HC Deb 14 February 1947 vol 433 cc676-92

Order for Second Reading read.

11.7 a.m.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. John Dugdale)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill is short, and I hope uncontroversial—it is certainly not controversial in any party sense—but, I regret to say, it is somewhat complicated., I will do my best to explain it in as few words as possible. The Army and Air Force provide that amounts allowed to a soldier or airman after deduction of his marriage allotment, shall be not less than a quarter of his pay in the case of the ordinary soldier or airman, and, in the case of a warrant or noncommissioned officer not below the rank of sergeant not less than one-third. The Navy work under a different system from the other Services. They have worked under Subsection (2,d) of Section 98A of the Naval Discipline Act introduced in 1915, and amended in 1922. This limits not the proportion, but the actual amount of deductions which can be made from pay without permission.

In the course of time, marriage allowance has increased, and the amount that we must deduct in order that the marriage allowance may be paid has to be increased. We have found that under the new pay code the money limits are inadequate. Marriage allowance is issued direct if a man allots a specific sum. Before the new pay codes of last July, the payment for a chief petty officer was 17s. 6d. and, it he allotted a sum, he received 42s. 6d. a week by way of allowance. But today the qualifying allotment required is no less than 24s. 6d. The position at the moment is that the Admiralty can and do make a compulsory deduction of 21s., and the Treasury are making up the sum of 3s. 6d., so that the marriage allowance may in fact be paid We cannot take the full amount, and, as a temporary measure, the Treasury is making up the allotment.

In order to alter this, we have to employ a certain amount of rather complicated legislation. First, we have to repeal certain Sections of the Naval Discipline Act, and to arrange for deduction to provide for a man's wife and family to be made through the Naval Pay and Pensions Act, 1865. The principal Amendment is in Clause 1, Subsection (1), which defines the expression "restrictions" in the 1865 Act to provide, first, for the maintenance of the wife and children (whether legitimate or illegitimate), and, secondly, for the payment of … costs, or… expenses incurred in obtaining… an order or decree… in respect of the maintenance of the wife and family. This will be implemented by Orders in Council. It will take the place of the first part of Subsection (2) of Section 98A of the Naval Discipline Act. That part of the Naval Discipline Act will no longer be acted upon. We shall act instead under this earlier Act as amended.

Subsection (2) protects the man who has left the Service and who may find himself called upon to pay arrears in his allotment for marriage allowance. It merely repeats the relevant portion of Section 98A of the Naval Discipline Act. Subsection (3) is consequential. Subsection (4) is an interim measure which revokes Regulation 132 of the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations, 1939, under which we have been able to act until now. It provides that any deductions made under these regulations shall continue in effect if they are within the scope of the new Orders in Council which we propose to make under this Bill. The Regulation gave the Admiralty powers to enforce deductions from a man's pay if there was a prima facie case.

For example, suppose a wife suddenly wrote and said that she had ceased to receive the allotment from her husband, who was a long way, away, maybe in the Pacific, this provision makes arrangements by which the money can continue to be paid to her until we know whether the man should or should not pay her. Clause 2 similarly revokes Regulation 13 (2A). This gave power, that though a man requested his commanding officer to terminate his allotment, it should be continued compulsorily until the Admiralty were satisfied that it should be terminated. We can act quite quickly in these cases. Some hon. Members may be worried, for example, about the case of a man, whose wife has gone off with somebody else, who wishes to terminate the allotment.

They may say that he has a perfect right to do so and that the woman has behaved very badly indeed. We can find out with great speed what is the situation in that family. The family welfare officer can find out quickly and, if the situation is as I have described, naturally the allotment would not be paid. It may be, however, that the situation is different, and in that case the allotment would continue to be paid either until a court decides otherwise or the man is able to prove his case. We intend that officers shall come under this scheme in the same way as other ranks. I do not imagine that the number of officers, any more than the number of other ranks, who will have action taken against them, will be very large. There may be none at all, but we consider that the same principle should apply to officers as to ratings. Where, in those very rare cases, an officer may have stopped an allotment without just cause, we consider that we should be able to carry on the allotment in the same way as we can with a rating.

