§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The Chairman
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss the first proposed Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) with the second proposed Amendment to leave out from "force," to the end of line 43, and to insert:until the thirtieth day of April, nineteen hundred and fifty-three.If necessary, a Division can be taken on each of them.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 32, to leave out from "force," to the end of line 43, and to insert:until the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-three.The object of this Amendment is, on the face of it, perfectly clear. It is to postpone the expiry of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Act from 30th April to 31st July. In doing that it subsumes the date for the United Kingdom under subsection (1, a) to the same date as under paragraph (b) and, therefore, secures simplification also.
The historical origin of the very strict and narrow time limit which we are having to adopt on the Committee stage this year, and on previous years, is well known, as the jealousy which this House has shown in past centuries for the existence of a standing Army. It is germane to many of the points which right hon. and hon. Friends of mine wish to put to the Committee that that is really no longer correct of the Army that we are dealing with in this debate. Just as the character of the Army has changed, so, in our opinion, should the character of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Act change. It is for this reason that we are 1417 asking the Committee to undertake what is really the considerable labour of attempting some broad, comprehensive amendment to and clearing up of this Act today.
We recognise that we are asking the Committee to do so at what may prove a somewhat congested and difficult time and it would seem to some of us very much better if we had a longer time limit and went to the end of the Session before the expiry of the Act of the previous year.
It was represented to me, when we considered putting down this Amendment, that by so doing we are seeking to amend no less a document than the Bill of Rights. That may be so. The Bill of Rights had the historical origin which I have just mentioned, the jealousy over the standing Army, and I submit to the Committee that those considerations no longer apply.
I know that the Secretary of State was a little irritated the other day when he seemed to think that we on this side of the Committee were claiming that in the last six years we had created a completely new type of British Army. That is not what we are saying. We are saying that, not the previous Government, but the House of Commons, under the pressure of events under the last six years, is creating a type of Army quite different from anything which this country has ever had before; more akin in some ways to the Continental and European systems, but not by any means identical with either.
It is nothing that the party to which we on this side of the Committee belong ever contemplated doing. It did not occur in any of our programmes, "Let us Face the Future" or any other; and it is something which we would rather not have had to do. But the pressure of world events has made us do it, and I believe that, from the national point of view, there is some very great gain in building as we are doing—whether we fully realise it or not—a citizen Army, to use the widest sense of the word, in this country for the first time. There is, of course, still a very important Regular core and content, but that Army, a sort of compulsory short-term citizen Army both with the Colours and with the Reserve, is such as this country has never known before.
1418 It has, therefore, seemed to us—and that is why this rather formidable Order Paper is before us—that sooner or later it was necessary to take steps to bring the Army Act into relation with the new situation which is appearing. We thought the job might well be begun this year, because it was time to begin it; and also because we see in the Amendments put down by the Government that we are to have the whole Act reprinted. That being so, we should like a lot of submissions and proposals to find their way into that reprint.
Again, the Government themselves, and I make no complaint whatever about that, are proposing very substantial Amendments to the Bill which raises the question of the Act as a whole. Some of these Amendments are unquestionably good. We may wish to propose modifications, but they are Amendments which are certainly substantial in character. They amount really, I think, to a new Bill in itself. We on this side of the Committee, though we want to make these proposed Amendments in various and substantial particulars, have other things to do as well.
If we look at the Army Act itself, we are bound to be struck by what I would frankly call the anomalies, which, in some cases, have become sheer nonsense. To take one very simple and obvious example, the League of Nations is still referred to in various passages. Surely the Act needs bringing up to date and the words "United Nations" used instead.
The rations which the troops are to be given statutory right to receive have a positively nostalgic flavour today. The amount of bacon which, if we do not amend this Act, we promise to the troops is, quite frankly, a sad deception. I am not saying that these are matters of prime importance, but I do think that, in view of the type of man we have in the Army today, the Minister might like to look at the Sections of the Act which have become so obsolete as to be sheer nonsense.
There is another type of Amendment which we are proposing, which I would describe as an attempt to take out what I would call the feudal remains in the Act. There is a series of differentiations between officer and man for which, when we come to look at them, we can find 1419 little or no justification. There may have been some justification in some cases, but these provisions would disappear if the Amendments which we are putting down are accepted.
Then, of course, there is the whole question of the procedure of courts-martial, which has already been considerably amended, and which it is now proposed to amend still further. So far as we can see, by no means all the recommendations of the Pilcher Committee, and others which have sat on this matter, are yet proposed for embodiment in the Act, and we would like to hear a good deal more about the reasons for that.
Again, the Government themselves are raising the whole question of the definition of active service. It is a difficult question, which came up during my period of office, but we are by no means satisfied—
§ Mr. Strachey
These are only the reasons which I am giving why we feel that, in future years, greater scope and power should be given to the consideration of this Act, and that we should not be narrowly confined by this date at the end of April, which restricts us so much for the time being. However, I have given those reasons now; that was the last one on my list, and I am not tempted to pursue that theme further.
Those are the reasons why we think that, as a preliminary to some attempt—and we recognise that it can only be a first attempt this year—to bring this very big and very important matter up to date, and why we are prefacing that, as it were, by a proposal that when it comes up next year—when, again, it will need further work upon it—we should have a longer time in which to do that work.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) told us quite rightly that there is an immense number of matters in this Bill which are extremely out of date, and I agree with him entirely in that respect. One could almost say that the Army and Air Force (Annual) Act somewhat resembles a garden which has not been weeded for 20 years, which produces a 1420 great deal of work for those concerned to put it right.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he and his colleagues have been in possession of this garden for the last six years, and it is only right to say that, obviously, the Government cannot, on this occasion, put the garden right or get rid of all the weeds which exist there. Nevertheless, I am aware that the Opposition have made a very valiant attempt to uproot practically every weed they can see, and I would remind them that this Bill has to be put through Parliament by 30th April.
As regards the time necessary, I suggest that we should be in a better position to judge that after we have had considerably more time on it and we see how we are going on. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that we had it in mind to get rid of this anomaly of the three months' gap, which dates back to the days of sailing ships. Although I think that a passage of 84 days to India was good time, we realise that there was this anomaly, and we had it in mind to introduce an Amendment next year.
As hon. Members will appreciate, however, we had to be selective, because if the Government had gone completely through the Army Act, pointing out every single anachronism, it might have meant many items of legislation. It is a question of which we are well aware. As to the actual dates concerned—and two Amendments propose one which is late and one which is early—we had it in our minds to alter these dates and resolve the present anachronism, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that that will be introduced at a later stage.
I hope that you, Sir Charles, will not mind if I follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite on two other points, because, although they are not strictly relevant to the Amendments, they were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman and might be referred to subsequently.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? When he says that an Amendment will be introduced at a later stage, does he mean a later stage of the Bill?
§ Mr. Head
No. The hon. and learned Gentleman is optimistic. By a later stage I meant next year's Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill. I can assure the hon. and 1421 learned Gentleman that these matters are not so simple as just putting down a new date. The hon. and learned Gentleman has the advantage of me in being an hon. and learned Gentleman but he will appreciate that these things cannot be altered very quickly without much thought and, if I have learned anything in the last few days, I have learned that I cannot move words out of this Bill without affecting a large number of other words, both in the Bill and outside it.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Could the right hon. Gentleman explain why he cannot accept the Amendment in this Bill?
§ Mr. Head
One reason why this alteration of dates has absolutely no effect is because the Amendments made by this Bill all come into effect on 1st May. All we are doing is making the main body of the Bill applicable to people overseas, but the only effect at once, or the only actual result—though it looks tidier on paper—has no effect on any person to whom this Bill applies.
What I was going to say, in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's references to the recommendations of the Pilcher and Lewis Committees, and on the question of the pressure of events, was that it will be obvious to this Committee that to go through all the recommendations of both those Committees to make all the outstanding amendments, which might well have been done within the last six years, is quite out of the question on this occasion.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
The Pilcher Committee could hardly be followed, because it was not appointed until two years ago.
§ Mr. Head
I was not referring to the Pilcher Committee. All I said was that some of the amendments which have become necessary might have been done in the last six years, but as that has not been done, this situation cannot be resolved on this occasion. I am only concerned with this Bill, and I am only saying at this stage that I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will use some discretion towards it. It has to be through by 30th April. There is an immense number of anachronisms, many of which could have been resolved by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
1422 However, I give the assurance that we shall be as broadminded as we can in the acceptance of Amendments, but where there are complexities as a result of them we shall not always be able to accept them because of consequential matters which have to be thought out as a result of them. In this particular case I can give the right hon. Gentleman an assurance that we have it in mind to resolve an anachronism in the Act which has no adverse effect on any person concerned.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget
What the right hon. Gentleman has said seems to me to be something which we might find acceptable with regard to a great many other Amendments, but surely this is the one Amendment upon which it cannot be accepted. What is indicated is this. He says quite frankly that this Act is in a complete muddle and that it is full of anachronisms. I do not want to misquote him, but I should think that something which is full of anachronisms is in a muddle. He says, further, that this is a matter which it is difficult to put right in a hurry, because—I think I am quoting his words—"If you move one word here, you never know how many words you have to move somewhere else."
Very well. But putting this Bill right is something that has to be done. It probably cannot be done well enough this year. It must be done mainly next year. The whole point of this Amendment is to give us time to do it next year. The trouble is that for a century there has never been time to deal with the Act, and, therefore, we have re-enacted one absurdity after another year after year. It is 100 years since the House looked at this Act, which it has been producing year after year. When one looks at it, what does one find? That a great deal of it consists of articles of war of Charles II, and those articles of war make somewhat odd reading when one comes to look at them today.
Section 6 (2, g), which is one of these articles of war, says:By discharging firearms … drawing swords, beating drums, making signals, using words, or by any means whatever, intentionally occasions false alarms in action, on the march, in the field, or elsewhere.That does not make very realistic reading today. I do not say that if somebody clashes arms and waves swords one might 1423 not have to deal with them, but we want to get this into something which makes sense.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that the relevant and important words of that Section—and I am not trying to spoil what is a very amusing and attractive argument—refer to false alarms in action. I should have thought that was something which ought to be in this code of military discipline.
§ Mr. Paget
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can have been following my argument. There is a great deal in the articles of war of Charles II, or of the Black Prince or even of Alexander the Great which will be required by any army at any time, but, nevertheless, they want bringing up to date from time to time. That is my argument. Calling false alarms, such things as breaking wireless silence and things of that sort, would, I should have thought, been more important today than clashing arms and beating drums.
