Spain.

Mr. Shinwell

That is your fault, not ours.

Captain Margesson

I have been asked to make a reply to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who, I understand, is leading to-night for the Opposition. In consequence of that situation, we have to deal to-night with the Army Annual Bill. I do not see, therefore, how it is possible for us to consent to report Progress until we have completed the Committee stage of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh‡"] I would like to point out that last year we started the Committee stage at 8.13 p.m. and it was concluded at 10.21. That was just over two hours.

Mr. Maxton

You were reasonable then.

Captain Margesson

I think we are reasonable this time. I cannot really see why, if we bend our minds to the task, if we all work together in co-operation, we should not complete our task in a short space of time, and having done our full duty towards this Measure, be able to get back to our homes at a reasonable hour.

Mr. Maxton rose

The Chairman

I must remind the Committee of what I said just now, and it would be as well if I again put the Question before the Committee. It is "That the words 'in writing' be there inserted."

11.18 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

I want to add one or two comments to what I have said, if that is in order. Some acrimony has crept into the Debate, and I do not want to add to it. I want to be sure of my ground in continuing the Debate on the Amendment I have moved. I am assured from behind that I am. I feel profoundly dissatisfied at the way the spokesmen of the Government are dealing with us on this matter. The Patronage Secretary has told us that because the Official Opposition demanded what they had a right to demand, a day for a Vote of Censure on a matter of grave public importance, he is going to teach the House of Commons that it has to be punished—that days can only be given for Votes of Censure under penalty, and that business is to be taken at an impossible time. We are in the position that if we do the job thoroughly to-night, if I go on arguing for my Amendment and persuade other Members to support me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or oppose.") I should welcome any opposition, if a case could be put up from even insignificant back benchers which would get the Minister out of the difficulty in which he is, as long as they use their own initiative, because when they act as a flock of sheep they cease to have any importance. It is a terrible thing to be told that if we are to do our job properly to-night we must reduce ourselves to a condition in which we shall be unfit for the Vote of Censure to-morrow.

The Chairman

The hon. Member was very anxious about keeping in order, but I do not see that he is in order, as long as this particular Amendment, on which there has already been a Motion to report Progress, is before the Committee, in continuing to discuss the question of adjourning the Debate.

Mr. Maxton

No, Sir, I was proceeding, I was working up—

The Chairman

The hon. Member must take a leap, and not work up.

Mr. Maxton

I was working up to the point of explaining to the Committee why it was impossible for me to abstain from dividing on this Amendment. If we had been met in a reasonable spirit I should not have felt it necessary to go to a Division, but the Minister and the Patronage Secretary refuse to do anything and merely laugh at the Committee. That is what the Patronage Secretary did in his reply—made a jest of our whole proceedings; and that being the case, it will be absolutely necessary for me to divide the Committee.

11.23 p.m.

Sir Francis Acland

As I am almost a prehistoric War Office Minister and rather an old hand at the game, who has had many tussles over this Bill, I suggest that somehow or other we have begun rather badly to-night. I am not saying whose fault it is, but it looks as though we might have to stay here a good many hours if we cannot get into a more amicable state of mind. It does not seem to me that the Amendment is one of first-class constitutional importance, nor do I think that the British Constitution would have toppled had it been accepted. I quite understand the objection to having Report stages if they can be avoided. It was understood that the Minister had expressed his desire not to have a Report stage, if it could be avoided, on account of this Amendment, and it seemed to me that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has made a sensible suggestion which would enable the Minister to avoid a Report stage unless, in his reasonableness, he gave way on other Amendments. The suggestion was that the matter which, after all, is not of tremendous importance, should be further considered in another place. If the Minister could give us that assurance I feel sure that the Committee could go on in a much smoother atmosphere and would occupy less time than otherwise. I do not think anybody wants to sit up late and spoil to-morrow, nor do we want to get angry with one another, and if the Minister would say that he would attend to the matter in another place I believe we would all get along in a much more friendly way.

11.25 p.m.

Mr. Cooper

On the grounds suggested by the right hon. Gentleman I am quite ready to say that I have no objection to the Amendment, any more than he has enthusiastic support for it, and, if it is possible, to insert it in another place if there is no further objection to it. There are, however, very many places in the Act where a reference is made to consent or agreement without any qualification "in writing." I naturally cannot speak for what may be done in another place, but I am perfectly willing to consider the suggestion, if it will meet the wishes of the Committee.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 to 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.