§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The occasion of this Bill is the Agreement entered into between the North Atlantic Treaty Powers relating to the status of their forces in the territory of another North Atlantic Treaty Power. It was presented to Parliament in 1951 as Command Paper 8279, and this Agreement, for which right hon. Gentlemen opposite must take the credit, covers a large number of topics that must be regulated when a force from one country is stationed in the territory of another. It deals with entry procedure, aliens control, Customs and revenue facilities and such other matters.
Most of our obligations can be implemented without legislation, but the most important matter that is regulated by the Agreement, and that which is the main subject matter of the Bill, is the position of the visiting forces with respect to the criminal law and the settlement of civil claims. Until our law is modified in these respects this country cannot ratify the Agreement, which, as I have stated, was signed last year.
There are three preliminary points which I should like to make. The first is that we ourselves maintain forces abroad as well as being hosts in this country. To adopt the language of the Agreement, we are both a sending and a receiving State. If anyone thinks that we are granting generous terms to forces visiting this country, let us always remember that if we make these concessions here we may expect to obtain similar concessions for our forces abroad.
562 The second point is that, as will be seen from Clause 1, the Bill applies in the first instance to the Commonwealth countries only. It may, however, be applied to other countries, notably the North Atlantic Treaty countries—except Canada—under Clause 1 (2), as being countries with which we have arrangements for common defence. I have said that the occasion for the Bill was the North Atlantic Agreement, but it would be clearly wrong to give more to the North Atlantic Treaty Powers than to the member countries of the Commonwealth. These countries have been informed of our plans and are in agreement with the course pursued.
The method on which we are proceeding enables us to repeal not only the United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act, 1942, and the Allied Forces Act, 1940, which govern the position of foreign forces, but also the greater part of the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, under which the position of Commonwealth visiting forces is at present regulated. We shall thus have a complete code for visiting forces instead of three Acts which differ from one another in their treatment of the problem.
The third general point, which I am sure will be appreciated is that inevitably there were difficulties when the 1951 Agreement was drawn up in drafting provisions applicable and appropriate to all the systems of law abroad which were involved in the list of the different signatories of the Agreement. So it is not too easy to translate certain of the provisions of the Agreement accurately into our own legislation.
I do not want to detain the House with a detailed account of the earlier legislation affecting visiting forces in this country. But I think there are some features of it which I must explain briefly in order to explain in turn the main provisions of the present Bill with regard to criminal jurisdiction.
Taking them in order of date, I would first refer to the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, which enabled the authorities of visiting forces from the Commonwealth countries to exercise their own Service law in the United Kingdom in matters concerning discipline and internal administration. It put forces from the Commonwealth roughly in the same position as the 563 home forces. In 1940, when we had in the United Kingdom forces from other allied countries, Parliament made rather similar provision for them in the Allied Forces Act.
These Acts did not make any specific provision for what was to happen when a member of a visiting force committed an offence which was an offence both against United Kingdom law and his own Service law, and the question of which court was to exercise jurisdiction then was left to be settled by arrangement, much in the same way as in the case of offences by members of our own forces in this country which are offences both against military law and against civil law.
The third Act was passed in 1942, when American troops were coming here in large numbers. The United States Government claimed that American soldiers abroad in war-time should be subject only to American courts and not to the courts of the country where they were stationed. In the middle of the war, when a very large number of active service troops were on our soil, it was thought that the balance of advantage lay in acceding to the American request that their military courts should exercise exclusive criminal jurisdiction over their forces.
That was achieved by the third Act, the Visiting Forces Act, 1942, which ousted the criminal jurisdiction of our courts over members of the United States Forces, unless the Americans themselves decided not to deal with a particular case. Hon. Gentlemen will probably remember that some Defence Regulations were also made ruling out the possibility of American Service men being committed for trial on a coroner's inquisition.
From the Notes that were exchanged between the then Foreign Secretary and the American Ambassador, which were scheduled to the 1942 Act, it is apparent that it was contemplated at that time that the Act should come to an end soon after the termination of hostilities; but there have always been American troops here since then, and the Act has remained in Force. That is the existing position. I hope hon. Gentlemen will forgive me for reciting it, but it is important that 564 one should have it in mind in order to appreciate what we are suggesting today.
It is proposed that the arrangements provided for in the Act of 1942 should be replaced in peace-time by the provisions of Article VII of the Agreement. I should like to draw the attention of the House to that Article, which is implemented by the provisions of the Bill. It is a compromise between different views of what should be the position of visiting forces in respect of criminal jurisdiction. It provides that the Service courts of the sending country may exercise in the receiving State all the jurisdiction that the law of the sending country allows. They, that is the Service courts, and not the courts of the receiving State, can exercise their own domestic jurisdiction, if I may so term it, over members of visiting forces. I would make this perfectly clear to the House, because in my view it is the key to this problem.
The second of these propositions is that the jurisdiction which our own courts have goes without saying, so far as we are concerned. I mean virtually without saying, without its being necessary to put it in any Act of Parliament. Some provision is needed to implement the first proposition, that the military Service courts of the sending State should have their powers, which is clearly right if the visiting forces are to maintain discipline. The necessary provisions are in Clause 2 of the Bill.
Paragraph 3 of Article VII of the Agreement deals with those offences over which the courts of the receiving State and the courts of the sending State both have jurisdiction. The courts of the receiving State are given the primary right to deal with offenders unless—again I ask hon. Gentlemen to note the exceptions—the offence was committed on duty, or was solely against the person or property of another member of the force or solely against the property or security of the sending State itself. In those cases, whose limits I have just indicated, the sending State has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction. The House will appreciate that this will mean that a number of cases will be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the courts.
Let us face the position. I want to be entirely frank with the House and to justify the position. To put it at its most extreme, the implementation of this 565 Article might result in a member of a visiting force who killed a British subject in the course of his duty being dealt with not by our courts but by a court-martial of his own force. To that extent the courts-martial of visiting forces will have greater power in this country than our own courts-martial possess for dealing with our own troops in this country but not greater than when our own courts-martial are operating abroad.
Bearing in mind that this treatment will be given to our Forces in any of the North Atlantic Treaty countries, it seems to Her Majesty's present advisers, as it seemed to the last Government, that these arrangements are not unreasonable. They provide, in our view, a worthy compromise which is commended for the favourable consideration of the House.
There is a provision by which either side can waive its primary right. This provision might be used, for example, when a member of a visiting force and a British subject ought to be tried jointly for the same offence.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
One point is not quite clear, either in the Agreement or in the Bill. It is whether the court of the visiting Power exercising its jurisdiction could compel the attendance of witnesses not subject to military discipline?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am going to deal with that point. Broadly, the position is that they can ask the witness to come but the sanction for his attendance would have to be exercised by our own courts. That is the method.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East) rose——
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I hope hon. Gentlemen will not interrupt me too much, because this is a very complicated matter and I do not want to lose the thread. I shall willingly give way, if there is a substantial point.
§ Mr. Fletcher
In the case of a British subject being killed and a trial taking place by court-martial of the sending country, would that trial be in public, and would the representatives of the person who had been killed have the same rights of representation as they would in an English court?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
With great respect, they would have no rights of 566 representation in an English court on a criminal charge.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. Gentleman was asking me about court-martial proceedings which, of course, are criminal trials. As a criminal trial that would be the visiting State in the court martial against the defendant, just in the same way as, in a criminal trial in this country, it is the Queen against the defendant. The representatives of the person who has been killed have no strict locus.
However, if we get on to details we shall lose the main provisions. I am sure that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has appreciated that this is a great advance on the 1942 position. I want to make it quite clear that we have changed the position in favour of the receiving State which, in this country, is ourselves.
Clause 3 translates into United Kingdom law the provisions that I have just outlined about the primary right to exercise jurisdiction. It does this by providing that our courts are not to deal with persons charged with offences in respect of which the Agreement gives the primary right of jurisdiction to the sending State—on duty offences or offences involving only the person or property of another member of the sending State. If the sending State waives its rights, then our court, on receiving a certificate to this effect from the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Lord Advocate in Scotland or the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland can deal with the case in the ordinary way.
As I have indicated, there is no mention in the Bill about the primary right to deal with offences against our law because our courts have an inherent right to deal with offences in the United Kingdom, by whomsoever committed. It is our intention that the British courts should exercise their jurisdiction in the normal way in the cases in which they have the primary right, and that they should make no distinction between members of visiting forces and other persons.
Subject, however, to this exception: there may well be cases in which an offence may be a trifling matter from the point of view of our domestic law but a serious breach of discipline from the 567 point of view of the military authorities. In such cases common sense would require the offender to be handed over to the military authorities to be dealt with, just as the British soldier is handed over in similar circumstances.
These are the most important provisions of the Bill relating to criminal jurisdiction. There are one or two other related provisions which I ought to mention. Clause 5 contains a provision whereby a member of a visiting force who is arrested without warrant can be detained for four days before he is taken before a court instead of for the normal maximum of 24 hours.
I do not think that this provision will be used often but there may be cases in which it will take a little time to decide to what jurisdiction the person arrested is subject. There may be questions of identity and the authorities of the visiting force may have to be consulted so that it can be decided who is to prosecute or deal with the person. The four days that the Bill allows is designed to meet such situations and the provision follows a similar provision made by the Defence Regulations during the war.
Clause 10 deals with what the Agreement describes as the "civilian component" of a visiting force, and many of the provisions of the Bill apply equally to both the civilian component and to the force itself. As hon. Gentlemen will see, the description in the Agreement of the civilian component is:the civilian personnel accompany a force of a Contracting Party who are in the employ of an armed service of that Contracting Party, and who are not Stateless persons, nor nationals of any State which is not a Party to the North Atlantic Treaty nor nationals of, nor ordinarily resident in the State in which the force is located.The last excludes our own people. They are a limited class and they are mainly the technicians and the members of the commissariat services who are so closely associated with a force as to form part of it for all practical purposes.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Is that description of the member of a civilian component in the Agreement anywhere incorporated in the Bill? The Bill appears to define a member of a civilian component merely by reference to the question of whether he is so described on his passport.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I was about to explain why we did that and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will see the force of the course pursued. That is why I read the description.
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, from his legal experience, that the description of civilian component in the Agreement has not enough legal certainty to be translated into terms of United Kingdom law, particularly as the arrangements vary in the different countries who are parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. So that there may be no doubt about what would otherwise be a troublesome point, it seemed to us that the only satisfactory way of dealing with it was to provide machinery for identifying a member of a civilian component.
Therefore, we adopted the procedure that the passport of the individual would be marked by the sending State to the effect that he was a member of a civilian component and if he was accepted as such by the Secretary of State there would be an endorsement on the passport; so we have it first from the sending State and, secondly accepted by us. If the hon. Gentleman tries to translate into legal terms the description that I read he will at any rate have sympathy, if he is not entirely with us, in the difficulty with which we are faced.
I should like briefly to mention Clauses 13 and 14. These will enable our police and our courts to assist the authorities of the countries to which the Bill applies by arresting and handing over their deserters. It will be seen that these Clauses, which form a separate part of the Bill, apply to deserters and absentees not only from visiting forces but also from all other parts of the forces of a country to which the Clauses apply. This means that if the Clauses are applied, for example to Belgium, we could assist the Belgian authorities to arrest and hand over a deserter who had deserted from his regiment in Belgium but was not a member of a Belgian force visiting this country.
These provisions are somewhat wider than is strictly required by the N.A.T.O. Agreement, but they repeat the arrangements which were made in the 1933 Act for the Commonwealth forces and were extended during the war to Allied forces. The House will, I hope, agree that such a provision is as much to our advantage 569 as to that of the other members of N.A.T.O.
I turn now to civil claims against members of visiting forces: that is, the civil, as opposed to the criminal, side of the Bill. It is important that it should be clearly stated what the rights of our own people are when members of visiting forces are involved in accidents in which a British subject also is involved. Therefore, I shall state the position as I see it, and again I ask the indulgence of the House.
All that appears in the Bill on the important question of civil claims against members of visiting forces is to be found in Clause 9, which simply enables the Minister of Defence to make arrangements for the satisfaction of claims. The point is so important that although the Lord Chancellor has made a full statement, I think I ought to explain what is contemplated.
The necessity for the Clause and for the arrangements referred to in it arises from the fact that a foreign State is, by the law of nations, immune from proceedings in the courts of another State. I think that all my legal brethren will agree that among all the cases which they get, the breach of promise case which deals with that matter among others is a name that never passes from our minds from student days to this.
The 1951 Agreement, therefore, contains in paragraphs 5 to 10 of Article VIII the arrangements agreed to by all the contracting States for dealing with claims against members of a visiting force; and the arrangements contemplated by the Clause are based on the provisions of Article VIII. These provisions will be supplemented by other arrangements on procedural matters to be made with the States of visiting forces in this country. The United States and Canada each have a visiting force in this country at present and supplemental arrangements are being discussed with representatives of those two countries.
When the Bill is passed and the agreement is ratified, and when these necessary supplementary arrangements are made, appropriate steps will be taken to give public notice of the procedure to be followed by persons who have claims against a member of a visiting force. In the meantime, however, I will explain 570 to the House in general terms what arrangements are contemplated.
I deal first with the question of the procedure for making a claim. In the first place, Article VIII of the Agreement does not apply to contractual claims. It applies only to claims in respect of wrongful acts—that is to say, what the lawyers call "torts"—committed by members of the visiting force or of a civilian component of that force. Different considerations apply according to whether the act complained of was committed in the course of official duty or otherwise.
It has been arranged that all claims in tort against a member of a visiting force, whether committed on or off duty, will be dealt with by the British War Office Claims Commission. The Claims Commission, as hon. Members are well aware, has for some years dealt with claims against the armed forces and other officials in Government service in this country, and during the war it dealt with claims against the United States forces in this country. We believe, therefore, that the Claims Commission is particularly well equipped to deal with claims against members of visiting forces, and it is fortunate that it has been possible to make this arrangement.
The result is that as soon as the Bill is passed and the Agreement ratified, any person who has a claim in tort against any member of a visiting force—the most obvious case of tort, which arises very frequently, is that of a person who is knocked down by a vehicle driven by a member of a visiting force——
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
May I finish the paragraph dealing with this point, then I will give way?
Any person who has a claim in tort will be able to make his claim to the War Office Claims Commission without the necessity of communicating with the authorities of the visiting force. The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate why I was so anxious to get that point out, because it is in my view very important. The person concerned makes his claim to the Claims Commission and does not need to communicate with, or 571 to worry about, the authorities of the visiting force.
§ Mr. Paget
One difficulty which arises in practice is when a man is knocked down by an American Army car which has not stopped, or which has stopped but no one is able to get the name of the driver. Of course, if it is an English driver, one can sue the Secretary of State for War. What is the position if it is an American driver?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I thought that that sort of point would be in hon. Members' minds, and I propose to deal with it.
Perhaps I may take, first, the position of the driver who is on duty. When the act complained of is committed in the course of duty, the Claims Commission will deal with the claim as it deals with claims against a British Government Department: that is, if the claim is admitted and the damages agreed, those damages will be paid by the Minister of Defence under the authority of the Bill.