The date of the operation of this Measure will be as the Admiralty appoints. The reason is that the Naval Discipline Act applies, with or without Amendment, to the Australian and New Zealand Navies. Naturally we want to consult the Dominions Office before putting into operation an Act which will effect them. I may add that the Dominions have already been informed about this Measure. Secondly, we want to have time for the Orders in Council to be prepared by the Admiralty in consultation with the other two Service Departments. It is most important that we should work in step with them. I understand, though naturally I cannot speak for either of those other Departments, that corresponding legislation for the Army and the R.A.F. will be amended in certain respects in their Annual Bills. Therefore, that will bring the three Services into line. As I have said, this is a short Bill. I have done my best to explain it perhaps a little more clearly than it is set down. I am ready to answer any questions if hon. Members are not yet clear of the exact implications.

11.16 a.m.

Commander Noble (Chelsea)

I rise today in the place of my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) who unfortunately is laid up with influenza and who has asked me to apologise to the Financial Secretary for his absence. We, of course, welcome this Bill in principle. I agree with what the Minister said. There is absolutely no question of party about it. I think there must be agreement on all sides of the House, that a wife and family must be protected against a man who deserts her and similarly a man must have equal safeguards against desertion by his wife. I think it is more difficult to ensure this in the Services than it is in civil life. Perhaps it is particularly difficult in the Navy where a man for some months, and it may be for years, is separated from his family by very considerable distances. There must be delays in securing information both from sea and from the home.

There are, however, one or two small points of detail and administration which we would like to raise. We hope they may be looked into before the Committee stage. First, there is the question of limits of liability. When I first examined the Bill it seemed to me that this was merely bringing the Naval and Marine Pay and Pensions Act, 1865, into line with Section 98A of the Naval Discipline Act, until I realised, and as the Financial Secretary has explained, that the Naval Discipline Act laid down upper limits for these liabilities and that this Bill does not. If I might digress for a moment, I would say that small Bills like this might well be covered by a short Explanatory Memorandum. In my limited experience, the brevity of a Bill is by no means a measure of its clarity. In this case, I think a very short memorandum, rather on the lines of what the Financial Secretary has just said, would have been a great help.

To return to the question of the upper limits, which are included in the Naval Discipline Act and not in this Bill, I fully realise that this is brought about by the fact that the full allotment for marriage allowance is now above the limits set down in the Naval Discipline Act. Therefore the limit must be put up. I do not know what the figure is to be, whether it is to be put up merely to the full allotment figure or to correspond with the figures which the Financial Secretary gave in his opening sentences, which now apply to the Royal Air Force and the Army. I think there should be no doubt at all in this Bill as to man's liability. At the moment we are committing an officer or a man to an unlimited liability which must

be decided upon by Order in Council. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite Eyre) will deal more fully with this point later. I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to give consideration to it before the Committee stage.

My second point is that Clause 1 (2) re-enacts a paragraph of Section 98A Subsection (2) of the Naval Discipline Act, but it leaves out, in our opinion, a very important Section. I will not quote it all, but it begins: "Provided that no such deductions", and it ends "unless the contrary is proved." This gives to personnel a very necessary safeguard, in that the Admiralty have to satisfy themselves, to quote again, that the person against whom the order or decree was made has had a reasonable opportunity of appearing himself, or has appeared by a duly authorised legal representative, to defend the case before the court by which the order or decree was made. That is a very important point, and there is no reference to it in this Bill. There is no such safeguard now, though I will admit that, in Subsection (3) of the relevant Section of the Naval Discipline Act, there are provisions whereby the service of proceedings has to be accompanied by a sum of money to enable the man to attend the court and return to his place of duty. I think that additional protection should be given. It was given before, and I do not see why it should not be included again. I hope the Financial Secretary will consider that point.

