§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
I beg to move in page 1, line II, to leave out "two months," and to insert "one month."
The point raised by this Amendment is not very important, in itself, but it will enable me to make certain observations which have a bearing on one or two of the other Amendments on the Paper, and I may be forgiven if I explain its purpose in some detail. The main purpose of the Bill is to make sure that nationals of Allied Powers shall serve, either in their own Forces or in the Forces of the British Government. We thus have the comfortable feeling that nothing we can do under this Bill is likely to diminish the total war effort, at any rate as far as numbers are concerned. Indeed, we think that most of the Amendments which are designed to allow people who do not want to serve in their own national Forces but who do want to serve in the British Forces to do so, will actually much improve matters, and the reason why we suggest one month in this case instead of two is this: There has been a continuous and not altogether pleasant process going on for a very long time by which reluctant citizens of various Allied Powers have been forced into the Armed Forces of their respective countries.
When the matter came up on the Allied Forces Bill in 1940 various Members exposed the practice that was then being carried on by one or two of the Allied Governments of threatening their citizens in this country with penal sanctions if they did not join their Forces. It was stated then that this was an utterly illegal and unjustified action, and the Under-Secretary of State in charge of that Debate, now to be described as the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), made it plain that they had no right whatever to do anything of the sort, and it was indicated with a moderate degree of clarity that they would be told that they must not. I have in my possession a series of similar documents, some dated as recently as 20th June this year, in which 968 that sort of threat is being held out to the nationals of certain Allied Powers. In view of the fact that a surprising number of those concerned really do not know their rights, and in view of the fact that numbers of them have been pressed into the Forces in that way, this particular Amendment, which is, as I say, a very small one in itself, is simply brought forward with this view: We feel that such pressure has gone on long enough. The object of this Bill is to give two further months for intensive more or less legitimate pressure of that kind. My suggestion is simply that one month of urging is surely quite enough, and the net advantage of the Amendment, though I do not pretend that it is my primary motive in moving it, is that all the people involved, who, I daresay, are in total a substantial number, but undoubtedly a number, will have to be in some military force, after a very considerable delay for some of them, in one month instead of two.
§ Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
I am very pleased to hear my hon. and learned Friend say, as I understood him to say, that the principle of the Bill was generally accepted.
§ Mr. Lawson
The Government from the first has had, of course, a very difficult job in dealing with this matter. They found a very good method, I thought, of applying what is known as the principle of the Visiting Forces Act. Have the Government any information that there has been considerable complaints about this pressure to bring within their respective Forces the nationals of Governments centred in this country. If it is so—and some very serious letters have been reaching various Members—I think that representations ought to be made to these various Governments upon this matter. In the early stages of the war the Government were reluctant to apply conscription to the aliens in this country, and there was considerable remark upon that at the time, but I do not think that my hon. Friends who put down this Amendment were under the impression that a month would make very much difference, and I should say that this is rather an opportunity of drawing attention to this particular problem, although two months do 969 give a month longer for the Governments to carry on this kind of conduct if any of them are doing so, and I think it is only one or two which are involved. I hope that the Government will give some attention to the matter. It is a very small thing which is asked as an Amendment, but it is an important thing from the point of view of certain people. If the Government could make representations on this matter, I think that these would be rather more important than the Amendment itself.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. McCorquodale)
I am afraid we must resist this Amendment on practical grounds. I note what the hon. and learned Gentleman says about raising this Amendment rather as a peg——
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I am very much obliged to my hon. and learned Friend. Perhaps I may first explain the practical reasons why we are unable to accept the Amendment. I can do that best perhaps by enumerating one or two of the steps which will have to be taken by an Allied Government before a national joins its Forces. It is necessary to decide which of their nationals shall be called up, which should receive an exemption certificate under Clause 1 (2, a) and also exclude, in consultation with us at the Ministry of Labour and National Service, those we do not wish to be called up owing to the importance of their civilian work. They have then to arrange for medical examination, and not all of them have such resources in the medical world as we naturally have. They have to arrange where they will allocate the men in their respective Forces, and finally, when they issue posting notices, they must allow men a reasonable time in which to wind up their affairs and report in person for service. I do not think that we can possibly expect all that to be carried out in the space of under two months. An historical note on that, which it is interesting to remember, is that two months was the period of the Anglo-United States Military Service Convention, which was to some extent the father of this sort of proposal.