If the claim is not admitted, the claimant will have the right to bring proceedings in the courts of this country against the member of the visiting force concerned, for whom the Treasury solicitor will be authorised to act. Any judgment obtained will be discharged by the Minister of Defence; and, if a settlement is arrived at without proceeding to trial, payment of the agreed sum will also be made by the Minister.
I should like now to deal with the torts which are committed when the member of the visiting force is off duty. When the act is not committed during the course of official duty, the claim may still be made to the Claims Commission. The Agreement provides that whilst no legal liability can be accepted, the visiting force will be prepared to consider the making of an ex gratia payment of compensation.
The course of proceedings will be that the Claims Commission will examine the claim and make a report upon it to the visiting force, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, including the conduct of the injured person—by which I mean contributory negligence—and making an assessment of fair and just compensation.
On receipt of that report, the visiting force will decide whether to make an ex gratia payment; but if an ex gratia pay 572 ment is offered and is accepted in full discharge of all liability, payment will be made by the visiting force. If, on the other hand, no offer is made, or if the offer made is not accepted, the claimant will be free to pursue his remedy in the courts of this country against the member of the visiting force concerned but no responsibility for any judgment will in these circumstances be undertaken either by the Minister of Defence or the visiting force.
I hope hon. Members will be clear that the ordinary remedy which one has against any alien in this country who has knocked down a citizen of this country—namely, that one can pursue him personally in the courts—still remains if the alien can be got hold of. But the further right, which is not, I admit, a legal right, but is the possibility of an ex-gratia payment, is also brought in. The citizen of this country, therefore, has that right which I have explained, in addition to having preserved his ordinary rights against the individual who may have knocked him down.
I come to the point about which the hon. and learned Member for Northampton asked me. I would like to clear up two points before coming to that specific question; and may I deal first with the position where there is a dispute as to whether the member of the visiting force was on duty or off duty. Arrangements have been made for disputes of this kind—whether he was on duty or whether his use of a service vehicle was authorised—should be referred to the arbitration in this country of a person who holds, or has held, high judicial office here.
Secondly, if an injured person were unable to identify a member of a visiting force whom he thought responsible for his injury, the case would also be submitted to arbitration, the parties to the arbitration being the claimant on the one side and someone representing the visiting forces or the Minister of Defence on the other, without naming any individual tortfeasor.
If the arbitrator finds that the injury was caused by a member of a visiting force while on duty he will adjudicate on the issues raised. The claimant in the arbitration will have to establish that the person who knocked him down was a member of the visiting forces, but he need not establish which member it was.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That is a separate point. I thought the hon. and learned Member had put to me specifically the question of when the claimant could not identify the tortfeasor. That procedure is dealt with by an arbitration in which the claimant will only have to establish that the person who knocked him down was a member of a visiting force.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
He will not have established whether the member of the visiting force is on duty.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am very sorry, I had already dealt with the question of being on duty or off duty. At the moment I am dealing with the procedure employed to deal with the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton on the question of identity. Having established identity, of course the question of on duty or off duty will be dealt with by the procedure I have outlined to the House.
§ Mr. Paget
The practical problem is this: a man is knocked down by a car which he can identify as being an American car, driven by somebody in American uniform. He can take that to arbitration and will then establish that he was knocked down by a member of the American forces. From a practical point of view I should have thought it quite impossible for him, without knowing who it was, to be able to produce any evidence at all of whether the driver was on duty at the time or not. In those circumstances, I put this forward as a suggestion; ought not the burden of proof of showing that the driver was not on duty to rest on the defence?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I very much hesitate to give snap legal opinions, but I should have thought that if he established, to quote the hon. and learned Member, that the driver was an American soldier driving an American Service vehicle, that would be prima facie evidence that he was in the course of his duty and, unless it was rebutted, the matter would be established. I do not want to make casual comments, but I do not think there is any harm in this. I do not think any force would like it to be 574 assumed that its service vehicles were used as a matter of course on frolics.
I think I have covered the point about identity and I have explained how we cover the point of dealing with the question whether the tortfeasor is on duty or off duty. If there are suggestions for improvement I should be the last person to make sacrosanct procedures which I announce at this Box. If one can make any improvement—the hon. Member apparently has something in mind—if he will deal with it either in the House, or with me personally, I shall do the best I can. I am merely explaining what we have agreed.
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will bear in mind that none of these provisions is in the Bill and, therefore, what he is saying does not really apply. If they were in the Bill they could be dealt with in the Committee stage, by proposing an Amendment, but, as they are not in the Bill, we have not that procedure open to us.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think that is a very fair point and it is one of the points arising from the drafting after very careful consideration. That this is an Agreement made in the middle of last year, and we have considered the question very carefully. But I take his point at once that that is an additional reason why we should be all the more anxious to get any improvements from anyone in the House. The procedure I have outlined was the procedure adopted when similar difficulties arose before our own Crown Proceedings Act.
I come now to the question of securing evidence. I should like to call the attention of the House to paragraph 10 of Article VIII of the Agreement in which the contracting States have agreed to co-operate in the procurement of evidence for a fair hearing and disposal of any claims with which they are concerned. The working out of the arrangements has not been easy. I do not think anyone would be surprised at that when he remembers that the countries concerned have different systems of law and different methods of dealing with claims against the State.
The representatives of the countries concerned have shown the greatest good will in all negotiations and I have no reason to doubt that the arrangements I 575 have mentioned will be such as to ensure that justice will be done. Again, I am quite prepared to consider any suggestions that might be made today.
There is one important Clause I have not touched on so far, Clause 8. This Clause enables Orders in Council to be made applying relevant provisions of the law, with or without modifications, so as to put visiting forces in the same position as the home forces. I am as well aware as anyone here must be that, on the face of it, that is a proposal to confer very wide powers of delegation. We are considering in the light of work which has been done since the Bill was introduced in another place whether the Clause cannot be altered and drafted so that the power is more closely restricted. I thought it would be useful to have any views expressed today before we came to our final conclusion on that, but we are considering that point.
I think the House will agree that three conceptions are involved. The first is that the Government, under various statutes, possess compulsory powers in relation to home forces. We want it to be possible for some of these powers to be exercised in relation—I repeat in relation—to visiting forces. For example, there are powers to acquire land for the purposes of home forces and we may want these powers to be exercisable for the benefit of visiting forces.
It might be suggested that, as it stands, the Clause has the effect that the authorities of a visiting force might be allowed to exercise these powers themselves. The intention is that the power should always be in the hands of a British authority and should be exercisable by that authority in favour of a visiting force to no greater degree than it is exercisable in favour of the home forces.
That is the first point. The authority is to be exercisable by a British authority. The second concept which we have is that the home forces possess certain exemptions from the ordinary law. For example, they carry firearms without firearms certificates and matters of that kind. Although they are not grave constitutional exemptions they are matters of convenience which are essential if there are to be armed Forces at all. It is obviously necessary that the visiting 576 forces should be similarly exempt in this and other respects. Again, may I make this proviso, which I want the House to appreciate? It is not proposed to take power to grant any wider exemption or privilege to visiting forces than can be enjoyed by the home forces.
The third conception is that there are a number of enactments which impose obligations in relation to the home forces. For example, a private person may not harbour a deserter from the home forces and it may be an offence if he deliberately does so. We want to make it possible for some of these enactments to operate for visiting forces in the same way as they operate for home forces. But again there is no intention to impose greater obligations. The obligations would, at the most, be the same as for home forces and are more likely to be less.
I have given some examples of the type of enactment with which we are trying to deal in this Clause. They are just a few examples and the field is very large. When the time comes, Parliament will have the opportunity of seeing exactly what is proposed under Orders in Council before it passes them. No one would dispute the need for some such provision as this and I remind the House that a similar need was felt when the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act was passed in 1933. Hon. Members who are interested might care to look at Section 2 of that Act which provides that enactments that answer to certain descriptions are automatically applied to a visiting force.
Frankly, the difficulties of this method is that the enactments in question are so many and various that it is sometimes difficult to know whether a particular Act has been applied or not, and Parliament was given no clear picture of what was involved. If hon. Members feel the difficulty which I mentioned about Clause 8, I should like to say that I shall go through it again in the light of this debate. It is a matter which I have been considering very carefully personally and we hope in the Committee stage to make even clearer that these limitations which I have tried to put to the House——
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Yes. I am afraid that the House is only too conscious that this is a difficult Bill, and to some extent it is to cover situations which can only be dimly foreseen because they involve foreign systems of law. It has provisions in it which may well cause difficulty to those who hold fast to the constitutional principle that the United Kingdom courts must be paramount throughout the United Kingdom. I fully understand that point of view but I feel that the Bill is a sign of the times.
We are depending for our defence on the North Atlantic Treaty alliance and it is an inevitable consequence of modern conditions of warfare and training for warfare that forces from our allies should be able to visit, and train in, this country just as do our own troops who go abroad on to the territories of various allies.
If I may say so to hon. Members opposite, I think that the 1951 Agreement which they contracted is a remarkable example of an international agreement between Powers which operate quite different systems of law but are determined to co-operate for their own defence. Until the Visiting Forces Bill is passed this country cannot ratify that Agreement and until the Agreement is ratified the alliance cannot operate as efficiently and as powerfully as it ought to do. There surely will be no dissent that equally favourable arrangements should be made in respect of visiting forces from the Commonwealth itself and I commend the Bill for the favourable consideration of the House.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
By the time that we have finished our deliberations on this Bill it may be thought that I am showing a great deal of temerity as a layman to speak on it at all. I certainly mean to leave the more detailed and technical considerations to my hon. and learned Friends who, I know, will take them up. But it seems to me that whatever we think about this Bill there can be no doubt that it is a very important and far-reaching one and that it raises broader issues as well as technical issues. It is to those that I want to address myself for a few minutes.
The purpose of this Bill, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary has made quite clear, is to implement the Convention signed with the N.A.T.O. States and put before the House 578 as Cmd. 8279. The purpose of both the Convention and the Bill is to settle the jurisdiction under which the forces of one N.A.T.O. State stationed on the territory of another should be. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained that in doing that the Bill seeks to replace three earlier Acts, the Act of 1933, the Act of 1940, and in particular the Act of 1942.
The Act of 1942 was, of course, a very drastic and far-reaching Act, but it was a wartime Act and it was never intended that it should be a permanent part of our legal system. This Bill is intended to become a permanent Act and must be scrutinised from that point of view. There is no doubt that whilst it does not go—and it is fair to say this—as far as the 1942 Act, nevertheless it goes fairly far.
§ Mr. Strachey
Although it does not go as far as the 1942 Act, which of course is in force at the moment, yet it goes farther than any peacetime Act. It was put forcibly and succinctly by the Lord Chancellor in another place. He said:Now, my Lords, I will come to Clause 3, which no doubt will give your Lordships most concern, for it provides an exclusive jurisdiction ousting the jurisdiction of the courts of this country in respect of certain cases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th June, 1952; Vol. 177, c. 457.]Those cases are the soldiers, sailors or airmen of another N.A.T.O. Power stationed in this country; and not only them but what is called the civilian component, as defined in the way of which the Home Secretary has spoken, in certain cases.
As I understand it—the Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—there are three cases in which the jurisdiction of our courts is completely ousted. The first one is when the offence is against any visiting soldier, sailor or airman or civilian component of the visiting Power. The second one is when the offence is against the property of the visiting Power. In those two cases I do not think that any of us would particularly worry about having the jurisdiction of our courts completely ousted. The third case, however, is the case in which the visiting soldier, sailor or airman commits the offence in the course of his duty.
579 The far-reaching character of that provision is greatly emphasised by Clause 11 (4) which defines what we mean, for the purposes of this Bill, by a man "acting in the course of his duty," and the complete power to settle the question whether the man is in fact acting in the course of his duty is given to that man's own commanding officer or higher authorities. The power to say whether the particular offence was in fact carried out in the course of his duty, and is therefore one in which our courts have no longer any jurisdiction, is put entirely in the hands of the authorities of the visiting States.
That was defended in another place on the ground that it was necessary to have some clear-cut definition of when the man was acting in the course of duty, but it certainly does take the ousting of our courts—in the words of the Lord Chancellor—a long way further than one might think by reading Clause 3 alone, because the decision as to whether the case is one in which our courts have or have not jurisdiction is put entirely—as I read it, taking the two Clauses together—entirely in the hands of the visiting authorities and their courts.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is an important matter which the House ought to consider very carefully indeed. We have to face the fact—and in making up our minds about the Bill it is no use blinking at it—that if we make it an Act in its present form, whatever is done by a member of the visiting forces of a N.A.T.O. State in this country in the course of his duty, as defined by his own commanding officer, no British citizen has any redress against him in a British court.
That is a very far-reaching thing to do with the law of this country, and I do not see that that can be denied. We must be quite frank about this. What the ordinary man outside the House has in mind in this connection is the substantial number of American forces at present stationed here. It is both fair and important to say that these American forces who have been here have long enjoyed these provisions and, in fact, more far-reaching provisions, under the Act of 1942, which has been in operation 580 for 10 years. During the whole of that time there have been American forces in this country.
It is perfectly true to say that the placing of this Bill on the Statute Book will improve the position for the British citizen as against what it is at the moment; but, on the other hand, it will make it permanent. I think it would be the experience of hon. Members, on the whole, that the still wider privileges enjoyed by American and other visiting forces under the 1942 Act have not been abused. The thing has not worked badly. But the 1942 Act applies only to American forces.
We should look at the whole matter in terms not only of the relationship to the United States forces; this will apply not only to them but, presumably—though not necessarily, under the Bill—to the forces of all the other N.A.T.O. States as well, some of which at some future time may also be stationed here. The main thing that hon. Members on this side of the House want to say about that is that all this may be necessary—and, on the whole, I think that it is a necessary part of such an arrangement as the N.A.T.O. system of alliances to have some sort of provision of this kind—but the House should see very clearly what they are doing, and how much they are doing when they actually put these provisions on to the Statute Book.
I certainly do not deny that some such arrangements as these are an inevitable and necessary feature of any such system as the N.A.T.O. alliances and that they must exist as long as the necessity for those alliances exist; but the main thing is that I am quite sure that these very far-reaching and by no means welcome provisions really cannot exist except on one condition, which is that there should be the very fullest reciprocity for the forces of this country.
It would be utterly intolerable and humiliating if N.A.T.O. forces stationed here enjoyed these privileges while our own forces stationed in other countries—N.A.T.O. countries in particular—did not enjoy the same privileges. On the other hand, one must clearly recognise that so long as there is this fullest basis if reciprocity this system has advantages as well as very considerable burdens and liabilities.
581 At present, we have many substantial forces stationed abroad, and I do not think that it would be academic to say that in future it may happen that important parts of those forces are stationed in other N.A.T.O. countries. It might well be so. One can imagine British air forces in the United States or Canada and other forces in the countries of other European members of N.A.T.O. states. Therefore, the advantages of visiting forces under this Bill—and I quite agree with the Home Secretary here—are of a good deal of importance to us and to our Services, but always on condition that there really is reciprocity and that what we are being asked to do is done by the other N.A.T.O. States.
