§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move in page 13, line 30, to leave out Clause 12.
This Amendment is similar to one which was discussed in the early hours of last Friday, very briefly in view of the late hour. It was followed by a Division in which there was a tie, and now we have the opportunity of giving the matter further consideration.
Under this Clause, it is possible to extend the period of the Bill by Order in Council to 1952, 1953 and 1954. If it is extended in that way, it means that it will not be possible to amend this Bill, which will then be an Act, but merely to renew the Act in its existing form. I can well see the arguments which are attractive to the Government in favour of extending it by Order in Council if there is to be any extension. In the light of their experience on the Committee Stage, this Government, in the unlikely event that they are still in office in 1952–54, would be subject to a very considerable temptation to extend it by Order in Council, for if they did that it certainly would not be possible to discuss, for instance, the exclusion of Northern Ireland. Nor would it be possible, if the extension were proposed by an Order in Council, to move an Amendment that a person should not be prosecuted more than once for failure to comply with the call-up notice.
I should have thought it doubtful if it would be possible to discuss either of these matters. Certainly, if it is extended by Order in Council there will be no opportunity for the Government supporters to divide against the Government on matters of that character. Therefore, I submit that if any extension is necessary, the temptation to the Government to make the extension by Order in Council Is a strong one. Our view is that the Government should not be exposed to such a temptation.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) put forward on the Committee stage our criticisms against this Clause. As he said, the system proposed in the Bill has many shortcomings. It does not fully meet the training of those of the Territorial Army, nor the Regular Army and the Royal Air 44 Force at home. It would be astonishing in the light of the experience we have had this year, if this rather hurried Measure should not require alteration. I feel sure that it will. Therefore, we feel that this provision for extension by Order in Council should be deleted. It is only a temptation on the part of the Government not to alter the Bill, even if an alteration is proved by experience to be desirable.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will further consider whether the retention of this Clause is really necessary. I hope he will also bear in mind, in giving it further consideration, that no fewer than 13 of the Government's supporters who voted in favour of the proposal that no one should be prosecuted twice for failing to respond to the call-up, went into the Lobby for the Government on this particular Clause, giving the Government power therefore to extend the Bill by Order in Council and to extend the possibility of a person being prosecuted more than once if called up more than once in succeeding years. That shows illogicality in thought, a certain amount of charm, and an irresponsibility on the part of certain Members opposite. I hope that, apart from these few words which may perhaps have poured a little oil upon the fire, the right hon. Gentleman will give this Amendment serious consideration, and I hope that once again the Government will accept our proposal, as they have so many of our proposals in the course of these discussions.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I beg to second the Amendment.
The fact that the Committee found it desirable to divide on this issue makes it a very good reason why this Amendment should be considered. The Under-Secretary has himself said, to use his words:I think therefore that it is common ground between us that there ought to be provision for the possibility of doing something like this not only this year, but in the next two or three years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 2516.]That is the whole point, that it will have to be "something like this," which means, in point of fact, nothing like it. It will be necessary to introduce a new Bill and it will not fall under the machinery of the Order in Council procedure as a practical proposition.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned during the Committee stage that it very largely 45 affects the Territorial Army over the next three years when the National Service men will be pouring in. It is not only them. In fact, they are the smaller proportion to be affected—80,000 as against 115,000 men coming into the Regular Army. By this time next year there will be such a change in the situation in regard to troops in Britain in proportion to troops in Western Europe that something entirely new will have to be devised.
I am very sorry to see that of these 115,000 Class Z men to be called up none are to go where they are most needed—to the tail of the Army in Germany. I dare say that it was impracticable to do this, but by next year it may be that we shall have to introduce some legislation to make that practicable. I think that certain Members below the Gangway should support us over this. Surely they would like to see these things re-discussed in connection with a small Bill rather than to have an Order in Council. I appeal to those below the Gangway to support us in that contention. Although they will probably support the Amendment from different reasons, their support will never-the less be welcome.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I have listened with interest to the speeches in support of the Amendment. I rather thought there was a slight difference in the tone of the appeal that was equally made in both of them. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) in appealing to us to support him conceded that our reasons might be rather different. His appeal seemed to be a genuine and sincere appeal which it is tempting to admit. The hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), however, seemed to go out of his way to make it as difficult as possible to induce any of us to support him, because he said that if we did we should be inconsistent and illogical.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am afraid that the hon. Member cannot have heard directly what I said. I was indicating to him the opportunity he would have of becoming entirely logical and perhaps ceasing to be quite irresponsible.
§ Mr. Silverman
I heard that said, and I think I understood it the first time. It is the danger of "spreading the net in sight of the bird."
46 Nevertheless, I ask my right hon. Friend again to look very carefully at the principle of the Amendment. I say that not to afford any aid and encouragement to the Opposition, but because it seems to me that there is a genuine principle here involved. This is a Measure which the House is passing without opposition, although reluctantly, and I am sure that the Government are as reluctant as the rest of us to have it. Only necessity will have persuaded the Government to bring the Bill before the House at all. The Bill is expressly limited in effect to one year, but both sides of the House appear to have conceded that it may be necessary to extend it.
The only question is whether it shall be extended in such a way as to give the House and the Government an opportunity to avail ourselves of the experience we shall have gathered during the 12 months, or whether it shall be extended in a form which denies both to the Government and to the House an opportunity of making any use of that experience at all. There is no question but that Parliament will have an opportunity of approving or rejecting the extension to subsequent years, because if it is done as the Government wish it to be done, that is to say by Order in Council, the House can, if it chooses, reject it by a negative Resolution. Therefore, I am not arguing for the moment that under this procedure Parliament loses control as to whether it should or should not be extended. I concede at once that even under the form in the Bill, Parliament does retain the opportunity of deciding that and controlling the principle of extension or no extension.
Whereas in the one form we can extend the principle with minor Amendments or major Amendments or modifications or qualifications dictated by our present experience of the Bill, in the other form, no matter how many Amendments have become obvious administratively to the Government and to the House during the 12 months' working of the scheme, there would be no opportunity either for the House or for the Government to amend a single dot or cross a single "t" in the Bill as it stands. The Government will be as much handicapped as the House. The only right that they would have under the Bill as it stands is to extend it as it stands, and 47 if they want any Amendments they will have to bring in a totally new Measure. No doubt they could do so if they saw the necessity for it, but it seems to me that there are a great many things in the Bill, the merits or demerits of which will only be shown in the working out.
There has been a great deal of anxiety —I am not complaining about what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South, or his making political capital out of it, because that is what an Opposition is for—among those of us who voted against the Government on this question of possible cat-and-mouse criminal procedure. That was so because we had quite a genuine anxiety about it. We quite appreciate that the Government had to resist it, not because they wanted a cat-and-mouse system of successive prosecutions and penalties, but because in their opinion there was no danger of any such injustice taking place. The difference between those who voted for that Amendment on the Committee stage and those who voted against it was precisely on the question whether that kind of injustice would take place or not. It may turn out that the arguments on either side were right. Supposing that, in spite of the genuine indentions of the Government, there were a number of cases of these successive penalties for what virtually is one offence, the Government then presumably would wish to strengthen the Bill in such a way as to give effect to their true intentions, but they would have no opportunity under this procedure.
Clause 6—one admits that this is not the time to discuss it—in its present form is a much more innocuous Clause than it was when the Bill was first drafted. The Amendments in Committee have made a considerable difference to it, and the spirit in which those Amendments were moved removed a good deal of anxiety on some of the points. However, nobody can say how that Clause in practice will work out. Nobody can be sure at all that some of the original dangers to civil liberty as many of us saw them and to some extent still see them in the Bill, will not turn out in practice to be fears which were justified. If that is so, there is no reason to think, having regard to what Government spokesmen have already said on the sub- 48 ject, that they would not desire to amend the Clause in order to combat that state of affairs, but under this procedure they will have no opportunity of doing so.
Finally, may I make an argument which, if not altogether conclusive, at any rate is important. This Bill provides for compulsory military service. It is a long time now since this House declared—and has maintained ever since—that the Army Act should be re-enacted every year. Even in the case of a voluntary standing army, Parliament has said that the Executive should have no power to maintain an Army at all for longer than 12 months at a time, and if they wish to retain a standing army after that, they must year by year come to Parliament for statutory authority to maintain even that voluntary army.
Here we are not dealing with a voluntary army but with a conscript army, and with an obligation upon people who have already served the time they were called upon to serve under the original Act. They have been transferred to the Reserve, and here is a new Bill to impose a further obligation upon them if the original obligation which they were conscripted to discharge has been discharged. It would seem to me to be a very great conflict of constitutional principle to extend by Order in Council a compulsory obligation for service after the original compulsory obligation has been satisfied, when, in the case of the maintenance of a voluntary standing army a new Act of Parliament is needed every year. I think we were wise to say, and to go on saying, that in the case of the Armed Forces Parliament should have an annual opportunity of changing its mind on the whole thing or on any detail. If we say that about the Army as a whole, it is really inconceivable why we should not say it about this Bill.
Mr. Hopkin Morris
I agree fully with the arguments which have been adduced by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) for they are powerful and valid arguments. The most onerous duty that the State can put upon the subject is compulsory military service, and Parliament should keep the right to review that duty completely in its hands. It is quite wrong that provision should be made to extend that duty beyond the 49 period of one year merely by the formal assent of the House. I hope those arguments will have due weight given to them by the Government, and that the Government will accede to the real constitutional position, which should obtain in this country and has hitherto obtained before this Service Bill was submitted, that before the Government demands this service from its citizens it will do so only after a full and free expression of opinion on the Floor of this House.
§ Mr. Irvine
I hope the Government will pay the closest attention to the speeches that have been delivered. What we have witnessed in the passage of this Bill through Committee has been the magnanimity of the Attorney-General in bringing it into line with the Incitement to Disaffection Act, 1934, which was anathema to many hon. Members on this side of the House when it was before Parliament. There are also those of us on this side who, rightly or wrongly, greatly regret that the Government have not seen fit to make it clear that they will not serve the second notice when one has already been served and a prosecution has followed; and equally do we regret that there has been no guarantee that if a second notice is served another prosecution will not follow. On that hypothesis we believe that a reservist who follows that course of conduct will not be worth anything anyway to the Forces.
Some of us are in a genuine difficulty as to what to do upon this Amendment. I am not satisfied that it will be entirely illogical to support the Government at this point if they refuse to accept the Amendment. In fairness, let it be said that the matter has been debated and discussed, and a decision has been arrived at by the Committee. We take a democratic view of a decision by a majority, and I reserve to myself what decision I should make if the matter should go to a Division. I hope that the Government will at least consider the points which have been raised.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I found it difficult to follow the reasoning of the last part of the speech to which we have just listened. As I understood him, the hon. Member said that this matter had already been decided in the Committee stage, and therefore he would keep an open mind as to what steps he would take at this, the next, stage. I do not 50 know whether the hon. Member was present in the Committee at the somewhat mature hour of the evening when this subject was discussed. If he was not, I will recall to him the fact that the Committee was evenly divided and that the Deputy-Chairman, in accordance with the Rules and for the express purpose of keeping the matter open, gave his casting vote in favour of the Government. Therefore, the one thing that cannot be said about this matter is that the issue has already been settled.
I am bound to say that I found the arguments of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) much more effective. I have differed so often from the hon. Gentleman that I found it agreeable to be able to regard his arguments not merely as adroit—they are always that—but as sound. I am only sorry that his conversion to this view has apparently occurred since the Division took place at nearly Two o'Clock last Friday morning.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene? I said nothing about this matter at all. It is true that on that occasion I voted three times. I cast one vote against the Government when I thought they were wrong, and so I thought that in all fairness I should vote for them on another occasion when I thought they were wrong.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If the hon. Gentleman persists in that line of argument I shall come to the conclusion that he is about to join hon. Members of the Liberal Party, below the Gangway. As he knows, there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over the ninety and nine that went not astray and did not need repentance. In that spirit I welcomed the hon. Gentleman's speech. He was quite right when he put the emphasis on the point that it is only by accepting the Amendment that this House can retain any right to amend the Bill, if the matter is to be renewed in subsequent years. That is the basic difference between the procedure by affirmative Resolution and the procedure by Bill.