970 With regard to the wider point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman and also by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), I think that the Debates on this Allied Forces Bill will help very considerably to inform Allied nationals of their rights under the laws of this land and under this Bill, and therefore in itself that will have a good effect. I have no personal information to give the Committee on such matters as the hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned as occurring at the present time. There have been Debates in this House in the past on this matter, but I have no doubt that these things can be, and will be, suitably looked after in the future.
§ Mr. Pritt
I would like to say a few words about this. The hon. Gentleman has enumerated a number of things which the Allied Powers must do before they get their people into their Armed Forces. Would he like to tell me now that there is one single Polish citizen in this country in respect of whom practically the whole of these things were not done 18 months ago? Certainly from a number of cases that have come to me I venture very seriously to doubt whether there is a single Polish citizen who has not gone through these processes long ago. If the hon. Gentleman has not got information as to the ways in which this is going on, let me give him this hint. If he will ask another Minister of the Crown—I need not mention his name—about the information that he gave me yesterday of the wholesale illegal conscription of certain nationals into a certain kind of force, he will learn something very quickly. With regard to the point that these Debates will give sufficient publicity to let people know their rights, the Allied Forces Bill was fully debated at a time when the paper supply was at least five times as liberal as it is now, and the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said half a dozen times that this was all entirely illegal. This has gone on ever since, and I have in my possession a translation of a document which was translated on 20th June, 1942.
§ Mr. Lawson
I know that there was one Government in the main involved in this, and I do not want to mention any names in the matter. I understand very great pressure has been brought to bear upon certain people. It is not merely a question of conscription into our own Forces. 971 There are difficulties which we ourselves do not experience at all. When they get hold of these men they are taken into the particular armies, and their lives are not at all pleasant. No soldier's life is pleasant until he gets over the first period. All kinds of questions are involved. We in this country make provision for conscientious objectors and have all kinds of disciplinary arrangements and rights for the soldiers which, I am pleased to say, are generally operative in full. So much is this so that our own soldiers say that with regard to disciplinary matters, when they have to be tried they would far sooner be tried by courtmartial than by the ordinary civil law. But these men—foreigners in our own land—are pretty helpless in these matters. I am sorry that the Government will not accept the Amendment, but I wonder whether representations cannot be made to the particular Governments on the strength of the information that is at hand. These men are domiciled in this country. Public opinion here would not like to know some of the things that are said to be taking place. I do not place much value upon the fact that because Debates take place in this House the ordinary citizens know all about them. They get the general trend of the Debates, but this matter involves very detailed matters. It is not possible for the average citizen perhaps to have read the OFFICIAL REPORT in order to draw these very fine distinctions or to have the necessary detailed information. Would it be possible to make representations to particular Governments as to what is taking place? Is it the final decision of the Government not to accept this Amendment?
§ Mr. McCorquodale
With regard to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) that the Polish Government have the necessary information to enable them speedily to proceed with the enrolment of their nationals, I am informed that this may be substantially true in their case, but that it does not hold good with regard to all the other Governments involved.
§ Mr. Pritt
I know the delicacy with which you have to handle foreign Governments. It is rather a question of manners, and therefore I do not know very much about it, but can the Minister, at any rate, consider the possibility of circulating to the citizens involved, who are on the register here under the Aliens Act, a fair statement of their rights? I want these people to serve. The only thing I do not want to happen is that people who are willing to serve in the British Army, and who perhaps have never been in the foreign countries of which they are nationals, and who, very often, have volunteered for the British Army several times already, should not be taken into these other Forces for want of the clear knowledge that they have nothing to say but "No, I will hot."