My third point concerns Clause 2, which has been referred to by the Financial Secretary, who said that, in these matters, the Admiralty could work very quickly. I am sure they could, but I think that there may be cases in which they will not be able to work quickly. Let us imagine a man hearing bad news from home and wanting to stop his allotment: a report from the man's commanding officer will go to the Admiralty asking that the case should be gone into. It might be that the Admiralty would reply in writing, the ship might be away, and there might be a resultant delay or it might be that the Admiralty, although I know that their welfare officers are absolutely first-class, might have some difficulty in finding the information. During that delay, the man still pays the allotment. I understand that, during the war, this was covered by an Admiralty fleet order which stated that the amount which it was sub- Sequently found need not have been paid over this period could be refunded, and I shall be grateful if consideration could be given to that point.

I am very glad that officers have been brought into this scheme. I hope that, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, these cases will be very few and far between, though I, personally, know of a case in which an officer serving abroad failed to maintain his wife, who was in this country, thereby causing her very great worry. It is for this sort of case that this Bill is designed. I understood the Financial Secretary to say that it brings us into line with the other two Services, and I think that is a very food thing. The Financial Secretary did not, however, make it quite clear whether the other two Services were going to include officers in their respective Acts. I do not think they do now. I was glad to hear that, in these matters, the Dominions Navies, with whom we work so closely, have been consulted and are considering the matter.

To sum up, we hope that, before the Committee stage, the Financial Secretary will consider these three points—first, that it may be possible to set out in the Bill the upper limits of liability; second, a necessary safeguard for the men whereby the Admiralty have to satisfy themselves that they have had a fair deal; and, third, that we can be sure that a man will not have to be liable for his allotment during any delay which may be caused by the Admiralty going into the case.

11.24 a.m.

Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)

I should like to endorse the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) regarding an Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill. We very often have Explanatory Memoranda in this House, more particularly, I think, in regard to the larger Bills, but it is very often the case that the larger Bills tend to explain themselves as we go through them, and that it is, on the contrary, the smaller Bills, which refer to a number of past enactments, which require some explanation. I hope the Government will take note of the general desire for that information.

This Bill is designed to extend the protection already given to the wives and children of persons who, without good cause, have deserted their wives and children and left them destitute. I do not think I need enlarge upon the misery, distress and humiliation that very often results from people being left in that predicament. Under the old system, it was necessary, when such cases happened, for the wife to go to the Poor Law authorities, and it often meant separation of mothers from their children. As the years have passed, their protection has been extended owing to the action of the Government, and, in approved cases, it has been possible for the Admiralty, under the old Act, to make deductions from the pay of naval ratings in order that some measure of relief could be given to the wife and children.

Prior to the introduction of this Bill, under Section 98A, Subsection (2), of the Naval Discipline Act, as amended up to June, 1941, the Admiralty were permitted to make deductions from the pay of other ranks or ratings to the uppermost ceiling which has been indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary, provided that they were satisfied that the man had deserted his wife without reasonable cause, or had, in fact, left his legitimate children under 14 years of age without just cause and had not provided for their maintenance in any way. It also covered instances where orders or decrees had been made by the courts against naval personnel for the maintenance of wives and children as a result of actions brought in the courts. The main point was that, at the same time, that Act contained certain safeguards, which have been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea, in that, before the Admiralty made any deductions in respect of orders or decrees, they had to be satisfied that the person against whom the order was made had had a reasonable opportunity by appearing himself or of being legally represented.