I found the Under-Secretary of State, whose debating skill I have known and respected now for 22 years, a little disingenuous—again at Two o'Clock in the morning—when he skated away from the issue. He adopted the argument that it 51 would always still be open to the Government to introduce a Bill, even if the Clause stood as it is. He went on to say:The insertion of this Clause into the Bill does not preclude the method of introducing another Bill if that should seem to be more desirable. If we found, in the light of this year's experience, or in the light of the situation next year, that it was impossible to devise a satisfactory scheme for next year within the framework of this Bill, if it were essential to have some scheme we—and I am taking a different view from that of the right hon. Gentleman—would have to invite the House to pass a separate measure."—OFFICIAL REPORT. 1st March. 1951; Vol. 484, c. 2517.]Of course, that is true so far as the Government are concerned, but it is not true for the House of Commons. It reserves to the Government the right to propose Amendments to their own legislation, but denies it to the House. That is the point of distinction between the two procedures.
The Under-Secretary is quite right when he says that the Government could do it, but in the present political situation this is not a Government-Opposition question, in the ordinary sense. It is a House of Commons-Government question. No-one would like to be quite certain who will be sitting on the Government benches at this time next year, and it is doubtful whether any Government should be able to deny to the House of Commons the right to renew and revise complex provisions of this kind. It may well be the opinion of this House in 12 months' time that periods of service of 15 days, or 18 months, may or may not be suitable. The whole call-up machinery, which has been hastily devised and hastily amended, sometimes in the dead of night, may appear to be inadequate. Some hon. Members may feel a little more strongly than I do on the question whether, Clause 6, even as amended, might not work in practice with some possibility of injustice. We do not know, and we cannot know until we have had an opportunity of seeing the machinery in action.
The very willingness of the Government to accept Amendments on various points show that they themselves had no very settled opinions when they introduced the Bill. I am very glad that they have accepted Amendments on many of these points. Surely they must admit that if two days debate can persuade them that alterations are required in the Bill, 12 months' practical experience may show it even more strongly. It is all very well for 52 the Under-Secretary to say that the Government can then introduce a Bill, but is it the case that any Government would necessarily do so? The inevitable pressure on the time of the House naturally inclines the Leader of the House—any Leader of the House—to try to exclude controversial business because it will take up time. Those pressures will be working the wrong way in this instance.
The Under-Secretary, or whoever is then sitting in his place, will be in a very much better position if he can go to the Leader of the House and say, "If we are to maintain this system at all, and I am advised by my military advisers that we must, we need a Bill." No Leader of the House could resist that approach, but he could very easily harden his heart when renewal could be effected by affirmative Resolution in one day. The Under-Secretary ought to put himself in a position to wrestle with the Leader of the House in 12 months' time in those circumstances, and I am trying to help him in that unequal struggle.
I hope that the Government will reconsider this matter, as they have been urged to do from their own benches. We feel very strongly on the matter. I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that we are not dealing here with property rights or legal technicalities but with the lives and individual freedom of our fellow citizens. We have no right to surrender them to any Government of whatever political complexion, and I sincerely hope, therefore, that the Government will accept the Amendment.
Lieut-Colonel Upton (Brixton)
I am anxious neither to upset nor unduly to encourage the somewhat precarious coalition in this House at the present moment on this issue. The argument is that the Army Act is an analogy, and so it is, within certain limits. It provides that a standing Army shall be maintained for 12 months. The Bill proposes to ensure that the Government have the right to call people up for a period of 15 days' training. I do not think that additional force is lent to the argument by the analogy of the Army Act.
Nevertheless, I believe that the principles involved in this legislation are of such great importance that the concession we are asking the Government to make is one of not very great magnitude.
53 4.30 p.m.
If the Government do agree to make the Bill renewable annually like the Army Act, they will not be making such a very great concession, especially in the light of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State which have been quoted by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). Those remarks show quite clearly that, in the mind of the Under-Secretary at least, there is a possibility that circumstances may arise which will inevitably entail some form of amending legislation. If, as may well be the case, some form of amending legislation it required in 12 months' time, that seems to take away very much from the force of the argument put forward by the Under-Secretary in favour of making the Bill renewable by Order in Council. For those reasons I support the representations which have been made on all sides of the House in favour of making the Bill an annual Bill.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I want to support the Amendment. I should like to say how much I agreed with the argument for doing so which was put forward by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). It is not often that he and I find ourselves in such unanimity. He put his finger on points which I wish to emphasise. He said that the fact that the Army Act is an annual Act was a very strong point in favour of our proposal; and also that these men have already served their ordinary commitment and we are asking them to do something extra and that it is, therefore, essential that we should give the great opportunity for protest against the continuance of the principle if there should be anyone who wishes to protest. We have seen from the debates which took place on Second Reading and on the Committee stage that there is always likely to be considerable public protest about this, from certain sections anyway, both inside and outside the House.
It seems to me that the procedure which could be adopted by the Government if the Clause remained in the Bill, would enable them in another year to rush the matter through without our having a real opportunity to discuss every detail of the Bill. I can understand the Government not particularly wanting to revive opportunities for debates such as 54 we had on the Committee stage, but, nevertheless, surely they wish to preserve the right to air grievances. Obviously there will be some grievances. The Bill is rather extraordinary in that part of it is already operating while we are still debating it, and already I have heard of two cases of men aged 41 being called up although we have had assurances from right hon. Gentlemen opposite that very few people over 35 will be called up.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
They have been called up to serve with the active Army. I have also heard of a man—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am trying to point out, Major Milner, that we have had assurances from His Majesty's Government that certain things will not happen under the Bill, part of which is already in operation, but that there are already signs to show that the Government are not abiding by some of their assurances. If the Government say that they will give us the assurance that if there is need for Amendment they will amend the Bill, how are we to be certain that they will do so? If the Clause remains in the Bill, it gives the Government the opportunity of renewing the Bill year by year and it cuts right across the period fixed in Clause 1. We ought really to be very doubtful about any assurances given by the Government on this matter right from the beginning. We must be most careful to see that Parliament's rights are assured.
If the Bill were to be renewed in the future, I believe that it would require drastic amendment. I believe that, in particular, drastic amendment would be required of Clause 1, which limits the service of these men to the United Kingdom. I am not at all sure of the reason why all these men are being called up in this country this year. It may very well be the fact that there is no Home Guard and no Civil Defence service and that the Government fear some threat to these Islands this year. Let us hope and pray that such a threat never occurs. As has been stressed in the earlier parts of the debate, I believe that these men will be 55 most needed as the technical tail of the active Army in Germany, and the time may come when these men ought to be called up there. If we pass the Clause, we are binding ourselves only to calling up men in the United Kingdom which may be the place where they cannot be used to the best effect.
The Government ought to give us an assurance that they will provide every facility for amendment of the Bill, whether it be by Private Members putting down Amendments or by the Government putting down Amendments. Even if we delete the Clause from the Bill, the Government still have the power to come before Parliament and renew the Bill. We are not stopping the Government doing that. All we are asking the Government to do is to guarantee that we shall have the opportunity of moving Amendments if we wish to do so.
I do not know if the Government will use in defence of their retaining the Clause in the Bill, the fact that the National Service Act is not an annual Act like the Army Act is. Again, I would come back to the point made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that the National Service man has done his term of service under the National Service Act and that is covered by the National Service Act we do not concern ourselves here with it; but what we are asking now is that men should come back for an additional job unexpected at the time they first did their service under the existing legislation.
That is why I say that, as Private Members of the House, we must preserve the right to move Amendments each year to this legislation, just as we have the right to move Amendments to the Army Act each year. I hope that the Government will listen to the very great pressure which is being put on them from both sides of the House and give the House these facilities.
§ Mr. Stewart
I have endeavoured to give most careful attention to the arguments which have been advanced, as the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) said, from all parts of the House. If I followed them correctly, there are two main lines of support for the Amendment. One is concerned with administrative and military 56 matters and the other with the more profound constitutional questions first raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
I shall deal first with the administrative and military matters. It is argued that in any of the subsequent years during which an Order in Council may be presented we might require different and greater powers of call-up than are contained in the Bill and that a simple process of bringing the Bill into force again by Order in Council would not suffice. I submit to the House that if that were all we were concerned with, there would be no real necessity for the Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), asked the Government to consider whether the Clause was really necessary. On the purely administrative and military argument, I would say that the burden of proof was on the other side and would ask if there was any real necessity for the Amendment.
With the Clause in the Bill, two ways of proceeding are open, by introducing a new Bill or by continuing this Bill. Quite clearly it is open either to this Government, or to any government, during the years that are involved, having looked at the military situation at the time, to say to itself, "Is the situation such that the powers given under this Bill provide an adequate scheme for this year?" If the answer to that question is, "Yes," surely no useful purpose is served—I speak again purely with relation to the administrative and military arguments—in going through the procedure of a Bill? If the answer to that question is, "No," the possibility of introducing a Bill is again before us——
§ Mr. S. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Stewart
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall come to the point in which he is specially interested a little later.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want to refer to that. In the argument which my hon. Friend is putting to the House now, has he not missed the important point that if we do it under the Bill the Government will be the sole judge of whether there shall be any Amendment or not, whereas if we do it the other way, the House, too, may take part in it?
§ Mr. Stewart
I appreciate that point, but if this Amendment is carried and the Clause is deleted, it simply means that next year this Measure has to come to an end. The Government are still the judge of whether or not to introduce any Bill dealing with this subject. Further, it is open to the House under this Clause to put the Government in that position by refusing its consent to the Order in Council. If the Government of the day attempts merely to reproduce the scheme in this Bill by Order in Council, and if it is the opinion of the House that the matter from a military and administrative point of view would be better done by another scheme, it is entirely in the hands of the House, by refusing assent to the Order in Council, to put the Government in the position where it must introduce a Bill.
I submit, therefore, that all that is being done by this Amendment—again purely on the administrative and military side—is to close one way of proceeding that might be convenient. It is not fundamentally adding any powers or opportunities either to the House or the Government that do not exist in the Bill. It has been suggested that the Government will learn from the experience of the working of the Bill this year, both with regard to the treatment of claims for exemption and also with regard to the actual mechanism of call-up, and that, therefore, almost certainly we shall wish to make Amendments. I am bound to say, however, that I think the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was pressing the argument a bit hard when he prayed in aid the willingness of the Government so far to accept Amendments as a reason for being certain that the arrangements made under the Bill are bound to require further amendment.
Supposing the Government had taken a different view; supposing we had rigidly opposed all the Amendments proposed, the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames would have been the first to have said, "This Bill, which the Government has so obstinately refused to amend this year, is bound to require amendment next year." He would have used our refusal to accept Amendments this year as an argument to reach exactly the same conclusion as that to which he is now trying to drive us, and I do not think he can 58 himself attach much weight to that argument.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Surely, the fact that two days' debate in this House convinced His Majesty's Government that the Bill as drafted required substantial change is some indication that all this subject matter is so uncertain as to make it almost sure that 12 months actual experience of the operating of the system will make that imperative?
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot feel that the hon. Gentleman has really established his case there. If that is to be accepted, it could be argued in almost any Measure in which the Government showed willingness to accept Amendments. There is simply no end to the argument.
I still maintain the point that it is open to the House, by rejecting the Order in Council, to put the Government in a position where they must introduce a Bill. I further state this, that if anything in the experience of this year's working shows that a mere re-enactment by Order in Council of this Bill would be inappropriate to the needs of next year, and if next year it were necessary to have a scheme of this kind at all, if both those provisos were fulfilled, then the Government would proceed by Bill. But there is really no reason why a method of procedure that may, for all we know, prove to be convenient, should be precluded, as would be the case if this Amendment were accepted.
We have at present more than one way of dealing with the possibility of next year and subsequent years. Fundamentally the effect of this Amendment is to reduce that choice of ways, and that does not seem to me to be, in the interests of secure administration and of getting what the House really wants, a satisfactory way to proceed. We cannot accept the view which has sometimes been suggested from the benches opposite, that any method of procedure which is inconvenient to the Government is bound for that reason to be meritorious. Now I want to turn——
§ Brigadier Peto (Devon, North)
Before the Under-Secretary leaves that point, he has not really answered the very apposite point made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). The hon. Gentleman said, "We have the opportunities, we have the ways," but who 59 is he referring to? The Government presumably, not the House of Commons, but it is the House of Commons which does the legislating.