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Richard Law)
I think that I can help my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Law-son) to get rid of some of his misgivings on this point by explaining, perhaps a little more fully, the exact position. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) rather gave the impression to the Committee that there was some wholesale shanghai-ing of people into the Allied Forces. That is not really the case. I have come across cases in the past where undue pressure was exercised on certain individuals, and that was done very largely as a result of a misunderstanding of the position on the part of the Government concerned. In almost every case which has been brought to my notice, when an approach has been made to the Allied Government they have met us on the point, and the difficulty has been avoided. The legal position, as I understand it, is that these Allied Governments under their own law have a perfect right, and always had, to call up their nationals who were living in foreign countries, and I do not think that we have ever disputed that right. I do not think that my hon. Friend the then Under-Secretary of State for War ever gave a pledge that the Allied Governments should be prohibited from calling up their nationals in a purely formal sense, but he said that they should not be able to enforce their call-up notice. That was his pledge, and in the main that pledge has been kept.
973 I do not think that either the Committee or the Government would wish to deprive the Allied Governments, which are sovereign Governments, of their right to call up their own nationals into their own Armies. We would all admit that they have that right, and I do not think that this Bill is intended to deprive them of that right. The position is simply that the Governments can call up their men. If they do not accept the call-up, then they are called to the British Forces under the National Service Acts. As they have that right to call upon them, I should have thought that it was essential to give not only the Allied Governments, but the Allied nationals a reasonable time in which to make their plans on both sides—the Allied Governments to make arrangements for medical examination and so on, and the nationals to make up their minds in the light of their own circumstances. For that reason, I would submit to my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street and the Committee that two months is not an unreasonably long time and that one month might well prove to be an unreasonably short time.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Pritt
I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out "a member of" and to insert "serving in."
This is a totally different point, but as it is a short one I need not take more than a few minutes over it. As the Subsection stands at present, at the expiration of two months, in order to get a man into the British Forces we have to see that he is not a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Power of which he is a national. I suggest that there are three fairly substantial objections to making that particular test. The first is that it is very difficult indeed to decide in any particular contested case whether a man is in the Forces or not. In a case with which I had to deal it took several days to decide at considerable expense because there was a question partly of English Taw and partly of foreign law and disputed fact. The next objection is that this Bill seeks to deal with the question of what and who is not a member, and there will be the danger of "a member" having 974 two possible meanings in different portions of the Act, which, to say the least, is undesirable and leads to confusion.
The third objection is this. The whole object of the Bill is to make people serve, and the whole object of people like myself who have had a good many complaints brought to their notice, is to try and make sure that they will serve where they get decent treatment, namely, in our own Army and not in the Armies of Powers which, in some cases, have a very bad record indeed for treating national minorities badly. If you intend to use the phrase "a member of," you will catch by this means everybody who either under pressure or in ignorance may have gone into these Forces during the past 18 months or two years, who have found conditions intolerable and who—one must not say deserted, because it may not be desertion, as they were illegally called up—have walked out and resumed their status as civilians, but who are now perfectly willing to serve in the British Army. If the words "a member of" remain in the Bill, there is danger in saying to these people, "We have just been passing an Act through Parliament to make sure that you will serve and that you shall have the option of serving in the British Army, but, unfortunately, we have left in the Bill the words 'a member of,' and the Government now insist that you are technically a member of your Force." The whole object, as I understand it, is to say, "Here are two months. At the end of that time you either have to be in the Force of your own nationality, or we will fetch you along to ours. If you are at that time, that will be enough." If we leave in the words "a member of," we shall have a difficult question to decide. It seems to me that the practical test would be "serving in."