I was disappointed that the Home Secretary did not tell us what was the position in regard to ratification of this Agreement by means of legislation or corresponding action in other N.A.T.O. States. Perhaps he will bring us up to date on this matter. I do not pretend to know what is the position; but a few months ago, when this Measure was debated in another place, the position was by no means assuring in this respect. If I may again quote from the speech of the Lord Chancellor, he said:I think your Lordships ought to know in the first place what is the position in regard to the other parties to the North Atlantic Treaty with regard to this Convention, or, rather, to this particular part of the Convention. The position is that so far no country has ratified the Agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th June, 1952; Vol. 177, c. 451.]That may have been changed by now; but not many legislatures have been sitting. They may have acted in July, but if they left it after that it cannot have changed very much.
I think it is incumbent upon the Government to see that the same type of action which we are asked to take here is taken at the same time by the other members who signed the Agreement we are now asked to bring into effect. That brings me to a concrete suggestion.
The Bill starts off by applying not to N.A.T.O. countries at all but to Commonwealth countries. I am sure no one in the House would have any objection to that because, if we are to have this Bill, then it is an excellent thing that it should apply first and foremost to Commonwealth countries who often have 582 visiting forces over here for such occasions, for example, as the Coronation, or other important events of that sort. Only one country, Canada, is in both the categories of a N.A.T.O. and a Commonwealth country.
Though the Bill applies immediately to Commonwealth countries, its primary purpose of application to N.A.T.O. countries, if and when it becomes an Act, will not apply until an Order in Council is brought in which specifically extends it—and this is worth noting—to either one or other of the N.A.T.O. countries or to other countries with which at the time we may be in alliance. There are powers in the Bill under an Order in Council for the whole of these provisions to be extended to any country in the world with which we may consider ourselves to be in alliance at that time.
As the Bill was originally presented in another place, no provision was made in it for any Parliamentary control over that at all. I am very glad to see that such a provision has now been inserted, and, as I read the Bill, that can now only be done by affirmative Resolution of Parliament. That is a very considerable improvement, but I would seriously ask the Government whether we cannot have—unless we be given very reassuring news of action in other countries—an assurance from the Government that if and when this Bill becomes an Act they will not proceed to extend it to N.A.T.O. States or to any other State until and unless such States have taken similar and parallel action.
That seems to me to be a reasonable thing to ask for, because for us to rush ahead and to take on these very considerable obligations to visiting forces in this country until and unless we are assured of adequate reciprocity from other countries seems a quite unnecessary thing to do. The fact that the provisions of the Bill can only be extended to any particular country by Order in Council gives the Government an opportunity to tell us that we shall only move in step with other countries which have signed this Convention.
It is natural to attach importance to that. When the matter was again brought up in another place, the Lord Chancellor did not seem to me to deal with it very adequately. All he said was:I should think it unlikely that Her Majesty by Order in Council will confer any privileges 583 or benefits upon visiting Forces of other countries, unless assured by the fact, or by an expression of intention on which reliance can be placed, that reciprocal advantages will be given to this country.That was an expression of opinion on the part of the Lord Chancellor, but I should have thought it would be far more satisfactory if we could have a definite assurance from the Government that they will not extend these advantages until, in the words of the Lord Chancellor, they areassured by the fact or by an expression of intention upon which reliance can be placed that reciprocal advantages will be given to this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th June, 1952; Vol. 177, c. 485.]I would seriously press the Government, either now or during the course of the debate, to give that assurance. I cannot help feeling that the whole attitude of the House towards the Bill will be considerably affected by that. I should find it intensely repugnant to extend the rights of non-citizens of this country in this very serious way unless we were quite sure that our own forces in other countries would enjoy parallel privileges. If it is a fully reciprocal system, then, clearly, there is a good deal to be said for it in principle, but that seems to me to be the really governing consideration in our minds. That is the main point which I wanted to urge.
There are an immense number of detailed points concerning provisions of this character which should be elucidated. There is the whole question of the civil claims under the Bill, and I have no doubt that they will be fully debated during the passage of this Measure through the House. I shall not attempt to raise them as a layman. I would not wish to oppose the Bill, especially if we can have the assurance of effective and simultaneous reciprocity for which I am asking, but the particular provisions of the Bill will, of course, remain open for our consideration, and we may want—I am sure my hon. and learned Friends will want—to vary particular provisions when we come to the Committee stage.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
I am sure the House is extremely grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary for the manner in which he has explained the 584 complicated provisions of this Measure. I want to say a brief word on its application to Northern Ireland. My right hon. and learned Friend did not expressly say that it it applies to Northern Ireland, but it is perfectly clear on the face of the Bill that it does. Nor did he tell us that it had been approved by the Government of Northern Ireland although I assume that this is so.
So far as I and other Northern Ireland Members who sit on this side of the House are concerned, we give the Bill a very warm welcome. We are proud of the fact that in our part of the United Kingdom we have been able to make some contribution to the common defence arrangements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We have been able to put at the disposal of N.A.T.O. Powers substantial facilities for their visiting forces.
We have, of course, had American troops stationed in Northern Ireland since 1942. Last year we had a visit from a Dutch naval unit which we were very glad to welcome. But whereas, so far as this question of jurisdiction is concerned, American troops were already covered by the previous Act, the Dutch unit which came to study certain naval operations were not so covered by it. This Bill, when it becomes an Act will cover them in respect of offences committed by members of their forces or by their civilian nationals.
It is not necessary for me to remind the House of the strategic importance of Northern Ireland in North Atlantic defence. It was made abundantly clear in the last war. General Eisenhower himself, in words which I think are worth repeating, made that abundantly clear when some years ago he received the Freedom of the City of Belfast. He said:It was here in Northern Ireland that the American Army first began to concentrate for our share in the attack upon the citadel of continental Europe. From here started the long, hard march to Allied victory. Without Northern Ireland I do not see how the American Forces could have been concentrated to begin the invasion of Europe. If Ulster had not been a definite co-operative part of the British Empire and had not been available for our use I do not see how the build-up could have been carried out in England.There is one point on which I should like a little information, and I should be grateful if the Home Secretary or the 585 Attorney—General would supply it in replying to the debate. As I understand it, Article 8 of the Agreement regarding the Status of Forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers, signed last year, provides that initial responsibility for satisfying claims rests on the receiving State—in this context, the United Kingdom; and that Article goes on to say that accounts are settled half-yearly between the parties to the Agreement normally in the proportion of 25 per cent. of the costs charged to the receiving State and 75 per cent. to the sending State.
I wonder if we could have some information as to the charge on the receiving State when a claim arises within the territory of Northern Ireland. We should like to know whether, when that cost is being met, the Imperial Exchequer will reclaim it from the Northern Ireland Exchequer. I should be grateful if we could have information on that specific point.
I have only one personal regret with regard to this Measure, and that is that the Republic of Ireland is not included in its provisions. Unfortunately, the Republic of Ireland has not seen fit to subscribe to the North Atlantic Treaty arrangements, and for that reason this Measure cannot apply to her. We hope in the North that she will eventually reconsider her position and join with us, the rest of the United Kingdom and the other North Atlantic Treaty Powers, in arrangements for defence which concern her as well as all the rest of us. As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, we welcome the Bill, and we appreciate the need for its passing into law, and hope that it will have an unopposed Second Reading.
§ 12.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I think the whole House will agree with the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) that this Bill has very far-reaching consequences, and is one, therefore, that this House must consider most carefully before passing into law, and is one the provisions of which ought to be widely understood. A great many detailed points of criticism of the Bill will be more appropriate for the Committee stage, and I should, therefore, like merely to make one or two general observations and draw attention to one or two of the more important points which, it seems to 586 me, should be clarified before the Committee stage.
This Bill, in effect, removes from the jurisdiction of the courts of this country a very large number of people. In other words, the members of the visiting Forces and their civilian components will be able to commit crimes which cannot be tried in the courts of this country. That is something which, prima facie, shocks those who have been brought up to respect the deep-seated constitutional principles of our land.
It means that a whole section of people—we do not know how numerous it may be: it is considerable at the moment and is a section that may increase in numbers as time goes on—will be outside the criminal law of our country. They will only be answerable for their crimes to the exclusive jurisdiction of foreign service courts. There has not been anything like that in this country since the Middle Ages, when a certain section of the community could claim benefit of clergy, and when there was a certain Papal jurisdiction which could defeat the claims of the English common law courts.
It may be a disagreeable necessity, but we are embarking on something which is quite novel, and which, as my right hon. Friend said, must be somewhat humiliating for those who have always believed in the paramountcy of the British courts in trying and bringing to justice any and every crime committed in this country. I agree that such a state of affairs could only be tolerated on the basis of absolute reciprocity, and I hope that we shall have an assurance about reciprocity.
But let us be practical about this matter. Reciprocity is not enough unless it is of universal application, because let us bear in mind that this Bill will, presumably for a long time to come, apply mainly to American troops and some Commonwealth troops in this country. There are not likely to be many British troops stationed in the United States of America. There will, however, be a considerable number of British troops stationed not only in countries which are members of N.A.T.O. but also in Western Germany, and I think the House would like to know whether the privileges that are being given to American troops in this country will also apply to British troops 587 in Western Germany after the Bonn Treaties have been ratified.
It may be said that that does not arise in the Bill, but that is one of the ways in which we can test whether the provisions of this Bill are reasonable or not. At present, British troops stationed in Germany do have considerable privileges, because there we are an occupying Power. It is not quite true to say that American troops have the status of an occupying Power in this country. If and when the Bonn Treaties are ratified our troops in Germany will be on a different basis, and it therefore seems to me that it would be just as humiliating if there were not reciprocity as it would be if we were not satisfied that British troops, where they will very likely be stationed in large numbers—in non-N.A.T.O. countries—have the same privileges as we are according to American troops in this country. Unless they had I think the position would be intolerable.
I would ask the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General to clarify what is meant by "civilian components". I can understand that an army as such, a foreign army stationed within these shores, is a self-contained entity and, like any other army, has its own life and, therefore, for a great many purposes, is excluded from the normal civilian life of the country where it is stationed. It is not clear to me, for example, whether "civilian components" include or are intended to include the wives of serving American officers and other ranks. I do not know whether the Attorney-General could tell us that without reference?
A large number of members of the American forces in this country have married quarters. It is a very sensible provision. It is one which is being extended on a considerable scale. A large number of the wives of these American troops drive motor cars, for example. Are they outside our criminal law? Are they exempt from liability for any torts which may be committed, or is it intended that exemptions given by this Treaty and this Bill are limited to those civilians who accompany troops for military or quasi-military purposes?
There is no real definition of civilian components in the Bill. All we have, as I understand it, is a method which will enable the courts to decide, when 588 necessary, whether a particular person is included in the civilian component or is not. Clause 10 merely says that reference to a member of the civilian component means, in effect, somebody who holds a passport—I suppose that means a passport issued by the Government of a visiting force—and that a note of recognition has been entered on the passport by the Secretary of State. Is it intended that wives of American troops, of whom there is a large number, are to have the benefit of this Clause?
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)
Perhaps I might help by saying that all there is in the Bill at the moment is the machinery for showing what civilian components are.
As regards the question of wives, and so forth, I am not in a position to answer that immediately, and I wondered whether that was not a matter which we might deal with more conveniently in Committee. I shall certainly examine it myself personally, but at present all there is is the machinery for giving them that status, and the Bill itself certainly contains nothing which would decide whether one person or the other would be included.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am much obliged. I cannot press the Attorney-General, but his answer does show the difficulty the House is in, because the Government are inviting the House to exempt a large and, at present, indefinite number of persons from the criminal and civil jurisdiction of this country. I do not think that the House ought to be invited to take that step unless we have a much clearer idea of the limits of this exemption.
§ The Attorney-General
I thought I would help by answering the hon. Gentleman now. Perhaps I was unwise and should have waited until later in the day. Perhaps I have misled him. All I meant to say was that I, personally, cannot answer that question at the moment, but I hope to be able to do so shortly.
§ Mr. Fletcher
That is certainly very helpful, because it is not clear from the Bill as it stands. I was hoping that, however the answer may be given, Clause 10 will in due course be elaborated and amended so as to make it more definite, because we have to consider not 589 only American wives of American troops but also British wives of American troops, and another question is whether they are to be excluded or not.
I turn now to Clause 7, which deals with coroners' inquests. This, again, may perhaps be a Committee point, but I hope that in the process of this Bill the Attorney-General will give us some more enlightenment than was given by the Home Secretary, or was given in another place, as to the precise circumstances in which a coroner's inquest will be suspended because a member of a visiting force is involved.
Speaking for myself, I am bound to say that I regard the provisions of Clause 9, which deals with civil claims, as most unsatisfactory in its present form. Before this Bill is passed into law we ought to be quite sure that any British subject who suffers an injury as a result of a tortious act by a member of a visiting force or a civilian component of a visiting force is in at least as strong a legal position as if the tort were committed by any other civilian in the country.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The position is not quite the same if a tort is committed by a British soldier. If a British civilian is knocked over by a British soldier certain conditions operate. They are better now than they were a few years ago. With great respect to my hon. Friend, I personally would not be content with that parallel. I want the British civilian to be in at least as strong a legal position as if he were knocked over by another British civilian.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was not dissenting from that. What I meant to convey by my interjection was that under the present position he is worse off, not merely than he would be if he were knocked down by a British civilian, but worse off than he would be if knocked down by a British soldier.
§ Mr. Fletcher
My point is that he ought to be at least as well off as if he were knocked down by a British civilian. We have developed a very thorough system of compulsory third party insurance so that if any British civilian is injured on the roads by another British 590 civilian he gets full and adequate compensation from the insurance company for the damage he suffers. I can see no reason why a British civilian should not be in precisely the same position if he is injured by a member of a visiting force.
Take the case of the wife of an American soldier driving a private motor car. We do not yet know whether such a person will be exempted under this Bill or not. Suppose any of my hon. Friends are knocked down by such a person, is she exempt from the requirements of having a compulsory third party motor car insurance and not subject to any criminal liability if she has not? Is there any guarantee that a civilian suffering injuries in those circumstances would be able to obtain adequate compensation?
While agreeing that some such Bill as this is necessary, I have tried to mention just a few of the points which will require very much more thorough examination in Committee before this House will be fulfilling its duty to the citizens of this country in making sure that their interests are fully protected.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
The Home Secretary gave us a very full and diligent exposition of the Bill, though, if I may say so, I think it is unfortunate that a Bill which required so long to expound should be before us on a Friday. I will endeavour to be brief, and I must ask the House to forgive me if I find it impossible to remain here until the conclusion of the discussion on this Bill.
It is, I think, generally agreed that one of the principles which must be required in order to justify a Bill of this sort is reciprocity. There is, I think, another principle as well—the principle of necessity. That is to say, that the Bill should not go further than is necessary in order to secure the good, reasonable working of the Atlantic Alliance or of any other defence arrangements which may be made and which are agreeable to the Government and to the Parliament of this country.
I think that we all want a Bill that will go as far as is necessary to do that, provided that it is met by reciprocal arrangements elsewhere: and it will not indicate any hostility to the general principle of 591 the Bill if we look very carefully at each part of it, to make sure that it does not go further than is necessary. It is not, however, easy for people who are not lawyers to make quite certain what the real effects of the Bill will be in given circumstances.