§ Mr. Stewart
I was about to turn to the point put by my hon. Friend. I have already pointed out that in the Clause as it stands, since the method is that of an Order in Council which receives the consent of both Houses of Parliament, the point which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has in mind is covered. This Clause does not enable the Government to proceed without the approval of the House. It is open to the House, if it wishes to compel the Government of the day to proceed by Bill rather than by Order in Council, to do so. I really do not think I can labour that point any more. I have emphasised it two or three times.
With regard to the constitutional objections of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne, I think I am right in saying that the great question he has in mind is that, of all constitutional matters, the maintenance of Armed Forces—of what used to be described as a standing Army or anything approaching it—is one over which the House of Commons ought especially to keep control, and to keep it very firmly.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am aware of that. The main criticism of this Clause made by my hon. Friend was that it was relaxing the hold over the maintenance of the standing Army. I want to draw attention to the fact that the National Service Acts are not annual ones. I am well aware of the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), which I see he is anxious to make again if I am in danger of forgetting it. It is true that the National Service Acts are not annual Acts, but I am quite sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne is about to remind me that although under the National Service Acts we can call men up, we cannot retain them with the Forces unless the Army Annual Act is enforced.
The Armed Forces, whether in existence by virtue of the National Service Acts or by virtue of this Bill, all depend for the continued existence of the Force 60 on the military discipline which can only be continued year by year by this House. If that is true of the National Service Acts, it is also true of the men called up under this Bill. As hon. Members will see from Clause 5, although it might be possible for a Government to renew this Bill by Order in Council—and that would require one step of consent by the House—even when that was done the Forces could be called up but they could not be maintained, they could not be trained. The whole discipline of them would cease to exist if Parliament did not continue to give its annual consent under the Army Act. The Bill, therefore, like the National Service Acts, can have no force, virtue, or practical effect, except by the annual consent of the House as voiced through the Army Act.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Surely my hon. Friend is missing the whole point. The Army Act does two things. First, it gives the Executive the right to have an Army at all; but besides that, it provides an annual Parliamentary review of the whole of the machinery of discipline whereby the Army is maintained. In the old days, as my hon. Friend will remember, annually the House of Commons used to have an all-night sitting on the Army Act and every Clause was subjected to scrutiny. What my hon. Friend is now saying is that we are to continue to do that about discipline but that we must not do it about the terms and conditions, purposes and rules, whereby people are recalled to actual service. I cannot follow that argument at all.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
May I ask the Under-Secretary also to remember that we have an assurance from the Government that the same lot of men are not to be called up again? Whether the Minister of Defence is now regretting what he said——
§ Mr. Shinwell indicated dissent.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
—as far as men for the active Army are concerned, I do not know, but we have that assurance. Therefore, there is to be a new batch of men every year. Circumstances may so change that we really ought to have this opportunity which has been suggested.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that my hon. Friend is right in saying that I am 61 missing the whole point, unless he is now making a quite different point to that which he made earlier. Fundamentally, his point—and it was what was taken up by hon. Gentlemen opposite—was that by making provision for re-enactment of the Bill by Order in Council, we are relaxing Parliamentary control over the standing Army. That is the head and front of his objection.
What I am saying is that if Parliament wishes to bring the whole procedure under the Bill to an end, it has, whether the Clause is in the Bill or not, an annual opportunity of doing so because refusal to assent to the Army Act can bring to an end the whole process of maintaining any Forces whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is ridiculous."] No. Hon. Members are overlooking the fact that we are now, surely, at one of the central points of the Constitution of this country. It is through the Army Act that Parliament ultimately maintains its control over the Executive.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is one of the main levers through which the final Parliamentary control is exercised. That instrument of control applies just as much to men who are with the Forces by virtue of the Bill as to men who are with the Forces for any other reason.
Therefore, the real answer to the Amendment is that the constitutional position is safeguarded by the fact that the Order in Council requires the consent of Parliament, and by the operation of the Army Act on the Bill. On the administrative and military sides, the position is safeguarded by the fact that whereas we can, as the Bill now stands, proceed either by a new Bill or by Order in Council, if the Amendment were carried one of the ways of proceeding, which might very well be a convenient and reasonable way to proceed, would be closed to us. I therefore urge the House, having considered both the constitutional and the administrative arguments at stake on this issue, to reject the Amendment.
§ Brigadier Thorp (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I should like to make two points. The first is about the House voting against the Resolution. Am I to understand that when the Order in Council comes up next year, there will be a free vote of the House——
§ Mr. Shinwell indicated dissent.
§ Brigadier Thorp
—and that, therefore, hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are the followers of the present Government will not, if they do not want to, have to go into the Lobby with the Government? It will be interesting to see what happens.
The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) said that some sort of coalition seemed to be taking place. The hon. and gallant Member is right, but the coalition seems at present to be the whole of Parliament against the Government. There has not been a single speech today on this Amendement, in support of the Government, except that by the Minister, whose speech was really a continuous number of wides. He never bowled a straight ball during the whole of his speech; he was dodging around the whole time.
My next point, and really the most serious one, is that we must consider not only what is useful or easy for the Government of today or for the Service Departments. What we have to consider is the men who are being called up for the 15 days, or longer. I am convinced that the experience of the Service Departments, of the Government and of the people during the next six months will be such that it will be necessary to make tremendous changes in the present application of the Bill. Therefore, we ought to agree to the Amendment, which will more than make it possible—it will make it a certainty—that the Bill, or a form of the Bill, will be brought up next year and can be discussed in detail by the House as a whole.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I have listened very keenly to the argument. Although the whole matter seems to be very contentious, it does not necessarily follow that the Government are wrong. If the matter is pushed to a vote, I shall vote for the Government, and I want to try to show why I ought to support them.
We have been discussing this whole problem for two or three days. We have had the opportunity of amending the Bill and making it a satisfactory Measure. No one will dispute that there has been every opportunity to discuss the subject in all its fullness. We, as a body of understanding people and knowing the subject, have made definite decisions, 63 and we believe that while there may still be points of criticism on the Bill, it is nevertheless in the main a fairly satisfactory Bill to meet the existing emergency.
That being so, there arises the question of whether we should annul the Clause so that the matter can be brought forward again—many times—in the ordinary course of the Business of the House. No matter what Bill is passed in the House, there is always criticism and feeling afterwards that something much better could have been provided. That seems to be the position today. There is nothing new in that; that position arises regularly.
Let us get to the point at issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is sometimes very satisfactory to have a good preliminary; it prepares the way for the things that matter. The attitude of the Opposition seems to be that, despite all the machinery that exists in the House to develop a viewpoint against any existing legislation, on the present subject there is still a feeling, despite all the debates and the reasoning we have heard, that something may arise within 12 months and that that something may be so vital that it is essential that the House should have full liberty to discuss the whole position and to bring in Amendments if necessary.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
That is not only their attitude, but the point made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
§ Mr. McKay
I do not quite follow that. After all, the Government are open to public opinion and open to influences. If there is any vital issue in the future, if new circumstances which we cannot see at the moment arise indicating that there is some absolute need for a revision of this Bill, is it the assumption that, despite the feeling of anxiety and the need for some vital revision of the Bill, the Government will be so stupid and silly that they will stand hard and fast and refuse to admit that public anxiety but push this thing forward and refuse to allow the House to discuss the matter?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does my hon. Friend realise that if he pursues this argument very far, he will get as far as the abdication of Parliament altogether? If there is to be any public anxiety of that kind, 64 the proper place for expressing it is the House of Commons. Why should we today preclude ourselves from having that opportunity 12 months hence?
§ Mr. McKay
Well, that is a great point. It seems impossible to get over it. Here is the House of Commons representing the country and my hon. Friend suggests that if something vital has arisen in the country, some uprising of public opinion that is vital, there is a great necessity for bringing in a new Bill. He is putting the position to us that, despite that new rising of public opinion against the present legislation, the Clause we are now debating will prevent anyone in this House from raising the matter. It would mean preventing it for a very long time, for 12 months, because an Order in Council has to be brought into the House providing that the Act shall be continued for another year. When the Order in Council comes before the House for discussion, the House will be given a full opportunity to discuss all aspects of the law as it then exists.
§ Mr. McKay
No. I know that some of the supporters of the Government are anxious to intervene to give an opposite opinion on this subject; some people always are. The position is simply that the Order in Council will probably be presented within nine months. It will naturally be presented before the actual 12 months have gone by and there will be an opportunity then for fuller discussion. If there is anything vital or of great importance, it is bound to be exposed and the Government will be shown the necessity for some revision.
I have sufficient faith in the Labour Government—[Interruption]—I have sufficient faith in the Labour Government—which I presume all hon. Members here ought to have, but obviously have not—on a matter of this character, which to me is not fundamental at all, to believe that if any new position does develop in the country which points to the necessity for revising this Bill, then before the necessity comes for bringing in the Order in Council, the Government themselves will bring in new legislation to meet the new position. If hon. Members have no faith in the Government, or think they are not sufficiently intelligent to understand public opinion and to see a new 65 situation which has arisen relative to this subject, they have very little faith and the Government themselves have very little intelligence.
I believe that those who are supporting the Government have faith in the Government and I believe that those on these benches are men with understanding, men who know the feelings in the country. They have faith in the Government which they have been supporting for six years. They have sufficient belief that when the time does arrive, as new eventualities materialise, the Government will bring in legislation necessary to meet the occasion.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
We must congratulate the Government on the new ally they find in the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay). He is a gladiator of the finest sort. He is prepared to lash out at all and sundry but he ended by stabbing the Minister of Defence in the back by saying that next year we know the Government will give way.
This is surely a very simple matter. The whole House will agree that this matter is contentious and untried, and that there is bound to be need for revision. The Under-Secretary of State has come forward and suggested two enormous steam hammers to crack these two small questions. The first is the suggestion that, if need be, the House will protect the citizens of this country by means of the Army Act. That seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to deal with a comparatively small matter.
The second suggestion is that the House could reject the draft order. But the hon. Gentleman must know, after this afternoon's discussion as to when a Government should and should not resign, that it is precisely on a question such as the rejection of a draft order that a Government would be forced to resign. He said merely that they would be forced to bring forward a new Bill. He must appreciate that the rejection of a draft order would give an extraordinary impression abroad. People would read in the newspapers, "The House of Commons votes against call-up of Z men." That would delight people in Moscow and our enemies all over the world. Yet the hon. Gentleman knows there could be no such thing as a free vote in the House on this matter. 66 I hope he will look at the question again, because it is a simple problem which could easily be solved.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Brigadier Thorp) said just now that he thought my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State had not bowled very straight. I thought that my hon. Friend bowled very well, and indeed if he bowled only straight balls he would not be a very good bowler on a wicket such as the one on which we are batting. The balls he bowled were very well adapted to the situation we are facing. I am not so sure about those which have been bowled by hon. Gentlemen opposite, for although they are speaking a good deal at present about constitutional rights and Parliamentary protection they are engaged in the usual game of finding a loophole or a weakness in the Government's armour.
As everyone knows, I am not very keen about any part of this Bill but I am not keen on helping the Opposition to find a means of making the Government's position hopeless while doing nothing for the causes which I want to serve by these discussions. I listened just now to the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) speaking about the draft order and the discussions which might take place upon it in this House and the terrible consequences which there would be in Moscow, and so on.
§ Mr. Hudson
Perhaps even the discussions would have some effect upon Moscow if it is Moscow that we have to think about. But what will be Moscow's reflection on what will transpire if we agree to the proposal now being made by hon. Members? Hon. Gentlemen opposite apparently want a means to enable the whole of the proposals of this Bill to be turned over again each year; it is to last for one year, and we are then to begin again, with the full opportunities which the Parliamentary Opposition has, with the great political difficulties there are, especially in this Parliament, to have the whole question turned over again, with Moscow, I suppose, watching. Quite clearly if the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone is anxious about Moscow and 67 the effects on Moscow, he should be listening to the arguments which the Government have advanced. The hon. Member was at all events right to the extent that Clause 12 (2) provides:A draft of any Order in Council proposed to be made under this section shall be laid before Parliament, and the draft shall not be submitted to His Majesty except in pursuance of an address presented by each House of Parliament.…
§ Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
If the hon. Member is in opposition this time next year, what will be his attitude then?