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
I would like to support the Amendment, because I have come across a good many cases which come in the category referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) where men were brought in by pressure which they imagined to be legal pressure—without the assistance of the British authorities—and somehow or other got out. One is afraid that opportunity will be taken to force them back. May I give an instance? There was a number of Jewish students in 975 the third year of their engineering training at a British university, and great pressure was being brought to bear upon them to enter the Polish Army, in which there was an anti-Semitic attitude. They were reluctant to enter because they wanted to finish their training as engineers, and they said, "We know the Allied Government cannot force us in, but we are afraid that if a Bill is passed giving the right to conscript us, we shall be charged as deserters." Supposing these men went in under that kind of pressure and came out, is it possible for the Polish Army to insist on retaining authority? Under this Act, or at any rate that part of it which applies to people who do not enlist in the Allied Army, they would have been exempt as third-year students at a university course.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
As one who has an unofficial connection with the Polish Army, I wish to protest strongly against the statement made by the hon. Lady that there was some anti-Jewish attitude in the Polish Army.
§ Miss Rathbone
I made that assertion without qualification, and I think that those who have followed the facts know that it is so. I am sure that it is not the attitude of some, or of General Sikorski, who has protested against it, and that it is not the attitude in many units, but there is grievous anti-Semitism in some units of the Polish Army, and bullying of men.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not agree with a word of the hon. Lady's statement, which I regret she has seen fit to make in the House. The Polish Army is doing magnificent work in a certain part of the country, and I think it shows a great lack of responsibility on the hon. Lady's part, even if it is true, to make such a statement, which is calculated to do great mischief not only between ourselves and the Polish Army but between ourselves and General Sikorski as well.
§ Mr. Pritt
I think it shows a great lack of responsibility on the part of the Noble Lord. He does not know any more about it than the hon. Lady. She has plenty of evidence of it, and so have I. I was bringing it before the Foreign Office when the Polish Army were fighting in France. Unfortunately, it is quite easy to fight gallantly and ill-treat people at the same time, although it may not be the same 976 people doing it. I have had, and have sifted, from time to time, plenty of evidence of ill-treatment of Jews in the Polish Army. The Noble Lord might like to read some of the writings of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), to see how the Polish Army treat their Jewish nationals.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not regard the hon. and learned Member as an authority on anti-Semitism, or on other questions.
§ Miss Rathbone
I must protest against the assumption that we are making charges against the Polish Army generally, or against the high command. We are not: we are making charges against certain units of the Polish Army, and against members of the rank and file.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I do not think that I ever suggested that the hon. and learned Member had no brains. I should be very foolish if I did. I cannot accept this Amendment. There are in some of the National Forces in this country, just as in our own, a substantial number of members who are temporarily released for civil work, but who are under obligation to be called up again in an emergency, or when the civil work they are doing comes to an end. Under this Amendment, their position will be quite in the air. They would not only be members of the Allied Forces, but they would be liable to serve in the British Forces as well. With regard to the wider point which the hon. and learned Gentleman put, I think it would be better to discuss that on Clause 5.
§ Mr. Pritt
The difficulty about that is that no doubt the Government will refuse to budge an inch on Clause 5, and then we shall have lost the opportunity of penetrating the sympathies or other exterior arrangements of the Government on Clause 1. I should have thought that the 977 description which the Parliamentary Secretary has given, of people who are serving in the Army, but who are temporarily detached for one purpose or another, presented no difficulties. I should think that they were quite plainly seconded. But if that is not the correct view, will the Government, instead of sitting back and saying that they will not do anything, bring their mind to bear on the problem of people who have been persuaded in the past to be members of a Force, and who will thus be drawn into an Army which they have left? I will not use any harsh language, as it is apparently necessary, because we have to recognise other people's gallantry, to blind ourselves to other facts. Unless the Government are going to give way on Clause 5, Sub-section (1), the words "a member of" will produce the maximum of difficulty, with no benefit at all.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I suggest that we had better discuss this on Clause 5, when the Solicitor-General will be able to deal with it.
§ The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I want very much to help my hon. and learned Friend on this point. If he thinks it will assist him in making up his mind as to his general action on the Bill, I will deal with the matter now.