Again, in Section 4 (1) there are the words:Shamefully abandons or delivers up any garrison, place, post or guard or uses any means to compel or induce any governor … shamefully to abandon or deliver up. …It may be that there are things of that sort in a modern context, but shamefully causing the governor to give up a strong post becomes a somewhat unlikely event in the conditions of today.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to another thing. If we look at the Second Schedule, relating to billeting, we find what any housewife, as I understand it, is required to provide for any man who is billeted on her—
§ Mr. Paget
I was only indicating that the point of this Amendment is to provide us with enough time next year to put this Act in order. Surely, Sir Charles, I am entitled to indicate how much there is to be put right, because the whole point of this Amendment is that there is so much which is archaic.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is anticipating his next year's Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. Paget
I was explaining what we had to put right in this Act. As I was saying, when one looks at the billeting Schedule, one realises that it very definitely comes from a pre-Woolton era, if I may so put it. It says that a man shall be provided with four ounces of bacon for breakfast, 10 ounces of meat for lunch and another four ounces of meat for supper. But we do not live on that standard today, and it is hard on landlords to compel them to provide such food.
As I have said, the whole point of this Amendment is to raise these matters this year and to give the Government an opportunity to consider some of the things which we think should be looked at. The right hon. Gentleman said that in many instances, the Government will accept what we propose but that there is not time to do it this year—it is too complicated—though he will look at the position next year. If only he will give himself and the House time to deal with it next year that would meet our point.
The reason this garden has never been weeded is that this Bill has always been dealt with in a rush and there has never been time to deal with it properly. The point is that we want time to deal with it next year. Why resist that request?
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I thought the Secretary of State for War got off on the wrong foot. Indeed, he will be on the wrong foot for a long time until he brings down the other one. When driven into a corner he lashes out and closes his eyes at the same time. He blamed us because, during the last six years, when we were the Government, we did not do what we are now seeking to do as an Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I am very glad to hear the cheers from hon. Gentlemen opposite, because that means that they, like the Secretary of State for War, do not understand the constitutional practice involved in this matter. It is the job of the Opposition to bring the Army Act up to date. This conflict between Parliament and the King, which dates back to the 17th century, revolved round the standing Army and how it should be used. In those days, the Army was used to suppress the people, but today it is part of the people.
1425 It was the job of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, when he sat on these benches, not to come in and make smart interruptions at half past nine at night, but to examine the Army Act and to bring it up to date. We shall be in opposition for only a short time. We cannot trust the party opposite when they are the Government and we cannot trust them as an Opposition. Therefore, we have to do what we cannot trust them to do when they are on these benches next year.
I should have thought, therefore, that the Secretary of State for War—as I am sure he does—feels at one with us in trying to make this an effective instrument for safeguarding all the young men called up to the Services. The days have gone by when the Army Act applied to a limited number of men who, of their own volition, undertook to serve some years with the Colours and then with the Reserve.
Nearly 200,000 young men, whether they like it or not, are finding themselves in the Army; indeed, millions of our fellow countrymen may come within the orbit of the Act. Therefore, it is our job to see that it meets the needs of modern life and is brought up to date. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends did not lift a finger for six years to tackle this job. We are not saying that it can be completed this year. We have to start it this year.
§ Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)
The hon. Member referred to what my party did when in opposition. He will recall that for five years we were approaching the Government continually to give the troops more pay and that eventually, as a result of our pressure, they did so.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am quite willing to debate that point on any occasion, and in the hon. and gallant Member's constituency. It is just a piece of nonsense and I should be out of order in pursuing it.
I plead with the right hon. Gentleman that next year we should have the time to complete the job we shall start in the next few days. I hope he will have second thoughts and will accept this very reasonable and constructive Amendment 1426 in order that next year and in future years we can keep the Army Act up-to-date and not let it slip 100 years behind the times, as it is at present.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
I hope I can add a plea to the Secretary of State for War on this matter. It seems to me from his arguments that he advanced all the arguments himself, possibly without knowing it, in favour of the Amendment. The point we are up against is that it is very easy, by altering one or two words in the Annual Act, to reflect on every single Section throughout the Act.
Parliament always took the view that it should be reviewed every year, for the reason that it imposes the penalty of death on people conscripted into the Forces, who are under 21 years of age, for various offences which are not capital offences in civil life. If, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, he alters the definition of "active service" and alters the definition of "enemy," to take an example, he affects practically every single crime throughout the whole of the Army Act. Therefore, it is necessary to look again at every crime in the light of those alterations.
I appreciate the generous point the right hon. Gentleman made that he would accept such Amendments as be could, and I think we on this side should apologise for some of the difficulty in which some of us have placed the Committee. The difficulty about the Bill is that it cannot be introduced until such time as we have voted Vote A of the Army Estimates, for we must include in it the total number of the Forces we have voted. That date may be as late as 31st March, and between that date and 30th April—during which Easter usually intervenes—we have to pass the whole of the Army Act. This is more than an unsatisfactory position.
That is why we suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that we should make this alteration now. He says that it will not affect anything. Of course it will, because if he does not make that alteration we shall not have that service next year which he promised. Next year we may have important business in the House. We are fortunate this year in not having very important matters before us and, therefore, we can devote ourselves in Committee to a very proper study of 1427 the Army Act in order to bring it up to date. When the right hon. Gentleman voted in the Lobby to adjourn the House for several weeks I remember saying, "If that is the view he takes of important business we may at least have an opportunity of studying the Army Act." Next year, who knows, there may be such important legislation that the Government which will be then in office may adjourn for only six weeks for the Summer Recess. In those circumstances we may be a little pressed.
Let us deal with this matter at a time when it does not fall into the middle of financial business. That has been the trouble. We have weeded a good many flowers from this Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Weeds."] No, flowers; some of them very archaic, some which I was very sorry to see go. I watched old Acts of the Irish Parliament disappear one after another last year in silence. I am sure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would not have allowed them go so silently if they had understood their historic significance.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider this matter. After all, we have a certain responsibility for the people whom we conscript into the Forces and make subject to crimes which, though we agree we have a duty to look into, we say either that we are too busy to look at or, if we do look at, we sit continually night after night to do so. That is not the way to treat crimes which may affect the lives of young people conscripted into the Army. If the Secretary of State takes the view that we should not bother to look at them because we shall never accuse anybody of having committed these crimes then we are making a mockery of the Army Act.
The one type of lawyer we share with the Army is the barrack-room lawyer. I always feel that one learns much better law in the barrack room than one does in the law courts—at least, law which is possibly more effective from a Parliamentary point of view. But if the right hon. Gentleman proposes—and I am sure we would all commend that proposal—to reprint the Army Act it is essential that we should try to bring it up to date. If it is to be reprinted it should not have all these openings for barrack-room lawyers and perhaps other lawyers, too.
1428 If, under Parliamentary pressure, we break down on this task, we may make a mess, for instance, of the Second Schedule. We may fail to revise it and, if so, what if a man demands, in accordance with the Second Schedule, four ounces of bacon or 12 ounces of meat? What would the sergeant-major say? [Interruption.] The hon. Member, practically alone in his party, takes a view of the Lord President of the Council which has been abandoned by everybody else on the other side of the House. I quote that instance as one example.
There is, of course, a second reason why it is absolutely essential that we should have a long time in which to look at this Act. It is that we have had two very valuable committees on court-martial proceedings—the Pitcher Committee for the Navy and to some extent the Marines, and the Lewis Committee for the Army. We really ought to go through the recommendations of the late Government to see whether those recommendations, which I thought were generally acceptable to the House of Commons when they were brought forward, should be incorporated in the Act. If we are to have reform and are to set up a court-martial appeal court, what is the point of setting it up if we do not insert into the Act the necessary requirements to allow the preliminary proceedings to be conducted in such a way that they can go to appeal?
I was reading the other day Clode's "Military Forces of the Crown" and I came across a phrase referring to Colonel Nelson in relation to Governor Eyre and courts-martial in Jamaica. I should like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State for War to it and to suggest that his attitude in not giving us a little more time is rather like that of Colonel Nelson. This is what he wrote of Colonel Nelson:The personal conduct of Colonel Nelson never raised a breath of suspicion and he acted throughout"—
§ Mr. Bing
I will not argue the matter further, Sir Charles, because this point happens to be apposite to a matter we will be discussing later, and I will leave what I thought was a rather gracious compliment to the Secretary of State until a later stage. It really is absurd 1429 to re-enact all the provisions in regard to the articles of war. Nobody knows what the articles of war are; they have never been enforced during the last 100 years or so. The absurdity is even the greater when these enactments are taken out and applied to the Air Force. It is extraordinary that if one looks statistically at the matter it will be found that these enactments apply more to forces than to aircraft.
§ The Chairman
There are Amendments on the Order Paper dealing with all these matters, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman continues to speak on these subjects, I shall not select the Amendments when the time comes to discuss them.
§ Mr. Bing
In that case I will leave those points, and I will only make this further plea: there is an immense amount of material to be considered, and the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there will be a Budget to be considered in the normal way next year and that time then will be even more restricted than at the moment. It will not be possible to review this matter in any more detail next year than it is this year.
If the right hon. Gentleman would agree to this Amendment, we would not press very hard the various Amendments we have got down, but would discuss each in turn. If he does not do that, we shall have to press the really more important Amendments. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and I hope that in the circumstances the right hon. Gentleman will give way. We all appreciate the spirit of compromise with which he approached this matter, and this is a matter on which he could compromise.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I do not entirely agree with some of the observations which have fallen from my hon. Friends. As I understand it, there are two distinct points raised in the Amendments to Clause 2. The first point—indeed, the object of both Amendments—is to ensure that the provisions of the Army Act and the Air Force Act should operate for a period that is co-terminus with persons within their service.
As the matter stands at present, it will be observed from Clause 2 that if the Bill is passed in the form before us the Army Act and the Air Force Act will 1430 remain in operation in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man until 30th April, 1953, and elsewhere, whether within or without Her Majesty's Dominions, until 31st July, 1953.
The object of both Amendments is to ensure that which I think is reasonable, that the Army Act and the Air Force Act should continue in force for the British Isles and elsewhere until the same date. I do not mind whether the date selected is that suggested in the earlier Amendment, 31st July, or 30th April, 1953, but it seems to me it would be very inconvenient if one common date were selected for the expiration of the Army Act. Therefore, I am hoping that the Secretary of State will agree upon that which I think is the first and most elementary point raised by these Amendments.
The other question is whether or not it is more convenient to deal with the numerous amendments to the Army Act, which are admittedly required, this year or next year. Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I would have thought it would be much more convenient to deal with them this year, and I would be against postponing consideration of the various Amendments which my hon. Friend and I have taken the trouble to put down for the benefit of Her Majesty's Government. In the first place, we have plenty of time this year. Today is 1st April and the Army Act does not expire until 30th April. Therefore, we have the whole month, and I do not know of any Government business that is more important or could be more important than to get this Army Act into proper shape.