§ Mr. Hudson
Maybe I shall be in a better position than I should be in now by supporting a Tory Opposition which has used every scrap of pressure that it could to force this Bill on the House and on me, with all the disadvantages which the Bill involves. I shall be in a better position than I should be in supporting now a Tory Opposition which has not in mind any of the issues about which I am seriously concerned. I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) say, as I was speaking, that it was shocking that I should have a view of that sort——
§ Mr. Hudson
Very well. It is my views that I am stating. I wish to turn to my hon. Friend's speech and argue with him because I feel that in doing so I am dealing with a more important issue than when I argue with the Opposition. My hon. Friend makes speeches that matter to me a good deal. I listen to them; I do not profess always to be able to argue against him; indeed, the man best able to do so is the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. I wish to consider the implications of carrying this issue to the point he has suggested. I believe that we are in the difficult position, which I certainly dislike but from which I cannot run away, that the Bill can be dealt with year by year under the arrangements provided under Clause 12 (2). I am prepared to accept the protection that gives me, and I am not prepared to play the game of the 68 Opposition, which I am quite certain is devised not for any consideration that has to do with conscientious objectors or indeed the real welfare of the Class Z men. They are as usual concerned——
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Brigadier Thorp
The hon. Member is now accusing me of having been most insincere in my speech. I said that I was speaking for the men who will be called up. I have been in one of the Services for 30 years. The hon. Member has no right to make that sort of remark.
§ Mr. Hudson
I did not accuse the hon. and gallant Member of being insincere. I accused him of being a very good bowler. He knows how he can send a ball twisting instead of straight. That is what he is doing at the moment. I am making no other accusation.
In view of the situation, I want to appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne not to push the Tory case too far.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
May I appeal to my hon. Friend not to accuse me of pushing the Tory case? I have never done so and I am not now doing so. All I am asking—and I should have thought that my hon. Friend would have been the first Member of the House to support me—is that if it is necessary for this Bill to be prolonged beyond the one year for which the Bill at present provides, it shall be done in such a fashion as will enable the House to amend the Measure instead of the prolongation being effected in a way which enables us only to accept or reject the proposal as it stands. That is all.
§ Mr. Hudson
I concede my hon. Friend his case, subject to the further point that in the case of any order we have the opportunity, under Clause 12 (2), to debate our objections.
§ Mr. Hudson
That is my view, and I am stating my view as against my hon. Friend's, that in the case of any order that comes forward under the terms of this Bill we shall have an opportunity of debating it.
§ Mr. Hudson
We can debate it on the Address which, under the terms of subsection (2), must come before the House. I am prepared again to assert that we have a considerable measure of Parliamentary protection in this matter. As my hon. Friend does not wish me to say anything more about the Tory case, I will say that I hope that his case, good as it may be, will not lead him any further towards classing himself with hon. Members opposite who have no concern whatever with any of the views which my hon. Friend usually puts forward.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
Some of the things which the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) has said are, as I think he will, on reflection, agree, so unworthy of him that I am sure he will regret having said them. To charge us with not being concerned with the welfare of the Class Z men is to make a charge which he knows perfectly well is untrue and unfounded.
I do not think that he has helped the discussion by charging my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Brigadier Thorp)—although I do not think he minds very much—with a certain ability to bowl spinners— [An HON. MEMBER: "Twisters."]— twisters. I was hoping to hear from the hon. Member a reasonable case in support of the Government to which I might direct my argument. The hon. Member has not produced that. Indeed no one from the other side of the House, with the possible exception of the Under-Secretary of State, to whose speech I shall refer in a moment, has produced any sort of argument in support of the Government's case.
The main argument used by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) was that he had faith in the Government. He might have thought of a more reasonable and less emotional point to put to us. He started by telling us, "I feel somehow that if this is brought to a Division, I shall have to vote with the Government." He used words to that effect. Clearly it was a matter of feeling with him—something to do with whipping, I think. Clearly it had nothing to do with the argument at all, because, if my memory holds, the hon. Gentleman was not with us much during that long night Sitting when we discussed many of the difficult problems in this Bill. I would say to him that it is 70 not a question of having faith in the Government, but of having faith in Parliament, that we are discussing today. It is Parliament that ought to have the right to decide whether this Bill needs amending or not. That, after all, is the main point of difference between the Government and the Opposition.
It is wrong of the hon. Member for Ealing, North, to say that we on this side of the House are not interested in the points put about conscientious objection and about Clause 6. Indeed, most of the Amendments to Clause 6 were moved by hon. Members on this side of the House. If only he had paused a little before making those outrageous accusations against us, we would have derived more benefit from his speech. If the hon. Member for Wallsend had been with us during that long night when we were discussing so many of the points in this Bill, he would have remembered that the Minister of Defence used this argument in endeavouring to resist one of the Amendments to Clause 2 moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). The Minister of Defence said:But we are not dealing with what is to happen next year. We are dealing with what will happen this year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 2384.]That was the line of the argument used once or twice by the Government in resisting various Clauses in the Bill. We were reminded over and over again that what matters is this year. What happens next year we shall perhaps learn from experience. That was the whole pattern of the case that was put so well, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and by my hon. Friend——
§ Mr. Low
It is, as the hon. Member says, quite possible, but most of my 71 words were quoted from the Minister of Defence, so he must take part of the blame. It seemed clear to me that what the Minister of Defence was saying on several occasions was that what we were concerned with in the Committee stage discussions of this Bill was what is to happen this year. The case put by the Under-Secretary of State was that the Government should have the power by Order in Council to prolong the Bill over the next year, the year after and the year after that, if they so decided. It is our case that, by experience, we feel we are not only likely but more than likely to want to amend this Bill, both in its military and administrative Clauses in so far as those things are covered, and in the very vital and important Clauses which so concerned the hon. Member for Ealing, North, and a number of his hon. Friends, and Clause 6 in particular. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour knows, there is one Clause in the Bill which I think very wrong, namely, Clause 7, which makes no provision for the protection of——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. Member is out of order in referring to Clause 7. He has already mentioned Clause 6; now he is mentioning Clause 7. I do not think these matters of detail can have any reference to the present Amendment.
§ Mr. Low
I thought the matter we were discussing was whether this Bill should be renewed by an Order in Council which forbade amendment, or whether the Bill was of such a nature, and the Clauses in it were so likely to need amendment, that we should therefore not give the Government this Order in Council. So far, everybody has concentrated on Clause 6, and I do not see why we should not be permitted to mention any Clause.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think Clause 6 has been mentioned except in passing. The first contention of the hon. Member is perfectly correct in that we are discussing whether the matter should be dealt with under this Bill, or by a fresh Bill each year. I do not think the hon. Member should go into detail on Clauses. He may mention them in passing, perhaps, but surely that is not the primary argument.
§ Mr. Low
I will leave that point, but I earnestly entreat the Government to reconsider their position. Clearly this is a Bill which concerns the individual person, and therefore it is a Bill which this House should watch very closely. We should be thinking far more about what is the duty of Parliament in this matter than what are the rights and powers of the Government. It seems to me that the Government are quite wrong if they are frightened of having another long discussion on the many very important matters which were discussed last Thursday; and for this reason I hope that they will decide to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
We all know the reason why we are debating this rather absurd Amendment. Last Thursday night, when there was a Division immediately preceding the discussion of this Clause, the Opposition came within two of the Government's total of votes and immediately, when we came to the next Clause, which happened to be Clause 12, they thought it would be a good thing if they could try to get the Government out altogether.
Accordingly, when it came to the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," they decided to try to divide the House again and get a victory. They did not quite get a victory and so the Clause is still in the Bill. Having done this absurd thing on Thursday, which was one of the most fatuous manœuvres seen in Parliament for many months, they now feel bound, with rather pompous speeches, to seek to disrupt the proceedings again.
What is all this about? We on this side of the House understand that the Opposition are fully confident of being the Government themselves within a year's time; so that they can have no real confidence in an Amendment to take away from the Government powers which the Government now have and which they might be using in a year's time. What possible reason could there be for the Opposition to think that the Government should not have these powers?
Obviously, if it becomes clear over the following year that certain Amendments to the Act are needed, if it is to be continued for a second year, it is much more within the interests of the Government to secure those Amendments than for 73 anybody else. It will be on the recommendation of their military advisers, who have worked the scheme for a year, for them to decide about any Amendments or alterations, if any are necessary, in the detailed planning and working in the second year.
The Opposition would neither be expected, nor have the experience to decide on them. No Government in its senses would accept Amendments from the Opposition on matters of detail of this kind and no such Amendments would be carried in the House. In this particular manœuvre of the Opposition we have a further extension of the new policy recently adopted by the Opposition, which is simply to do what they always said we were wrong to do before the war, which is to vote against rearmament, on the ground that they do not trust the Government.
Here is a power given to the Government to put this Bill into operation for a second, third and fourth year if necessary; but the Opposition do not trust them with that power. They say that this amount of re-armament and military preparedness is too great and that they do not trust the Government with these powers. They want to curtail them and to have the debate all over again next year.
Just as they suddenly moved a Motion of Censure against the Government during the Defence debate and voted against re-armament, so they are trying to do something similar today. Where are all these arguments that the Labour Opposition were wrong to vote against the Government on re-armament before the war, when that is exactly what the Tory Opposition find themselves doing now? I hope we shall have no more of that nonsense in the future.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I have to consider my audience. It has been a lamentable feature of the Opposition during the six years I have been in the House that they have been singularly ineffective in their manner of opposition. I suppose that at the close of this period it should be no surprise to find them handing over the 74 burden of their leadership to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I hope that they feel happy under his ardent championship. It has been their custom to say that they can find no sense in his arguments. Very often I feel inclined to agree with them. Now it appears that they can see possible sense in his arguments, though we know perfectly well that, if they were the Government of the day, this is the Clause they would have and that they would not accept any Amendment to delete it from the Bill.
There would be no gain in taking this Clause from the Bill. If this Measure is found to work well there will be no need to amend it, so why waste the time of Parliament by discussing it again? If it is found necessary to have any Amendments, it will be for the Government who want the Amendments to bring the matter forward.
§ Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)
We have had a very pleasant debate on this subject. Considering that it arose out of a tie in the early hours of the morning last week, I rather regretted—and I think that probably he did—the heat which the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), brought into the debate. We all regard him as a man of high principles, though we do not all hold those principles with equal enthusiasm. I am sorry that he should have thought it necessary or desirable to impute motives to my hon. Friends which, on reflection, I am sure that he will consider to be unfounded. I do not want to pursue that matter further.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). I believe that the hon. Gentleman only came in after this debate started. Some of us who have sat on these benches throughout the debate were amused at the exertions displayed by the hon. Gentleman who, I think, acts as assistant to the Minister of Defence. Obviously he was endeavouring to find somebody to support the Government and one or two candidates got up and walked rapidly away rather than put themselves in that position. However, the hon. Gentleman finally fixed on the hon. Member for Aston. As the hon. Gentleman spoke very warmly the other night in our favour on another Amendment and then voted against us, we presume that he thought that he ought to earn his passage back into the good books 75 of his right hon. Friends. I suggest that it is only fair and proper that, having spoken for us and voted against us the other night, he should talk against us today and vote for us on this Amendment. After all, I believe that the hon. Gentleman believes most emphatically in fair shares for all.
I wish to make some serious comments to the Minister of Defence. This is a major Bill. It is a temporary Measure but it is one which is affecting, and will affect, the lives and positions of a great number of His Majesty's subjects for whom we speak in this Parliament. It is the duty of this House to watch these matters. As the proposals in this Bill, which we have not objected to, are novel proposals, and as we are pursuing an uncharted course and planning out a new scheme, surely it would be a good thing, not only for the House but also for the administration of the scheme itself, that at the end of 12 months this House should have a review of the working of this Measure. Then not only could we consider it, but each one of us could suggest improvements and Amendments.
