HC Deb 03 April 1941 vol 370 cc1291-4

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

Lieut.-Colonel Sir William Allen (Armagh)

I should like some explanation of the Clause, particularly as it is referred to in the Memorandum to the Bill. The Memorandum speaks of an Amendment which enables a Rule of Procedure to be made "prescribing a class of officer," etc. But Clause 4 deals with an Amendment of the Army Act. There is no mention whatever in it of a Rule of Procedure. As we know, there are King's Regulations, the Army Act itself, and Rules of Procedure. I should like to know that there is to be a Rule of Procedure with regard to this Amendment of the Army Act. Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell me whether, when a Rule of Procedure is to be made, it is a statutory business. As we know, the Rules of Procedure are laid down for the guidance of the Forces, and for the protection of members of the Forces. I presume that Clause 4 has something to do with both: but I should like to know whether a Rule of Procedure, if made, will have any statutory effect, or whether it can be made at the wish of the Army Council or of the Judge-Advocate-General or whoever may be in authority. It is a matter of some importance.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Richard Law)

This Clause is quite simple, and is not, in itself, of tremendous importance. The Army Act gives the Army Council power to appoint a specific officer, who is not under the Judge-Advocate-General, to deal summarily with charges against officers and warrant officers. The difficulty arises when a new Divisional or Corps or Army Commander comes along. It is obvious that the whole Amendment is to allow the Army Council to say, in such a case, that the Commander of a division or corps would have this right without being specified by name. It will save a good deal of paper work in the Army, and I do not think that there is any ground for objection.

Sir W. Allen

I take it that it is purely an Amendment of the Army Act, which is that to which Clause 4 refers?

Mr. Law

Yes, it is an Amendment of the Army Act which enables the procedure to be altered.

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

Remaining Clauses ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I want to have the opportunity of saying a few words upon a Measure which defines the discipline and control of the Army and Air Force for the present year, in order to put in a plea on behalf of the rank-and-file soldier to see whether every thing is being done to make the life of the men who are in monotonous and dreary stations a little less monotonous. I have had cases brought to my notice with which I have not troubled the War Office. I will give the type of thing that I have in mind. One of our Home De fence battalions is doing duty at an ex plosives works somewhere in Scotland, and the men have to be inside the com pound all the time. They are deprived of the privilege of smoking. There is not an Army canteen. They have not a game or a wireless set. Perhaps it may be said that there is only a company of them and it is not worth while doing anything on a big scale, but surely it would be easy to do something for these men. I under stand that it is the practice in the Army to make a regular deduction from pay as a sort of subscription to a fund to provide amenities. The deductions take place, but the amenities do not seem to arrive. Surely a wireless set, or a pack of cards, or a billiard table or a table tennis set could be provided. Some provision ought to be made to enable a man to "have a pint"—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker(Sir Dennis Herbert)

The hon. Member may know the Army Act better than I do, but I cannot find that in it. We are speaking on the Third Reading of this Bill.

Mr. Maxton

I will try to keep-within your Ruling, Sir, and I will not pursue that point. If I want special attention, I will write to the Minister in the ordinary way, although I am quite satisfied from the example that I have given that this is no uncommon thing. Moreover, I understand that the position of the men at the searchlight stations is infinitely worse. Only 10 or 12 men are at each post, and there are no permanent buildings. I think the House has a responsibility to see that what can be done to maintain the discipline, morale and spirit of the men who are serving in the Army should be done.

Mr. Law

I would like to assure my hon. Friend that we are as conscious as he is of the importance of maintaining the morale and spirit of the troops, especially in the outlying posts to which he has just referred. I think perhaps he did a little less than justice to what is in fact being done. If he refers to a number of speeches which have been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, both on the Estimates and on other occasions, I think he will see that a great deal has been done in the way of welfare.

Mr. Maxton

I would not attempt to deny that. I know a lot of things have been done, but other things have been left undone.

Mr. Law

I think it probably is the case that a number of things have been missed, and if any cases of this kind are brought to our notice by hon. Members, we shall be very grateful to hear of them. I would like, too, to correct one slight misapprehension under which my hon. Friend was labouring when he spoke of compulsory deductions from the troops' pay That is not so at all; it is a voluntary deduction. However, we are deeply conscious of the importance of the matters which the hon. Member has raised, and I think he may be confident that it is always in our minds to see that welfare work is carried on.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being the hour appointed for the Adjournment of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.