It is intolerable that we should go on year after year passing an Army Act which is out of date and full of anachronisms and absurdities. It is the duty of this Committee and the country to take this opportunity, and, if necessary, spend all the time required between now and the end of April in getting the thing into proper shape. With that object in view, my hon. Friends and I have gone to a great deal of trouble to examine the recommendations of the Lewis Committee and the Pilcher Committee. I was amazed when I came to look at the Bill to discover that a great many recommendations of these Committees have not yet been adopted. I do not understand why the 1431 recommendations of these Committees are not incorporated in the Bill. We have tried to supplement the deficiencies of the Government in that respect, and I would have hoped myself that we should take the trouble, however long it might be, to get them through this year.
The other reason I think it is particularly important to do it this year is a constitutional reason. Hon. Members opposite hold great store by the conventions of the constitution. I would invite the Secretary of State for War to look at the Preamble of the Bill, which I, at any rate, do not regard as mere verbiage. The Preamble makes it quite clear thatThe raising or keeping of a standing Army within the United Kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of Parliament, is against law.The whole object of the Bill is to renew the Army Act and to preserve the constitutional doctrine that the maintenance of a standing Army in this country is illegal unless it is renewed year by year. Therefore, it seems absurd for the Secretary of State to base his argument on the assumption that we may have to have another Bill next year. That is an assumption that ought not to be made. The assumption which the Secretary of State ought to make is that a standing Army in this country is illegal and is permitted by Parliament for one year and no more.
No one can tell what the state of the country or the world may be in a year's time. We are being asked by the Government to pass an enactment for one year, and therefore, the choice before this Committee is either to renew the Army Act for the next 12 months in a form which is intelligible and in accordance with the requirements of modern conditions, or not.
Conditions today are different from what they were 10, 20, 50 or 100 years ago. We are now passing into a state of society in which National Service for a period of two years is an accepted fact. It is a condition in which we have, in effect, a civilian Army. It would be intolerable that the Army Act should be renewed for another year unless this Committee fulfilled its function of going through it Section by Section and bringing it up to date. Therefore, I hope 1432 that the Committee will pursue that policy and, regardless of whatever time might be involved, will not shirk its duty. I hope that the Secretary of State will accept the Amendment so that the changes which are being proposed might be considered.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I should like to deal with one point raised by the Secretary of State for War. He seemed puzzled as to why it was that we had not made some, or all, of these Amendments during the last six years. That makes one wonder where he was during the last six years. Did he not notice that we were carrying through a great social revolution in that time which put a tremendous strain on the legislative processes of the country?
All that the Government are doing today is to produce one or two little Bills which tinker with that social revolution as far as they dare, which is not tremendously far at the moment—giving the public houses back to the brewers and matters of that kind—and they have no important legislation whatever. Our legislation was a great deal more important—
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am glad, Sir Charles, to have your agreement on that, but as the Secretary of State asked this question, and the question was in order, I suggest that we are entitled to give him the answer.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why we had not carried through these amendments ourselves in the last six years. I was trying to explain to him that the reason was that we were carrying through a social revolution of great importance to the well-being of this country which required a great deal of legislation, and we did not have the time.
This Act, although important, was not as important as those other pieces of legislation which we put on the Statute Book. The Government have nothing whatever to offer us in the way of legislation except for a few Bills which tinker with that social revolution. Therefore, they have plenty of time. They were able to take a fantastically long Christmas Recess. They have plenty of time ahead of them and we can all sit down now and 1433 go through this Act. There is not really a great deal of controversy between us and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Swingler
I hope that the Secretary of State is about to get up to announce that he has changed his mind on this question. I entirely accept his stricture. I think that it applies as a black mark against all Members of Parliament in the last 50 years that this exhaustive reform of the Army Act should be so long overdue.
At the same time, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that this is, after all, largely a job for the Opposition. What he forgets, but what you will remember, Sir Charles, is that in the last two Parliaments the Labour Party has had to provide both the Government and the Opposition. Unfortunately, we have not been able entirely to cover the job comprehensively. Nevertheless, most of the agitation for the reform of courts-martial came from the Labour benches in the last Government.
We have not had an opportunity before now to get down to this exhaustive reform. It seemed to me that, in spite of the charm with which the Secretary of State opened his remarks, he did not provide any adequate reason for not accepting this Amendment. Possibly, that was because he just had not got any reason at that moment. He said that it would be better to have it next year. I cannot understand why it would be better to have it next year; or how it can be done then when it cannot be done now.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the possibility that one change would have all sorts of consequential changes. As far as I can see, if he accepted the Amendment, it would obviously involve a change in the Preamble; but I think that the Secretary of State ought to tell the Committee what other changes would be involved. He has the benefit of expert advice. The Solicitor-General is here—we are pleased to see him—and undoubtedly he could tell us what other consequential changes would be involved if the Amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend was accepted.
Then there is the question of the additional three months, because the Preamble says that this is a Bill for a period of 12 months. Possibly, an additional Bill 1434 would be required to carry out this change. We have not been told by the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary or the Solicitor-General of the reasons why it is impossible to carry out this reform now. The Secretary of State agrees that we ought to get rid of these obsolete parts of the Act. He agrees that we ought to modernise the Act, and that we ought to simplify it and make it more intelligible because of the increasing number of people who are affected by it; but he says that this year he cannot accept this Amendment.
For this year there is some magic about 30th April whereby we must still keep that date in the Bill, though next year he would be able to make it 31st July. The Committee ought to be told what reason the lawyers have for this. I note that the Solicitor-General is studying the Army Act. No doubt he is finding the reason which the lawyers have for saying that it is impossible to make the date 31st July instead of 30th April.
I hope that it will not be necessary to take this matter further. We have a great deal of business to do which I do not doubt will take us many hours. I hope that it will not be necessary to prolong this opening discussion, but that the Minister will be willing to allow us this extra time so that this year will be made historic because the Committee will be carrying out an exhaustive reform of the Act to make it intelligible to the many men and women who will be affected by the administration of discipline.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I feel somewhat uncomfortable today because, as far as I know, I am the only Member who has spoken from this side of the Committee who never reached commissioned rank. I therefore speak not merely with a sense of deference to hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite, but with some hope that I may not be regarded as crashing in on the officers' trade union on this side of the Committee.
I first enlisted in the Second Volunteer Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment on 11th September, 1899, and I am generally the oldest "sweat" on parade on these days. But I well recall the first occasion on which I attended a volunteer camp at the guards camp at Pirbright on the Saturday before August Bank Holiday, in 1900. There we were drawn up, still 1435 wearing the full pack that we carried nom Brookwood Railway Station, and the adjutant read to us the relevant portions of the Army Act.
As we were at that time at war in South Africa, we wretched volunteers were adjudged to be on active service. We had read out to us the relevant portions and, at the end of each Section that was read, we were informed that the penalty for committing any offence was that we should… be liable to suffer death or such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.I began to despair of ever getting home alive.
We have asked that the Act on this occasion should be extended for 15 months instead of 12 so that today, and during the time when we have this Bill in Committee and on Report, we should consider and make such Amendments as appear to be suitable to bring this legislation up to date. It is quite clear that any such effort will mean that, no matter how skilled the advice we may get from the Law Officers of the Crown—and I am saying nothing in derogation of the advice they tender—there will undoubtedly be discovered, no matter when that process is gone through, that there will be some necessary further Amendments to be made.
I should have thought that to have made the extension to 15 months this year, and thereafter again to have an Annual Act, would have enabled us, during the next ensuing 15 months, to consider the results of this year's work and dovetail it into the Measure; then we should have been able to get a comprehensive review that would have enabled the Act to have been brought thoroughly into line with modern conditions, so that in succeeding years, as conditions change, the amount of amendment required in any given year would not be very great.
This is, in our view, a thoroughly practical Amendment, and we hope that the right hon. Gentleman, whose attitude towards the whole matter gives us the utmost gratification—we are very glad to know that he recognises that this Measure ought to be brought up to date, and that he intends that it should be—will accept the Amendment. We suggest that the way we propose is the most practical way in which that process can be carried out. 1436 I hope that no youth going into camp in future will ever be subject to the feelings of terror that, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, I felt at Pirbright on the particular afternoon that I have mentioned.
There is no need, with a citizen Army, with a better educated Army than we have ever had before, to rely on these archaic conditions. There should be an Army Act that can be read and understood. Let me say to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) that I have heard quite as good law enunciated in the wet canteen as I have heard occasionally in the law courts when professional lawyers have been trying to obscure rather than to unfold the law. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman so to amend the Bill as we suggest now to give him ample time to ensure that next year he will be able to put to the House an Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill that will really represent, not merely what the law is, but what the law ought to be.
§ Mr. Head
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks, which, I take it, were made in his position as a "private" Member rather than as a Member of the Opposition Front Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] I was making a bad joke, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman. I used the word "private" in the military rather than in the Parliamentary sense.
§ Mr. Head
Nobody is more aware of the importance of sergeant-majors than I am.
It would be pleasant if we could start off on what looks like being a long journey by agreeing on this first point. However, as it happens, there seems to be a difference of opinion among hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) says we have plenty of time before 30th April to make a real job of it, but another hon. Gentleman opposite 1437 has said that we have not anything like enough time. The proposal would involve prolonging the Act to 15 months. It would also make a considerable impact on other Parliamentary business. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] We are bound to have a maximum of 30 days for consideration of this Bill, for it must be through by 30th April. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, and, if he were on this side of the Committee, would probably say so; and he will realise that, if we had 30 days for taking a good bite at this particular cherry every year, after a year or two it would look good and ripe. The postponement to 15 months would have other complications. The sooner we can start the 22 years' engagement the better we shall be pleased. It has been announced to the Press. Many men are making inquiries. The sooner we can start the better.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Strachey
I think the right hon. Gentleman said himself that the passage of this Amendment would not make any difference to the coming into effect of this Bill. Therefore, it would not postpone by an hour the coming into effect of the 22 years' engagement. It is entirely prospective to next year.
§ Mr. Head
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I was wrong on that point. I misunderstood the advice I had received.
However, I cannot agree to this Amendment. I regret that we must start in this way; though it is, as I announced at the outset, our intention to accept every Amendment which we can accept and which can be incorporated into the Bill without undue drafting complications. On this occasion, I regret that I have to ask the Committee not to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I really cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman. He produced no convincing argument at all. Indeed, at one point he had to admit that he was wrongly advised. He seemed to imagine that if he accepted this Amendment it would arrest the progress contemplated in connection with the career scheme for recruits to the Army. Well, he has discovered that he was wrongly advised there.
1438 The right hon. Gentleman must agree, in spite of the fact that he has been only a few months at the War Office, that there are a great many anomalies in the Act. I knew this when I was at the War Office way back in 1929. I learned a great deal more about it from 1947 onwards. Of course, there was no time to clear up all these anomalies. They require very careful consideration. I go so far as to say that they require protracted debate, because if the Army Act is to be brought up to date, it ought not to be done in a hasty fashion. After all, we have to consider the position of millions of men in this country. There are men coming into the Army through the National Service Acts, and men who are coming in voluntarily. They go out of the Forces, and more come in; and the whole thing is progressive and continuous. This affects the lives of millions—indeed, many millions—of men in the course of years. Whatever we do ought to be undertaken with the greatest care.