During the war, these regulations were extended in order to cover what were emergency conditions, and the various Defence Regulations in particular. No. 13, enabled the Admiralty to make an interim deduction without determining the full accuracy of the facts, and also enabling the Admiralty, during the war, to ensure that, where a sailor had made a voluntary allotment to his wife for the benefit of his wife and family, that sailor could not reduce that allotment unless the Admiralty were, in fact, satisfied that there was good cause for that to happen. The freezing of the allotment under S.R. & O. 165 of 1945—the one which provides that the allotment shall not be withdrawn without reasonable cause—is, in fact, incorporated in the Bill, and the provisions of S.R. & 0 1943. which provide that there may be certain interim payments has been cancelled, so that it now means that there will be a full review of all the circumstances before the Admiralty sees fit to deduct these sums for the maintenance of wives and children.

It also repeals Section 98 (2, a) which fixes the ceiling, and I gather it is the intention of the Admiralty to publish Orders in Council which will fix the ceiling anew. I do not think that there will be any dissent from this main principle, because it seems, where the ceiling of payments is likely to vary in the future, it is most inadvisable to have Acts of Parliament brought in at two or three yearly intervals to amend the ceiling figure. Having regard to the state of legislation, at least under this Government, it seems that public business is going to take precedence over minor matters of policy, and in the unlikely event of a Government coming to power of a different political complexion to that of the one now in office it would be so busy passing denationalising Measures that it would be unable to find time to pass an amending Bill of this kind. Therefore I think that Orders in Council, in so far as fixing a ceiling are concerned, are for the benefit of the wives and children of naval personnel, and, in fact, the only way of doing it. Orders in Council lie on the Table for a certain time and hon. Members have the opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the contents.

I think it is important that a Section of the Naval Discipline Act which has been repealed by this Bill, should, in fact, be put into this Bill. In repealing Section 98 (2, a) these words are also repealed—they have in fact been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea: Provided that no such deductions from pay in liquidation of a sum adjudged to be paid by an order or decree as aforesaid shall he ordered unless the Admiralty are, or the person deputed by them is, satisfied that the person against whom the order or decree was made has had a reasonable opportunity of appearing himself, or has appeared by a duly authorized legal representative, to defend the case before the court by which the order of decree, was made, and a certificate, purporting to be a certificate of the commanding officer of the ship on which he was or is serving, or on, the books of which he was or is borne, that the person has been prevented by the requirements of the service from attending at a hearing of any such case shall be evidence of the fact unless the contrary is proved. That seems to be a condition which will not vary with the passage of time, and it also seems to be a condition which will underlie any future Orders in Council that the Admiralty may see fit to lay before the House. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to consider whether or not it would be possible for him to introduce an Amendment on the Committee stage in regard to this provision, which I think he will agree is a very useful one.

I have endeavoured to go through some of the provisions which the Bill does cover, and I must now pass to something which the Bill ought to cover, and which it does not in its existing form. I refer to the distressing cases which happen when naval personnel, married in this country originally, and serving a regular engagement as well as during the war, have been released abroad. When they are released abroad they become entitled to a normal naval pension by reason of their services in the Navy or for that matter in the Marines. Under the circumstances the Government are quite properly liable to pay, and do, in fact, pay pensions to these officers or to these ratings abroad. In some few cases—and they are very few—despicable people desert their wives and families at home, and the wives have absolutely no means of obtaining any kind of redress save by initiating litigation in the country to which the husband has fled, if "fled" be the appropriate term. That is for a large number of people a very costly business, and therefore, almost impossible to operate.

I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary for his consideration that in cases where the Admiralty become liable and do in fact, pay pensions to officers or ratings who are domiciled in an area in which British law has no validity, and in a case where it can be proved that there is absolute desertion of wife and dependents, the Admiralty should amend this Bill so that it can take power to make deductions from the pensions of those who thus desert for the maintenance of the wife and children. I think that that would be a measure which the masses of the people in the Navy and in the Marines would welcome, because, of course, it does not apply to the majority but only in the case of a despicable few who let down the reputation of the rest. I think it could possibly be done by the insertion of the word "pension" after "pay" in line 11 of Clause 1 of the Bill together with some safeguarding paragraphs which deal with the question of domicile and other factors necessary in these cases. Subject to these observations, I think that this Bill is a very good little Bill, and it will be most widely welcomed, particularly in my constituency of Portsmouth which contains a large number of naval and marine personnel and their wives. I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary in so speedily bringing it forward in this House.