§ The Solicitor-General
Certainly. With regard to this Clause, I do not agree with the view my hon. and learned Friend has put forward, about the word "serving." We should have the greatest difficulty in including in the connotation of the word "serving" the classes to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred. I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary ha3 shown, on that practical aspect, that the definition in the Bill is the better definition. I said that I would anticipate what I was going to indicate with regard to the general position about which my hon. and learned Friend is concerned, namely, the return of those who 978 have been released from, or have left, the service of Allied Powers. I suggest that the practical method of dealing with that is, that if there are hard cases they can be brought to the attention of the Ministry of Labour, or of anyone in the Government dealing with the matter, representations can be made to the Allied Government concerned, and a certificate obtained under Section 3, Sub-section (1, c). My hon. and learned Friend will probably like to say that that deals with another Act; but, from the practical point of view, if such a certificate is given it will be extremely difficult for the Allied Government to take steps to call the man up, and it will certainly conclude the matter so far as our own Act is concerned. I suggest that that is a practical method, and one by which assistance will be given to the comparative small number of cases which my hon. and learned Friend has in mind. I nope he will now understand what is in the mind of the Government on the point.
§ Mr. Pritt
I am sorry, but my hon. and learned Friend only convinces me that there is nothing in the mind of the Government on the point. What he offers is useless. Somebody—it need not be a Pole—is persuaded into the Forces of an Allied Power in 1941. He learns that they had no right to get him there, so he walks out. There is a good case—and if Clause 5 is passed there is a complete and absolute case—for saying that he has thereby become a member of those Forces, although he cannot effectively be brought back. The moment this Bill becomes an Act, he cannot go into the British Army, because he is a member of the Forces of the Power concerned. Therefore, the British military legislation does not apply to him at all. He goes to the Ministry of Labour, which says "We have no more to do with you than if you had been an Icelander, living in Iceland." His own Government says, "You know perfectly well that we want you in the Army. We put you there because we wanted you, and we would have fetched you back as a deserter at any moment if we had thought the case was clear enough; but it was not clear, and it might have involved us in a great deal of expense. Now, under this Act, it is clear that you are a member of the Forces and we shall have you arrested by the Metropolitan Police to-morrow, and charged as a deserter. You will not even be able to go to a British prison or concentration camp, 979 but will be handed over to our Forces as a deserter."
The only thing the Solicitor-General can offer is that that Government, which has ho intention of saying that the man is not a member of the Forces, because they want to say he is a member, could certify if they wanted to do so, which they do not, that the man is not a member of the Forces. What comfort is there to a person in that position in what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said? When he says that there are not very many of them, one can answer, first, why make even 10 people into reluctant soldiers of a country which they do not want to serve when they could be reasonable soldiers of this country, which they do want to serve? Secondly, if my information is correct, the numbers are comparatively large.
§ Mr. Lawson
I should like to put to the Solicitor-General a point about the position of a man who has been temporarily released. It is true that such a man is not actively serving, but he is usually understood to be a serving soldier; at any rate the claims of the Army upon him are quite clear. The Solicitor-General has made a statement that such men are not counted as serving soldiers. I gather that the hon. and learned Gentleman must have some sound legal decision upon that matter, although it has usually been considered to be a matter in the region of opinion rather than definite principle and decision. It is a rather important matter. I think hon. Members must be very satisfied by the unconscious tribute that is paid to the fairness of our Services in the desire of nationals of other countries to serve in those Services. As to deciding when a man is a deserter and when he is not, it is not a very easy thing to do. I remember a soldier who was once called up and told by the Commander that he was a deserter. He replied, "I cannot be a deserter because I am serving in the Northumberlands." The Commander said, "You were serving in the Welsh Fusiliers." The soldier replied, "That is true, but it was a long time ago," and he added, "I may as well be frank—I was also in the Artillery. A fellow wants a change sometimes." So the Commander gave him a good talking to and said he had better stay where he was; and as he was going out, the Commander said, "By 980 the way, you did not join any more, did you?" However, I think it is very important that we should get a definite legal opinion on the question whether a man is a serving soldier or not when he is temporarily discharged.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am very willing to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Law-son). As far as I know, the word "serving" is not covered by an exact legal decision in the case in point. Therefore, I can only give my view, for what it is worth, but my hon. Friend will be aware that for some two and a half years I had to assist in that branch of the Army, and the problem to which he has referred is one which arises quite frequently. I should take the view, subject to anything further which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) has to say, that "serving" means actually in service with the Forces and present on the strength of the Forces. If I may be excused for taking my own case, I was reverted to unemployment four months ago and I am still, in that sense, on the strength of the Army, but I am quite sure no court would ever hold that at the moment I am serving in the Forces. That is the sort of case that arises if somebody is released for work. Although it is only a matter of opinion, it is an opinion based on a fair amount of experience and on reasonable grounds.
