HC Deb 25 May 1949 vol 465 cc1333-6
The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)

I beg to move, in page 8, line 12, at the end, to insert: (4) In the case of a person who has been a member of the forces at any time after the passing of this Act, the last foregoing subsection (except paragraph (b) thereof) shall apply so as to authorise the giving of advice on matters arising in the course of his service outside England and Wales, as it applies in the case of a person who is a member of the forces. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) pointed out in our discussions upstairs that demobilised members of the Forces on their return to this country might, perhaps, after the lapse of some period of time—six months or nine months—find themselves in need of legal advice on some matter which had not manifested itself during their service abroad and which involved some question of the foreign law of the country in which they had been serving. This Amendment would enable the Forces' legal adviser to give legal advice to a demobilised member of the Forces in regard to matters arising under foreign law during their period of service.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

We do not object to this Amendment; in fact, we think it is desirable. I should, however, like to ask one or two questions about it. When the demobilised member of His Majesty's Forces wants advice or aid in regard to the law of the country in which he has been serving, will he apply as an ordinary civilian does and be required to make a contribution or pay a fee for the advice, or will he be treated as a serving member of the Forces in respect of this particular advice and be able to obtain it free?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said the man would have recourse to the Forces' legal adviser. One does not know quite how that will operate. I wonder whether the Attorney-General could throw a little more light on that point. As I understood it, in Committee it was stated that the Law Society were to be responsible both for the provision of legal aid to civilians and also for the provision of legal aid to the Forces, whether in this country or abroad, and, if that be the case, I think it would be valuable if the right hon. and learned Gentleman could give us a little more indication of how this scheme will operate in consequence of this Amendment.

If I may remind him, the right hon. and learned Gentleman also said on the Committee stage that he would consider extending the facilities provided for members of His Majesty's Forces to the Control Commission. He said he would think about that again. I assume he has thought about it again and I also assume, from his silence upon this matter, that he has not found it possible to widen the scope of these facilities so as to include members of the Control Commission.

The Attorney-General

The assumption in the last part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech is correct. We gave further consideration to the possibility of providing facilities for legal aid to members of the Control Commission, but we were unable to find any reason why they, and not other public servants serving abroad in other parts of the world, should be entitled to these special facilities. We thought, therefore, that it would be inappropriate to provide them.

So far as the demobilised member of the Forces is concerned, he will be entitled to receive legal advice as if he were a member of the Forces, that is to say, without paying for it. He will, of course, apply as a civilian, it is true, through the Law Society and they will forward his request for information and advice to the appropriate legal officer in the country in which he was serving. I do not know whether that will happen in every case; it may be that they will have at hand in London an officer able to give advice, but normally I suppose the matter will have to be referred to the legal officer at the military station at which the soldier was serving.

Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

But under Clause 7 the advice must be limited. He must receive advice on the English law and not on the law of the place where he happens to have been.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) has misread the Clause, because I am quite sure that the effect of this provision is to enable members of His Majesty's Forces to obtain advice on the law of the country, outside Great Britain, in which they have been serving.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

That may be so in the view of the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), but I think it is perfectly clear under Clause 7 that it does not operate in that way, and I see nothing in the Amendment which amplifies that at all. The Amendment is simply in connection with some matter which has occurred whilst the person in the Services was abroad. If one looks at Clause 7, it is perfectly clear that he is precluded from receiving advice on any law other than the English law.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. Subsection (3, c) makes provision for including other countries by regulation, and this Amendment brings in a new subsection (4), which refers back specifically to that subsection.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

With respect, the regulations may be introduced to extend the operation of this Bill. We are not dealing with them. That is a matter for the future, and it could be accomplished, I think, without this Amendment. The point we are discussing is this particular Amendment, and, in my submission to the Attorney-General, the Clause would, as it stands now, even with the Amendment, preclude a man from receiving advice on any law other than English law.

The Attorney-General

I am afraid I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend's construction of the Bill and the Amendment. Under the Bill as it stands, members of the Forces are entitled to legal aid in special circumstances and on different conditions from civilians, but they are not entitled to such aid after their demobilisation. The Bill provides that whilst they are members of the Forces they may obtain, subject to regulations to be made under Clause 7 (3), advice on the law of the places where they have been serving as soldiers. This Amendment is intended to extend that provision to them after their demobilisation, and I think it succeeds in so doing.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.