If we proceeded with the proposals in the Bill, we should have an Order in Council. Then all that Parliament could do would be to vote in favour or against that Order in Council. I submit in all earnestness that this is not a party issue and that we do not know what world conditions may be in a year's time. It may well be that an action by a large number of Members of Parliament in opposing an Order in Council to keep in operation a Bill dealing with military measures might be misinterpreted throughout the world, not only behind the Iron Curtain but among our friends. It might create the worst possible impression. Surely, no one would wish to do that. I think that that demolishes the main gravamen of the case put by the Under-Secretary of State for War.
In matters of defence and foreign policy it is not desirable that the only method by which Members in all parts of the House can express their view on these subjects should be by a direct vote of censure of the Government. I am sure that is a doctrine which is held on both sides of the House. Therefore, the course suggested by the Under-Secretary, that it is open to us to object to the draft Order 76 in Council or even to vote against it, is not one on which we can place any reliance, because we do not know what the international situation may be at that time.
We all know the way in which these matters work in Government administration in these days. If this Clause is left in the Bill and if it is left to the Government to choose, there will be almost irresistible pressure from the advisers of the Government to have this matter pushed through as quickly as possible, with the least possible chance of amendment and without having all over again discussion of the pacifist or the conscientious objection issue, or the issue against Clause 6 and all the other questions. I speak now in the full realisation that it may well be that the position in the House is reversed in a year's time.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I believe that if any hon. Members wished to suggest improvements to meet their views, the improvements would not be possible. It is vain to get up and clamour for all sorts of alterations when one cannot move an Amendment which would put them into effect. Whoever is sitting on the Government Benches in a year's time if the military situation demands that a Measure on something like these lines should be brought in again next year—we all hope it will not be the case but it may be—I believe that the combined pressure of the Leader of the House, whether he be Labour or Conservative, and of the officials who have to operate these matters, would make it almost impossible for the Government to resist that pressure and to say "No, we will have a fresh Bill," when there is in Clause 12 power to proceed by Order in Council.
I would therefore ask the Minister whether he will not meet the House, because it is a very large proportion of the House. It is only a small matter from his point of view, but it is the duty of Parliament to retain control over an important subject affecting the lives of a number of our citizens. If the right hon. 77 Gentleman could meet us in this way, we should be very grateful, because we have not endeavoured to obstruct the passage of this Bill.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The House has encountered, as it seems to me, a genuinely difficult problem. I am bound to say that the arguments appeared to me to be evenly balanced, but I shall give the House the reasons why, in the opinion of the Government—the quite genuine reasons, as I hope the House will accept from me—we cannot accept this Amendment.
To begin with, let us ask ourselves why a Bill of this kind is regarded as necessary. I do not wish to dilate on the general international situation; indeed, hon. Members are familiar with various facts of that situation, but the answer is that we were apprehensive about the possibilities latent in the international situation, which might evolve into something serious before the end of the year.
I confess, quite frankly, that we had before us the choice of proceeding with much more drastic proposals or proceeding with these more modest proposals, and we came down on the side of the provisions of this Bill. For one reason, we were very anxious to avoid any serious dislocation of industry and of our national economy. There was always the risk, which hon. Members will perceive, that if we interfered too drastically with our industry and economy, it would so weaken our position as to make a very welcome gift to a potential aggressor. That argument has been adduced frequently, and I do not wish to elaborate it. Therefore, we decided to proceed with these proposals.
Then, we had to consider whether, in the recall of Class Z reservists, the men in Class G and some other elements which are provided for in the Bill, we should seek power to recall the same men for a period of years, subject, of course, to natural wastage, such as men becoming older and various other conditions which might ensue. As hon. Members in all quarters of the House will agree, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the present situation. We make assumptions; indeed, we are bound, in the military and international sphere, to make assumptions. Some of them may be falsified; others, unhappily, might be well founded. There- 78 fore, in this uncertain situation, we decided to limit the actual call up to 1951, and to confine it to the men who were to be called up this year, without any repetition in the following years.
That has been subject to criticism from hon. Members of the Opposition. It has been suggested, for example, that we should have made provision for the recall, at any rate, of some of the men being called up this year. That is a matter of opinion; indeed, there may be something to be said for the arguments so adduced, but we decided to adopt the provision in the Bill, namely, that we should recall a certain number of the elements concerned this year, and make no provision for recalling the same men next year.
Then we had to consider whether we should make provision for the continued operation of the provisions of the Bill over succeeding years. It was when we came to that point that we were faced with this dilemma—whether we should confine ourselves to these 12 months, and take a chance that nothing serious might occur, in which case we should not need to have recourse to similar facilities; or whether we should make provision—and, again, it is a gamble, pure speculation and mere conjecture—for the operation of the Bill over a period of years.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to taking a chance. Will he deal with this question? If Clause 12 is omitted, and the operation of the Bill requires to be extended for a further year, why cannot that be done without another Bill?
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is the point of substance in this debate to which I am about to come, but I thought it would meet the convenience of the House if I were to impart to it the history preceding the presentation of this Measure, as well as the background to it. However, I shall not proceed any further in that direction, but will come directly to the point of substance.
This Measure is, to a very large extent, an experiment: I do not dispute that. We are calling up, as far as the majority are concerned, men for 15 days' training, and we are anxious—assurances have been given, and we shall do all we possibly can to confirm those assurances—that these men should be properly trained. 79 There will be intensive training during that period, and we shall make the very best use of the services of these men. It may be—we cannot tell—that the experiment will prove unsuccessful, or only moderately successful; it may be that our military advisers, in the light of what transpires, may decide that something more is required.
Moreover, it may be the opinion of hon. Members who are acquainted with these subjects, and of hon. Members generally, who are informed about certain aspects of this problem by their constituents and others, that certain changes are required. Obviously, if that is so, no Government, whether this Government or any other, could resist the pressure exerted by hon. Members and by public opinion. I hope that it may not be the case, but, if it is found that changes are required, and that the substance of the Measure is proved to be ineffective, the Government must effect the necessary changes. But, on the other hand—and it might well be so—if the Bill in its present form should prove effective, and ought to be continued next year and in the succeeding years, why should it be regarded as necessary to revoke the Order in Council, promote new legislation and go through the same procedure that we have gone through in the last few days? Surely that is quite unnecessary. It is because we believe it to be unnecessary that we find it difficult to accept the Amendment.
Something has been said about new legislation. I wonder what the Opposition would have said if we had not proceeded with legislation of this kind. After all, we have accepted a huge rearmament programme, involving very costly financial expenditure and the expenditure of vast resources. We are to make serious inroads into our economy. What are the implications of that decision? One of them is to proceed expeditiously with the training of men, and that is precisely what we are doing.
I venture to present another point of which hon. Members seem not to be aware. It may be that they have overlooked it. I have frequently pointed out that, as a result of the National Service Act and the provision relating to the Reserve liability, we shall have, at the end of this year and in the early months 80 of next year, an intake of, it may be, 130,000 National Service men. If that should be so, and provided no emergency occurs during that time, it may be unnecessary to continue the provisions of this Bill. Let it not be forgotten that, at the outset, the primary purpose of the National Service Act was to build up reserves. If we should find that we have an adequate body of trained reservists, it may be that this Bill will be unnecessary in 1952, 1953 and 1954.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that Clause 12 may be unnecessary. Precisely. On the other hand, it may be necessary.
I return to what I said at the beginning. It is precisely because of the uncertainty of the present position-frankly, we do not know what is going to happen—[Laughter.] I am surprised that hon. Members opposite should indulge in laughter at that observation. Do they know what is going to happen?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am very glad to hear that observation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Hon. Members opposite obviously do not know what is going to happen. Therefore, in this uncertain and abnormal situation we have done what is regarded as desirable in the circumstances, and we ask the House to give us the power to continue the legislation by Order in Council if that is regarded as necessary.
I am really surprised at some of my hon. Friends—I enjoyed the dialectic; I always do, even if it is opposed to my views—and also at many hon. Members opposite, and especially at the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), because he is an old Member of this House, and should know. He should tell some of his younger hon. Friends that the form we now propose to adopt, and will adopt with the consent of the House, has been adopted over and over again in this House, not only by Labour Governments, but by Conservative Governments. I have taken part in such discussions myself, and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is an authority on the subject.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I cannot remember when this procedure has been adopted in a completely novel Bill such as this, which the right hon. Gentleman says is an experiment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The Bill is only novel because of the existing situation. [Laughter.] Yes, that is so. If it had not been for the present situation, the Bill would not have been required at all, but I would beg hon. Members to note—and I make a gift of this argument to those who are in opposition—that that is precisely what has been said by every Minister in relation to this kind of legislation. As I have said, the arguments are equally balanced. Is it better to proceed by Order in Council, or should we always invoke new legislation? I have heard Minister after Minister in Conservative Governments argue eloquently, logically, technically, constitutionally, and all the rest of it, that, in certain circumstances, it would be far better in the interest of the House and those concerned to proceed by Order in Council.
Orders in Council are of two forms. They can be of a negative character or an affirmative character. Here, we provide one of an affirmative character. What is likely to happen? If we do not find it necessary to invoke new legislation with certain amendment in the light of the changing situation, then next year we shall have to lay on the Table of both Houses the Order in Council, and there will have to be a debate. In the course of that debate, if hon. Members say that they have no opportunity of presenting Amendments and persuading the Government to make necessary changes, and if there is real substance in their case, then, sooner or later, the Government must provide amending legislation. There can be no doubt about that. Of course, it may be that a Conservative Government would not respond as readily as a Labour Government.
I would like someone to tell me this. Supposing, to use an illustration, that the right hon. Member for Epsom were in my place next year—it is not likely to happen; it is only speculation, in spite of the Gallup polls, and all the rest that one reads in certain newspapers, and, of course, the right hon. Gentleman is much too genuine to accept all that stuff—or supposing it were the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who, I know, is very 82 anxious to change his geographical position——
§ Mr. Shinwell
I know, not from Gainsborough, but to these benches. But supposing, as I say, that he and his hon. Friends were on this side and were faced with these circumstances. I wonder what they would do? I am fairly, and, I think, reasonably sure that they would proceed in such circumstances by means of Order in Council, although I should not be at all surprised if some hon. Members of the Opposition opposed them. But I reckon that the Government would be right. It is because I believe that we are right in all these circumstances that, in spite of the arguments that have been adduced—and they have been very persuasive and at times seemed to me very logical—I hope the House will agree that we are doing the right thing. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire) rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
We have had two hours on this Amendment, and I think the House might now come to a decision.
§ Mr. Hughes
As you say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we have spent two hours discussing this Clause, and I have been here two hours waiting for an opportunity to begin. I would not have intervened in the debate had the Minister of Defence supplied any real arguments against the Amendment to the Clause.
§ Mr. Hughes
I know; I have been trying to get in, and that is an additional reason. I submit that nine-tenths of the arguments adduced by the Minister might have been in order on Second or Third Reading, but that they had nothing particularly to do with the merits of this Amendment.
§ 6.0 p.m.83
§ Mr. Hughes
I certainly withdraw any reflection on the Chair. I approach this from an entirely different point of view from that of hon. Members opposite. I do not think this is a good Bill at all. I think it is a thoroughly bad Bill, but that it has been slightly improved in the Committee Stage.
§ Mr. Hughes
Well, Sir. I suggest that the argument throughout the debate has been that this Bill should either operate for a year or should not operate for a year, and the alternative is an Order in Council. What I am submitting is that this was a thoroughly bad Bill when it was introduced into this House and, as a result of these deliberations and by Amendments moved, certain pressure has been put on the Government and it is now a better Bill than it was before. If that process is good in this Bill why should not the same process be repeated next year? When the Minister of Defence introduced the Bill, for example, there was a penalty of two years' imprisonment for incitement to disaffection.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I cannot allow this. I have drawn the attention of the hon. Gentleman several times to the fact that we are talking about Clause 12. If he cannot keep to Clause 12, I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order. You may not be aware Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because you have only just entered the Chair, that throughout the whole of this discussion, for two hours, everybody who has taken part has sought to justify the argument that the Bill should be renewed beyond this year by reference to the Committee stage we have had here and by reference to particular Clauses and particular instances and particular Amendments. In those circumstances, would it not be a little hard if my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), were out of order in doing what every participant in the debate had done?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not have the pleasure of hearing the earlier part of the debate but I have in my hand an Order Paper which indicates that the Amend- 84 ment before the House is to leave out Clause 12. That Clause is very narrow and I have to keep the debate to that point.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am dealing with Clause 12. If you ask me to sit down, Sir, I will and hon. Members can consider whether your Ruling has been fair or not.