I should like to say a few words about the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith. I do not think he is really dealing with the realities of the situation in painting so sombre a picture as he has put before the Committee. Let us take the case he gave. In the first place, the man whom he envisaged joined the Allied Army. My hon. and learned Friend suggests that he did so under undue pressure, of which he does not approve. But there is the first position, that he joined that Army and served in it for some time. Of the people who do join that Army, the number who are subject and who have reacted to that pressure must be comparatively few, and would start with a comparatively small number. Let us now take the case to the next stage. My hon. and learned Friend says that the person left the Army. I do not want to prejudge the matter by saying whether he deserted or was absent without leave, or 981 whether he did what he was entitled to do. My hon. and learned Friend presupposed that that matter should be left open, and I proceed on the same grounds. At any rate the man remained outside the Army, with the fact that the Allied Power did not bring him back and try him as a deserter or as an absentee without leave. Therefore, that presupposes that the Allied Power did not desire his return for one reason or another. My hon. and learned Friend suggested that the reason was that they did not want the expense. There may have been other reasons. They allowed him to rest. In these circumstances, I suggested to my hon. and learned Friend that if it was a case with grounds justifying the man being allowed to rest, he could—at the suggestion of the Allied Power reversing their present policy and seeking to call him up—make representations. These representations would be passed on to the Allied Government.
Again—and this takes us to the third change in circumstances which one must presuppose to get my hon. and learned Friend's hard case—suppose that then they do call him up or seek to have him arrested, they will do so against the representations of the Government. That is a set of circumstances which it is very difficult to imagine. There is, then, the question of the sanctions they will use. My hon. and learned Friend will appreciate that one does not want to make declarations on hypothetical cases, and that therefore, I must be very guarded and circumspect. My hon. and learned Friend will appreciate what I have in mind. Therefore, I do say that at that point, which is the third reversal of policy presupposed in order to produce the hard case, there is still a sanction remaining in the hands of His Majesty's Government. I ask my hon. and learned Friend not to dismiss these reasons too lightly.
§ Mr. Pritt
I am sorry to say that the Solicitor-General seems to have been put up by the Government to defend something which is completely indefensible. The suggestion is that the British Govern-ought not to intervene in any such matters. I would point out that I have been negotiating with the British Government on a matter not very dissimilar from this 26 hours ago. The answer was, "You know, dear boy, how difficult it is to intervene with Allied Governments, and, as we 982 have no responsibility in the matter, we must not say a word except in the most unofficial way." Let us take this question of principle. The Solicitor-General says that the Allied Government do not collect a man, or attempt to do so, that it may well be they do not want him, and that they will give a certificate saying he is not a member of their Forces. The Committee will see how wrong that is in principle. The object of this Bill is to give every citizen of Allied Powers, who is not already in uniform, the option to say which Army he will serve, whereas the Solicitor-General's proposal in all these cases is to give the option, not to the man, but to the Government. He says that the Allied Government have not troubled to charge the man, and then he said something about sanction. All that happens is that a man is arrested by a police constable, is brought before a magistrate as a deserter—the ordinary Army Act provisions are applied—and the magistrate, once he is convinced he is a member of the Armed Forces, has no option but to hand him over. There is no difficulty about sanction.