I should have thought that this was a most reasonable Amendment. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman's advisers at the War Office have asked him to reject it. The only ground upon which they could possibly have given him that advice is that they are afraid that they will be called upon to undertake a task which is beyond them, and that they will have to call in the Law Officers of the Crown, who will be called upon to undertake work which is of a protracted nature. I have been at the War Office when we considered Amendments of various kinds and when, because we were a little too indolent or because we thought that the task was beyond us, we set it aside. This simply will not do.
If the right hon. Gentleman could say to the Committee, with his hand on his heart, that there are not substantial anomalies in the Army Act and that it does not require substantial amendment, that would be all right. But can the right hon. Gentleman honestly say so? If he will make that statement to the Committee, that there are no serious anomalies in the Army Act which require amendment, in the interests of the Army and of the nation at large, and if he says that convincingly and because he believes it, I am quite sure that my hon. Friends will give the matter further consideration. Will the right hon. Gentleman say so?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry that I was not present to hear that important pronouncement, but having heard it somewhat belatedly, it provides me with all the argument I require to fortify my contention that the right hon. Gentleman should accept this very desirable Amendment.
What possible harm could it do? It would not upset the Army. It might disturb the War Office—they will have to do a little more work. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] All right; I thought that perhaps it might. If I am wrong, I am happy to be corrected. Besides, it is quite on the cards that the right hon. Gentleman will not be in his present position to deal with this next year; it might be somebody who is now on this side of the Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman were assured, as I think he can be assured, that he will not be called upon 12 months from now to undertake the task of correcting all the anomalies in the Army Act, would that afford him some consolation and persuade him to agree to the Amendment?
§ Mr. Shinwell
One of my experiences as Secretary of State for War, and as Financial Secretary, a good many years ago, I am absolutely convinced, and I challenge contradiction, of what I have said. I even appeal to the brigadiers' trade union. I see two high-ranking military officers on the other side of the Committee—
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the brigadiers' trade union what he did about this during the years when he was in power?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for his intervention. I shall tell him, and this may be received with a certain derision on the other side—
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member does not know whether it would. He is a little premature in saying, "Hear, hear." He does not know what I am going to say. We always know that the hon. Member is always ready to jump the queue, not only in this but in other matters. However, we will leave that aside.
My reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) is that—I say this quite honestly, and I hope that he will accept it from me—although I was well aware, as I was bound to be aware, of the various anomalies in the Army Act, it was quite impossible to undertake the task for the physical reason that we had not time, and the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill is presented to us almost on the eve of an occasion when we have a discussion in Parliament. The Bill was presented only last week—certainly not more than 10 days ago. There is not ample time to consider all these anomalies and to make the necessary corrections.
The logical conclusion of what the right hon. Gentleman has said in his refusal to accept the Amendment, is that we should place on the Order Paper hundreds of Amendments. We have only touched a fringe of the subject as yet—there is general agreement about that. Those hundreds of Amendments would occupy the attention of the Committee, and of the House when it has to deal with the matter on the Report stage, for many days.
What would the Minister's right hon. Friend the Leader of the House say if we occupied the House to that extent, presenting our Amendments, arguing them logically and cogently, as we can do, and gaining the support of hon. and gallant Members on the other side who are interested in these matters and who are as anxious as we are, and even more anxious because of their familiarity with the problem, to correct the anomalies in the Army Act?
I wonder what would be said if we kept the House occupied all that time? The Closure would have to be moved time and again. We would have to go all through the night. That sort of thing would only hold up Government business. The right hon. Gentleman would be compelled to tender his resignation before the end of the day. That is the last thing we want to see. We are getting 1441 accustomed to the right hon. Gentleman now. We think he is probably as good a Secretary of State for War as could be produced on the other side. There are probably some who think that they are better than he is, but we have our opinions about them.
The right hon. Gentleman is in a very difficult situation. What he is saying to us in effect is, "Put down your Amendments. Keep the House going for many days and nights." We do not want to occupy the time of the Committee at great length, and I beg of him to consider what is a very reasonable and moderate Amendment, which, I believe, would redound to the advantage of the British Army, would confer great benefits upon the men who are to come into the Army in due course and would, moreover, help the officials at the War Office and the right hon. Gentleman's successors when they come in due course to deal with the position, and the position of the men in the Army, in a way that everybody desires.
I repeat, Why is the right hon. Gentleman so sticky about it? Who has advised him about this? There can be no legal objection to this. It cannot be the Solicitor-General. Will the right hon. Gentleman get up and say what is the objection to it? I should like to hear his argument. Or is he just sticking because he cannot help himself? Is he just wanting to be obstinate and obdurate, or is it that because we have put down the Amendment, he does not want to give way?
The right hon. Gentleman has bragged over and over again that he was responsible for persuading the last Government to increase the pay of the men in the Forces; he has claimed credit for it. Let him give us a little credit for removing some of the anomalies in the Army Act by acceding to our request and accepting the Amendment.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is beginning to yield. He is becoming a little more concerned about the arguments that have been adduced. He is beginning to realise his position—or is he? After all, what can one expect if reasonable arguments are adduced by the Opposition, as they have been adduced? If hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite do not find these arguments 1442 cogent and persuasive let them get up and say so.
I should like the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, West, to get up and say that he does not agree with the removal of anomalies in the Army Act. Where are the rest of the brigadiers? Perhaps the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) would get up and say that he does not think it necessary to remove these anomalies. Hon. Members opposite cannot just sit there and do and say nothing.
What are the arguments against this Amendment? No arguments have been adduced as yet. It simply will not do. The right hon. Gentleman must try to sustain the high reputation which he has gained by his criticism of the late Government on military matters. When the right hon. Gentleman came to office—and everybody anticipated that he would gain high office and now he has become Secretary of State for War—we thought that he would put everything right. What has he put right?
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is precisely what we are proposing. That is what we are asking him to accept. We say that we do not expect him to remove these undoubted anomalies in the Army Act here and now. We are not presenting Amendments to that effect here and now. What we are asking is that he should have the opportunity of considering them before July next year. In other words, we are agreeing with the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East that we should give the Secretary of State for War ample time. If we go into the Division Lobby I expect that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, true to himself, true to his convictions and to the statements he makes, will accompany us.
But we have no desire to go to the Division Lobby. We do not want to press this Amendment to a Division unless it is absolutely necessary. Can the right hon. Gentleman not make some concession? Cannot he get up and say that at any rate before the Report stage he will give the matter consideration and see what he can do? Or does he intend just to twiddle his thumbs? This is really not good enough. The right hon. Gentle- 1443 man must do something about this. If he does not I am afraid that this is the beginning of the end of the reputation which he has gained as a successful and effective Secretary of State for War.
We want to help the right hon. Gentleman all we can. [Laughter.] Yes, everybody knows that is true. Can anybody say that the Opposition have criticised the right hon. Gentleman unfairly? Indeed, I have heard the most laudatory encomiums about the right hon. Gentleman and I have been a bit dismayed about it.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is committing two errors. First, he should address his remarks to me, and, secondly, I think his remarks were getting a little wide of the Amendment on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Shinwell
With great respect, on the first point I entirely agree with your Ruling, Sir Leonard, that I should address my remarks to you; but on the second point my remarks were only wide in the sense that it was necessary to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to see the whole picture, and that is what I have been trying to unfold. I was about to say that I was a little dismayed, both for myself and for my right hon. Friend the ex-Secretary of State for War to hear all these congratulations addressed to the right hon. Gentleman because, by implication, it denigrated both my right hon. Friend and myself. However, we are quite prepared to put up with that if the right hon. Gentleman will only realise the importance of making this necessary Amendment in the interests of the British Army. I beg him to yield.
§ Mr. Boothby
In response to the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman I only wish to make it quite plain that I thought his remarks neither cogent nor persuasive. Had I found them cogent or persuasive, I should certainly have followed him into the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
In reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) I should like, if he is not yet persuaded by my hon. Friend's remarks, to add one or two of my own. I am amazed at the attitude of the Secretary of State for War. 1444 He has frankly admitted—and I thought it was very nice of him—that we on this side of the Committee have been doing some serious work with this bunch of Amendments, and that they are serious Amendments, many of which he will have to consider, and which we hope he will accept.
Secondly he has admitted that this document is jammed full of anomalies. There we have two admissions which are linked together; a document jammed full of anomalies and a document for their improvement. We do not deny that many of the things we ask to discuss are highly controversial. We should not expect to have these very important changes rushed into the Army Act without adequate debate and discussion, because we do not underestimate the drastic nature of some of the changes which my hon. Friends are proposing to introduce.
I am rather surprised at the attitude of the Secretary of State for War; but perhaps he has not read all the Amendments. I am glad to hear that he regards them as so able, because they will fundamentally change certain things which I had the impression he has stood for throughout his life.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman agrees, because they will not all be accepted at first sight. Many of them will have to be argued at some length. That was the precise point of this Amendment. We knew in advance that one or two of these suggestions might meet with dissent at first sight, but we were convinced that with some hours of discussion we could persuade the Secretary of State for War—because we know he has promised to remove these anomalies in the Act—to remove some of these anomalies.
It is frankly admitted that this cannot be done without adequate discussion. There is one thing which I am glad the right hon. Gentleman would not admit, and that is that he is not concerned with 1445 the Army Act at all but with the Leader of the House saying, "I do not care about the Army Acts; I want Government business pressured through the House of Commons." They are bulldozing tactics which the Secretary of State for War must resist. After all, it is for the Secretary of State for War, if he now admits that the Act is crammed full of anomalies, to go to the Leader of the House. Did he tell the Leader of the House that here was an Act crammed full of anomalies and that there were a number of Amendments of a vital nature—and did he demand time from the Leader of the House? Did he?
§ Mr. Head
The hon. Gentleman is asking me this question, but I have produced, in this Bill, a series of extremely important Amendments which we wish to make for the benefit of the Army. They are the most important and urgent ones; but what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that I should correct in one Session all the sins and omissions of the past. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He may not be saying that, but he is saying. "The Army Act is full of anomalies. Why do not you ask the Leader of the House for time to correct them all?" We cannot correct all these anomalies at one go. What I have presented to the Committee is what nobody else has done in the last six years, and that is an attempt to make essential changes.
