HC Deb 31 March 1939 vol 345 cc2351-2

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

11.8 a.m.

Mr. Lawson

As this Clause is an Amendment of the Army Act, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will explain just what is its meaning? As far as I can make out, the Clause deals with the billeting of mechanised vehicles, and there is a schedule of prices for that billeting. This is a totally new thing, due to the fact that the mechanised Army is using vast numbers of vehicles of various kinds, and it may lay a heavy burden upon certain people. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would explain upon what basis the prices have been fixed, and what call may be made upon certain people with garages in view of the large number of vehicles now used by the Army. If he will give that explanation, I shall be very much obliged.

11.10 a.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)

The object of the Clause is, as the hon. Gentleman says, to enable vehicles to be billeted in any building or on any land when a state of emergency exists. The classes of vehicles which may be billeted, and the prices to be paid for billeting, are to be prescribed in regulations made by the Army Council with the consent of the Treasury. The payment will be fixed in accordance with the classification of the size of the vehicles, and the normal rates will be paid, except where land is vacant land, in which case, of course, no payment of compensation will arise. I do not think that any hardship will be placed upon anybody, because we shall pay what is just and fair in an emergency in which the country has to be protected and the soldiers have to be moved.

Mr. Lawson

May I ask a further question? I suppose that in these cases advance notice will be given to the people who have garages which it may be necessary to take over? One can imagine that in travelling say, from the North to the South, unless proper notice is given, an extraordinary demand might be made on some persons for the space at their disposal, particularly in view of the fact that, in a time of emergency, there may be a great call upon the space at the disposal of these people for private vehicles. It would, therefore, be desirable to give, if possible, considerable advance notice.

11.12 a.m.

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I think it has been one of the features of military administration never to do any acts which cause annoyance to the general public, and it will be our desire to give notice wherever that is possible; but of course the hon. Gentleman will understand that in an emergency one cannot always be so mindful of private interests as one would normally be. Naturally, it would be our desire to take into account all the difficulties that might arise, and to inform in advance those who might be expected to put up these vehicles.

Mr. Bellenger

I think the prices to be paid under this Clause are covered by the Schedule on page 8 of the Bill. If that is so, I take it that these maximum prices will not be paid in every case, but only the prices which the billeting officers consider appropriate to the accommodation provided?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

Yes, Sir, that will be so.

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