You may say that the Allied forces have not troubled to collect this or that man through the courts, and that they do not particularly want him. Surely someone has told the Solicitor-General of the legal position? Surely someone has told him that a case was tried in the King's Bench Division, and that it was specially expedited because it was a test case? The Attorney-General said it was of the greatest importance, as the position of hundreds of men depended on the result. Surely someone has told him it went to the court of appeal, and that a decision is pending in the House of Lords where it will be heard in a week or two? If this Bill comes into force before it is heard, it will appear to insult the whole course of legal procedure—by saying, "Do not worry about litigation, because, under Clause 5, if men have been in the Forces, you can collect them at the cost of 5s. each through a policeman." That is what the Government insist, instead of saying, "We do not like the words 'serving in.' We will think about the matter and make the position more satisfactory on the Report stage, or when the Bill is dealt with in another place." No, they are instructed to stand pat. They know their case is completely indefensible and they have nothing to suggest.
§ Amendment negatived.983
§ Mr. Pritt
I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out paragraph (b).
When the Committee remember the arguments I made against the words "two months," they will understand that I naturally object to a provision which, in certain circumstances, allows a longer period. If, however, the Government say that owing to distances, etc., certain powers require this provision, I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I should like first to know whether there is some reason for it.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
The suggestion is to omit the proviso by which the two months can be extended when it is so desired. I understand that when this Bill was being first discussed views were expressed that two months might be too short a period in the case of certain governments. I must confess, considering the arguments I used in answer to the first Amendment, I think it is equally desirable that these formalities should not be unduly prolonged. I think that two months should be sufficient for Allied nationals to make their arrangements, and, if the Committee desire it, I am prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Pritt
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, at the end, to insert:(c) no person to whom the National Service Acts, 1939 to 1941, are made applicable by this Act shall be entered on the military register until a reasonable opportunity has been afforded him of exercising his rights thereunder to apply for exemption, postponement, or deferment.I move this Amendment with some reluctance and hesitation for the reasons I will explain in a moment. This proviso called "(c)" no doubt will now become "(b)"—that is a matter of drafting. My own view is, as was stated by the Minister during the Second Reading Debate, that once these British Acts apply to a person all the necessary machinery for postponement, deferment and so on operates satisfactorily, but my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who asked me to apologise to the Committee for his absence, due to the fact that his only partner has been called up under the National Service Acts, was afraid there might be some loophole or trouble, and that it was better to have 984 some such provision in the Bill. If the Government feel satisfied that there is no difficulty, I shall not seek to press the Amendment.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I will certainly give the assurance that these words are quite unnecessary. All the rights under the National Service Acts will be available to these men.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill"
§ Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)
I should like to say that I am a little concerned that this Bill—and this Clause is the operative part—applies only to men. I realise that the women of Allied nationals are, in the great majority of cases, doing most excellent work, and I also realise there might be great difficulty in sending them to work or serve in districts remote from where they have settled. In order that we may know the circumstances, I should like to ask the Minister two questions. Have the Government power to direct Allied national women to work on the same lines as British women, and is it proposed to use those powers?