§ Mr. Crossman
We are gradually moving closer in the course of our discussion. We are getting agreement, and it is time the Leader of the House reconsidered the time given for this Bill. The Secretary of State himself—and we give him full credit for it—has tabled a series of important new Clauses and changes which need careful consideration; two heads are better than one, and since he was setting such a good example we felt that more could be done, and we have tabled further improvements. Not one of my hon. or right hon. Friends has even dreamed of suggesting that we could remove all the anomalies from the Act, even by a combined operation by Government and Opposition.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am very grateful that the hon. Gentleman should make that interjection at the beginning of the second half of my speech, because we are now reaching the position in which there is a clear admission that there is work to be done—more than can adequately be done in the time at present provided—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to relate his remarks to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Mr. Crossman
With great respect, Sir Leonard, this is relevant to the question of postponing the date of the Bill. We are asking for more time to revise the Army Act, and the purpose of this Amendment is to enable the Secretary of State to have time to remove these anomalies. We are asking for more time next year, not now, because even if he accepted all that we are asking should be done now there would still be left a mass of further detailed work to be done which we have not put into our present proposals.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, asks the very relevant question, also asked by the right hon. Gentleman, why this was not done in the last six years when my right hon. Friends were in power. I may perhaps say this, which they cannot say. I should like to tell him the truth on that subject. Let us be clear about it. The Labour Government was concerned with major social and economic reforms; we had a great many important things to do for the Services, but we gave priority to social and economic reforms, to which we were pledged in our 1945 Election manifesto, "Let Us Face the Future." We had an enormous legislative programme to which inevitably we had to give priority. We could not leave that legislative programme full of anomalies.
I should have thought it almost inconceivable that the first Conservative Government since 1939, for whom the defence organisation of the country is a first priority, who feel that this is the essential framework for the military containment of Communism, who put their whole stress on military organisation, should admit to us this afternoon, through the Secretary of State for War, that the Army Act is a mass of anomalies but should be willing for that Act, which is 1447 part of the legal framework on which the Armed Forces depend, to be continued in that state, and should give no time so that next year the right hon. Gentleman might be able to reform it further. It would be natural, perhaps, for a slovenly Socialist who does not believe in overwhelming priority of military organisation. It might be natural for us to leave this unattended. But what do we see? Here is the Labour Party at work trying to improve the Army Act. And here is the Conservative Party deliberately admitting that the Army Act is a mass of anomalies but refusing altogether to accept an Amendment which would give them 15 months to do the job properly.
Let the right hon. Gentleman give way early on this vital point. We want to collaborate during the hours ahead in improving the Army Act. To create the right team spirit for achieving that improvement, the right hon. Gentleman should make this concession, not to us but to common sense and to themselves. We have had not one explanation why this cannot be done. We have simply this blank mind and, I suspect, an attempt to create division in the Committee, an attempt to deepen the gulf between Government and Opposition.
What other purpose can there be in turning down a reasonable and sensible proposal for giving longer time in which this great work, to which both sides are now settling down, could be done, not in an all-night Sitting, but in a long period of careful preparation. Perhaps by this time the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, at least is persuaded by the argument. No? Then I have no doubt that my hon. Friends will continue the debate and produce further arguments.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I must confess that I am gravely disturbed by the attitude adopted by the Secretary of State so early in what I thought would be a harmonious and co-operative discussion. I had been coming round to the view in the last few months that on occasions the right hon. Gentleman could adopt a quite reasonable attitude. It is, I think, common ground that this and other Amendments represent only the first stage of what must be a fairly lengthy process; a first stage which cannot be 1448 completed in the discussion which takes place now, but which will have to be completed in future years when the Army Act again comes before us.
I am sorry that the Solicitor-General has left the Chamber. I hope that he will return in the not-too-distant future, because the point to which I wish to address myself requires his advice and, if possible, co-operation. I can only suggest that there must be some other reason not yet put before the Committee which induces the Secretary of State to take up this attitude of opposition to this Amendment.
I have been a Member of the House for only seven years—all too short a time in which to be acquainted with all the constitutional principles that we ought to appreciate in order effectively to discharge our duties. It may well be that there is some constitutional principle involved in this Amendment about which I do not know, which perhaps the Solicitor-General has in mind.
In the course of his reply the Secretary of State quoted what he thought was some advice he had been given, either by the Solicitor-General or by someone else; but on further examination he found that he had misheard or misconstrued that advice. I believe that the advice he misunderstood or did not hear correctly was advice tendered to him by the Solicitor-General.
If there is some really serious constitutional point involved in this Amendment which makes it impossible for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to accept it, then I suggest that we are entitled to an explanation of the legal difficulties which are presumably involved. It is not fair to expect the Secretary of State for War, in addition to his Service record, to be fully armed and equipped with all the legal facilities and attributes possessed by the Solicitor-General.
If there is some real sound constitutional reason, apart from the mere convenience of arranging the business of the House to suit the leader of the particular party which happens to be in power at the moment, involved, I think that we are entitled to an explicit version of whatever it was that the Solicitor-General said to the Secretary of State for War which induced him to adopt his attitude, which was rather negative, to what all 1449 of us really think is a most reasonable proposition.
I deplore the fact that what I was hoping would be a useful debate, which would provide an instalment of much needed reform as a guide to future years, has been, to some extent, marred by the attitude adopted by the Secretary of State for War. I am sure that the Solicitor-General cannot have removed himself so far from the Chamber as to be not within call, and I suggest that an arrangement be made as quickly as possible to ensure that he returns to his place to give us the benefit of the legal arguments which may be involved.
I am very pleased to see that the Leader of the House is now in his place, because I am quite sure that if I give him a few more minutes in which to have a conference with the Secretary of State for War, he also will be able to make some sort of gesture which will facilitate and render more harmonious the proceedings in which we are now engaged. We are trying to co-operate with the Government, and the Secretary of State for War has indicated by the Bill which is now before the Committee that he is aware of the need for certain alterations to be made. We want to help him to make these alterations, and we want to add a few more.
Perhaps next year, when the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill comes before the House, we shall be able to proceed on the next stage of these much-needed reforms, and in these circumstances I hope that, after consultation with the Leader of the House and possibly with the Solicitor-General, whose temporary absence we all deplore, and which we hope will not be too prolonged, and as a result of the little conference which is now taking place between the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for War, we may be able to embark on the other reforms that we have in mind in a spirit of brotherhood and co-operation.
§ Mr. Strachey
I should like to make one last appeal to the Secretary of State, quite seriously and earnestly, on this point. I think that it will make a lot of difference to the whole tone and temper of our debating a Bill the consideration of which must, at best, be a long job. It seems queer that he has so completely refused to meet us on this matter, and it 1450 is queer because he has not given us, if I may say so with respect, any real reasons at all. I confess that when I put down this Amendment I thought that there might be some constitutional difficulty which might make it impossible, but he has not really alleged that.
He gave me the impression, in the remarks which he has addressed to the Committee, that, quite frankly, he had confused the two Amendments. He told us that he would remove the quite minor anomaly of the difference of date between home and overseas. The major point is this Bill should run for 15 months instead of 12, and if he accepted that, I am quite sure it would act as an earnest that he was going seriously to take into consideration the points that we have put down.
He cannot, of course, deal with all of them this year, but he could deal with some this year, and next year, when the new Bill is printed, he would have three months after the Bill came in instead of this short time schedule. In his opening remarks, he emphasised that he had to get this Bill by the 30th April. We know that. That is why we put down the Amendment to remove that difficulty next year.
It seems to us that it would make an awful lot of difference to the whole work of the Committee if he would give us this concession on this Clause. It would not make any difference to this year in itself, but it would make a tremendous difference to the whole spirit in which this thing is undertaken. Next year, surely, if the right hon. Gentleman is still in his present position, it can be nothing but an advantage to him. Why do the Government, when they are being offered extra elbow room of three months, refuse it? For the life of us, we cannot see what is in the mind of the Secretary of State in refusing this.
If he refuses it, it does seem rather a challenge to us. After all, he spoke most fairly to us in his remarks this afternoon, as he always does. He admitted frankly that there was a great deal of work to be done on the Army Act, and then, after speaking so fairly, he does not match that by his actions.
He does not give us that concession which obviously there is no deep or constitutional reason not to give. He does 1451 not give that concession which should make all the difference in getting this big job of tidying it up—I put it no higher than that—done in the most reasonable way possible. I press him now, on this first stage in our debate, to meet us in this matter.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
There is one matter about which I should like to inquire as one in some innocence of these matters. I regret that those silent stars of the screen, the Under-Secretary of State for Air and the Solicitor-General, have temporarily disappeared, because my question is particularly directed to a legal matter affecting the Air Force.
I was glad to hear the Secretary of State admit that the Army and Air Force Acts are full of anomalies. I think so, too. I wondered whether when the Leader of the House was walking through the corridors and found skeletons hanging from every candelabra he had not been by some chance walking down that part of the War Office which considers the Army Act, and whether what he saw may not have been these anomalies. I suppose that there are skeletons in the War Office, and I imagine that there are dead birds in the Air Ministry, but one does not know in which direction the right hon. Gentleman's fancy roams at present.
What puzzles me is—here I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher)—that I observe that the Act expires at one date in these islands and at another date not less than three months later everywhere else whether within or without Her Majesty's Dominions. The question I want to ask—perhaps somebody will tell me the answer—is, why?
§ Mr. Mitchison
That is exactly what I thought. This is a naval anomaly, as it were. It is a barnacle rather inappropriately attached to the Army and the Air Force. What I want to remind the 1452 right hon. Gentleman about in the regrettable absence of the Under-Secretary of State for Air and the Solicitor-General is that in our days, though no doubt his party does not quite realise it, we sometimes move rather faster and it does not nowadays take three months to get the Act to the outlying parts. From time to time I go up to Scotland, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it takes quite as long to get from Land's End to John O'Groats as it does to get from London to Jamaica in an aeroplane.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider the position of airmen in such services as Transport Command. For this purpose I shall take a hypothetical airman and call him Pilot Officer Pendulum because of the way he swings to and fro between, for instance, London and Jamaica. Incidentally, I am glad to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Air is now in the Chamber.
One has to remember that airmen are very prone occasionally to nervous disorders. It is, of course, a most disturbing profession. Pilot Officer Pendulum, as he swings from London to Jamaica and back again in the course of his duties in the service of Her Majesty, perhaps in Transport Command will alternately be subject to this Act and the next one. One's imagination boggles at the difficulties which must beset the poor man in knowing what he can do and what he cannot do.
Let us assume, for instance, that some of the anomalies will be removed in the next Army and Air Force (Annual) Act and that that which will be an offence under this Bill will become an innocent and discarded anomaly under the next Bill. If Pilot Officer Pendulum does something in Jamaica it may be a crime but if he does it in these Islands it may be all right. Meanwhile the poor man will be wandering in mid-ocean and when he gets three miles from these Islands the crime will become an innocent act or the innocent act a crime.
It is not only that these things are unsettling to those who already carry on a somewhat disturbed and disturbing career. I should also like to say a word or two on behalf of that much maligned man, the barrack-room lawyer. All lawyers are good, but some are better than others. The barrack-room lawyer really has a useful place in the world.
1453 It is as well that men should stand up for their rights and it is occasionally advisable that they should know them. If Pilot Officer Pendulum happens to combine other risks with those of being a barrack-room lawyer, or the Air Force equivalent, then he really is going to break down from sheer exhaustion, simply because we now have improved communications to such a degree that it no longer takes three months to send the Act or Pilot Officer Pendulum to and from Jamaica and we still have this extraordinary out-of-date anomaly in connection with this Bill.