11.37 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

It is disappointing that at this time of day it should be necessary for any Service Department to have to resort to such complicated and patchwork methods of removing what all sides of the House will admit is an injustice. The system of allowances in particular is far too complicated in all three Armed Services and much greater effort should be made by the Parliamentary Secretary and the other heads of Service Departments to introduce a greater degree of uniformity in this connection. It is quite impossible at the present time for the men serving in the Forces fully to understand exactly what is the provision with regard to family allowances, and it is all the more disappointing to have to agree to a Bill of this kind in view of the very specific statement made in Command Paper 6715 of December, 1945, which dealt with the postwar code of pay for members of the forces. The very first paragraph of this Command Paper said: The present arrangements, which are extremely complex and result in unjustifiable disparities between the Services, have been thoroughly overhauled. It would appear from this Bill that the system has not yet been thoroughly overhauled; otherwise it would not be necessary to bring forward such a Bill the Second Reading of which we are discussing today.

I was not able to follow the Parliamentary Secretary when he said that the Army and the Air Force were to come into line with the Navy in respect of the provisions now introduced. That means now that these two other Service Departments will have to bring about the same result as is attempted here today by Amendment to their annual Bills. Surely, that is a very cumbrous and complicated way of doing things. Now that we have the Ministry of Defence, which is to co-ordinate the three Services as far as possible, one of the things which is as capable of co-ordination as anything else, is the system of pay and allowances and the rights of the dependants of Servicemen. It seems to me quite unnecessary that there should be three separate pay offices manned by three separate staffs, and I hope that one of these days some really unified system of pay and allowances for all three Services will be finally established, which would make all this kind of thing we are discussing today superfluous.

11.41 a.m.

Mr. Rees-Williams (Croydon, South)

I cannot altogether join in the presentation of the bouquets that the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty has had this morning, because I am not entirely satisfied with his statement. It seems to me that he concentrated too much on the voluntary allotment, and that he said very little about the compulsory deductions that may he made from a Serviceman's pay in respect of a court order. Now, in this House we have always been very jealous of any deductions from a Serviceman's pay. Before we took that attitude it was the case in the Army, in particular, in some regiments, that men were getting only a penny a day; after the various snippets had been made out of his pay, an unfortunate man might be getting only a penny a day. We should look with considerable jealousy at any attempt to deduct unjustly from the pay of a sailor. The Government, I think, should always justify why the Servicemen should be put into a different position from that of civilians in this matter—of from that of the Civil Service. If the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary had one of these orders made against him—and I am not suggesting that tie ever would—he would not have the amount of the order deducted from his salary. The ordinary processes of law should apply, and the onus must, I think, always be on the Government to say why Servicemen should be put into this peculiar position.

"The Bill as it is framed—under Clause —is very wide. Orders of court can be operated by the deduction from pay, apparently, by the decree of any court in His Majesty's dominions. His Majesty's dominions are very wide, and they comprise over 500 million people, and are scattered over most of the world; and yet in any court in any of those dominions an order can be made against an officer, a sailor or marine, and that court order may be enforced by the Admiralty. In some of these places, I know only too well, the standard of justice and administration is not as yet of a very high calibre; and yet we in this House are giving the Admiralty authority to deduct from a sailor's pay the amount of an order made by any court anywhere in His Majesty's dominions. Then, again, we are giving the Admiralty power to deduct from the sailor's pay the costs and expenses incurred in any such court anywhere in His Majesty's dominions. These costs may be very great. Until the Government take a rational and proper view of court costs, and really make up their mind what they are going to do about them, I object to this position. Today, costs in this country are exorbitant, and the ordinary citizen is prejudiced to a very large degree by the fact that these costs are so high. The unfortunate sailor, under these conditions, would find that his pay, perhaps for years to come might be crippled by the fact that he has to have an order made against him in one of these courts. I think there is very little justification for that.