I want, therefore, to quote one possible example that might arise in connection with Clause 3 (1, a), concerning an offence committed in the course of duty. The sufferers from such offences may be ordinary British subjects not associated with the visiting force. May I put one possibility? Supposing we get a crowd of malicious and ill-advised persons, afflicted by that kind of mental and moral disorder which makes people anti-Semitic or anti-American or affected by some form of xenophobia.
Supposing we get a crowd of people who go to places where the visiting force is stationed and conduct a violent and offensive demonstration. The commanding officer of the visiting force may order the men under his command to take action against the crowd. If, in carrying out his orders, they act so recklessly that persons are injured or killed, is that, under subsection 3 (1, a), an offence committed in the course of duty? Or if the commanding officer of the visiting force chooses to say that it is not an offence committed in the course of duty, who is to gainsay him?
I think that we shall need a good deal of convincing that a decision of that kind is necessary. It may be—I put forward now what may be a quite unworkable layman's proposal—that we should draw a distinction between offences and incidents involving the lives of British subjects and offences and incidents of a less serious character.
One thing which, I think, will worry a great many people, who may find it difficult to follow the legal arguments about this Bill, is if a situation should arise whereby a British subject is killed or seriously injured as the result of an offence committed by a visiting force and a British court has no jurisdiction over the matter. I would ask the Government to consider that aspect of the Bill and whether something cannot be done to meet the uneasiness, to use a mild word, which may arise out of that situation.
592 In that connection, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) referred to Clause 7, whereby, in certain circumstances, a coroner may not hold an inquest on a death that has occurred in this country. If I understand Clause 7, that would relate to the death of a member of a visiting force or a person having a relevant association with it. Even where the death of a British subject is not involved, the actual killing of someone on our territory and normally within our jurisdiction is an extremely serious matter. It is not clear to me, from the explanation given, why it is necessary for the good working of the Atlantic Alliance that the right to hold such an inquest in those circumstances should not be given.
In conclusion, I ask the Government to believe that everyone in this House wants to pass a good workable Bill which will not only make sense but will show our good will towards the nation with whom we have mutual defence arrangements. If the Bill is to have the general approval of the country, we have to make sure that it does not go any further than is necessary, and that it shows, side by side with a decent respect for our friends and allies, also a proper respect for the jurisdiction, dignity and tradition of the British courts.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I should like, first, to join with those who have congratulated the Home Secretary on the care and the temper with which he has introduced the Bill for the consideration of the House. He did so with great moderation, and he went through the Clauses with a painstaking care and a lucidity which has been of great benefit to all of us. I hope that I shall not be doing him an injustice, if I say that he seemed to me not to be very happy about the Bill and to share a great many of the anxieties which many of us feel about it, and which seem to have been felt in another place when the Bill was first introduced.
I respectfully agree with the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) has put the matter. If we make military or defence arrangements with another country in which their forces are entitled to operate on our territory, then, of course, we are bound, if it is necessary to do so, 593 to amend our law so as to entitle them to carry out what we have already agreed they shall carry out. So far, once the arrangement has been made, no one would quarrel with the purpose of the Bill.
I would accept, also, as regards the principle that, in these circumstances, one ought to look very carefully at the provisions not merely of the Bill but of the agreement to make absolutely certain that they do not go beyond what is strictly, rigidly and narrowly necessary to give effect to the agreement or the defence arrangements we have made. If, at any point, the Bill, in principle or detail, goes beyond that, I would submit with respect to the House that it is a Bill which we ought not to accept.
It seems to me that, as at present drawn, the Bill goes far beyond what has ever previously been held to be necessary, or what has so far been shown to be necessary. I confess to be conservative-minded in these matters. I am old-fashioned. I think that when a tradition has been well-established, has worked well and has become time-honoured without attracting to itself a lot of encrustations which weaken or destroy the principle, then one's bias ought to be to keep it rather than to change it. It seems to me that the overriding principle should be that people who live, whether for military or civilian purposes, in someone else's country, ought not to regard it as a hardship, and ought to expect to conform with the laws of that country and submit themselves to the jurisdiction of its courts.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) said that this went back in some respects to the Middle Ages. I would say to him, with respect, that it goes back very much further. In ancient times, the idea of anyone being subject to the law of the country in which he had taken up his residence for the time being was an unknown idea. Everyone was clothed with the protection and the obligations of his own particular laws, the law of his country, the law of his nation and the law of his tribe, and, indeed, a great deal of the law of nations has arisen out of the conflict of laws between different people living in the same place.
It was found a very long time ago that that system really did not do justice and was unworkable; that the principle 594 of ancient law whereby a man was bound only by the laws of his tribe and not by the laws of the country where he had his being was not a good one, and it was better to make people subject to the laws of the country where they live. Why should not we do that?
Looking at the Bill from that point of view, I suggest that there are three aspects. The first is that if you are to have visiting forces in a country at all they must be able to operate their own disciplinary system. That would be a reasonable exception to the rule that they are not governed by their own law but by the laws of the countries which they visit. If they visit countries as a military force under military regulations and military discipline it is in every way reasonable that they should be allowed to operate their own military law so far as the members of their forces are concerned.
But the Bill goes a long way beyond that even when we are dealing with questions of the maintenance of their own military law and military discipline within their own forces. I will not enlarge upon the point about the component civilian, that extremely difficult question which has already been dealt with, except to say that I share the view that this requires very careful definition indeed.
Apart from all that I want to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to Clause 14, which appears to be a harmless one. It deals only with a procedural point, but all lawyers know that procedural points have to be watched most carefully if justice is to be done. The Clause provides some extraordinary things. It says:For the purposes of any proceedings under or arising out of any provision of the Army Act as applied by the last foregoing section … (b) a document purporting to be a certificate under the hand of the officer commanding a unit or detachment of any of the forces of a country to which this section applies, stating that a person named and described therein was at the date of the certificate a deserter, or absentee without leave, from those forces shall be admissible without proof as evidence, and in Scotland sufficient evidence, of the facts appearing from the document to be so certified.If the commander of a Belgian regiment issued a certificate that the Home Secretary was a deserter from his regiment the Home Secretary could not 595 challenge it. He would have no answer; he would be a deserter. He could not say, "The certificate is wrong; I am nothing of the kind. I never was a member of these forces and, therefore, I cannot be an absentee or deserter from them." The Home Secretary could not be heard on that in our courts. He might be heard at the Belgian court-martial—it depends what regulations the Belgians have for allowing people appearing before them to be heard or represented—but so far as the jurisdiction of our courts is concerned there is absolutely nothing whatever that the Home Secretary could do about it.
One hon. Member has said how proud Northern Ireland is to be able to make its contribution to defence and how proud it is to have American units there. The Northern Ireland contribution does not include the application of our National Service Act. Under this subsection the officer commanding the American forces in Northern Ireland could do what we have so far failed to do, and that is to conscript into the forces the whole of the male population of Northern Ireland.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The words of paragraph (b) about which the hon. Gentleman has complained are:… shall be admissible without proof as evidence …There is nothing to say that it cannot be controverted. I should still have the right to say, "I am the Home Secretary and not a member of the Belgian forces."
§ Mr. Silverman
With great respect to the Home Secretary, I do not agree with him. What if it happened in Scotland? There are also other examples. Clause 11 (1) says:For the purposes of this Part of this Act a certificate issued by or on behalf of the appropriate authority of a country, stating that at a time specified in the certificate a person so specified either was or was not a member of a visiting force of that country, shall in any proceedings in any United Kingdom court be conclusive evidence of the fact so stated.
§ Mr. Silverman
It is not. I will change my illustration and suggest that the day the Bill comes into force, if it ever does, the commanding officer of a Belgian unit issues a certificate saying that the right 596 hon. and learned Gentleman is a member of a Belgian force and is therefore subject to its discipline. There is nothing that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can do about that in a British court, because the certificate is conclusive against him in any British court. Is there anything wrong with that?
This may sound a fantastic thing to allege. In any event, if the words are capable of so fantastic a construction they are too wide and ought to be amended. But it is not so fantastic as all that. I remember the working of the 1942 Act dealing with visiting forces. A number of foreign forces here operated under the authority of exiled governments.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Under the 1940 Act I dealt with dozens of cases in which the Polish forces had arrested people in this country, using their own military police, and had tried them, sentenced them and incarcerated them as deserters from the Polish forces. These people knew not a word of Polish, had never been in Poland in their lives during any period when Poland was a sovereign State, had come away from Poland in the early years of the century, or even before that, when there was no Poland, had lived here for many years, and had no connection whatever with Poland. Nevertheless, they were held by the Polish forces to be Polish citizens because they were born within the limits of territory which then formed Poland, and it was held that they should have registered under the Polish military service law but had not done so.
However, they were better off than the right hon and learned Gentleman would be under the Clause, because we were able to put those cases right by going, under our own habeas corpus proceedings, to the High Court and establishing that the men never were Polish citizens, never had been members of Polish forces, never had been liable to serve in the Polish forces and, therefore, were not, and could not be, guilty of the offence charged.
Under this Clause the Home Secretary would have no such rights. The whole habeas corpus procedure is displaced by it, and a man who is wrongly arrested 597 would be wrongly made subject to a foreign court-martial and would not have the right to start habeas corpus proceedings in our own courts in order to establish that he was not subject to that jurisdiction at all. That cannot be right. Let me suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman another way in which the rather sweeping generalisation with which I began part of this argument becomes quite rightly——
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present.
§ House counted and 40 Members being present——
§ Mr. Silverman
I am much obliged to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) for securing for me a wider audience than I had contemplated.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was going to suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman another way in which this principle that I am putting forward—I am sure I am right in my interpretation of the Clause—might become practical politics. We know that if British citizens become resident in the United States without ever acquiring United States' citizenship at all they are held liable under American law to be compulsorily drafted into the American forces. There have been questions in the House about it. So far as I can remember, I do not think we have ever had a debate on the subject, and I regard it myself as a rather preposterous thing for the United States to have done, especially as it is not reciprocal and does not apply at all to Americans who happen to be resident here.
However, this is not the place nor the time to discuss the rightness or wrongness of that. It is sufficient for my argument to draw the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the fact that a boy of 18, 19 or 20, even though he has already done his military service in this country, who happens at the relevant time and place to be resident in the United States, might, under American law, be drafted into the American forces.
He might not want to go. He might say—and it would not be so very unreasonable—"I prefer to serve in my own forces and I am not going to serve 598 in any foreign force, even though it is that of an ally so close as the United States of America." He comes home and he can be arrested under this Clause and find himself unable to contest the matter at all in any British court.
It seems to me that this is altogether too widely drawn. It is not enough to say that this is a purely procedural point only dealing with what shall or shall not be evidence. That is quite right. I have not contested it nor am I contesting it. If we make arrangements under which visiting forces are invited to a country, then it would be absurd not to amend the law in such a way as to enable them to operate their own military law and discipline for their own people internally. But that does not necessitate giving them an exclusive right and power over someone who is not subject to that jurisdiction.
Why should British courts abandon jurisdiction with regard to anyone living here under the protection of the British Crown? I hope when we come to the Committee stage that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will again look very carefully at Clause 14 to see whether this absurd notion that the visiting forces shall themselves be the unchallengeable judges in their own courts as to who and who is not subject to their jurisdiction is really necessary.
It is no answer to say that it is to be reciprocal. I do not want such a power for our own country or for our forces in any country, and I would not be prepared to allow any other country to have such power here. The question of whether a man is really subject to this alien jurisdiction should be determined by the courts of this country. When it is determined that he is so subjected then he can be handed over and dealt with according to the law and the courts to which he belongs, but do not let them be judges in this question in their own courts. I stress that. It seems to me that the Bill goes far beyond what is necessary to give effect to the defence arrangements that have been made.
I want to come to the other question of how far they should be subjected to our laws and the jurisdiction of our courts in cases which are not limited to offences against their own discipline or their own internal military law; in other words, where they commit offences against the 599 people of this country. I cannot understand on what principles anyone defends the proposition that a foreign soldier who does some damage—it may be unintentional, but, still, it is damage—to the citizens of the country which he is visiting should be exempt from answering for those offences in the courts of the country which he is visiting merely because it is alleged that what he did was done in the course of his duty.
Here, again, I make the point about the conclusiveness of evidence. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East, gave us an instance of a violent demonstration outside premises occupied by the visiting forces with the officer in charge losing his head. It may be that he is provoked, and I quite realise that when people are provoked they sometimes lose their heads and use force, which is altogether in excess of the gravity of the offence committed.
Something of the kind took place recently with prisoners of war in the Far East. Some officers sometimes object to particular songs. It may be if I want to sing "God save the King" at the wrong time and in the wrong place somebody would get as excited about that as somebody got excited in Korea when Chinese prisoners of war sang their national song on their national day, and, in order to enforce discipline, were shot down with machine guns.
My hon. Friend asked whether in such a case our courts would have any jurisdiction. He need not ask. Clause 11 is conclusive on the point. The officer has only to plead that the order he gave was done in the course of duty—no doubt it would have been if he ordered his men to fire and they fired in response to the order—to escape any kind of challenge or responsibility in the British courts for what might be killing or injuring a large number of British citizens.
Why should the British courts abandon their jurisdiction in cases of that character? On what principle? It is not necessary to the carrying out of our defence arrangements with other countries. We can carry those out perfectly well without granting powers of this kind. Is it really suggested this abdication of our jurisdiction is in the interests of good international relations?
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
Does the argument of the hon. Member mean that if such an incident occurred the American officer who gave the order should come under the law of this country? What would really happen would be that representations would be made to the American Government and the officer would then be tried by his own people. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that we should arrest that American officer and bring a charge against him?
§ Mr. Silverman
I certainly cannot see one. Such a man would be obviously entitled to a reasonable trial. He would be entitled to be represented, to have all his witnesses called and to have the fullest possible facilities for presenting his case. If he is charged with the murder or manslaughter of a British citizen, what is wrong with his being tried on that charge before a British court? He would have a very good chance before any court in this country, as good a chance as in any court in his own country, of having a fair and proper trial.
If we do it in any other way, let us see where we involve ourselves. Suppose a man, in such circumstances, is not to be answerable to a British court. Suppose, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, we made representations to the American authorities who, I am certain, would behave properly in the matter and would institute their own inquiry and have their own criminal proceedings before their own court. Does the hon. Gentleman not see that there might be many people, such as the relatives of the person killed, who would say, "I am not going to give evidence before a foreign court in my own country"? There is nothing in the Bill to compel them.
I think the hon. Member would be averse to it if it happened to anybody belonging to him. I think he would say, "It happened in my own country and to my own people. There is nothing wrong with the courts of my country." If our soldiers found themselves in the same difficulty in any country of the world I am prepared to say that they should answer in the courts of that country for anything they might do.