§ Mr. Hughes
I withdraw. I have a great deal of personal respect for you, Sir, and I certainly withdraw that. I want to argue the merits of Clause 12, and if you will let me develop the case I can adduce certain reasons why this Amendment should be carried. I believe that if it were carried the Government would have to come forward next year with another Bill. As a result of our experience in debating this Bill—we have already reduced a sentence of two years to four months in one Clause—and our further experience of the working of the Bill, I believe if this Amendment were carried we could improve still further the Bill that would be brought forward next year.
I suggest to my hon. Friends who have been anxious to introduce measures for fairer treatment of conscientious objectors that they would have a further opportunity if this Bill were presented year after year. Exactly the same applies to Northern Ireland. I know that certain hon. Members of this House have very grave doubts about giving certain powers to the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland. After a year's experience of the working of this Bill we would be in a better situation to judge whether another Bill should be introduced, and we would have absolutely no right to do that if there were merely a statutory order.
I do not believe that the House realises the full implications of what this Bill will mean in administrative practice. I doubt very much whether the House fully realises, for example, the extent to which, in another Bill, Clause I may have to be modified in the light of experience. I am convinced by the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in this matter and I simply cannot support the Government on this Clause.
§ Mr. Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I am sorry that so much political heat has been engendered in this debate. I should have thought that this was a matter on which we might have been able to appeal without the usual party acrimony. To me this is a matter which is beyond party. In that connection may I say I felt rather sad as I listened today to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). The House knows that a few days ago he impressed us deeply when he spoke of the "inner voice." I felt some difficulty this afternoon in knowing whether or how his feeling had changed.
Some of us on this side of the House do not agree with this Clause. We find ourselves in considerable difficulty. If one does not agree with one year, then obviously one cannot agree with four or five years, and one has to consider whether or not one should take an action, over the question of one or two years, which endangers the position of the Government. It certainly places some of us in an extremely difficult position. Ever since I have been in this House I have heard argued from both sides whether or not power ought to be given to a Government by an Order in Council.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, that he knows that when Bills relating to National Service were considered in 1946 and 1947 some of us on this side argued against the power the Government were taking by Order in Council. The same applied to powers to extend the National Service Act, 1948, from 1949 to 1954. We opposed that and I spoke against it in this House. It is equally wrong to do this now. I cannot understand why, for instance, in spite of the fact that the Minister of Defence has said that conditions may change to make it unnecessary, it is yet felt absolutely necessary to include in Clause 12 not only 1952 but 1953 and 1954.
I should have thought that the Government, even if they had said they must go as far as 1952, would have left it there. I cannot quite understand why we should be asked to support the Clause in all the circumstances and why, in the uncertainty of the situation, we should be expected to agree that Part I of the Bill should apply until 1954. I appreciate the diffi- 86 cult situation of the Government. We all appreciate it. The Under-Secretary to the War Office spoke about experience of the Measure, but surely we had Bills relating to National Service in 1946, 1947 and 1949. Now we have this further Bill which deals with a limited form of National Service. I appeal to the Government to give some further consideration to this. Why should Part I apply for five years? I should have thought it was quite easy for the Government to come at least part of the way in this matter, and I hope they will think again.
§ Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I apologise for taking up any more time. I do not intend to speak very long on this Amendment; the arguments for and against it have been well advanced, and I think the Government have fairly well justified their position. My reason for rising is this. We have had gibes from the Opposition who have said that the Government are not being supported by hon. Members on this side of the House. I would point out that those hon. Members on this side who have spoken in favour of this Amendment are only those who are in the new coalition which we see manifest on the Amendment. The hon. Members for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), and Ladywood (Mr. Yates), do not speak for many of us on these benches.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
May I say that I made no attempt to speak for anybody but myself and my constituents.
§ Mr. Keenan
What I said was that there have been gibes from the Opposition to the effect that the Government were not supported by hon. Members on these benches. Too often has the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne been credited with speaking for hon. Members on this side of the House. That is something which I will not stand for, and that is why I rose.
I cannot see any good reason why we should have to go all over this matter again, as we may well have to if the Amendment is carried. There is no doubt that it would simply provide another opportunity for those who do not believe that this country should have military service at all. I am not a warmonger, but hon. Members in this House, no matter what side they are on, have 87 a duty to see that this country is defended. That is the responsibility of Parliament, and everyone here shares in that responsibility.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 244; Noes, 217.89
|Division No. 52.]||AYES||[6.13 p.m|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Ganley, Mrs. C S.||Morley, R.|
|Adams, H. R.||Gibson, C. W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Albu, A. H||Gilzean, A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Glanville, James (Consett)||Mort, D. L.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moyle, A.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Greenwood. Anthony (Rossendale)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||Murray, J. D.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Grenfell, D. R.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Grey, C. F.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||O'Brien, T.|
|Baird, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Balfour, A.||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)||Orbach, M.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Gunter, R. J.||Padley, W. E.|
|Bartley, P.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hale, Joseph (Rochdale)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Benson, G.||Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Pannell, T. C.|
|Beswick, F.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Parker, J.|
|Bevan. Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hamilton, W. W.||Paton, J.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Hardman, D. R||Pearson, A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hardy, E. A.||Peart, T. F.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hargreaves, A.||Popplewell, E.|
|Boardman, H.||Harrison, J.||Porter, G.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Hastings, S.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hayman, F. H.||Rankin, J.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Tipton)||Rees, Mrs. D.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Herbison, Miss M.||Reeves, J.|
|Brockway, A. F||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hobson, C. R.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Holman, P.||Richards, R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvoashire)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Houghton, D.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hoy, J.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Burton, Miss E||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Royle, C.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Shackleton, E. A A.|
|Champion, A. J.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Janner, B.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jay, D. P. T.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Coldrick, W.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Collick, P.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Slater, J.|
|Collindridge, F.||Jenkins, R. H.||Snow, J. W.|
|Cook, T. F.||Johnson. James (Rugby)||Sorensen. R. W.|
|Cooper, John (Deptford)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Crawley, A.||Keenan, W.||Steele, T.|
|Crosland, C. A. R||Kenyon, C.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Daines, P.||Kinley, J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, John (Bolton, W.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|de Freitas, G.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)|
|Deer, G.||Logan, D. G.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Dodds, N. N.||MacColl, J. E.||Thomas, Iorworth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Donnelly, D.||McGhee, H. G.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Driberg, T. E N.||Mack, J. D.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McLeavy, F.||Timmons, J.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Edwards. W. J (Stepney)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Tomney, F.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Manuel, A. C.||Ungoed-Thomas, A. L|
|Ewart, R.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Usborne, H.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.||Vernon, W. F.|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Mellish, R. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Finch, H. J.||Messer, F.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Follick, M.||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Foot, M. M.||Moeran, E. W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Monslow, W.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Moody, A. S.||West, D. G.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Wigg, G.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)||Younger, Hon. K.|
|Wilkes, L.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Willey, Frederick (Sunderland)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Hannan and Mr. Wilkins.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Harvey, Air-Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Odey, G. W.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Harvie-Walt, Sir G. S||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon N.)|
|Ashton, H (Chelmsford)||Hay, John||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Assheton, Rt Hon. R. (Blackburn, W)||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Heald, Lionel||Pitman, I. J.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Heath, Edward||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Banks, Col. C.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hill, Dr Charles (Luton)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Black, C. W.||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Redmayne, M.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells)||Hope, Lord John||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Boothby, R.||Hopkinson, H. L. D'A.||Roberts, Major Peter (Heeley)|
|Bossom, A C.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Bower, Norman||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N,.)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southport)||Ropner, Col. L|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Russell, R. S.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hurd, A. R.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr, Gurney||Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Savory, Prof. D. L|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Scott, Donald|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Jeffreys, General Sir George||Shepherd, William|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Jennings, R.||Smiles, Lt.-Col Sir Walter|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Johnson, Major Howard (Kemptown)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Keeling, E. H.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Burden, Squadron Leader F. A||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Spearman, A. C M.|
|Carson, Hon. E||Langford-Holt, J.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Channon, H.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard (N. Fylde)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Leather, E. H. C.||Stevens, G. P|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A H||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Colegate, A.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lindsay. Martin||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert (Ilford, S.)||Linstead, H. N.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Llewellyn, D.||Summers, G. S.|
|Craddock, G B. (Spelthorne)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geofrey (King's Norton)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Teeling, W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C||Teevan, T. L.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)||Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)|
|Crowder, Capt. John (Finchley)||Low, A. R. W.||Thompson, Lt.-Cmdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Lucas, P. B (Brentford)||Thorneycroft, Peter (Monmouth)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O||Thorp, Brig. R. A. F|
|De la Bère, R.|
|Deedes, W. F.||McAdden, S. J.||Tilney, John|
|Digby, S. W.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Touche, G. C.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Donner, P. W.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Turton, R. H.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||McKibbin, A.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maclay, Hon. John||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Drewe, C.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Wade, D. W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Eccles D. M.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Maitland, Cmdr. J. W.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Fort, R.||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Foster, John||Maude, Angus (Ealing, S.)||Watkinson, H.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Maudlins R.||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Mellor, Sir John||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Molson, A. H. E.||Williams, Charles (Torquay)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Monckton, Sir Walter||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Wills, G.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nicholson, G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Grimston, Robert (Westbury)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Nugent, G. R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Nutting, Anthony||Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith and|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[ Mr. Shinwell.]
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I intervene because in the course of the Committee stage we were promised a statement about the administrative operation of the call-up, and I understood that the Parliamentary Secretary proposed to make that statement to us. If I had not risen to my feet he would not have had an opportunity to do so.
Now that I am on my feet I should like to say this—and I do not imagine that I shall have another opportunity of speaking unless it be with the leave of the House. This is quite clearly a much better Bill than it was when it was introduced. With two exceptions, every Amendment which we have pressed from this side of the House has been accepted by the Government. We are grateful to them for that. There were, of course, also one or two exploratory Amendments where we sought explanations, which we received. In consequence of the many Amendments which have been made, this is certainly a better Measure.
I cannot comment on the result of the last Division and still keep in order, but I would conclude my short observations on the Third Reading by saying that I hope the operation of the Bill will be effected with the least possible hardship to the many individuals who come within its scope and that its provisions will be effective. I hope, too, that in a year's time we shall find that the international tension is much reduced.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Frederick Lee)
As the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), has pointed out, in the discussions on the Committee stage we promised that we would try to make clear a number of points which arose on the reservation of Class Z and equivalent reservists. Indeed, there was a long debate on this question in the Committee.
I felt that the issue became somewhat confused by many references to the normal call-up of National Service men for two years' full-time service, followed by a period on the Reserve. The call-up of agricultural workers later this year 92 and the call-up of young men from the building industry were criticised. In fact, one of my hon. Friends had down an Amendment on that subject. All that really has nothing to do with anything in this Bill. The Bill deals solely with the recall of trained reservists for a period of training.
With regard to the recall of the Z reservists for training this year, the reservation of men has been based on the provisional arrangements which would be applied if, on the threat or outbreak of war, the recall of a substantial number of reservists became necessary. We say "provisional" because these arrangements must necessarily change as time goes on and would be much modified if two or three years were to elapse before it became necessary to apply them. It was suggested by some hon. Members that the Government have been dilatory in this matter and ought to have been busily engaged for some time in drawing up detailed reservation plans. That suggestion is not justified.
In fact, the Ministry of Labour have already drawn up a complete provisional scheme, in consultation with the Service Departments and the other Departments concerned, including, for example, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the Ministry of Transport. This provisional scheme lays down which Class Z and equivalent reservists selected for recall to fill up the ranks of the Services in the early stages of an emergency ought to be retained for essential work in civil life. The scheme is now under examination by the two sides of industry and there may be some additions to or some removals of a few occupations in the light of the views of the various industries. But it is ready for immediate operation if a sudden emergency were to arise.