In Clause 2 there is provision for restriction on the discontinuance of these allotments. That, again, is surely an interference with the freedom of the individual. If a man, perhaps, with good cause, wishes to discontinue his allotment—and, after all, an ordinary man does not wish to do so without good cause—if he wishes to discontinue his allotment why should he be bound to prove to some Admiralty nominee that he is justified in so doing? Why should sailors be put in a position different from that of anyone else? We are coming to a pretty pass if a man cannot conduct his private affairs in this matter without the permission of an Admiralty nominee. I shall be told, no doubt, by the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, or by whoever is to reply to the Debate, that these conditions are necessary because it is difficult to collect money from officers, sailors or marines. He will tell me that they are constantly on the high seas, and have few assets. I presume that this is the only real justification for this provision. Well, they certainly have as many assets as many others of His Majesty's subjects in these days, and they have no more of a roving life than some others of His Majesty's subjects in these days; if this provision is to be applied to Servicemen for this reason, then it ought to be applied to a very much larger number of people, in many classes and walks of life.

I think we must treat the Serviceman as an adult, as an honorable man, and as a man who is well able to handle his own affairs. Our object on this side of the House is to make the Services comparable in every way with any other walk of life. To treat the Servicemen in this old-fashioned, restrictive, and, in many ways, I suggest, objectionable manner, is to my mind unjustified, unless the Minister who is to reply can give us a better explanation than the Minister who moved the Second Reading of the Bill.

11.47 a.m.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)

Until the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) spoke, I thought we were going to have another of those very pleasant interludes in the House when we discuss naval matters. We would all agree that they provide more cordial times than are seen on some other occasions. I think, however, that the hon. Member for South Croydon did make one very important point, when he stressed the consideration that these legal proceedings can take place Tri courts of His Majesty's Dominions at great distance, and that where that happens, if this Bill goes through as it is at present drafted, men will have no chance—I would say that in 99 cases out of a 100 they would not—of being able to be represented during such proceedings. Every speaker who has spoken in this Debate has raised the question of repealing Section 98 of the Naval Discipline Act without making provision in this Bill for the retention of the men's right, either to be present themselves or to have legal advisers in their places.

That does seem to me to be a most important thing, and the most important right that a man can have, particularly when the Government, as they do in Clause 2, propose that these allotments shall not be stopped except with the permission of the Admiralty. If allotments and maintenance of wives and children are to be placed on this basis—and I think it is right— then the Admiralty must make provision so that miscarriages of justice cannot occur. By repealing Section 98 of the Naval Discipline Act without retaining this safeguard, I think they are laying themselves open to miscarriages of justice, and taking a very valuable safeguard from the men in His Majesty's Navy. I hope that the Minister who is to reply to the Debate will tell us that, before the Committee stage, this part of that Subsection is to be incorporated in this Bill.

The other point made throughout this Debate has been that of the maximum sums to be deducted. As I understood the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, he said that he anticipated that the Orders in Council would introduce the provision that no man should be stopped of more than a quarter of his pay. That, I understood, was the level, and he wanted this matter to be settled in future by proportionate rather than by maximum sums. There are arguments on both sides, but whatever it is, I feel that it should be incorporated in the Bill. Let the Minister introduce an Amendment to this Bill, which will safeguard the man and give the flexibility he desires. It is a bad thing that we should hand over the duty of safeguarding people in His Majesty's Forces to the Government. I am not arguing that the Financial Secretary is a bad Financial Secretary, but it is wrong in principle for this House to hand over powers of this nature to the Executive. I should also like to ask the Financial Secretary, as a number of other hon. Members have asked, whether we cannot have more simple Bills from his Department. The interlocking legislation effected by these four pages is terrific, and if only there could be an Explanatory Memorandum, how much better it would be. I hope that the next time the Financial Secretary comes down to the House of Commons to move the Second Reading of a Bill, he will be able to say not only that it is short and non-controversial, but also that it is simple We, on this side of the House, agree in principle with this Bill. but we trust that the Amendments pressed for in all quarters of the House will receive attention before the Committee stage. should like to congratulate the Admiralty on introducing a Measure which will do much to help the wives and children of members of His Majesty's Navy, and also give greater security to the men them selves.