§ Mr. Baxter
Suppose there was a Communist demonstration against headquarters at S.H.A.P.E. and suppose General Ridgway was compelled to use force and killed some of the demonstrators. Is he to be arrested by the French police and put on trial in a French court? Imagine the effect that that would have.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am trying to imagine it, and I do not know what horrifies the hon. Gentleman. We happen to be dealing with our own country, but I recognise that he has put that illustration forward by way of analogy. I will accept it and argue it on that basis. The hon. Gentleman must remember—he may not like it, and I do not like it either—that about 50 per cent of the population of France happens to be Communist. Suppose there was a Communist demonstration of the kind suggested by the hon. Member, and that French citizens were killed. It may be that the force used was not greater than was warranted by the circumstances, but I think most French citizens would regard it as much better that the questions involved should be determined before the courts of their own country than be investigated by foreign courts. Considered from the point of view of maintaining good international relationships, my proposition is much better than the one in the Bill.
Finally, I come to the question of civilian rights. I endorse everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East. I cannot understand why anyone thinks it is tolerable that if a person is killed, maimed, injured or wronged by a member of some visiting force the rights of that person should be less in any way than they would be had he suffered the same harm at the hands of one of his fellow citizens.
What is wrong with that? Yet Clause 9 gives no rights at all. It gives the Minister of Defence power to make arrangements, and the Money Resolution is to provide the money necessary if he makes arrangements resulting in pecuniary obligations. That is as far as it goes. I recognise that the intention is that he should make such arrangements as give effects to the relevant Articles of the Agreement, but those Articles are by no means good enough. They do not go anything like so far as the proposition that my hon. Friend has put forward, and 602 which I accept. A person injured in this country by a member of a foreign force should at least have not fewer rights than he would have if he had been injured by a member of one of our own forces.
We used to have difficulties about that, and the War Office did their best, perhaps by side-tracking the law, to overcome them. We put all that right finally by passing the Crown Proceedings Act. Anybody who is injured by a member of our own forces can now sue the Crown just as he can sue anybody else, and if he establishes his case the State will pay. Under this Agreement, his rights against foreign forces fall far short of that position, and far short of the arrangement which we had with foreign forces during the war and which worked absolutely perfectly and admirably.
Preceding the passing of the Crown Proceedings Act, the practice was based on a kind of legal fiction which everybody accepted until the House of Lords interfered with it later, inducing the Government of the day to proceed rather more quickly with the Crown Proceedings Bill than any previous Government had done—with great benefit to the common law of this country. The courts of our own country used to accept service of proceedings brought against a member of a foreign force as they did against a member of our own forces, and would proceed in exactly the same way. The jurisdiction of our own courts has since been accepted to some extent, but not to as full an extent as we would have liked; not to anything like the same extent as under the war-time agreement which the Americans brought unilaterally to an end.
The points which I have been making are not purely Committee points, because every one of them raises a matter of principle. Most of them can be dealt with in Committee. I hope that the Home Secretary will make certain that we have an adequate Committee stage on the Bill. As the right hon and learned Gentleman was not here when I began and has just returned, perhaps I may repeat the sincere compliment which I wish to pay him about the way in which he presented the Bill. He said himself that it was a difficult Bill and that it would have to be carefully examined in Committee. We all agree, but it cannot be carefully examined unless the Committee is given adequate time.
603 Therefore, I hope that suitable arrangements will be made to enable us to examine this Bill Clause by Clause and line by line, not with the intention of denying to people the necessary amendments of the law to enable them to operate the agreements we have already made, but to see that we do not go one jot or tittle beyond what is necessary for that purpose.
§ 1.21 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
A lot of ground has been covered in this debate since it commenced with the helpful exposition of the provisions of the Bill by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary, and a great many objections to its provisions have been referred to, particularly by hon. Members on this side of the House. I only rise at this late stage in the discussion because this is an important Measure and I join in the appeal that in Committee it will be gone into thoroughly.
As I understand it, before the war Service courts in this country always had a concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of the land. It was not until 1942 that this conception of concurrent jurisdiction for Service courts with the municipal courts was abandoned and it was decided in the case of American visiting forces to exclude altogether the jurisdiction of the English courts. It was an entirely exceptional situation in 1942. The country was at war. A number of vitally important principles of liberty and of justice were suppressed temporarily whilst the country was at war and there were enemies that had to be defeated.
One wonders, however, why it should be necessary that in this peace-time provision there should be an exclusive jurisdiction in certain matters given to the Service courts. Why could there not have been a revival of the pre-war practice of the concurrent jurisdiction? What the House is being asked to do in this Measure is to give support to a Bill which for the first time, so far as I know, in our history in peace-time excludes the jurisdiction of the English courts in respect of offences committed upon English territory, and it is a serious matter.
The trouble, as I see it, is that all this has been agreed upon outside the House 604 in international discussions and arrangements. Of course that inhibits and restrains our discussion of the Measure. I know of no class of discussion which takes place in this House where discussion is generally more inhibited than it is upon matters that come up for ratification. The whole business has been gone into before, all the ground has been covered and agreement has been arrived at in international negotiations as to what shall be done. Representatives of different countries have discovered where there is common ground, what another representative will be prepared to agree to and what another representative will not permit.
The whole thing has been subject to complicated and long international discussion and then it goes to the separate legislatures for ratification. Few people are prepared to carry their objection to the length of making it necessary to go over all that procedure again. The same applies, I greatly fear, in our discussion today. One can but take the opportunity of expressing the hope that as arrangements for N.A.T.O. are made between the N.A.T.O. Powers and their representatives in their international discussions, it will be found possible for N.A.T.O. arrangements to proceed in economic and legal matters with the minimum possible degree of interference with the municipal law and the economic systems of the countries comprising N.A.T.O. That would seem to me to be desirable in any of the discussions that take place between the North Atlantic Treaty Powers.
I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and previously by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) that as we have the fait accompli of this international agreement—although it has still to be ratified, for all practical purposes it is already a fait accompli—the main objective that we must keep before our minds is to ensure that the Bill which we pass goes no further than is necessary for the implementation of the provisions agreed upon between the Powers.
I think that in some instances the Bill probably goes further than is necessary, and it is on those items that one hopes it will be possible to take up the matter in Committee. There is the important 605 question of the civilian component. As I see it, the Bill goes further than anything contained in the Agreement. I do not think that it goes so far as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) feared. But that is a matter which will be dealt with subsequently. I hope and expect to hear that the true position is that the words "a member of a civilian component" do not include the wife of a civilian unless that wife is herself in the employ of the armed forces——
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe indicated assent.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am glad to receive an indication from the Front Bench opposite that this is the case. The Agreement makes it clear that a member of a civilian component must be in the employment of the armed forces. Special provision is made in the Agreement for the dependant of a member of a civilian component, but the dependant is different from the member.
Be that as it may, and let us concede that this Clause does not go quite so far as some of my hon. Friends who have spoken fear that it might, unless I am mistaken it still goes very far indeed. I do not want to put this inaccurately, but it seems to me that it is left to the authority of the passport office to determine who will have the benefit of this provision. I care not for present purposes what definition there is in the Treaty of a member of a civilian component.
So far as the Bill is concerned, the only definition appears to be in Clause 10, which simply refers to the question of whether or not the person affected holds a passport with the appropriate stamp from an American authority, as will be commonly the case, or from a British official.
§ Mr. Irvine
As my hon. and gallant Friend reminds me, the words are "and from a British official." But that seems to be very unsatisfactory.
I conceive that it will not be open to the court in this country, when going into this matter, in the absence of any specific provision in the Bill, to refer back to the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty 606 Organisation Agreement. Therefore, the question will be determined only by reference to this Measure. That seems to me to be objectionable. It is in one sense a Committee point, but, on the other hand, it is a matter of some substance affecting the whole execution of the provisions of the Bill.
I should have thought that it would be an improvement to the Bill, and something to which no objection could be taken, if the definition of the civilian component member which is contained in the Agreement were incorporated in the Bill. Even though the definition in the Agreement is wide, if it were incorporated in the Bill it would have the effect of narrowing the existing definition of membership of the civilian component.
One does not want to pursue the easy task of suggesting hypothetical cases. But consider the case of a civilian—an American civilian, as may be the case—driving up the Strand, perhaps driving carelessly and causing damage to persons or to property. He may have been sent over here to inspect the food of the American forces or to arrange for the supply and sale of blankets or something of that kind. This will perhaps enable to say that his journey is in the course of his duty. And then he has a stamp upon his passport declaring him to be a member of a civilian component. In consequence of all this his case is excluded from the jurisdiction of the English courts. It is a very serious matter to contemplate.
I therefore take the view that the Bill, taking it all in all, is an unwelcome Bill, full of dangerous implications and constituting historically a very important departure from precedent. It should be watched very carefully. I hope that we shall see it amended in Committee, and certainly to the extent that it goes further than the provisions of the N.A.T.O. Agreement make necessary. I hope we shall see its wings clipped.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
It would not be an exaggeration to describe the Bill as one of the most revolutionary that the present Administration have brought to the notice of the House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
One could even say that in its legal implications it is one of the most revolutionary Measures to have been brought forward since the end of the war. That makes it all the more necessary for us to examine its provisions with great care.
It strikes me as a little unreasonable that a Measure of this kind, with all these important implications, should come before us at such a late stage in the Session and that we should be asked to pass the Bill through all its stages within the very limited time at our disposal between now and the date of Prorogation.
Some hon. Members today have laid stress on the principle of reciprocity. They have argued that if we grant these concessions, privileges or immunities in this country, we should at the same time be granted equal immunities and privileges in the other countries affected by the Bill. But there is not, perhaps, quite so much in that argument as may appear at first sight, because it is, surely, unlikely that British troops would be stationed in countries who are parties to the North Atlantic Treaty arrangements to anything like the same extent as the other countries may have troops stationed here. In any event, there is no reference whatever in the Bill to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Furthermore, it is possible by Order in Council to extend to other countries, whether in N.A.T.O. or not, the immunities that are to be conferred by the Bill.
Some argument has been adduced about civilian components. I snatch at one straw of comfort in connection with the Clause that deals with civilian components. That comfort is derived from the fact that the consent or agreement of the Secretary of State is essential before any particular individual can be classified or graded as a civilian component. That at least gives the Secretary of State, and, through him, the House, the means of exercising some control in that regard, because Clause 10 (2) makes it quite clear that the Secretary of State has to signify that the entry on the passport has been noted and approved by him. To that extent, the danger of having a large and uncontrolled number of civilian components is removed. The 608 Secretary of State will, I have no doubt, exercise sufficient care to ensure that no person is classified or graded as a civilian component unless it is really essential to do so.
Another concession, if such it may be called, which strengthens our control, or the control of the Secretary of State is in relation to the rights of coroners. If Clause 7 is studied, it shows that a coroner can be compelled or directed by the Secretary of State to hold an inquest upon a deceased person, even if that deceased person had a relevant association with the visiting force.
In that respect we do not completely surrender all our legal controls, because the right still remains in the Secretary of State to require the British coroner to hold an inquest even if the deceased person had a relevant association with the visiting force, which, I understand, would include not only a person serving in the visiting force, but also a civilian component who must be regarded as having a relevant association with it.
It is possible that an inquest may have to be held on two deceased persons, one of whom is a member of a visiting force and the other a British subject. Surely it would be fantastic if the circumstances relating to one person should be within the jurisdiction of the British coroner and those of the other deceased person should be excluded and not subjected to the necessary inquiries.
Although there are crumbs of comfort to be derived from the Bill as stands, what causes me most disquiet is Clause 11 (4), which attaches tremendous weight to the certificate that may be issued by the commanding officer of a visiting force saying that the alleged offence was committed in the course of duty. That certificate, it appears to me, will be quite unchallengeable. I should have liked some reservation to have been made of the same kind as is made in the other cases to which I referred, allowing some kind of residual power to remain in the hands of the Secretary of State, which of course he would not exercise except in very serious circumstances, but which would enable him to minimise or reduce the conclusive character of the evidence that may be provided by the certificate issued under this Clause.
In connection with deserters, it appears to me, another danger arises. Not only 609 is the deserter to be subjected, as is quite right, to the jurisdiction of the visiting force of which he is a member, but it may well be that the person harbouring the deserter will also render himself—or probably herself—liable to some unspecified penalties, not at the hands of the British court but at the hands of the disciplinary organisation that may exist for the purpose of dealing with these offences within the visiting force itself. It may therefore happen that in connection with some proceedings about a deserter some British subject may also be involved and have no redress whatsoever, or perhaps no right of trial in a British court.
§ The Attorney-General indicated dissent.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I hope the Attorney-General will be able to remove my anxieties on that point, because it seems to me from his nod of disapproval that I am raising a point which is without validity. In dealing with a Measure of this kind one has to be sure that whatever doubt of anxieties do exist may be removed at the earliest moment so that it may not be necessary at a later stage to introduce amending legislation.
In the course of his speech introducing the Bill, the Home Secretary referred, among other things, to the requisitioning of land for the use of visiting forces and said that this right will be exercised, not by the visiting forces, but through the appropriate British authorities. I take it that when he referred to requisitioning of land he also meant billeting.
It is not sufficient to have the right to requisition land and open spaces when circumstances may arise in which it becomes necessary to billet foreign troops in premises in this country. If I interpreted the Home Secretary aright, the billeting process would be effected by the local British police authorities in the same way as it is exercised by them when it becomes necessary to billet British troops in any particular area when any emergency arises.
I hope that the Government will not take it amiss if in the course of the Committee proceedings a very careful scrutiny has to be made of the various Clauses of this Bill, because it raises very serious questions. Years ago when I studied law one of the most important concepts was the rule of law in this country. It now seems that when this Bill goes on the 610 Statute Book we shall not have the rule of law but the rule of several laws operating side by side and, possibly, sometimes conflicting with each other. A situation will arise in which we shall have a conflict of laws, not as between this country and another, but a conflict of laws within our own country. In recent days there has been talk of alleged parties within parties. This Bill may well establish a new kind of imperium in imperio, which is always likely to create difficulty from time to time.
I readily concede that, by virtue of the international situation, by virtue of our commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and by virtue of the Agreement we are proposing to ratify, some form of legislation on the lines now under discussion may become necessary. But I want to associate myself with the plea which has been made by my hon. Friends that this Bill should be most carefully examined and should not be allowed to go beyond the bounds of what is absolutely essential. In other words, all that we ought reasonably to be expected to do is to make the minimum inroads upon our present system of law consistent with our obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
§ 1.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
Probably on all sides of the House it is deplored that this debate should have been so much left to the Opposition benches. I think it very unfortunate when we are entering, as a permanent system of law, into a departure—whether desirable or not—from what has been for at any rate a thousand or so years the accepted principles of English law, when hon. Members opposite, who have taken such trouble to return to the House so many far more distinguished lawyers than are to be found on this side of the House, that all of them should have remained dumb on this particular matter.
It is a particularly unfortunate circumstance, because this is a discussion of a matter which is not a party matter and which really is not a national matter either. When we have a situation in which the troops of another country are quartered on our own territory, the problems with which this Bill attempts to deal inevitably arise, irrespective of the nationality of the sending country.
611 It would be foolish for us to disguise in this House the fact that this Bill in the main deals with American forces. The question and the problems do not arise because they happen to be citizens or soldiers of the United States. They arise because when people are moved from home environment, from the area where they are subject to all sorts of personal restraints and they are in a country which is to them a foreign country they behave in a different way from that in which they behave in their own country. That is an obvious thing which we come across if we study the behaviour of British tourists abroad or people on shipboard. Once out of their own milieu people behave, irrespective of their nationality, in a different way.