This scheme must necessarily be related to the circumstances and the priorities to be expected at the beginning of a major emergency, so far as they can be foreseen, rather than to circumstances and priorities at the present time. Moreover, as we are concerned here with trained reservists, it is not just a question of saying whether a particular civilian job is more important than service in the Forces. Regard must also be had to any qualifications and experience of special 93 value to the Services which the reservists may possess, particularly as a result of their previous service. For this reason, the screening instrument includes a list of the most vital Service trades which, on security grounds, it would obviously be undesirable to publish.
On the question of publication, we are not insensible to the advantages of letting men know where they stand, but it is of very doubtful utility to issue to the public a document saying how individuals would stand if there were a war next week when, in fact, nobody expects a war next week. It is really not possible to tell them how they would stand if a war came in two or three years' time.
There would be little point in recalling reservists for training this summer unless they were likely to be available in an emergency, and call-up for training this summer is, therefore, prima facie, an indication of availability for recall in an early emergency. But this would not be true in every case. A man's position might have changed in the meantime as a result of changes, first, in the requirements of the Services; secondly, in the job for which he was earmarked on recall; or, thirdly, in his employment or normal occupation. In particular, the need of the Services to recall Class Z and equivalent reservists in an emergency will be gradually reduced as the Reserves are built up by National Service men performing their part-time service.
As time goes on, therefore, the degree of probability that men recalled for training this summer would be recalled in an emergency naturally grows less. It is impossible to make an instrument of this character so fine that it will, without fail, ensure the best allocation in the national interest in an emergency of every individual reservist.
§ Mr. Speaker
On Third Reading we are confined to what is in the Bill and we cannot discuss anything outside the Bill. The hon. Gentleman seems to be dealing with some sort of regulations which may be issued in the future, and that is not within the Bill.
§ Mr. Lee
In the course of the Committee stage there was considerable confusion as to how Class Z and other reservists were to be dealt with, what was the basis of the recall and so on. At that stage we promised a statement in which 94 we would endeavour to make the point clear. That is what I am trying to do now. We should provide machinery for the consideration——
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
On a point of order. The statement which the Parliamentary Secretary is making, whether in order or not, is of very great interest, and I would ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to whether those of us who have the good fortune to catch your eye in the debate on Third Reading will be allowed to refer to these matters.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is exactly the trouble, and the reason for my intervention. If we were to debate these matters we should have a wide debate equivalent to a Second Reading debate.
§ Mr. Lee
May I continue? We should provide machinery for the consideration —[Laughter.] Well, I am trying to oblige the House by giving information for which I have been asked. We should provide machinery for the consideration, at the time, of applications for deferment of recall or release from recall in exceptional cases, but there would be no point in trying to settle these individual cases now; many of the circumstances may have changed entirely between now and an emergency, if one should come. The right time to do this is when there seems some likelihood of an early recall of reservists for service as distinct from training.
All that relates to plans for an emergency. They give the background against which we may consider the distinct question of the recall of a maximum of 245,000 of these reservists for training this summer. These represent not much more than 1 per cent. of the total of over 15 million males in civilian employment. They are being recalled for periods of a fortnight each, spread over——
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
On a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but we are listening with very considerable difficulty to a very elaborate statement containing, so far as I can see, many new facts which we ought to consider 'before we can adequately debate them. I think they are of the greatest possible importance, and I suggest that this is putting us in all parts of the House in a very difficult position.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
This is, so far as I can gather—for it is very difficult to hear—a statement on the whole question of reserved occupations, which is a thing which we on this side of the House and I particularly have been asking for for a very long time. Whether or not we are now able to debate it, I suggest that we should be allowed to read this statement and consider it in detail before there is any question of debating it, and that we should have a much longer time for debating it than we can possibly have now in the circumstances.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
Would I be in order in suggesting that the Minister deal with this in a White Paper, so that it can be properly considered, and, if necessary, debated at an appropriate opportunity?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot deal with the matter any further. I have said what I have said, and that is all I can do.
§ Mr. Lee
I think I have made the position quite clear. It was our hope, arising from doubts expressed when we had the Committee stage, that we could clear up quite a number of points which, apparently, were not then very clear, so that hon. Gentlemen, and all those who are concerned in the recall, should know precisely the basis upon which the recall is to be made. It was for that reason that we chose to make this statement at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Lee
If I am allowed to make it, then possibly, in the course of time, the hon. Gentleman will consider it, and will understand what it is all about.
The right time to do this is when there seems some likelihood of an early recall of reservists for service as distinct from training. All that relates to plans for an emergency. They give the background against which we may consider the distinct question of the recall of a maximum of 245,000 of these reservists for training this summer. These represent not more than 1 per cent. of the total of over 15 million males in civilian employment. They are being recalled for a period of a fortnight each, spread over at least five 96 months, of which long notice will be given.
The impact of this on any particular employer must, on the average, be very small, and the long notice should, in general, make it possible for any necessary adjustments to be made. It is for these reasons that the Quiz says correctly that appeals from employers against the recall of individual men for this short period of training will not be entertained. We do, however, recognise that there may be difficulties where it happens that a lot of key men from a particular employer are all due to go for training at the same time. This is a matter of adjustment of timing of training, which can only be dealt with by the Service Departments. For this class of case, the Quiz states, again correctly, that the Service Departments will do their best to meet exceptional circumstances if applications are made to addresses which are given. The making of these adjustments will not be easy, and it is very much hoped that employers will do their best to overcome the difficulties by making adjustments themselves.
With regard to the possibility of agricultural workers being recalled for 15 days' training, there can be very few agricultural workers in the Class Z Reserve. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In so far as there are, they have not been selected for recall for training except under the terms of the screening arrangements which were drawn up in consultation with the Agricultural Departments. If in any case the recall for 15 days creates special difficulty owing to agricultural operations, this can be brought to the notice of the appropriate Service Department.
Lastly, as regards the men, other than Class Z and Class G reservists, made liable for recall under the Bill, there can, of course, be no question of limiting the freedom of the Services to recall Regular reservists. As regards the officers and men from the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve—3,500 at most, including 200 at most for 18 months—who are required for periods of three months or 18 months, the Air Ministry hope to get most of these men as volunteers, and in these cases, no difficulty should arise. So far as it may prove necessary to call up any of these men for these longer periods, the Air Ministry is prepared to consider any representations from their employers that they cannot spare them, and will, unless 97 they are prepared to accede to them straight away, ask for the advice of my Department.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Gentleman was pressed on the Committee stage by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) and me to make a statement, as I said, either before or upon the Report stage, showing how the call-up was going to operate, and he said in Committee that there was no reason why he should not give an undertaking that later on, when he had the information fully before him, he would arrange for some statement to be made on the Floor of the House. Paying what attention I could to the very long and full statement the hon. Gentleman has made, I venture to assert that no one in this House can have comprehended its significance at the present time.
It is obviously a statement of very great importance. Whether it should have been made on the Third Reading of this Bill or at another opportunity is not for me to say, but it obviously—[An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. and learned Gentleman asked for it."] I asked for it and received it—and received a great deal more than was expected. However, we are obviously not in a position to express any view on this statement at the present time, and it is indeed difficult to debate a statement like this, which could, after all, perhaps, have been published in a White Paper. That would have given us a certain amount of opportunity of considering it; and we shall certainly want an opportunity of considering it before expressing any final view upon it.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I want to raise certain matters which were discussed on the Committee stage, and they refer particularly to the treatment of conscientious objectors. I appreciate that the number of such objectors will be small, but I know that it is the desire in all parts of the House that genuine conscientious objection should be met. I think it likely that the number among the Class Z reservists may actually be larger than among the men who are called to National Service, first on the ground that, although they have served in the Army, they are older men, and therefore have had greater opportunity to consider the matter, and secondly, on the ground that their old 98 war experiences have led them, during the last six years, to consider deeply what their attitude should be.
I can only state from my own experience that when the other day I was asked to meet some Class Z reservists upon this matter, I expected that there would be 40 or 50 of them, but instead there were 500 of them. I appreciate that there is the possibility, as always occurs after a war, that the basis of objection may be resentment rather than a real sense of right and wrong. When I have met these men, I have urged that they should not make the claim of conscientious objection unless it is based upon a deep conviction of personality. I should like to read a quotation from what I said on the occasion to which I have referred:A man will do himself great harm unless there is some compelling motive within him that makes him believe it would be wrong to do anything else. Men who have started on the course without a deep conviction and who have not been able to follow the course to its end have suffered mentally and physically in a sense of defeat for the rest of their lives. After a war there is always among ex-Service men a growth of feeling against militarism, but try to think clearly what dominating motive has led you to your decision. You must be able to say to yourselves: 'I think it would be wrong for me as a personality to undertake military service.'".I am thinking of those men when I again plead the case that they should not be punished more than once for what is essentially one offence.
During the discussion on this in Committee, sympathy was expressed with that point of view from all sides, and I am perfectly sure that that sympathy is shared on the Government Front Bench. The case expressed on the Front Bench was that it would be difficult to give it legislative or administrative expression. In view of those difficulties, and without in any way withdrawing the case I have urged that a man should not be punished twice for what is essentially one offence, I want to make another proposal to the Government, which I believe will receive support from all sides of the House. Indeed, it was expressed from the Opposition benches by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage) on the Committee stage.
My proposal is that a man should not be punished a second time without having an opportunity to go before the tribunal again. That principle is accepted in the present National 99 Service Acts. If a man in the Army is sentenced to three months' imprisonment, he may go back to the tribunal——
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is now arguing something which is not in the Bill. I am afraid he must confine himself to what is in the Bill. Matters outside it are not in order on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Brockway
I was using this only as an illustration. I was suggesting that the members of courts-martial would much prefer to treat a case before them on its merits than on an instruction that because the man is a conscientious objector he must have a three months' sentence before going back to the tribunal. My proposal is that the responsibility must be laid upon the tribunal of deciding whether such a man is a conscientious objector, and after he has undergone his punishment he should have the opportunity of returning to the tribunal.
I admit that there is one serious difficulty in this proposal, and that is in regard to the man who refuses medical examination before reaching the training camp at all. I hope it will be possible for the Government to consider whether that difficulty cannot be met administratively. I believe that all sides of the House would welcome a proposal dealing with this problem, whereby in future no man will be punished a second time for what is essentially one offence without having the opportunity to go back to the tribunal and there justify the claim of conscience which he raises.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I cannot say that I welcome this Bill, or that I am convinced that it is any real contribution to the defence of this country, but it has certainly been improved on the Committee and Report stages. I am particularly glad that the Government have accepted the Liberal Amendment designed to reduce the punishments provided in Clause 6, which deals with incitement to disobey. Those punishments are now reduced to the level of those in the 1934 Act.
I will not attempt to follow the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, even if 100 I were in order in doing so. He read it so quickly that I could not take it all in. The other day in the House there were some objections taken to the amount of Ministerial statements made at the end of Questions, and I wondered whether the Parliamentary Secretary had sought to find a way round that by making such a statement on Third Reading.
The point I wish to make primarily is that I hope great care will be taken in selecting men for call-up. There are two letters today in the "Manchester Guardian" from men who have been called up. One spent the whole of the war with the field artillery and at the end of his service spent a fortnight with the anti-aircraft. He has now been called up, presumably as a key man, to an antiaircraft unit. The other was released under Class B because he was wanted for important civilian work at the end of the war, and he is now manager of a textile factory. He has been called up. If those illustrations are true, and if that kind of thing is to be continued, we cannot have any confidence that this Measure will contribute to a more effective Fighting Service.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
I shall detain the House for only a few moments to call attention to an important constitutional principle contained in this Bill, which possibly will have the unanimous approval of all my hon. Friends on the back benches, and which I think represents a very welcome change of view by my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench.
Hitherto it has been the invariable custom of this Government never to legislate in any matters concerning police or law and order in Northern Ireland. We on this side of the House welcome this departure from that point of view contained in Clause 6. It is a most valuable assertion of right. Of course, from the point of view of legislation it is entirely useless, because it is a provision intended to provide for trial and imprisonment after trial, and there already exists—it is quite unnecessary for me to go through all the various provisions with which the House will be well aware—every necessary provision for imprisoning anyone without trial in Northern Ireland, and as the Attorney-General already possesses 101 those powers it is quite unnecessary to legislate on this subject.
