HC Deb 09 April 1948 vol 449 cc487-9

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

11.7 a.m.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

I should like some explanation of this Clause, which amends the new Clause added last year. I am sure the Committee will want some idea of the effect of this Clause, and why it is necessary.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)

As the hon. Member says, this Clause amends a Clause added last year, making effective maintenance orders made against officers and, in effect, bringing the procedure in the case of officers into line with that for other ranks. However, we are now advised that the Amendment made last year would not apply to any maintenance order made before 30th April, 1947, and it was felt that in some cases that limitation might cause hardship. The effect of this Clause is to remedy that defect. The Committee will notice that in paragraph (b) there is the proviso: with the substitution for the words 'a copy of such order or decree shall be sent' of the words 'a copy of such order or decree may be sent'. That is to say, there will be power to bring this retrospective action into effect, but that power would not necessarily or automatically be used. It is the intention to use that power only where neglect to observe the conditions of a maintenance order is resulting in real hardship to the party concerned. That again is in line with the procedure followed in the case of other ranks.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I am obliged to the Under-Secretary for that explanation, but arising out of it there is one small matter on which I should like an assurance. Paragraph (c) provides that arrears may be ordered to be paid. Arrears relating to an order made a long time ago might be very heavy indeed, and an order to pay a large sum in arrears might cause an officer to be virtually out of his pay—subject to the limitation provided in the main Subsection—for a very long time. Could we have an assurance that the Army Council will, in exercising their discretion, see that arrears are dealt with in a reasonably lenient way, so as not to place an intolerable burden on an officer who may be in arrears through no fault of his own?

Mr. Stewart

Certainly, I give that assurance.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

I wish to raise only one point: I doubt whether it is in Order, but I hope, Major Milner, that you will allow me to put it. I did raise this question in connection with a civilian matter. Have there been any conversations with the defence Ministers or the Governments of the Dominions in order that this provision shall apply to Dominion officers formerly domiciled in this country? If not, I suggest that negotiations should be entered into, in order that the requisite provision may be inserted in the Army Act next year.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)

I was not aware that the noble Lord the hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was going to raise this matter today. To the best of my recollection there have been conversations about this and cognate matters, but no clear decision has yet been reached. I will take note of what the noble Lord has said.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.