They are subject to more difficulties and temptations if they are either in a situation where their income, as probably in the case of American troops, is greater than the social income of those among whom they are living or if they are in the position of troops whose income is lower than that of people among whom they are living. Each of these conditions is inclined to produce a series of offences which involve them in this way or that with the civilian life of the country in which they are living.
For example, in the case of our own troops in Greece we had great difficulty one way and another because of the situation in which those troops found themselves. There was the comparative poverty of the people among whom they lived and the opportunities which that gave when the troops had a greater supply of rations and cigarettes than was possessed by the ordinary person. It naturally led to the sort of offences which would not arise normally in this country at all. Exactly the same soldier who would never have committed an offence in his own country was perhaps tempted to commit one because of the different circumstances in which he found himself abroad. Therefore, this is a problem which should be looked at on these lines and one should be careful in anything that one says to avoid any charge of anti-Americanism. But that does not absolve the House from looking fairly and squarely at the problem.
I am one with my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) in 612 deploring the necessity for this act at all. I should like to see a situation arise when these powers would not be in any sense necessary, but that is not a subject for discussion today. We are not engaged in discussing the whole series of relations and of foreign affairs which have resulted in the necessity for introducing the Bill. We are concerned now with the much narrower point, having the situation in which we have foreign troops on our own soil, of what is the best and most effective method of dealing with the problems which are bound to arise.
I should have thought that on the whole in order to allay what are very often quite unjustifiable rumours a different course would have been preferable. Particularly in the case where troops have a higher standard of living and more money than their English fellows with whom they are on equality there always arise certain feelings of jealousy. These things are bound to arise, and they arise in regard to British troops in other parts of the world in exactly the same way. If I may use an expression which sometimes falls from my legal colleagues, a priori it will be better to have them both under the same system of law, because there is obvious equality if they are answerable to the same tribunals.
Unfortunately, owing to calls on my time which have arisen from the previous debate in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary and I were engaged I have not been able to hear the whole of the debate, but I had the good fortune to hear what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in his comprehensive and very able review of the Bill.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not deal with the point of why the Bill was necessary at all. He assumed that if one has military forces here and if they commit a civilian offence in this country they must be tried by their own authority. Why should that be so? Why should not jurisdiction be limited in exactly the same way as is the jurisdiction of a British court-martial over a British soldier? There may be an extremely good reason why that is so, but it is a point which ought to be dealt with.
Then if one goes from that aspect of the matter one sees the net widening and widening. There are two difficulties and two dangers which when we come to 613 what I hope are going to be very exhaustive and very full examinations of this Bill in Committee we shall be able to deal with on the Clauses where those questions arise. They are both as to the widening nature of offences subject to court-martial by a certain country and as to the widening net of persons.
It is unfortunate that in every country there are always refugees or persons who do not desire to return to their own country. There are in the United States considerable numbers of people who, while they retain British nationality, are never really intending to return to Great Britain. In the same way there may be citizens of the United States like T. S. Eliot—who now, of course, has taken out British nationality—or like Henry James in the past, distinguished United States citizens who have made their homes in this country.
In the first place, when one introduces foreign jurisdiction into this country one does not want to make it possible for a foreign country suddenly to call up citizens of that country who are residents abroad. It is a very undesirable practice that either ourselves in the United States or the United States over here, or—if one likes to take it as an example—Pakistan in relation to people of Pakistan origin who may be living in this country, should be able to mobilise those people and call them up. It is undesirable that a country should be able to say, "We should like you to arrest Mr. So-and-so as a deserter. It is true that he is 70 years of age, but we thought he could perform useful service in the forces and we called him up and he has not obeyed his posting order."
That was not thought of by the people who framed legislation. It is not machinery for the arrest of citizens which could not be done previously under the mutual arrangements which foreign countries have now. That is the kind of point against which we should guard when dealing with legislation and we should make certain that nothing of that sort takes place. When we talk of armed forces they are those sent from the sending country and not those recruited in the country where the armed forces are at the moment.
There is one point concerning the United States which I deplore particularly, for we and the United States have so much in common in law. So 614 many of our legal principles are in common and, indeed, so much research on the theory of Englsh law has been done in United States universities and so much of our law marches side by side that it is unfortunate that we cannot combine a tribunal to try people who are engaged in what is, after all, an allied and common effort.
First, we want to make absolutely certain that we do not allow, particularly where it relates to British people, any suggestion or difficulty to arise and any feeling that there is an injustice being done in the home country, because the trial is taking place under a tribunal other than that in which justice would be done where the person allegedly guilty was not the subject of a foreign country. We must also see that equal justice is done to the visiting soldier. That is an aspect of the matter which is often forgotten. Because we are dealing with a foreign country there is often a degree of harshness when dealing with the visiting soldier which would not have occurred had the offence taken place in the country of origin.
I do not know whether the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General has read what I thought was one of the most extremely moving books about the war, written by Nevil Shute and called "The Chequer Board". If either has read it he will remember that it deals with four or five people in an aircraft which is in some way shot down. These people turn out to be persons who are awaiting trial or under sentence. One is an American negro who had been sentenced in relation to an offence against some girl.
The whole thing had arisen—and it is most effectively and dramatically described—merely by an attempt on his part to be friendly and, on the other side, the failure to understand his method of approach and his expressions and the way he was doing things. Thirdly, there is the determination of the authorities to make an example of somebody in a case of this sort.
One does not want to see that sort of thing happen in any country, least of all in our own. If I may turn the matter round the other way, in securing reciprocal legislation we must be careful that we do not introduce in another country the social prejudices we show when 615 dealing with a citizen of our own country in relation to a citizen of that foreign country. One of the very great dangers is that we often approach legal problems with preconceived ideas and apply those ideas in our administration of justice—or we may appear to do so. These are one or two general considerations which I hope we shall be able to deal with in a little more detail when we come to consider the matter at a later stage.
I would ask the Attorney-General, if he is to reply to the debate, whether he can deal with the question of exactly what similar reciprocity we may expect elsewhere in regard to this matter if we pass this Bill. I know he says that these rules will apply generally in regard to the N.A.T.O. countries. One of the countries which, I suppose, is not a N.A.T.O. country but is under N.A.T.O. influence is Japan; but when we regard the way in which British sailors are treated in Japan it would seem that this reciprocity is not going into the particular quarters where one expects it to go.
I do not know how one is to deal with occupied territories, where obligations exist after the signing of a peace treaty; but we have done just as much in regard to Germany as we have done in regard to ratifying the Treaty with Japan. I am at one with other hon. Members on this side of the House who deplore that premature event, and we ought to know what is going to be the position in Germany and other similar countries. As I understand the position of Germany, while it is to be associated with us for all sorts of purposes it is not to be a N.A.T.O. country.
Are we to allow German courts to arrest and imprison our Service men, as the Japanese have done, for alleged offences against them—our ex-enemies? Is that to be the position? Before we pass this sort of Bill we ought to make certain what reciprocal arrangements we are to get elsewhere.
Let us consider the N.A.T.O. countries proper. We have very few troops quartered in the United States of America. There may be a few marines outside the British Embassy. Supposing a clerk in the service of the Military Attaché is going to New York in a motor 616 car in the course of his duty and is involved in a traffic accident, is he to be court-martialled in the United States or is that not to apply in practice except in cases where there are large bodies of organised troops? There are military personnel in all N.A.T.O. countries. Signals officers are employed, in small numbers, in most embassies. There are a few naval personnel. Then there is the staff of the Navy or Air Attaché. Supposing the Attaché's batman goes to buy a button at the request of his officer and is involved in an altercation with a shopkeeper, does that arise in the course of his military duty?
§ Mr. Bing
These are people who are very often not on the diplomatic list. The men who are engaged in the comparatively ordinary tasks in and around missions and embassies are persons who are outside the diplomatic list, but who may have military status. Are we to have some reciprocal arrangement by which we try these people by our own courts-martial? These are points which are worth while investigating and taking a little time over when a new general law is being set up.
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) and a number of other hon. Members, that there is a grave danger in having associated personnel. The danger arises not in the nature of the personnel and the wide scope that that may assume, because there are various methods of controlling those; but what are the natures of their duties? As I understand this Bill, provided that they are acting in the course of their duty, primarily the right to try them goes to the sending power.
So far as a soldier is concerned that is fairly clear, though it is by no means altogether clear because even in the case of a soldier certain questions arise. If a man who is authorised to take a wagon or to drive a truck takes it in accordance with his authorisation but contrary to what his duty is and runs down somebody the question arises whether, in so doing, he is acting in the course of his duty. That is one of those complicated and difficult problems.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
This Bill solves the difficulty and removes all obligations. If my hon. and learned Friend looks at Clause 11 (4) he will find that the Gordian knot is cut by the ipse dixit of whoever happens to be commanding the relevant unit at the moment.
§ Mr. Bing
I appreciate that. I was coming to that point. We are told that that is to happen quite irrespective of what view we may take whether or not a man is on duty and what removal of civil remedy it may result in. So far as a member of the Regular forces is concerned there is at any rate somebody to whom one can go and say, "This man was on duty," and there is some method of justifying it by saying that the course of his duty is driving a truck. It may be said, "He took the truck without permission but we nevertheless consider that he was still on duty."
Let us consider the position of a man who is properly accredited to the military forces—certainly a man who is always accredited to them in the case of many military forces—a journalist. Journalists are always accompanying the armed forces. What do they do in the course of their duties? It is a hypothetical case, but if I may put a hypothetical case to such a strong bench as this we may get a solution to the problem.
Harking back to our discussion a few days ago, an American journalist goes to an English public-house to see if the allegations made in relation to English beer are or are not true because he feels that it is his duty, in relation to the visiting forces, to give them a full and ample account of what particular beers they should or should not drink. In the course of doing this he meets a director of a brewery company and they get into an altercation, and one strikes the other.
Is that an act in accordance with his duty? What is he doing there? He is carrying out his work as a journalist. But, of course, one does not need to take anything like such fanciful cases as that to know that when dealing with people associated with forces it is quite impossible to say what their duties are, because the only people in a position to judge that matter are the persons themselves. Therefore, one is putting individuals in the position of being able to say, "If I 618 am to be tried I am entitled to choose my own tribunal, because I was on duty at the time and the assignment I received when I left the United States was to do this."
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may say that all this is far-fetched. That may well be so, but one ought always to remember that all the things that have gone wrong with the law have always been things which when discussed in the House of Commons people have thought were too far-fetched to discuss. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember the various assurances given by one of his predecessors as Attorney-General on the subject of the Official Secrets Act. I think I am right in saying that they were given by Lord Hewart, the late Lord Chief Justice, when Attorney-General. When it was suggested that the Act might be used to attack the position of journalists to secure from them particulars of how they had obtained their information, Lord Hewart when Attorney-General said the whole thing was so absurd that it was not worth the time of the House discussing it.
Yet—I think I am right in this, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—when Lord Hewart sat on the Bench as Lord Chief Justice and a case arose in this particular matter, he very rightly said that what was said in regard to the interpretation of the Act in the House of Commons was not law and that it was his duty to interpret the Act as it was, and, of course, as the Act stands that is quite possible and proper under it.
Therefore, it would be wrong if we did not explore the possible ways in which an Act may be administered by Ministers none of whom is sitting on either of the two Front Benches now. If we are enacting permanent legislation of this sort we ought to look carefully at it, and that is all I am inviting the House to do.
I regret that so many hon. Members opposite who could contribute so much more than hon. Members on this side of the House have, except for one contribution from Northern Ireland, left it to hon. Members on this side to raise these points. We have had no contribution from hon. Members on the Conservative benches, not one single contribution from anywhere in Great Britain otherwise than 619 from the Government Front Bench, not one contribution from the party which, after all, rules this country at the moment.
It really is a matter for some comment that not one hon. Member on the benches opposite can be found to make any comment on a Bill which, for good or ill, alters the whole system of law as we have known it in this country and makes permanent a war-time arrangement. I hope we shall get a speech from at least one hon. Member opposite on a matter which, after all, is of great practical importance and may be of great practical importance to the people of this country.
I know that many of my hon. Friends intend to look very carefully at this Measure and are to put down Amendments which, in the public interest, they think should be put down. I only say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I hope he will provide ample and convenient time for discussion of these Amendments and will not feel that the rights of the people of Great Britain, since no hon. Member on his side was prepared to speak for them, can be properly discussed at three or four o'clock in the morning, and that he will approach this matter with some sense of the importance of the Measure on which we are engaged and will give not only to hon. Members on this side but also to hon. Members opposite, who may have some valuable suggestions to make, an adequate opportunity of putting them forward.
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
When we have visiting troops in a country we are always in a very difficult position because to grant anybody within national territory extra-territorial rights creates a sense of very real resentment. I have here the identity card of a British officer in Egypt. The first paragraph says:Immunity. Under the provisions of the Convention, Article 9, of the Treaty of Alliance with Egypt no member of the British Forces in Egypt should be subject to the criminal jurisdiction of the courts of Egypt nor does the criminal jurisdiction of those courts apply in any matter arising out of his official duties.That is very much what we are saying in this Bill, and I think we all realise the real resentment which that state of affairs created among the Egyptian people. Therefore, where above everything one 620 desires good relations between the receiving State and the visiting forces—because, after all they are allies, and the smooth working of that alliance is what our future and our safety depend on—one has to be very careful in granting extra-territorial rights knowing what resentment they are apt to create.
But none the less, on balance, I believe it is the right thing to do, because if one did not do it one would have to exercise criminal jurisdiction in respect of such visitors. If one wants an example one can look at the resentment caused when Japan did that very thing in the case of two British sailors. I do not know the facts of that case, or whether the men were guilty or not. They were charged with having robbed with violence a taxi driver, and if that charge was correct the sentence would certainly not appear to be excessive. Yet it caused very great resentment. That is the dilemma with which one is faced.
Again, I think we have to realise that if an offence is committed by a visitor against the laws of a country, that offence is all the worse for that very reason. The man has not only offended against the law of the country in which he is a guest; he has injured the reputation and discipline of the Forces of which he is a member. But that circumstance of aggravation is not one with which a domestic court could deal. It is one which should probably be taken cognisance of by the military court.
Therefore, on balance, I feel—and it is a difficult decision to take—it is right to give the criminal jurisdiction to the military authorities who are sending the troops here. But I do not feel that this Bill is the right way to do it. I am not a bigot on constitutional matters.
I think there are times when one has to modify normal constitutional rights in order to meet the practical needs of the situation, but I think that one should be very careful indeed never to modify constitutional rights to any greater extent than the actual needs of the situation require, and when one modifies the constitutional rights of individuals and citizens one should do it with precision. That is just what this Bill does not do. It makes modifications which are far wider than are required by any existing practical necessity, and it does so in terms which are very vague and ill defined.
621 The N.A.T.O. Agreement is far too wide to operate as the working agreement between any two members of N.A.T.O. That, I think, is perfectly clear from the very full and lucid opening speech of the Home Secretary. The N.A.T.O. Agreement does no more than as between governments indicate the rules within which particular agreements between each State must be worked out; and those particular agreements, as the Home Secretary explained, with regard to civil liability, ex gratia payments, various claims to be dealt with, have been worked out or are in process of being worked out with the Americans.