The only other reason why the Clause could have been included is that there was a reference to Northern Ireland in the Incitement to Disaffection Act, but that was, as is now generally realised, I think, due to a mistaken view of the law taken by the then legal officers of the Conservative Administration. I am glad to see the right hon. and learned Member for Bristol, West (Sir W. Monckton) sitting, surprisingly enough, on the Opposition back benches. I am quite certain that as soon as he is promoted, no such error will occur again.
May I for one moment deal with Clause 6 to show how this matter runs. In Committee, when discussing subsection (2), for example, it was said by the Attorney-General:The mere possession of such books on ethics, philosophy and such like matters as those to which he referred, would, in my view, never constitute an offence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 2464–5.]How unnecessary it is, therefore, to enact such a Clause in relation to Northern Ireland because already the possession of ethical books constitutes a very serious offence in Northern Ireland. An unhappy man who possessed a copy of Plato's "Republic" was raided by the police and the copy carried off on the grounds that in Northern Ireland one should not have copies of anyone's Republic.
In exactly the same way an article in the "Capuchin Annual" accompanied by a criticism from the editor of the "Catholic Herald" was banned, and people were subject to 14 years' imprisonment for possessing it. Subsection (2), therefore, is not necessary so far as Northern Ireland is concerned. I seek on this point to show how the Government assert this question of principle by enforcing a large number of Clauses which are unnecessary. Subsection (3) states:If a judge of the High Court is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that an offence under this section has been committed …he may …grant a search warrant.That subsection is unnecessary because in Northern Ireland the premises of anyone can be raided without any rules at all. Then no provision is necessary for the destruction or saving of documents. In Northern Ireland, under the Civil Author- 102 ities (Special Powers) Acts, all these can be destroyed.
When one comes to subsection (6), in respect of which hon. Members on all sides of the House took a great deal of trouble to secure amendment, one finds the penalties for conviction on indictment are those which in Northern Ireland can be administered under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act on summary conviction. Hon. Members thought that two years was a quite long enough sentence on indictment. For the same offence in Northern Ireland one can be prosecuted under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act and can get 14 years. So that that limitation, too, is quite unnecessary.
I do not think that I need detain the House longer, except to deal with one further point in order to show how generous the Government have been in extending these provisions. When one is dealing in Northern Ireland with any criminal matter, the law provides that any person can be convicted of anything, even if it is not against the law. This arrangement is contained in a most ingenious provision which was subsequently copied by Hitler but has been since repealed under our administration in Germany. Section 2 (4) of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act provides:If any person does any act of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the preservation of the peace or maintenance of order in Northern Ireland, and not specifically provided for in the regulations"—that is to say, not included in the regulations made under the Act, neverthelesshe shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against the regulations.There is, therefore, no point in applying Clause 6 to Northern Ireland except for one purpose, and that is the assertion of the right of this House to legislate for peace and order in Northern Ireland. I welcome this change of view on the part of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, but I hope that when this is next exercised it will be to reduce and not to increase the powers of the authorities there.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
I should like to make a few short observations on Clause 6. The principal criticism which I wish to make is in relation to subsection (3), relating to the power of search. I 103 only wish to express the view that, while I well understand the argument which the Attorney-General put forward that in this matter it is necessary to follow the precedent of the Incitement to Disaffection Act, 1934, nevertheless the fact remains that under the Clause as drafted a search warrant may be issued to allow the police to carry out a general roving search among documents as a result of which the parties concerned may be prosecuted for an offence quite different from that which the police originally intended in the charge.
I think that the precedent of the 1934 Act was a thoroughly bad one, and that view was shared by the whole of the Labour Party at the time, the Liberal Party at the time and even by many hon. Members of the Conservative Party at the time. Although I entirely welcome the fact that the Government are taking precautions against Communist elements wrecking this Measure, I regret that it has been necessary to apply this particular precedent, and I suggest that in the near future a complete review of the powers of search should be made to limit them to what is more reasonable, more modest and more consonant with the traditional rights of the Englishman to have proper protection.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down, North)
The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) led me to believe that he was making an attack upon the Government or upon some laws in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, I have not the legal knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman. All I know about this Bill is that under Clause 6 (11) no prosecution shall take place in Northern Ireland without the consent of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland. It seems to me quite a reasonable thing that the Attorney-General should protect Northern Ireland citizens from an unjust prosecution. Under subsection (11, b,) we see thatfor the reference to the Attorney-General there shall be substituted a reference to the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Bing
Perhaps I may make the point clear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It is that these powers, in my submission, already exist in Northern Ireland, and therefore we need not enact 104 any other legislation in regard to Northern Ireland, except to assert our right so to do. It is purely formal.
§ Sir W. Smiles
It may be purely formal, and I am sure that hon. and learned Members on this side of the House understand very well what the hon. and learned Gentleman says. All I know is that, speaking for the people of Northern Ireland, I can say that if there should come another war we shall be by the side of those in this country.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I will not venture across to Northern Ireland, except to say that I thought that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), on the Committee stage and during the course of this debate, had stated what is called a prima facie case against the bona fides of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland. My knowledge of this is confined to the incident——
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must discuss the office and not the conduct of the individual who holds that office.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for anyone to suggest in this House that the bona fides of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland do not exist; in other words, that he is not to be trusted? Surely that must be out of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
An hon. Member must not discuss individuals who hold that office. It is the office we are discussing and not the individuals who hold it.
§ Mr. Hughes
I thought that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch had produced a prima facie case, but if my reference to that is out of order, I withdraw it. I only mentioned the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland because certain powers are given to the Attorney-General under Clause 6. I have been convinced that no further powers should be given to the Attorney-General because of the arguments which have been adduced by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch. I object to this Bill mainly because it gives compulsory powers to call up Class Z men. I believe that the call-up should be purely voluntary, I do not believe there is any demand in the country for the Bill, I believe that if it were purely voluntary, the result of the call-up would be that the 105 Government would realise there is no mandate for the military measures that are proposed.
As to Clause 6, I want to object to it only so far as it affects Scotland. If Clause 6 is operated and the powers are used to charge people with incitement to disaffection, I believe the result will be that we shall cause more disaffection than if the prosecutions had never taken place. There is abundant evidence in the history of Scotland to show that such trials are ineffective and result only in increasing any disaffection that may exist. The Minister of Labour said in a recent debate that we must not look for Communists under the bed. I entirely agree, but in this Bill we seem to be giving attention to Communists inside the bed.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Stewart
Important as this Bill is, we have now discussed it very fully indeed and I propose therefore to comment only briefly on the points that have just been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) raised again the question of prosecutions of conscientious objectors more than once. I am not sure whether he has fully grasped the fact that if a man is served with a call-up notice and fails to comply, he can go to a tribunal and then to an appellate tribunal, and that only after both have turned him down and decided that his objection is not genuine can he then commit the offence of failing to obey the notice. If he then does so, he is prosecuted. No question of a second prosecution should arise, unless after that a further call-up notice is served. If another notice is served, he can again go before both the tribunal and the appellate tribunal.
§ Mr. Fenner Brockway
I appreciate that very much, and I regard it as a very considerable administrative concession. But the difficulty still remains of the man who refuses medical examination before he has been called to the camp. I am asking that the same principle shall be applied to him as in the case of the other man.
§ Mr. Stewart
What I have just said is not an administrative concession but the law. A man cannot be punished legally more than once for the same offence. To disobey the second notice is, of course, a separate offence. As to the man who 106 refuses medical examination, I can tell the House, on the authority of the Minister of Defence, that while we cannot give any definite commitment on this matter, it is our earnest desire to avoid using the machinery of the law unreasonably to prosecute individuals. We shall try consistent with our duty to the law and to the defence of the country, to avoid the kind of prosecutions which I think my hon. Friend has in mind.
I think that I ought to say this on the whole issue of conscientious objection. There are Members who hold the views of conscientious objectors, and there are those who do not share those views but respect their sincerity. We ask that in return they should similarly respect the sincerity of those who disagree with them. Some of us also hold very strongly that conscientious objections to military service of all kinds can be a very grave danger to the safety and welfare of the country. We must ask those who disagree with that opinion to believe that it is at any rate honestly held.
Furthermore, as a decent and civilised community we try to make proper arrangements for those who have a conscientious objection to military service. It behoves a decent civilised community to do that. Surely, then, there is some obligation on the men who hold conscientious objections to try to cooperate with the community in the administration of the provisions that the community makes for their liberty of conscience. I trust that those who make use of the provisions made for conscientious objectors will realise that there is the same duty on them not to be unreasonably awkward, but to try to recognise that the community is trying to treat them fairly and that they have some duty to the community in return. I am sure that this will be the view the overwhelming majority will take.
Further references were made to Clause 6, but I think that it will now be agreed that the Attorney-General gave the most careful consideration to all the criticisms that were made, and that if he was unable to accede to all the suggestions it was only because he was convinced, after the most careful examination, that had they been accepted they would have made the administration of the law well-nigh impossible. My hon. and learned Friend 107 the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) will forgive me if I do not pursue the particular line of argument that he introduced into this debate. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) quoted one or two examples of what appeared to be unreasonable or foolish call-ups. I would say this to him and to other Members interested in this aspect.
There are some cases of call-up that at first glance do not appear to be reasonable, but on a little further examination it will be found that good reasons will appear. One of the possible assumptions of this call-up is that we may be faced with a very grave international situation in the very near future. If we were, it could not possibly be claimed that every man in the Forces would find himself doing exactly the same job as last time. Men would have in many cases to do a job in some degrees related to or connected with what they were doing.
It is not too much to ask an experienced man of good general intelligence to adapt himself quickly to a job related at any rate to that which he was doing last time, even if it is not the same job. That has to be borne in mind before we say of a particular man called up that it does not make sense. I stress that because of cases that have been brought to my attention, cases which on first sight seemed unreasonable but which made sense after a little consideration had been given to them.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts
I appreciate the force of that argument. Would it not be possible in these circumstances to explain personally to each man whose call-up seemed unreasonable why he had been called up?
§ Mr. Stewart
I sincerely hope that not too many men will ask for a personal explanation. I am sure that the hon. Member will be able to draw on his own knowledge to help his constituents more readily to understand why they have been called up.
We all believe that the purpose and, indeed, the effect of the Bill is to make any worsening of the international situation much less likely. I believe that in all quarters we are convinced that the counsel this country can give in the affairs of mankind will be as good and as 108 wise as can be given by any other nation, and that it is important that behind that counsel, giving weight to it, there should be the knowledge throughout the world that in extremity this country has both the will and the ability to defend itself and make good its word. This Bill is one of the Measures, although it is only one, to that end. It is with that in mind that I commend it to the House.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Professor Savory (Antrim, South)
The hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) seems to have made a totally irrelevant speech and introduced a large amount of matters which have nothing to do with the Bill whatever. On this occasion he seems to have made the speech he intended to make on Friday had he been called.
§ Mr. Speaker
I allowed the hon. and learned Member to speak, and therefore the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Professor Savory) must not say that what he said was irrelevant, because that is a slight on me.
§ Professor Savory
All I can say is had the hon. and learned Gentleman been called on Friday I was perfectly prepared to answer all those questions which he raised. It seems to me to be an abuse of the privileges of this House to tack on to a harmless subsection such as we have here, which is in the only relevant Clause in the Bill referring to Northern Ireland, the attack which he did. The subsection reads as follows:No prosecution in Northern Ireland under this section shall take place without the consent of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.In England and Wales it is the Attorney-General who is the authority in these matters, while provision is made to cover Scotland. It is obvious that the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland is the proper person to be the agent under this Bill. Any attack upon the personality of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland whom I have known for 20 years, I most bitterly resent. When he acts in his capacity as Attorney-General he acts in a judicial capacity, and nobody could be more fair and more impartial, as I have observed during the many years that I have resided in Belfast. Therefore, I protest most emphatically against the introduction of this attack on a Clause like this, which is absolutely innocuous, and 109 I feel sure that I have with me in this very strong opinion the support of all hon. Members of this House.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.