§ Mr. McCorquodale
This is the only country in the world which has applied the National Service Acts to its women. I have never heard any suggestion that we should apply them to the women of Allied Governments. We have complete powers of direction of all nationals, but we have not so far applied these powers as rigorously as we do to our own nationals. I have been asked to explain the position of dual nationals rather more fully under this Act, and this may par-haps be an opportunity, in case there is any misconception. Men may have two nationalities if, for example, they are born of foreign parents on British soil. Men with two nationalities, one of which is British, are British subjects and are liable under our National Service Acts. In view of the provisions of the international protocol relating to military obligations in certain cases of double nationality adopted at the Hague in 1930, such men are given the opportunity to alienate their British nationality if they wish. If they do so, 985 they cease to be British subjects and pass out of liability under our National Service Acts. If they do not, they are called up to the British Forces like any other British subject. If they are below the age of 21 they are asked whether they intend to alienate their British nationality on reaching their majority. If they state that they intend to do so, their calling up is suspended until they reach that date. If they state that they do not intend to do so, naturally we call them up. This arrangement does not apply to dual nationals whose nationality other than British is one of an enemy State. It has been decided in the courts, that to alienate British nationality in wartime to that of an enemy state is treason. It is proposed under this Bill that when an Order-in-Council has been made affecting nationals of an Allied State, dual nationals who possess British nationality and the nationality of the Allied State should be called up to the British Forces unless they have, within the period to be allowed, joined the appropriate Allied force. This will apply to men of all proclaimed ages. Those who are under 21 will not be given the opportunity of having their calling up suspended even if they have expressed the intention of alienating their British nationality on reaching their majority. When such dual nationals are called up to the British Forces they will, as British subjects, be posted to any branch of the Forces as military circumstances may require, and in the light of any preference that they may have expressed. These provisions, therefore, mean that a man who has a dual nationality, Allied and British, has the privileges of both an Allied and a British citizen.
§ Mr. Lawson
The hon. Gentleman has said that these foreign Powers have conscription, but not for women in most cases, whereas we have conscription for both men and women. That means, of course, that masses of our women are being called into the Services. It may be that they will take the place of those who have left places of businesses and all kinds of work. The hon. Gentleman said there is power of direction of these alien women, but there is not the power of conscription. That, of course, places them in a somewhat favoured position, but I do not think there would be any very strong feeling about it. The Clause 986 itself is, as far as I can see, a very useful Clause, and it serves to bring out the fact that there is a greater desire to be in the British Army than in most of the others. I should not put it outside our ability to devise some means whereby alien Women should be placed on a level with our own women. It seems to me that there may be some repercussions. I think our people bear in mind the fact that these countries have suffered equally with ours, and to a greater extent in most cases. It might lead to all kinds of liberties being taken, so to speak, on the part of some of these foreign nationals. Some of us have daughters serving in the Forces and we see girls carrying packs as heavy as some of us carried in the last war and doing it for very little pay. It is an amazing thing. I know the Bill is based upon the Visiting Forces Bill, giving the right to these nationals to put into operation their own particular principles and methods in enforcing service on the part of their nationals, but I should say it is worthy of future consideration whether these foreign women, who are outside their own particular code, should not be considered on a level with our own women and given an equal opportunity of serving in our Forces with foreign national men as laid down in the Bill.
§ The Chairman
Perhaps the Solicitor-General can tell me whether in this Clause the word "men" includes women under any interpretation Act. If it does not, and if it is confined to men of the male sex, I shall have to rule out this discussion in regard to women.
§ The Solicitor-General
In this context I think it is clear that "men" refers to the male sex. Certainly I interpret it that way.
§ The Chairman
That was my impression I rather think the point cropped up before on some National Service Bill. I do not think the matter can be debated further.
§ Mr. Lawson
Would that rule out a discussion of the matter on the Clause? If it had been an Amendment it would be another matter altogether, but I should have thought that in discussing the Clause we might express our opinions.
§ The Chairman
Attention can be called, as it has been abundantly called, to the 987 fact that women are not dealt with in the Bill; but I think on reflection the hon. Gentleman will agree that a Debate as to whether or to what extent they should be included would be quite outside the scope of any Debate on this Bill.
§ Mr. Pritt
I respectfully agree with the Solicitor-General that the words "men who are nationals" make it plain that they must be males. Whether in another place or on Report it might be useful to alter the word "men" into "males" to prevent anybody litigating about it, is a question that might be considered.
§ Miss Rathbone
I would suggest that that should be done. I have not been able to understand why women should not be included, but I do not think in the particular circumstances of the case it would make a great difference.
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 to 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.