If the right hon. Gentleman will consult for a moment with the Under-Secretary of State for Air—perhaps we could have a reply from the Under-Secretary of State
§ for Air—I am sure he will be convinced that the Air Force at any rate will no longer put up with this nonsense. If we give them three months they will go to the moon and back or circle round the world time after time. Yet a tremendous period is allowed for this modest journey to and from Jamaica. It is impossible to go on like that. Let us take this opportunity of putting it right.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 252; Noes, 203.1457
|Division No. 56.]||AYES||[5.43 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col, O. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Crouch, R. F.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Crowder, John E. (Finchley)||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Cuthbert, W. N.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Maj. W. J.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Holt, A. F.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Hope, Lord John|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||De la Bère, R.||Horobin, I. M.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Deedes, W. F.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Donaldson, Comdr. C. E. McA.||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Donner, P. W.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Barber, A. P. L.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Duthie, W. S.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Fell, A.||Jennings, R.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Finlay, Graeme||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fisher, Nigel||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fletcher, Walter (Bury)||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Foster, John||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Birch, Nigel||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Black, C. W.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Bossom, A. C.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Braine, B. R.||Glyn, Sir Ralph||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Godber, J. B.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Gough, C. F. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Gower, H. R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bullard, D. G.||Graham, Sir Fergus||McAdden, S. J.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gridley, Sir Arnold||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Bullus, Wing Cmdr. E. E.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Harden, J. R. E.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Channon, H.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Clarke, Brig Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Hay, John||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Heath, Edward||Markham, Maj. S. F.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maudling, R.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Redmayne, M.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Teeling, W.|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Renton, D. L. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Robertson, Sir David||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thorneycroft, R. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Roper, Sir Harold||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Russell, R. S.||Tilney, John|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Nutting, Anthony||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Odey, G. W.||Scott, R. Donald||Vosper, D. F.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Shepherd, William||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Ward, Miss I (Tynemouth)|
|Osborne, C.||Snadden, W. McN.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Partridge, E.||Soames, Capt. C.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Peto, Brig C. H. M.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Stevens, G. P.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wills, G.|
|Pitman, I. J.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Storey, S.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||York, C.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Raikes, H. V.||Summers, G. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Sutcliffe, H.||Mr. Drewe and Mr. Kaberry.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Albu, A. H.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwel)||Edwards, Rt. Han. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Keenan, W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Ewart, R.||Kinley, J.|
|Balfour, A.||Fernyhough, E.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Bence, C. R.||Finch, H. J.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Benson, G.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Logan, D. G.|
|Beswick, F.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Blackburn, F.||Gibson, C. W.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Glanville, James||McInnes, J.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gooch, E. G.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Boardman, H.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Manuel, A. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hamilton, W. W.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hannan, W.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hardy, E. A.||Monslow, W.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hargreaves, A.||Moody, A. S.|
|Champion, A. J.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hastings, S.||Morley, R.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hayman, F. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Clunie, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A (Rowley Regis)||Mort, D. L.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Herbison, Miss M.||Moyle, A.|
|Collick, P. H.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Cook, T. F.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Murray, J. D.|
|Cove, W. G.||Houghton, Douglas||Nally, W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hoy, J. H.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hudson, James (Eating, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Grossman, R. H. S.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Daines, P.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Orbach, M.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Oswald, T.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Padley, W. E.|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Paget, R. T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Janner, B.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Deer, G.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Paton, J.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Pearson, A.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Peart, T. F.|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Steele, T.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||West, D. G.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Pryde, D. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Swingler, S. T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Rankin, John||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Reeves, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wigg, G. E. C.|
|Richards, R.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Williams, Rev. Llewelyn (Abertillery)|
|Ross, William||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Royle, C.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Thurtle, Ernest||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Timmons, J.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Viant, S. P.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Weitzman, D.||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Wilkins.|
|Sparks, J. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to left out stand part of the Clause."1458
§ The committee divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 205.1461
|Division No. 57.]||AYES||[5.48 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Davies, Rt. Kn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hurd, A. R.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||De la Bère, R.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Alpert, C. J. M.||Deedes, W. F.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Maj. W. J.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hyde, Lt.-Col H. M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Donner, P. W.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Jennings, R.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Duthie, W. S.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Barber, A. P. L.||Fell, A.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Barlow, Sir John||Finlay, Graeme||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Fisher, Nigel||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Fletcher, Walter (Bury)||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)|
|Bell, Philip (Boiton, E.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lindsay, Martin|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Foster, John||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Longden, Gilbert (Herbs, S. W.)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Birch, Nigel||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brantford)|
|Bishop, F. P.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Black, C. W.||Glyn, Sir Ralph||McAdden, S. J.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Godber, J. B.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Gough, C. F. H.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gower, H. R.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Brains, B. R.||Graham, Sir Fergus||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grimston, Hon. John. (St. Albans)||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon P. G. T.||Harden, J. R. E.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Bullus, Wing Cmdr. E. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Markham, Maj. S. F.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Hay, John||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maudling, R.|
|Channon, H.||Heath, Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Colegate, W. A.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hollis, M. C.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Holt, A. F.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hope, Lord John||Nutting, Anthony|
|Crouch, R. F.||Horobin, I. M.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Crowder, John E. (Finchley)||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Odey, G. W.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh. S.)||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon W. D.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Thorneycroft, R. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Osborne, C.||Scott, R. Donald||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Partridge, E.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Tilney, John|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Shepherd, William||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Snadden, W. McN.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Soames, Capt. C.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Pitman, I. J.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stevens, G. P.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Raikes, H. V.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wellwood, W.|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Redmayne, M.||Storey, S.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Studholme, H. G.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Summers, G. S.||Wills, G.|
|Robertson, Sir David||Sutcliffe, H.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||York, C.|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Teeling, W.|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Russell, R. S.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Mr. Drewe and Mr. Kaberry.|
|Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Finch, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Albu, A. H.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McInnes, J.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Freeman, John (Watford)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Gibson, C. W.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Balfour, A.||Glanville, James||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Bence, C. R.||Gooch, E. G.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Benson, G.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Manuel, A. C.|
|Beswick, F.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Monslow, W.|
|Boardman, H.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Moody, A. S.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hamilton, W. W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hannan, W.||Morley, R.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hardy, E. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hargreaves, A.||Mort, D. L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Moyle, A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hastings, S.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hayman, F. H.||Murray, J. D.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||Nally, W.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Healy, Cahir (Fermanagh)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Carmichael, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A (Rowley Regis)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Champion, A. J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Holman, P.||Orbach, M.|
|Clunie, J.||Houghton, Douglas||Oswald, T.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hoy, J. H.||Padley, W. E.|
|Collick, P. H.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Cook, T. F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Paton, J.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pearson, A.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Peart, T. F.|
|Daines, P.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Janner, B.||Porter, G.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Pryde, D. J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Deer, G.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Rankin, John|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reeves, J.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Richards, R.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Keenan, W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Ross, William|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||King, Dr. H. M.||Royle, C.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Kinley, J.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lewis, Arthur||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Ewart, R.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Thurtle, Ernest||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Steele, T.||Timmons, J.||Wigg, G. E. C.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett||Viant, S. P.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wallace, H. W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Swingler, S. T.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford C.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Weitzman, D.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Wells, William (Walsall)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Thomas, David (Aberdare)||West, D. G.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Wilkins.|
Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I did not intervene in the discussion which has just terminated because I was anxious to facilitate it and not to waste time, since we have a long and somewhat arduous programme before us. I would say a few words now by way of preliminary exordium.
All of us felt when the Secretary of State for War first intervened that we were going to have a much more agreeable and constructive debate than we have had on some occasions on military matters, but now I feel that the Committee is being treated with a little discourtesy from the other side. We had a long discussion, with many military experts present on the other side, but not one of them rose to make a speech.
Then we saw an incident which I think unparalleled in Parliamentary history. Towards the close of the debate, the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) twice rose and sought to catch your eye, Mr. Hopkin Morris.
§ Mr. Hale
I submit that they have everything to do with the Question which we are discussing, which is whether the Clause shall stand part of the Bill. We have to take into our minds the atmosphere and the circumstances of the debate in deciding whether we are to give the Bill a passage in those circumstances.
Surely it is open to and appropriate for any hon. Member at any moment, out of deference and respect to the Committee, to call attention to the difficulties under which the Committee is labouring? The point I wanted to make, Mr. Hopkin Morris—and I find it difficult for you to 1462 rule me out of order before I have made my point—is that this did happen. It is within the recollection of all hon. Members that the hon. Member twice rose to catch your eye but, as no one on that side had risen for so long, you did not look to that side of the Committee. It would be a pity if we continued on those lines. I appeal to hon. Members opposite to co-operate with us in getting this business through constructively and with decent discussion.
I have finished on that point; indeed, I have almost finished my exordium altogether. I hope I may say one personal word. I want to say with what great personal pleasure I found myself co-operating in constructive military operations with my hon. Friends the Members for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), and Dudley (Mr. Wigg). It recalls nostalgic memories of those halcyon days in the sergeants' mess of the Keep Left Regiment—
It may be interesting to recall those nostalgic days, but it is not in order on the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Hale
I am much obliged, Mr. Hopkin Morris. It was only in the nature of a preliminary exordium to give me a little self-confidence, and I will now come to consider the merits of the Clause itself. First let me say that it is all very well for the Committee to be told that the Clause is in an Army Act which has not been much rephrased since 1869 and is based on the military practice of the reign of Queen Anne, and now a little archaic. But the words in this Clause in a Measure of 1952 are really far from impressive and it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I take the paragraphs in inverse order.
Subsection (3) is really a quite remarkable proposition of law. In your absence earlier, Mr. Hopkin Morris, we had some discussion as to where one gets the best law—whether in the law courts, the barrack 1463 room or the wet canteen. I think my right hon. Friend said the wet canteen was the most valuable place, but in any case it is certainly not found in an Act of Parliament, because subsection (3) reads as follows:A person subject to military law or to the Air Force Act shall not be exempted from the provisions of the Army Act or the Air Force Act by reason only that the number of the forces for the time being in the service of Her Majesty, exclusive of the marine forces, is either greater or less than the numbers hereinbefore mentioned.Unless there be some obsolete provision of which I have never heard, I am utterly incapable of understanding what is the reason for this subsection. Is it seriously suggested that if a person serving in the Armed Forces is brought before a court martial, he can say, "You are only authorised to have 555,000 soldiers and I am the five hundred and fifty thousandth and first, and therefore I plead that I am not subject to military law." That is the only ground for putting it in the Bill. I am not being facetious. It is the only thing the Clause can mean because, if it does not mean that, it is meaningless and unnecessary.
