HC Deb 28 November 1951 vol 494 cc1663-8

It shall be the duty of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association in each county to make itself acquainted with and conform to the plan of the Army Council for the organisation of the Home Guard, and to ascertain the military resources and' capabilities of the county, and to render advice and assistance to the Army Council and to such officers as the Army may direct.—[Mr. Swingler.]

Brought up, and read the First time

Mr. Swingler

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

I understand, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that it is your intention to take this Clause and the following three Clauses together. Is that so?

The Deputy-Chairman

Yes, that is so. The Committee can debate the other three with this one.

Mr. Swingler

I am sorry to detain the Committee at this late hour, but it will be agreed that I have waited a long time to move his very important Clause, I am sorry that neither of the representatives of the War Office is here, and I hope that the Patronage Secretary will see that some representative of the War Office is present on the Treasury Bench at some time during the discussion of the Clauses so that we may have a reply.

I see that the Secretary of State has now entered the Chamber. Perhaps I may inform him that we are discussing this Clause and the next three together and that the subject is the rôle of the Territorial Association. I propose to quote from the statement, which has been referred to from time to time during the Committee stage, made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) on 15th November, 1950, when, as Minister of Defence, he answered a Question about the Home Guard. He said: The Home Guard will be raised and operated on a Territorial basis, and will be administered by the War Office through the medium of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. Command will be exercised through normal Service channels."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1950: Vol. 480, c. 1715.] In his Second Reading speech, the Secretary of State made the following statement: …in framing the Bill…we are only following the procedure which was adopted in the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, and in the Army Reserve Act, 1950."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 580.] I want to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that all the new Clauses that we are discussing are taken from the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907. There is nothing in the Bill about the machinery for the administration 'of the proposed Home Guard. There is nothing whatsoever in the Bill about the chain of command to be established, and that is a rather extraordinary omission, particularly as the Secretary of State says this Bill was framed on the lines of the Territorial Army Act 'of 1907. One of the important features of the 1907 Act was that it contained an Appendix setting out in detail the exact chain of command and the machinery for the administration of the Territorial Army that was to be established.

11.0 p.m.

The new Clauses are adapted from that Act. What is proposed is, first of all, that the Army Council should have the responsibility for making the plan for the organisation of the Home Guard. I think it will be generally agreed that responsibility for the general organisation of the Home Guard must lie in the Army Council, and that there should be laid upon the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations the duty by which the counties make themselves acquainted with and conform to the Army Council's plan and see how it can best be applied to the counties.

In the second place we propose that certain powers and duties of the Home Guard should be transferred to the Territlorial Army and Auxiliary Forces Association, and one of these new Clauses details powers and duties that could be so transferred, so that the Associations could carry out the organisation of the Home Guard—its recruitment, its training, its accommodation. These proposals are based upon what is set out in the 1907 Act.

In the fourth place we give power to the Army Council to pay to the Associations out of moneys provided by Parliament sums that are required for the organisation of the Home Guard.

I think it will be generally agreed that the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces Associations are the appropriate bodies for the organisation of this Home Guard because, in the first place, they are local bodies, and, in the second place, they are representative bodies, representative of employers of labour and representative of trade unions—and the Secretary of State had given us certain assurances in the Committee discussions about consultations with employers of labour and trade unions in the organisation of the Home Guard.

Here in the Associations we hays, representatives of employers and trade unions who can actually participate in the recruitment, in the administration, and in the organisation of the Home Guard. The Associations should know from this Bill when it becomes an Act what their duties and powers are, and they should know what the chain of command is, and what powers are transferred to them and the financial arrangements made.

There may be some hon. Members, apparently, who are not very interested in these matters, in which case, I suggest, it would be better if they withdrew from the Committee. I suggest that the hon. Members—[Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite have no need to get excited. [Laughter.] There are Members on the back benches opposite who are laughing, and—

Sir Albert Braithwaite (Harrow, West)

On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to ask Members to withdraw from the Chamber?

The Deputy-Chairman

No, it is not in order to 'do that.

Mr. Swingler

I did not ask any Member to withdraw from the Chamber. I said that as it was obvious that some hon. Members opposite were not interested in this discussion, perhaps it would be better if they withdrew from the Chamber to carry on their conversations. I take it, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that I am quite entitled to make that statement when it is perfectly clear that some hon. Members opposite are not interested in the discussion.

The Deputy-Chairman

I appeal to both sides of the Committee to be good enough to keep to the new Clause which is before the Committee.

Mr. Swingler

I have been endeavouring to explain, as concisely as possible, what is contained in these four new Clauses. It is surprising, in view of what we have so often heard from Gentlemen who sit on the benches opposite, that not one hon. or hon. and gallant Member on the other side has put down any Amendment whatever to the Bill in relation to these things. Such is their concern for the Territorial Association and the role of the Territorial Army, and their knowledge of the 1907 Act, that no one has been concerned to see that in the Bill, as in the 1907 Act, the chain of command should be established which I have indicated.

We, on this side of the Committee, consider that this should be laid down in the Bill. We have been concerned that certain other things should be laid down in the Bill, and we are glad that the right hon. Gentleman has agreed to lay down certain terms of service which were not explained when the Bill was first presented. We have made progress, as the Committee has proceeded, by having other things explained and embodied in the Bill.

The Secretary of State has been very reasonable and conciliatory on these matters. He claims that the Bill is based on the example of the Act of 1907, and he is certainly concerned with the development of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. I am sure that he intends to use those Associations as agencies for the establishment and recruitment of the Home Guard. I ask him either to accept the new Clauses or to produce, on Report stage, in order that this organisation may be set out in the Bill as it was in the 1907 Act.

Mr. Head

I appreciate the intention which has inspired these four new Clauses. Indeed, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) is correct when he says it is our intention to use the Territorial Association for the administration of the new Force.

Once again, hon. Members putting down new Clauses or Amendments have drawn freely on the 1907 Act, and it is a compliment to that Act that it has been referred to so constantly during the discussions. But I would point out that ample legal authority already exists to do all that is suggested by the new Clauses in Section 2 of the 1907 Act and in Section 3 (1) of the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces Act, 1949.

I do not think the Committee would wish me to weary it by reading out the Regulations in full, but to make the point clear to the hon. Member may I say that it is stated in Section 2 (1): It shall be the duty of an Association when constituted to make itself acquainted with and conform to the plan of the Army Council for the organisation of all the military forces within the county. As is laid down in the Bill, the Home Guard will be part of the Armed Forces of the Crown and, therefore, clearly, of His Majesty's military forces.

The Act to which I have referred is, in effect, automatically attracted into the Bill in view of the liability of the Territorial Association for the military Forces within the county. The Act of 1907 and that part which applies to the Act of 1949 are both automatically applicable to the Home Guard and it therefore follows that the content, and, indeed, more than the content, of the new Clauses are attracted into the Bill. I suggest that there is no need for anxiety on the point, because that Act is legislation on which we shall build our administration of the Home Guard through the Territorial Association. I hope that the hon. Member will withdraw the Motion.

Mr. Swingler

In view of the statement made by the Secretary of State, that this is already covered by the 1949 Act. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, to be considered Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 16.]

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