With each N.A.T.O. country where this Agreement is going to be applied in practice there will have to be negotiations, and there will have to be negotiations in the light of the law of the visiting country and of the law of the receiving country. Those two systems of law have got to be co-ordinated to cover the situation visualised in the general N.A.T.O. Agreement.
It is, in my view, those particular agreements, and not the general Agreement, which ought to be brought before this House to be given statutory force, because the particular agreements are precise and will have to be precise, and it is the particular agreements which will in fact affect the rights of individuals.
I would, therefore, say to the Government, "Take away this general Bill. You do not need it. The general N.A.T.O. Agreement is agreement between governments and can stay as agreement between governments. It is unnecessary to give that statutory force because you need not apply that to individuals. What you want to apply to the individuals is a particular agreement which, within the framework of the N.A.T.O. Agreement, you come to with each participating nation, and that precise agreement can be brought to this House."
Look at the first Clause of this Bill. It says:(1) References in this Act to a country to which a provision of this Act applies are references to—(a) Canada.In Canada we have two systems of law, one British and one French. [Interruption.] Does someone say that is wrong? Surely, the Province of Quebec operates 622 French law? The domestic law in Quebec is French. The Clause goes on to mention Australia, operating a system which is based on the British Commonwealth's and New Zealand the same, and then we have the Union of South Africa, with Roman Dutch law. Then we have India and Pakistan which, in so far as its common law is concerned, has it as such based upon English law; but with a criminal code which is entirely their own. And there is Ceylon, again Roman Dutch.
With each of these countries in practice, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, one will have to work out a working agreement whereby the two codes are brought into line for the purposes of this Bill—and the discipline of the respective forces. When we come to these particular agreements under which this general N.A.T.O. Agreement will in fact be operated, then we shall know with precision what constitutional rights we have to sacrifice, and the position of the individual will be clear, instead of being left to general empowering Clauses which necessarily give vague rights because they are designed to cover situations which have not yet arisen. I say, when we are inveighing constitutional rights, "Wait until the situation is crystallised in a particular agreement, and bring that particular agreement for legislative force."
That is the general objection which I have to the way in which this Bill deals with a difficult and necessary situation, but there are a few particular queries which are really in the nature of Committee points which I should like to raise, particularly as I understand the Attorney-General is to reply. First with regard to Clause 4. It provides:(1) Without prejudice to the last foregoing section, where a person has been tried by a service court of a country to which this section applies in the exercise of the powers referred to in subsection (1) of section two of this Act, he shall not be tried for the same crime by a United Kingdom court.And then the next subsection provides that where he has been convicted of what is substantially the same act the sentence which he has received for that act should be taken into consideration.
The question I would put to the Attorney-General is, can Clause 4 (1) ever operate? Because if the man be tried 623 for murder—to take an example—contrary to the peace of the United States, there is in law a different crime from murder contrary to the peace of the United Kingdom; and, therefore, always an offence against foreign law is a different crime from an offence against English law, and subsection (1), I do not think, will ever operate: every occasion would fall within subsection (2). It is a close point, and it is a Committee point; I just raise it so that it can be considered before the Committee.
Another question which has arisen is with regard to Clause 8. Clause 8 is applying the law as it exists between the citizen and the English Army to the relations between the citizen and the visiting army. Now, broadly speaking, that law is the Army Act and the Air Force Act. A Select Committee of this House is now considering those two Acts. Ought we not, while we are about it, to consider what Amendments of those Acts are necessary to make them applicable to visiting forces? Is not that really what is required? We have extended the time for the Army and Air Force Annual Act up to the end of July.
I imagine that the new Act will be the leading Bill this coming Session, and will probably contain some 200 Clauses and occupy 20 or 30 days on the Floor of the House. It is a very big Measure indeed. In that event, would it not be simpler to extend the review we are making of the Army and Air Force Acts to cover the presence of visiting forces which we anticipate—at least, I hope we anticipate—for a very long time within this Atlantic alliance? That again is a suggestion which I make.
There is one other small point I wish to make about the Agreement. It was opened, but I am not quite sure whether it is strictly in order on the Second Reading of the Bill, because this is a Bill to implement the N.A.T.O. Agreement. Although the Bill does not touch it at all, the Agreement covers motor driving in Article IV, which says:The receiving State shall eitherOne of the things we ought to negotiate with visiting countries—particularly as we work by keeping to the left, whereas most of our visitors are accustomed to keeping to the right——
- (a) accept as valid, without a driving test or fee, the driving permit or licence or military driving permit issued by the sending State or a sub-division thereof to a member of a force or of a civilian component;
- (b) issue its own driving permit or licence to any member of a force or civilian compoment who holds a driving permit or licence or military driving permit issued by the sending State or a sub-division thereof, provided that no driving test shall be required."
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
It would seem that the hon. and learned Gentleman's doubts were justified.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
What I did was to relate the different parts of the Bill to the Articles of the Agreement. That is what I hoped to do, and if I exceeded that the fault was mine.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
If my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me, perhaps I can assist. In the debate in another place a noble Viscount made this most important observation, which I think is very relevant to the subject now under discussion——
§ Mr. Hale
I do venture to submit to you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, because this is an important matter, that the rule is this. A statement of policy by a Member of another place can be quoted at any time, so when we are considering a Bill that 625 has come from another place we can quote from the observations that were made by the noble Lords in discussing it on Second or Third Reading.
I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong in that. Ministerial statements can be quoted, but not the debate in another place.
§ Mr. Paget
I will put myself in order over this matter by saying this. I observe that the Bill which is before us exempts visitors to this country from criminal jurisdiction and from the duty to observe a part of our criminal law. I regret the omission with regard to motor driving, for these reasons. Article IV of the Agreement provides that the receiving State shall accept as valid driving tests provided by the visiting State and driving licences provided by that State. I believe that before we exempt them from our law we ought to have an agreement with each visiting force that they apply to their drivers who are to come and drive regularly on our roads a driving test satisfactory to us, and that they require of their drivers a knowledge of our road code. I believe that that is reasonable and something which ought to be insisted on.
Again, I believe that before we exempt any visiting forces from the law as to the construction of motor vehicles—and, after all, this is a matter of safety, very largely affecting the ordinary citizen who walks about on a road—we should have proper agreements covering the situation. I have here a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport dated 10th July in which this paragraph appears:Visiting forces' vehicles may benefit under the procedure to be extended to them, which they are entitled to under the International Convention on Road and Motor Traffic, like those of ordinary foreign vehicles. Special questions affecting such vehicles will, however, be dealt with in the Visiting Forces Bill.626 I suppose he must have anticipated that the Visiting Forces Bill would be rather different from what it turns out to be, because there is nothing in the Bill to make good the undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport in this letter.
It is highly important to have proper provisions governing the construction and size of vehicles necessary to safety on our roads, the adequate training and testing of drivers who are to drive regularly on our roads, and the proper instruction of those drivers in our road traffic code. Those are things on which we should certainly insist before being prepared to grant an exemption from the ordinary law such as is proposed in the general provisions of this Bill.
There is one other problem on which I would like to ask a question in regard to the general effect of this Bill. I think that its main relevance may well be to the cases of India and Pakistan. What is the situation of the political refugee? According to this Bill, any visiting force can call up any of its citizens once it has issued the call-up, and that citizen becomes a soldier.
Under Clause 11 and the certificate which the visiting force issues, that particular man is a member of his force, and that is conclusive. We cannot look behind it. That, in fact, enables any country within N.A.T.O. which has a political refugee in this country to conscript him for its forces, to require us to arrest him and to take him within their military jurisdiction. I think that is something within our tradition as regards political refugees which we must guard against. In the case of Poland, very striking instances of this sort of thing have actually occurred. It is something which we ought to guard against, and perhaps adequate protection can be introduced during the Committee stage with regard to that matter.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Hale (Oldham, West)
I am sorry that another engagement precluded me from hearing the whole of this debate, but I listened with great attention to the Home Secretary's very able statement of the matter, which was most informative and, I think, provocative, not in the sense which one normally uses that word, but provocative of some thought.
627 We are facing a situation here which arises very naturally and to which there is no very satisfactory answer. No one can complain, if the American forces send large detachments here, that they should ask that their law should apply to their personnel. No one can criticise them about that. That is a view which we should probably take in similar circumstances. The more that one goes into the matter, however, the more one sees the difficulties that arise, and the more one looks at the Bill, the more one sees the anomalies.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) called attention, in his concluding remarks, to one or two points which seem to me to be of vital importance. I had a ruling from the Chair, and I bow to it, that it is not permissible to refer to remarks made in the debate in another place on this matter. I must confess that I was not aware of that rule. I was not aware of it last night when I did quote remarks made in another place, and I am, therefore, a little inhibited in referring to the ambit of that discussion. I must therefore refer in general to these matters and to the driving of vehicles which we have been discussing.
Our law is very complex in this matter of driving vehicles. It seems that in connection with this matter we can first deal with our own law on which we can reach a fair measure of agreement. If an accident takes place on the roads of this country which results in the death of one of Her Majesty's citizens, the first normal procedure is to hold a coroner's inquest. Personally, I can never see what particularly useful purpose it serves; but there is an inquiry held by the coroner who has the power to summons witnesses, and the power to admit representatives of the interested parties. He sits now with a jury, and the jury return the verdict.
It is one of the curiosities of our legal procedure that unless a verdict of manslaughter is returned and the coronor commits a man for trial at the next assizes, that verdict cannot be referred to again in any proceedings whatever. It does not bind anyone and it is of no relevant importance at any further proceedings. If, in the opinion of the police, there were circumstances which involves 628 some measure of criminal responsibility on the part of the driver a case can be brought at the magistrates court, even though the coronor has committed the man for trial on a charge of manslaughter, under another heading, and even if the magistrates dismiss the case he still has to face his trial on the verdict of manslaughter.
Whatever the result of proceedings at the court of summary jurisdiction, a claim can be brought by the personal representatives of the deceased man in the civil court, and in the civil proceedings neither party will be permitted to refer to what happened in the criminal courts, either at the assizes, the petty sessions or at the inquiry at the inquest. We have there the possibility of some diversity of views and some diversity of decisions in all these somewhat complex proceedings. That, of course, is not the end of the matter.
There is a well-known case in which an errand boy on a cycle, making deliveries for a multiple shop, came into collision with a car. The owners of the car sued the proprietors of the multiple shop for damages on the ground that the errand boy was acting in the course of his business at the time of the accident and that he was negligent, and they recovered damages. The errand boy then sued the owners of the car in the county court and satisfied the county court judge that the motorist was to blame, and he recovered damages against the motorist. That is what we get now. We have added to that the question of whether the driver of a vehicle, as a member of a visiting force, is insured.
As I understand the Bill, if a man is killed who is a member of a visiting force no inquest can be held by anyone. The whole matter then becomes one for inquiry by the forces tribunal through their ordinary procedure; presumably through a court of inquiry. There is no provision for the driver of the vehicle, be he a British subject, to be at the inquiry, to have access to the evidence that is given, or even that he shall be represented at the inquiry, and there is no provision that it shall be held in public. In other words, the determination of responsibility and the determination of guilt so far as the visiting force is concerned may be determined in private 629 without the presence of the British subject, and he will have no remedy so far as that particular inquiry is concerned.
The matter gets very much more complex when we consider the not unlikely proposition of a jeep being driven by an English lady with the permission of a member of a visiting force and she is not insured. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider these matters because it is not a question of making up something which is impossible or improbable. These are precisely the sort of things that happen. Who is going to try that case, if there is a charge against that lady of manslaughter or of dangerous driving, or a charge against her of driving an uninsured vehicle?
It may not be an offence against the law of his country for a member of a visiting force to permit or to aid and abet the driving of an uninsured vehicle. There are few countries who impose compulsory insurance, and no country in the world that makes it so grave an offence as we do. This is I believe the only Parliament which has made it one of the offences for which there is a minimum penalty. By whose law is that case to be determined, and what are the arrangements for coming to a determination?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be keenly interested in the law of conspiracy in this country. I suppose no procedure for the punishment and trial of serious crime in this country has been subject to more criticism than has the present law of conspiracy. Figures show conclusively that no procedure is more often used today. Time after time the law of conspiracy is used to bring before the courts the new type of offences, which are offences against public morals or against a sense of public honesty, for which it is very difficult to find a definite legal provision in a Statute which enables a case to be brought under a specific head.
It is the law, though I am not sure that it is a good law, that if two people combine together—to commit even a tort in certain circumstances—to do something in concert which produces damage to an individual and is intended to do a damage, that of itself may be a crime, although it would not be a crime for either of those two to do it individually.
630 This is a useful Bill, and I have no objection whatever to its being asked for by the visiting forces, but we are entitled to know what it means. I am not trying to make a fantastic or academic point; I am trying to deal with the ordinary practical case. The most common sort of conspiracy is the theft of military stores. If we get such a theft of stores belonging to visiting forces it is extremely likely that the receivers will be British nationals and the collaborators will be members of the visiting forces. If we get a wide-scale theft it is likely to be a wide-scale conspiracy between the British and visiting nationals.
Who will try that case? It is a fantastic difficulty. If we say that this is one of those cases—I apprehend that this may be the answer—where the certificate of the authorities will release their rights to try their nationals and the case will then be tried by the British courts, we shall be in a position, which certainly might do very great harm to international relations—where—let us assume for a moment that an American citizen is concerned—an American citizen would be liable to be convicted before the British courts of what we regard as a very grave offence but what, I believe, in America may be no offence at all.
Our law of conspiracy is an exceptional and specialised one. If there are concerned in the case only two persons, one British and one a member of a visiting force, it is impossible to convict one without the other under our law. If one goes free, the other automatically does so too, however much the jury are convinced of his guilt. That is one of the difficulties that we must face.
Let us take a difficulty on the civil side of the law arising out of similar circumstances. I will quote a case from my own experience. Some years ago a policeman was murdered in the course of his duty in the streets of Burton-on-Trent. Curiously enough, the general opinion for some time in Burton was that that was one of the unsolved murder cases for which no proceedings were taken, and the police had to sustain some criticism because the facts were never greatly made public. In fact, a soldier belonging to visiting forces was tried by court-martial by his own forces for the murder and was found guilty and sentenced. I do not know whether or not he is alive to tell 631 the tale, but I know that there was a finding of guilt and an admission of guilt and that the policeman was in fact murdered by a member of the visiting forces.
Then there came the curious question of whether any compensation was payable to the widow and children of the policeman. Under our law there would not have been. There was great difficulty in making the necessary communications, in investigating the matter and in coming to a conclusion. My view is that the authorities acted with decency throughout. We must remember that there would be no claim under our law. Normally we do not recover damages for a civil offence except against the person who commits it. Nevertheless, a claim was made against the authorities of the nation of whose visiting forces the murderer had been a member, and it was not disputed that under their law there might be a legal responsibility.
Under our law a claim of any kind arising from a death in any circumstances normally has to be made within 12 months of the date of death, and, therefore, a formal writ was issued after 360-odd days to place the claim within the 12 months and to keep the matter in order. That is normal procedure in a solicitor's office; having a long standing, difficult case one has to issue one's writ within the limit of time in order to comply with the law and then one can let it simmer gently while negotiations proceed.