Subsection (2) says:The Army Act and the Air Force Act, while in force, shall apply to persons subject to military law or to the Air Force Act, as the case may be, whether within or without Her Majesty's Dominions.At some time we shall have to consider the effect of the Statute of Westminster upon these proceedings and how far we are entitled to legislate with regard to Armed Forces which may be in Australia or South Africa or in Canada. However, that is not the principal point I rose to make. I want to know what is the meaning of "subject to military law," and what military law, and whose military law.
There is this extraordinary selection of phrases whereby we are told that the Air Force Act, while in force, shall apply to persons subject to the Air Force Act while the Army Act applies to persons subject to military law. Hon. Members may think that is a queer statement, but that is precisely what is meant if we take out the words "Army Act." If an Act is passed to apply to certain people, surely it is not necessary to have a separate Subsection to say that it 1464 applies to those people, because obviously it does.
Those are two minor points to which I wanted to direct the attention of the Committee, and now I want to consider a substantial point involved in this Clause. Some of my hon. Friends have been wondering whether there is some curious constitutional principle involved in the determination of the Secretary of State for War not to accept the Amendment recently debated. But it is well within the knowledge, of all hon. Members on this side of the Committee at any rate, that this is a question which involves the Bill of Rights. It is because the Bill of Rights laid down in 1689 that no standing Army should be kept in Britain that it is still necessary for us to pass an Act annually.
May I say to the hon. Member who so recently joined our deliberations that when I referred to 1689 there was no intention whatever of crossing the Irish Sea in the course of this debate? The time has really come when the House of Commons has to consider seriously two propositions in connection with this. The theory is that the Bill of Rights is so inviolate, is so much a bulwark of our State, is one of those documents which ranks with Magna Charta, is one of our chief social liberties, that it would be almost indecent to tamper with it.
There is no foundation for that except in sentiment. Magna Charta never gave any rights to anyone except to a few barons. It is within the recollection of this Committee as—Mr. Bernard Shaw pointed out that whenever we face a time of emergency, we suspend all our liberties anyhow—I do hope you are not leaning forward in your Chair, Mr. Hopkin Morris, with the intention of rising—
This dissertation may be very interesting, but it is not relevant to the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Hale
With great respect, Mr. Hopkin Morris, I suggest that it is a constitutional argument of great importance, and may I say how it is relevant? This Act is to limit the Forces for 12 months only, and at a time when we are asking people to join the Forces for 30 years or 22 years, I am saying that this 1465 Clause makes utter nonsense of the proposition that we are asking troops to serve for 20 years when we can only establish our Army for 12 months. We are saying in this Clause that it will not go on after 30th April, 1953. If, after that date, my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), formed a Government, it is very likely that it would not go on. So we have to face that proposition, and I suggest that the time may well have come when the Secretary of State should seriously consider whether we should amend the Bill of Rights.
Is it really of any relevance today? In these days of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, can it really be said that the Bill of Rights is of any effect whatever? Can it be said that there is any principle remaining of any great importance which we have jealously to maintain when we have abandoned so many liberties?
§ Mr. Hale
I am much obliged, Mr. Hopkin Morris, and I am sorry. I said that I was gathering self-confidence. That is sometimes the trouble. I generate a little over-confidence and then I find myself straying from the straight and narrow path. I will try not to mix my metaphors and I will attempt to eschew similes, hyperbole and rhodomontade and to pursue the narrow path of constructive criticism and suggestion.
I am not suggesting that I would ask any of my colleagues to vote against this Clause, but I suggest that the Secretary of State might say that he and his colleagues will consider this matter in the next 12 months and will then say what they really think about it, if they are still in office. It is fantastic that we should go through the task each year of passing a new Bill to maintain an Army for 12 months when everybody knows that the troops are joining up for 14 years, 22 years, and so on. They are tied down by contracts to an amorphous organisation that will cease on 30th April next. It makes us look rather foolish that we carry on this fantastic fiction from the 250-years old Act and each year go through this process.
The whole Committee will agree that this year we are performing a very useful 1466 duty in trying to bring the matter up to date and in trying to make helpful and constructive suggestions. No one seriously suggests that we shall have to do that every year. Indeed, if only we could have a little more participation from hon. Members opposite, we could do such an effective job in the next hour or two that we should be able to make a very real and radical improvement. I hope that the Secretary of State will bear these points in mind.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
I intervene with a certain hesitation in a debate of this kind. It has never before been on record in the House that I have said anything about armies, navies and air forces, and probably I might have to declare an interest in the matter. I happened to be one of those much maligned regimental quartermaster-sergeants who was appointed, not because of any political bias, but because it happened to be the late Father of the House who saw to it that I got that particular job.
I turn to the part of the Clause which, in my opinion, is of great importance. Like other speakers, I want to see the Act amended. Often I have seen, in the barrack room, in the orderly room and even at courts-martial, Private Blogg standing with his hat off and trembling, not knowing what he was accused of, let alone knowing the offence he had committed. The time has now arrived when men joining the Army and men presently in the Army should know exactly what is the Act under which they are serving.
There has been a lot of talk about barrack room lawyers. My experience of them was always that they were not legally trained, but that they could always forecast and bet on the result that would be arrived at the following day, and that they were always right. They knew the result of the case before it was heard.
§ Mr. Jones
I was about to admit that, Mr. Hopkin Morris, before you drew my attention to it. Possibly I shall have something to say about that later. I suggest that the fullest time ought to be given by the Government in seeing that the Act can be made up to date. I often used to think, as one who helped to apply the Act, that had we burnt the lot and the King's Regulations also and put the 10 Commandments in their place, we would have done a good job of work.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Before we part with the Clause, I should like the Secretary of State to deal with a point which I tried to raise on my Amendment but which was very little touched upon during the discussion on the two Amendments. What we have done, as I understand it, in the last Division is to decide to leave in the Clause the words from "force," in line 32, to the end of the Clause.
Why is it necessary to provide that the Army Act and the Air Force Act should remain in force for two different periods of time, according to whether troops are, on the one hand, within Great Britain and Northern Ireland or, on the other hand, within or without Her Majesty's Dominions?
As I understand it, the hon. Member is now going back to the Amendment on which his question might well have arisen and have been properly put. We have disposed of the Amendment and are now on the Motion that the Clause stand part, the Amendment having been negatived.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Fletcher
With great respect, what we have done when the Committee divided is to negative a certain Amendment. The argument I want to put is that it is unreasonable that two different periods of time should be provided in the Clause, one in subsection (1, a) and another in subsection (1, b). I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us why it is necessary to continue what I regard as an absurdity.
§ Mr. Fletcher
With great respect, Mr. Hopkin Morris, the question on which the Committee divided was whether the provision of the Army Act should be continued in force for a further 12 months or for a further 15 months. The whole of the arguments addressed to the Secretary of State were directed to the point that since the Army Act calls for a great deal of Amendment, it would be desirable on this occasion to extend its provisions for 15 months, so that next year we can have plenty of opportunity between the end of March, when the vote occurs, and July to revise the Army Act. The Committee has decided against the Amendments moved in that sense.
I am putting an entirely different point. I am asking why it is necessary or desirable to perpetuate a distinction for the continuation of the Army Act as regards some part of Her Majesty's Forces for 12 months, and as regards other members of Her Majesty's Forces for 15 months.
Hitherto, pursuant to provisions of great antiquity—the Bill of Rights and so on—the House of Commons has given the Government of the day permission year by year, and no longer, to continue a standing army in this country in time of peace. For some time, we have come to a stage at which the Government of the day are asking for permission that there shall be a standing army and that the Army Act shall remain in force for 12 months with regard to Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, but that the Act shall remain in force for 15 months as regards all territories outside Great Britain, for subsection (1, b) expressly states:elsewhere, whether within or without Her Majesty's dominions …which means, in fact, overseas.
The significance of the argument is that hitherto the House has always been very jealous not to give the Government of the day permission to have a standing army in time of peace for more than 12 months. Throughout the centuries it has always been regarded as quite reasonable that the House of Commons should entrust the Government of the day with the great privilege of having a standing army for 12 months, but not more.
1469 It will be seen from the Preamble that this isA Bill to Provide, during twelve months, for the discipline and regulation of the Army and the Air Force.What puzzles me—the Committee have had no word of explanation from the Secretary of State about this—is why the Committee are now being asked to give permission for the Army and Air Force Acts to remain in operation for 15 months outside Great Britain.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am not concerned with what happened last year. I am concerned with what is happening this year and what has happened throughout the centuries. During those years, Parliament has only given to the Government of the day permission to have a standing army for 12 months. There is no substance in what the Minister says.
It would be quite simple for the Bill to provide that the Army and the Air Force Acts should remain in operation until 30th April, 1953, in regard to all troops, whether in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or anywhere else. That would be the normal thing to do—to continue the Army Act and the Air Force Act either until 30th April, 1953, or, as was suggested, until 31st July, 1953. I am asking that the two periods should be made one. This is the first practical Suggestion that we put forward to introduce some semblance of common sense and simplicity and rationality into this Army Act. I do ask the Secretary of State to agree that in future the Measure should operate uniformly for 12 months—not for 12 months as regards some troops and for 15 months as regards others.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I think that this debate has had a most unfortunate start. I thought its whole object was to make some constructive Amendments. Now the Secretary of State is asking us to accept this Clause unamended. I want, therefore, to 1470 look at what the Clause implies, now that it states without Amendment that the Act shall expire next year on 30th April. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State, if he is to reply, will give us some details about this. The Government owe it to the Committee to say how they envisage the Clause will work out next year. I should like to know what they have in mind for a time table.
Subsection (1. a) says that the Bill will expire on 30th April next year. I understood the Secretary of State to suggest that there will be a complete recasting of the Measure, and that next year we shall do what the Opposition are trying, without any help from the Government side, to do this year. How do the Government expect this Clause to work in the year 1953? As I understand it, the Bill next year cannot be discussed until the Army Vote A has been passed. That brings us somewhere near the beginning of April. Yet the right hon. Gentleman is now insisting that by 30th April next year we are to have a new Annual Bill—and that all in the rush of the month of April. How, in Heaven's name, is that to be expected?
If the right hon. Gentleman will only look at his calendar next year he will find that Easter falls at the beginning of April. Good Friday falls on 3rd April. If Parliament is in Recess for a few days, even for as long as this year, we shall be resuming again in the middle of April. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is expecting us to consider all the Amendments that are bound to arise from both sides of the Committee and completely to recast the Measure in something like a fortnight. That is most unreasonable, but that is precisely what he is letting us in for by insisting that we pass this Clause without any Amendment at all We are entitled to ask the Under-Secretary of State what timetable he expects the House of Commons to work to this time next year.
§ Mr. Chapman
All I am asking is that the Government spokesman should explain to us how this Clause is going to work. I am sure that that is a relevant question, Mr. Hopkin Morris. I ask how the Clause will work. Does the Under-Secretary of State envisage that the 1471 Budget due this time next year will be postponed, or brought on two months earlier or later?
