HC Deb 20 March 1951 vol 485 cc2328-33

(1) If it appears to His Majesty in Council expedient in all the circumstances so to do. His Majesty may by Order in Council make provision for applying, subject to such adaptations or modifications as may be specified in the Order, all or any of the enactments referred to in the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act in relation to such liabilities (howsoever arising and whether legally enforceable or not) of members of any of His Majesty's reserve or auxiliary forces, or of any description of such members, as may be so specified.

(2) An Order in Council under this section may contain such incidental and consequential provisions (including provisions for adapting or modifying any enactment or instrument having effect under an enactment) as may be specified in the Order.

(3) 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 praying that the Order be made.

(4) Any Order in Council under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council

(5) In this section the expression "His Majesty's reserve or auxiliary forces" means any reserve force of the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines, the Supplementary Reserve of Officers, the army reserve, the Territorial Army, the Royal Air Force Reserve of Officers. the air force reserve, including the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force; and for the purposes of this section an officer of reserve to, or on the emergency list of, the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines shall be treated as a member of His Majesty's reserve or auxiliary forces.

Mr. Shinwell

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words of explanation here. The House will recall that during our previous debates the question was raised by Members of the Opposition and, indeed, by hon. Members in all parts of the House, about the special position of volunteers in the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces. Attention was directed to the contrast between the protection afforded to them and to Class Z and Class G men. On that occasion my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State explained that we had consulted the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. Some doubts were expressed whether there had been adequate consultation, and I can assure the House that there was full consultation with the representative authorities.

Obviously, it is impossible to consult every member of the Territorial Army or of the Royal Air Force Auxiliary Reserve, but there was, as far as I understand. full consultation. However, in another place it was suggested that we might have further consultation because it might be discovered that although at present the representative authorities in the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces were averse to accepting the proposal that was submitted to us by Members of the Opposition and by other hon. Members, they might in due course change their minds.

It was suggested, therefore, by a prominent member of the Opposition in another place that we might have recourse to Order in Council. I must say that we were a little surprised at this, because in the course of our debates the Opposition have strongly protested against the use of delegated legislation.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

It was on a different point.

Mr. Shinwell

It may have been on a different point, but there is no difference in principle. We are very glad that we can agree about this matter, and when I heard of it I accepted it at once.

The position is this. If we should find as a result of further consultation or representations made to us by the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations after they themselves have had consultation with their people, that the volunteers desire to be afforded the same protection as is afforded in the Bill for other elements, then we shall give the matter very careful consideration. I cannot on behalf of the Government commit myself or the Government to accepting a proposition of that kind at the present time, but obviously if there was a very strong demand it would be impossible to resist it. Therefore, we have accepted this proposition.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)

We on this side of the House are grateful to the Government for accepting and recommending this Amendment which has come to us. from another place. As the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, this question was reached at rather a late hour in the Committee stage. It was one of those nights on which the running was made from below the Gangway on the Government side, and, since we were anxious to proceed, there was not an opportunity for very exhaustive examination of the question. At the same time, it was urged, I think, not merely from the Opposition side but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, from other parts of the House, that it seemed on the face of it a strange and even anomalous situation that legal protection was given to National Service men and that it was thought right to do so by legislative act, and that the same protection was not given to the volunteer reservists.

However, we are glad that the Govern-men now take the powers to do this by affirmative resolution of both Houses, as I understand it, should it prove necessary and right to do so. Since this is the only one of the Amendments moved by us in the Committee stage which the Government did not accept, we are very glad now that they have gone almost halfway towards it, and have seen the importance of at least leaving themselves the opportunity to deal with this matter. We shall certainly give our support to this very fair and reasonable compromise in existing conditions.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

Those of us who are interested in preserving to the utmost possible extent the voluntary character of the Territorial Army will, I believe, accept this Amendment as a reasonable compromise of the conflicting views which were expressed when this same point was discussed at an earlier stage. I myself am reluctant to impose by statute or by Order in Council any obligation upon employers who have been pretty good in the past, unless it is proved to be absolutely necessary. I take it that the same conditions that were put forward by the Under-Secretary of State for War at an earlier stage, namely, that there will be the fullest consultation with the Territorial Army Associations, both sides of industry and with other ranks of the Territorial Army, before effect is given to this Order in Council, still applies at present.

It will be for the Government to be completely satisfied by the widest possible consultations that it will be in the interests of the voluntary character of the Territorial Army to impose, if need be, this further statutory obligation upon employers. If those conditions still apply, and if we can be assured that the Government will not seek to introduce an Order in Council until it is made abundantly clear beyond a peradventure that this Order in Council is necessary, then I believe that most hon. Members will agree to this Amendment.

Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)

As the mover of the Amendment which began this controversy, I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for having put forward this Amendment. I should like, however, to go one step further and ask him to make absolutely certain in his consultations with the properly constituted Council of the Territorial Associations that this Council has consulted all the constituent associations from which it is formed. I do not think that when the first consultation took place there had been consultation between the officials of the Council and all the associations, and that is what has gone wrong.

I think this has shown—and I think the Government have appreciated it—that there is great value in the interest that is taken on both sides of the House in the Territorial Army. Indeed, on one occasion in the middle of the night one of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends spoke in support of an Amendment designed to give protection to volunteers, although because of the Whips he had to vote against it a few minutes later. The interest which has been taken in this House and in another place has resulted in the Government having second thoughts on this matter.

I have heard it said that there is a feeling in official channels concerned with the Territorial Army that it has been wrong for all this fuss to have been created outside the proper channels. I would say that it is not wrong. It is quite right, and the result that has been achieved is proof that it is quite right. I hope that when there has been time to take proper consultation with the proper authorities the Government will come to the House with an Order in Council for an affirmative resolution which will give the right answer for all concerned.

Mr. Shinwell

If I may have the leave of the House I should like to say a few words in reply to both my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) and the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low.) We have the highest appreciation of the services rendered by the men in the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces and we are anxious to afford them the utmost measure of protection. But I beg hon. Members also to understand that we entered into the kind of consultations which might be expected. We naturally consulted the representative body.

It is, of course, true that they have their constituent bodies, and apparently they did not think it necessary to consult all those bodies with whom they are associated. We have now reason to believe, however, that every possible step will be taken to ascertain the views of as large a body of men as is possible. When we have obtained those views, through the organisations, we shall be able to make up our minds. I can give my hon. and gallant Friend this assurance—we shall not take action until we are satisfied that such action will be in the best interests of the men and will have their full consent.

Question put, and agreed to. [Special Entry.]

Remaining Lords Amendment agreed to. [Special Entry.]

  1. CONSOLIDATED FUND (No. 2) BILL 25 words