11.52 a.m.

Mr. Dugdale

I am gratified with the reception this Bill has had, and I fully sympathise with those Members who have taken exception to its complex nature. If it is any consolation to the House, I can assure Members that I have suffered equally from its complications, and have had a considerable amount of trouble in mastering its details, if, indeed, I have mastered them now. Perhaps I may first be allowed to say how much I regret the absence of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas). In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), I agree that there should be, as he and other hon. Members have said, an Explanatory Memorandum in Bills of this character, just as there is for longer Bills. While I was considering this Bill, I sometimes thought that I wished I was introducing, let us say, the Electricity Nationalisation Bill which seemed to me to be much more simple. With regard to the question of limits of liability, the figures we mean to put in the Order in Council are these: three-sevenths for an officer, two-thirds for a petty officer, and three-quarters for an ordinary rating. I think it is better that we should have a proportion rather than a fixed sum.

Commander Noble

Can the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty say whether these are the proportions to he retained or deducted?

Mr. Dugdale

They are the limit of liability to be deducted. It is approximately the same amount as for the other two Services, and we intend, by the time we have finished, that all three Services will have the same system of deductions.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

Is it anticipated that up to three-quarters of a rating's pay can be deducted under the Order in Council to be issued?

Mr. Dugdale

Yes. Sir, that is correct. In regard to the question of safeguards, we intend to put safeguards in the Order in Council, but if hon. Members would prefer them in the Bill, I am perfectly prepared to see that they are put in during the Committee stage rather than in the Order in Council. I think that that will satisfy Members who have been disturbed about this matter. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea also raised the question of delay. I can tell him that the money will, if necessary, be refunded if it is found the man was right and his wife was wrong. I will look into the question raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) in regard to the limited class of pensioners domiciled abroad. There may considerable difficulty in bringing them in, but I will see if they can be brought in, and if it is possible, I will do so during the Committee stage. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) referred to complications in general in the system of pay and allowances. That is far outside the scope of this Bill. I agree that they are complicated matters, but we certainly cannot deal with them this morning. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) took exception to the Bill in a large number of respects, and among others was the jurisdiction of courts in His Majesty's Dominions. That is a point which cannot be dealt with here. We have to accept their jurisdiction, just as we have to accept jurisdiction in our own country. I cannot this morning pass comment on the system of jurisdiction in the different parts of His Majesty's Dominions.

Mr. Rees-Williams

Does the Minister not realise what is going to happen? He is thinking of the Dominions as they exist today, but with the possible expansion in the future of the number of Dominions, he will find that the type of courts in which these cases are heard may be very different from the courts in the Dominions today.

Mr. Dugdale

I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion on the possible expansion of His Majesty's Dominions. That is a question which would have to be decided on a much higher level, and in rather greater detail. My hon. Friend also said that normal men do not discontinue their allotments without good cause, and that is a very important point. The answer is that we are not proposing to legislate for the normal man, but for the abnormal man. The number of cases we have had to deal with during the war is comparatively small, and we hope that the number will be smaller now, but in view of the fact that there are these abnormal men, I hope that we may be allowed to have this Bill so that wives may no longer suffer as a result of neglect by this particular class of men.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next. — [Mr. Simmons]