That is not asking how the Clause will work but how the Government's timetable will work.
§ Mr. Chapman
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Hopkin Morris. I think I have made the point I wanted to make. Will the Under-Secretary of State tell us how he expects that the promise earlier made to review this Measure next year will be carried out? Because, as I understand it, from a careful reading of the Clause in the light of the debate, we shall be faced next year with the same situation as that with which we are faced now. The Government will be asking us to swallow every Amendment without discussion in order to get the Measure through in time. That will be the unfortunate effect of passing this Clause unamended. I am sure that we shall regret that enormously this time next year.
§ Mr. Swingler
I think we all appreciate on this side of the Committee that the Under-Secretary of State is at the moment in a very difficult position. There is no Law Officer on the Treasury Bench, and we all know that the Solicitor-General has some secret which he will not reveal about this magic date of 30th April. That has, so far, prolonged the discussion in the Committee to a very considerable extent.
Like my hon. Friends, I recall an assurance given by the Secretary of State for War that he would consider this matter of altering the date so that more time would be given for a comprehensive review of the Act, to get rid of the obsolete parts, and so on. I think we are entitled now to ask for an assurance—or an interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman's assurance—as to what is to be done. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), I should like to know what the timetable next year will be, because, after all, that is what we are discussing.
No. We are not discussing what the timetable will be next year, but that this particular Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Swingler
This Clause lays down that one part of the timetable next year must be the Annual Army Bill. It will have to be produced before 30th April. That is one thing we are discussing in this Clause. That part of the timetable is laid down. No additional time is being given by this Clause. There is no additional time given for this exhaustive review that we were promised. What we are entitled to ask for is an interpretation of what the Secretary of State meant when he said we shall have more time next year, or be in a better position to undertake this review of the Army Act.
I do not expect that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to reply until the Solicitor-General has come back from his cup of tea, or wherever he is, but I do hope that, at some time during the proceedings, we shall have an explanation of why it is that Ministers are so insistent upon retaining this date of 30th April in this Clause.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Earlier in the discussion the Secretary of State for War gave as a reason for not accepting an Amendment certain advice which, we gathered, was tendered to him by the Solicitor-General. When challenged to tell what the advice was, the Secretary of State for War withdrew the remark he made on the ground that he had not fully understood or had not properly heard what the Solicitor-General's advice was on the subject. Unfortunately, shortly after that the Solicitor-General left the Committee, no doubt for very good reasons.
I want to join my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) in his request that the Solicitor-General should give the Committee the benefit of his advice on the subject, and, in particular, the reasons why it is not possible for the Government to accept any alteration in the date suggested in the Clause.
The Committee is placed in a very difficult position, because it may well be that there is some point of constitutional importance involved in the matter which creates the adamant attitude adopted over this Clause by Government spokesmen. Before the Committee is asked to come to a decision as to whether this Clause shall stand part of the Bill I hope that they will have the benefit of the 1473 advice of one of the Law Officers of the Crown which will help satisfy us that there is some really fundamental reason.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hale
There are four Law Officers of the Crown and not one of them is here. We have been discussing a purely legal point now for some time, and it is really too bad that the proceedings of the Committee should be deliberately prolonged by the absence of the people who might easily be able to put an end to this discussion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I must confess that my feeling of frustration which is shared by many of my hon. Friends is very much increased by the absence of the Law Officers. We are being asked to accept a proposition for which there may well be some valid legal argument. But until it is propounded, until the Committee has the benefit of the knowledge which at the moment remains locked in the heart of the Secretary of State for War, we are at a very considerable disadvantage. I suggest there is still time for some message to be conveyed to one or other of the Law Officers of the Crown to come to the Committee.
The matter should not be left entirely to the Under-Secretary of State. I am not blaming him for the difficulty in which he finds himself. If his Minister, or he himself, were able to clarify the legal difficulty, which presumably exists, I have no doubt he would have already done so. It is because the Law Officers are not present that the Committee finds itself considerably handicapped.
§ Mr. Wigg
I wish to add my voice to the pleas which have been made that the Under-Secretary should tell the Committee why it is that this Bill can only remain in force until 30th April, 1953. I do it for no party or debating reason, but because we have put on the Order Paper a number of Amendments of great importance. I hope that the Minister will accept some of them out of hand, but there are others which we could dispose of quite quickly if either he or the Under-Secretary of State would say, "The implications are rather wide but we will consider it and give the Committee an undertaking that next April, if we are still in Office, we will put before the Committee something along the lines which are suggested"—or 1474 at least, that they will give an undertaking that there will be further consideration.
We have pressed the Secretary of State and have been given no reason at all why this Bill can operate only to 30th April and not to 31st July. I am sure there is a reason. It may be a reason of personal convenience, but there must be a reason. Everybody must have some reason—if they are outside a lunatic asylum. Surely the Under-Secretary, if he will treat the Committee with the respect that we all wish, will tell us or give us a hint of the obstacle and so make it easier for us in dealing with the later stages of the Bill.
This is a perfectly genuine plea, and I carry all my hon. Friends with me in saying that our first Amendment was put down for the sole purpose of helping the Government so that next year we could have a real tidying up of these matters. We can make a start this year, but certainly we could make a good job of it in the next Army Bill. Instead, we are being treated with complete arrogance by the Secretary of State and the Patronage Secretary, and if our deliberations are held up the responsibility rests with them.
§ Mr. Swingler
On a point of order, Sir Charles. We have been discussing this Clause, which contains matters of legal complexity, for over 40 minutes, during which time there has been no Law Officer of the Crown present. May I have your permission to move to report Progress in view of the absence—
§ Mr. Bing
One of the difficulties in which the Secretary of State finds himself in regard to this Clause is that there has grown up confusion between what was the original Army Discipline and Regulation (Commencement) Act, 1879, and the present Mutiny Act which is enforced annually. Owing to this confusion we are reduced to the position that we have to make all the Amendments to the Army Act and the Air Force Act in this most inconvenient way.
1475 I do not join with my hon. Friends who have deplored the absence of the Law Officers of the Crown. Under certain circumstances that may be a good thing. But I am glad to see present the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), because any point which the Law Officers may have overlooked he will be able to deal with admirably, and we hope to have his advice later on.
I suggest to the Secretary of State for War that he consider whether the whole idea of an annual Army Act is a good thing or not. Would he consider the possibility of appointing a committee to go into the whole question of the Army Act with the idea of revising the whole thing; and possibly while retaining the annual Act, nevertheless leaving the other merely as a formal Measure just to impose the discipline of the Army in accordance with the code which we do not have to amend or look at each year?
This disadvantage of having to look at it each year results really in the Bill not being looked at in any year. One always feels that it can be done next year, and so it is always put off. That is what we are complaining about. The right hon. Gentleman has said he would amend the Clause, but not this year, and we ask "why?" His answer is that he can easily do it next year. Would not he consider the possibility of doing away with the Annual Army Act altogether?
I notice that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) disagrees with me. It is a point on which possibly we are not all agreed, but I throw it out as an idea, because it seems to me that we in this House have a responsibility to supervise the law as it applies to the conscripts and the Regulars. But we cannot do it under these circumstances and need new machinery. We did try to make a suggestion which did not commend itself to the Committee.
What we want to hear from the Solicitor-General or from the Secretary of State for War is why it is absolutely essential to have this date. If there is a reason why 30th April is the date on which for ever after, so long as the British Commonwealth of Nations continues, the Army Act must be passed, it is useless to direct ourselves any longer to considering this Clause. If there is no 1476 particular reason why it ought to be altered we ought to have some indication of the legal advise tendered to the Secretary of State which has made it impossible for him to depart from this, and why the Committee has to be persuaded to come to this point of view. I hope we shall get it.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he thinks that any other machinery would be possible to enable us to correct the Act. For instance, we might include a provision—the right hon. Gentleman might care to move one later—permitting this part of the Act to go through but reserving the latter part to a later date so that we could discuss the Amendments later when we have rather more time.
It is unfortunate—and I say this again because it needs the greatest emphasis—that when we are dealing with new crimes which might affect the lives of people even under the age of 21, we have to do it at a time when there is this degree of rush and hurry. All I ask is whether the Secretary of State cannot think of some means by which he can deal with the matter. He has rejected the means which we suggested. If he would tell us why he advised his hon. Friends to reject the method we suggested, that would help us in arriving at some alternative method.
§ Mr. Head
There has been a fairly full discussion of this Clause. A number of substantial points have been raised which I will either attempt to answer now or undertake to look into. I would say at the outset of my remarks which, I hope, will end this discussion that there has been a good deal of inconsistency among hon. Gentlemen opposite. There has been one set of hon. Gentlemen who say, "Let us make it 30th April, because that is logical and sensible and it would give us plenty of time." Another set of hon. Gentlemen say, "Let us have 31st July and that will give us longer." A third set of hon. Gentlemen would like to abolish the annual review altogether, so they would have no time at all.
There are also many hon. Gentlemen opposite who say, "The late Government had no opportunity of going through this Bill, because they had so much legislation that there was no time for it." I would point out that all Governments have legislation and that, in just the same 1477 way as they did, we also have legislation. They are asking that, during the time when this legislation should be going through, the period available for the discussion of this Bill should be immensely protracted. If hon. Gentlemen opposite argue that they had not much time to amend this Bill because of the pressure of legislation, it must surely occur to them that we, too, have legislation.
§ Mr. Head
The hon. Gentleman may refer to that, but I am talking of future legislation.
I have given the undertaking that we will reduce this anomaly between the dates. I am in complete agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is an anachronism. This Amendment has not been long on the Order Paper. The position is not as simple as hon. Gentlemen appear to think. I have given an undertaking, and I would point out that it will make no difference whether the Amendment is made this year or next year.
In reference to the other questions raised, I said at the start; and I say it again, that we all know that there are a lot of anachronisms in this Bill. If the House of Commons were to make a real job of it and go through the Bill with a fine toothcomb, there would not be 107 Amendments on the Order Paper; there would probably be 1,007. I say to hon. Members that we must be reasonable. We are embarking on something which it is impossible to complete in one, two, or even three, Sessions of Parliament.
§ Mr. Head
Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they had no time for this in the last six years, but when the present Government come into power they suggest that we should exclude all our legislation to make up for lost time. This matter will only be put right if we tackle it in a reasonable way. To attempt to deal with the whole question at one time is unreasonable and hopeless. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have put down a large number of Amendments. It will be my intention wherever possible to accept those Amendments. It was unfortunate that the very first one we came to is one which I could not accept.
1478 As we come to subsequent Clauses it will be my endeavour to accept Amendments and to do the best we can for the Bill. I see a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite waiting to rise. I suggest, in the circumstances, that the wisest course would be to get on to what all Members want and that is to the introduction of Amendments which will have a good effect on the Bill.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.