But under the law of the nation governing the visiting forces the claim had to be made within 12 months of the accident. Some days ran on between the assault and the policeman's death, and, therefore, the writ was issued a day or two late according to the law of the visiting forces, although it was well in time by our law.
After this point had been taken, I was asked to approach the authorities. They received me with very great courtesy, and the matter was referred back to the country of origin with a recommendation that it should be reconsidered in the light of all these facts, but in the end they came to the conclusion that they were bound by their own law and could not alter it and that the claim was out of time and they could not pay it. I repeat 632 that the widow would not have got anything under our law. Although she failed under a technical point, she would have failed under the main head that there was no legal responsibility.
I do not mention this matter in the sense of making a complaint. My experience in dealing with many cases against, in particular, the American authorities, who have many forces in this country, is that on the whole they have been most generous and most courteous and have done their very best to stretch a point in favour of the injured person when they can. There is no question whatsoever of complaint on those lines. The real point is that someone is entitled to be able to know whose law applies in a certain case, how and when it applies, and how to put it into force. In the present situation it is not possible to say that at all.
Then we come to Clause 11 (1), which is extraordinary. It says:For the purposes of this Part of this Act a certificate issued by or on behalf of the appropriate authority of a country, stating that at a time specified in the certificate a person so specified either was or was not a member of a visiting force of that country, shall in any proceedings in any United Kingdom court be conclusive evidence of the fact so stated.Mistakes happen, and it really is a fantastic proposition that if by some mischance a certificate is issued and the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) is given as a member of the American Forces in this country he is not allowed to change it. [Laughter.] Seriously, if I am not wearying the House, may I refer to a case which happened in America within living memory.
A man was sentenced to death, and in those days in the Southern States public executions were still taking place. The man was brought from the prison to the scaffold. The rope was ready and under American law they had to read out the death sentence to authorise the sheriff to proceed and give the necessary order. When the death sentence was read out it was found that by mistake, miscalculation, absence of mind, or an error of judgment the name of the foreman of the jury which tried the case had been put into the death warrant instead of the prisoner who was on the scaffold. That is a sort of thing which can happen.
633 There was a good deal of argument on the scaffold as to whether the sheriff in those circumstances would be in order in proceeding to hang the prisoner. They decided on the whole that they would not be, and they took the man back to prison. In the intervening days facts came to light which proved conclusively the innocence of the man and he was released. That is only one of many cases I could quote, but it is relevant to the issue before us.
There is the famous case of the tidy-minded sheriff who snipped off a small piece of rope so that the knot slipped. The man was taken back to prison and his innocence was established before they could bring him back to the scaffold again. It is an amazing proposition that we may be bound by a name even though through absent mindedness on the part of somebody, a wrong name is put in by slip of pen, such as a leading personality in the news of the day. Under such a proposition we might see a vacancy on our Front Bench because of something which is irreparable and could not be challenged. There should be a right of correction. As I understand it, the Home Secretary has shown that we have not even the privilege of using the ancient rights which are still part of our custom and part of our law and which give us a chance of challenging these matters.
I do not think that any of us here wish to delay the passing of this Bill. I said in my opening—and may I repeat it in conclusion—that so far as I am concerned I appreciate that these are reasonable requests. I appreciate that if the circumstances were reversed and we were sending large bodies of British personnel to some distant foreign country, we should like to preserve our system of justice, of which we have every reason to be proud. There is evidence in recent events in Japan that the British public feel along the same lines, and the demand of the Americans or anybody else that they should have their own laws for their own nationals when they are abroad seems reasonable.
I should have thought that as this sort of thing can give rise to the fantastic complexities involved in this complex and difficult agreement, then clearly there should be some form of arbitration, or some form of reference back under which there would be a chance of referring to 634 a united body of the two nationals concerned the complicated circumstances or difficult situation which may well arise under such a Measure as this so that they could be fairly determined.
In the course of the debate today reference has been made to a famous case some years ago in which a member of a visiting national force and a young girl committed murder. I remember the then Foreign Secretary, who is no longer with us, saying of that case that the people might well remember in their ferocity at that time that that girl was a year or two before a scholarship pupil in a little village in Wales and was not to be blamed so much as the economic circumstances which were responsible for her coming to London and being employed in these deplorable semi-brothels that are still legalised in the West End of London.
But at that time the public had no mercy. As some well-known person has said, there is nothing so fantastic as the British people in one of their intermittent fits of hypocrisy. Our courts tried that case, and both the parties were found guilty. The man certainly paid the final penalty for his crime. The girl was sent to a long term of imprisonment, and I do not know if she is still in prison or not, but at trials such as that inevitably there arise considerations other than mere judicial matters.
Controversy and difficulty arise, and that is why I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say that he is going to give us sufficient time during the Committee stage to have a careful, thoughtful and impartial survey of this very complex Bill so that we can consider in detail the sort of recommendations which have been indicated in the course of this all too brief discussion, and the chance to produce a document worthwhile which may be a model for this particular kind of difficult legislation in the future.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman himself, in his opening speech of 51 minutes, covering carefully and fully each point, made it clear that he regarded this matter as of some importance and complexity. We do not criticise the substance of the Bill, but we say that it ought to be thoughtfully considered sentence by sentence and word by word so that we shall not commit the supreme folly of 635 passing without consideration a Bill which makes great amendment to our criminal procedure and to the practice of our criminal law. We ought to have a full opportunity of considering the matter.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who has had to leave the debate to fulfil an engagement, would like me to say on his behalf that he is very grateful for the spirit and temper with which the Bill has been received. We realise the seriousness of the principles involved, and I do not think I need add one word to what my right hon. and learned Friend said, and to what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, except perhaps that the mere fact that we are putting forward the Bill as a matter which we regard as essential shows the enormous importance of the whole N.A.T.O. structure. If it were not for the fact that it is necessary to have this organisation and to make it as efficient as it possibly can be, it would never be justifiable to do such things as we have to do under the Bill.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) who put the matter very clearly and helpfully when he said that we were moving in a territory where we are naturally restricted because we are dealing with an Agreement which was made by the last Government, and that we are honestly, properly, and loyally, endeavouring to carry out that Agreement made by our predecessors, in accordance with one of the fundamental principles of government in this country.
Therefore, while we always have the very highest respect for such views as were expressed on the question of constitutional safeguards, individual rights and so forth, by, for example, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), we are bound, in our view, to carry out this Agreement. We are grateful to the Opposition Front Bench for having supported us in that view. Having said that, one must at once proceed to see that nothing more must be done for that purpose than can be shown to be necessary.
I hope that the presence of the Home Secretary to open the discussion today 636 and my own less important contribution at this stage can be regarded as some guarantee that we would not be parties to interfering with any more fundamental rights than have to be suspended, at any rate temporarily, for the purpose of carrying out this Agreement.
I shall not be able to deal in detail with all the points which have been made, some of which were very interesting and ingenious, over a very wide field. They have included matters which I think everybody agrees could not possibly be brought within the compass of the Bill, although they are relevant considerations for anyone to have in mind. We shall very carefully consider all the points of detail which have been raised. I shall mention four or five of them. If I omit to deal with others I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will realise that it it is physically impossible to deal with Committee points today. I would not for one moment like it to be thought that Committee points should not have been raised, because it is a most convenient and helpful way of hearing a point of substance so that we can do what we can to meet it.
There are one or two fundamental matters about which I ought to say a word or two. First, there is the question of enforcement and ratification. I want to try to clear up what may be a slight misunderstanding on that. According to our practice in this country the view has been taken for many years that where we enter into an international agreement we ought to put ourselves in a position to carry it out before we ratify. There are other countries which proceed in a different way. They ratify the agreement first and then either do or do not adapt their law accordingly.
Therefore, the first purpose we have in this Bill is to enable us to ratify the Agreement. When the Agreement has been ratified by us and by others, it still remains for it to be put into force. As hon. Members are well aware, there are clear provisions in the first Clause to that effect. They make it possible for all the provisions to be related to a specific country or for only some of them to be applied in a particular case. We have a free hand in that respect.
637 It has been asked whether the Government cannot give a definite undertaking which will make it clear that there will be reciprocity. I am sure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with me that this is a field in which one has to take with a certain amount of care. If, for example, one were to say, "We will not make this effective until the other country has done so," there would always be the possibility that nobody did anything at all, as in the case of the old story of two people bowing to one another and being unable to decide who would go out first.
The most that one can be expected to say in this matter is that we shall not apply the provisions of the Act under Clause 1 (2) or (3) until we have done everything we can to satisfy ourselves that the other country concerned is going to make it practical. Otherwise, we shall stand there waiting to hand the document over to the other party until he hands it to us with inevitable difficulty and delay. I hope it will be thought that this is as far as one can reasonably be expected to go.
There are several points of a rather more detailed character. One is with regard to the question of the civilian component. Frankly, that is a difficult matter but there is one aspect which I can now make clear. I intervened at an earlier stage, but perhaps it was a little unwise to do so prematurely, because it is necessary to point out that under the Agreement the wives of members of the civilian component or of the members of the Forces themselves are dealt with specifically by reference as dependants. Therefore, unless they were themselves employees they would not come under the heading of civilian components in any way.
The Home Secretary has the power under the Bill to decide yes or no in a specific case whether the status of civilian component should be given. The view has been taken hitherto that this is a sufficient safeguard. However, we will certainly look into the matter to see whether it is possible to be any more specific about it.
Perhaps I may now take in order three or four separate and quite distinct points upon which hon. Members are entitled to have an answer. My hon. and gallant 638 Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) asked, with regard to Northern Ireland, whether an assurance could be given. No difficulty arises there. I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that this is a reserved subject and, therefore, there can be no question of any difficulty in its being dealt with by us today in the way proposed in the Bill.
He asked also about the question of the contribution. This is a matter upon which I am not able to give a definite answer today, but—I do not see my hon. and gallant Friend present here now—I should like to put it on record that we will supply him with that information as soon as possible.
§ The Attorney-General
I am sorry, I had not noticed my hon. and gallant Friend. He is sitting in a different place.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) made a most helpful contribution by putting forward very clearly two or three quite specific points. He dealt in some detail with the question of civilian components, and I should be very glad at some time if occasion arises to have a word with him about it and to take advantage of his assistance on the matter, which he has obviously studied carefully.
With regard to the question of coroners' inquests, raised both by the hon. Member and by several other hon. Gentlemen, I think we may have to look at the appropriate Clause in a little more detail. At the same time, there is the safeguard of the overriding power of the Secretary of State, which, at any rate, gives some assistance.
The hon. Member asked a question about British troops in Germany, and I think that reference was made also to Japan. It would not be proper for me to say anything in detail on that subject because, quite clearly, it comes outside the Bill. So that there may be no misunderstanding, however, I understand the position to be that under the Bonn Agreement members of our forces in Germany will in effect remain subject to our own exclusive criminal jurisdiction, subject to certain provisions making it possible to have a waiver. I mention that merely as a piece of information.
639 I think it was the same hon. Member who raised a question relating to Clause 14 and who referred to the position which arose when a deserter was apprehended. To remove any possible misunderstanding, I should like to make it quite clear that the certificate which is given under Clause 14 is only prima fade evidence. It is distinct from the conclusive evidence under Clause 11, which is another matter. Under the provisions relating to deserters, however, the Army Act is applied and it is necessary for the alleged deserter to be brought before a magistrate, as under the Army Act, and there is full opportunity there of going into the whole matter. Whatever may be said, therefore, with regard to the conclusive certificate under Clause 11, under Clause 14 there is no question of its being conclusive.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I quite follow the distinction between the two things, but if the hon. and learned Gentleman reads Clause 11 in conjunction with Clause 2 he will find that it seems to be in conflict with the interpretation he has given. As the matter is so important, may I direct his attention to it? Clause 2 (2) says:The persons subject to the jurisdiction of the service courts and service authorities of a country in accordance with this section are the following, that is to say,—(a) members of any visiting force of that country;When we look at Clause 11 (1), we find that the certificate of the visiting force is conclusive as to who are members of any visiting force of that country. Therefore, although under Clause 14 the certificate is prima fade and not conclusive, any benefit there might be derived from that seems to be negatived by Clause 11.
§ The Attorney-General
I am much obliged. We might take an opportunity of looking at that.
There were one or two points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) but, with the greatest respect to him, I think that a great deal of his speech was based rather on the conception that the whole idea of the Bill was rather an extravagant one and was it not possible to do it in some other way? Although on Second Reading any hon. Member has a right to air any views 640 he may have on the subject, I hope the House will not think that I am wanting in respect of the arguments put forward when I say that as there is this Agreement and we have agreed to carry it out I do not think I would be serving the House very well if I entered into arguments as to why we should carry it out.
The sort of point about which I think I ought to say a word is, for example, in regard to Clause 11. Speaking purely as a lawyer in this matter, I feel that when we find a provision stating that a certificate of this kind is to be conclusive evidence, however much one may hope and believe that it is almost fanciful to imagine cases where something may go wrong, there is always a possibility that something might go wrong. If it does those are the cases in which injustice arises. I cannot make any promise at all, but I will certainly make it my own business to look into that matter to see if we can produce any better safeguard.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raised quite a number of points. He referred to Article IV of the Treaty and pointed out that that has not been dealt with. That is the question of driving licences and I am informed that it is under consideration. All I can say is that it has certainly not been dealt with in this Bill because it is a matter requiring special consideration. It does not in any way enter into my responsibilities, but it has been left out of the Bill quite deliberately because it requires a separate treaty.
The hon. and learned Member also referred to the Army and Air Force Acts and one fully understands what he had in mind—the possibility of amendments to those Acts and the question then of what would be the rights and liabilities affecting visiting forces if they were given corresponding application. On that I must ask the hon. and learned Member to wait to see the forms of the amendments which we shall undoubtedly have to put down in execution of the promise given by my right hon. and learned Friend in regard to Clause 8.
I think that the hon. and learned Member will find that the form which they will take will be that particular enactments may be applied in a certain way. Therefore, of course, that would mean that if there were alterations in the enactments themselves then there would 641 be a corresponding result when the enactments came to be applied. That is a point which we had better leave to discussion when we see the form of the Clause because I am not quite sure whether the argument will apply in the way suggested.
§ Mr. Paget
A Select Committee is working on those two Acts at the moment. I understand that that Select Committee will have to be re-appointed at the beginning of a new Session. Would it not be convenient to add to our remit consideration of what Amendments are necessary to apply those Acts to visiting forces so that the whole thing can be done in one instead of in two?
§ The Attorney-General
With respect, I do not think that that would be a convenient way of doing it, because after all what one is considering there is amendment in basic legislation affecting our forces. What we are considering here is what is to be done when one applies corresponding provisions to visiting forces. I think that one would be introducing a great deal of labour in addition to what has to be undertaken already by that Select Committee if they had to consider hypothetical matters of that kind. Therefore, I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton will wait for the Clause to see how it affects the matter.
The hon. Member for Oldham, East was always entertaining and raised various interesting questions, but I do not believe that he would really expect me to follow them all up if he were here. I beg his pardon, I see that he has moved his position again in the Chamber.
§ The Attorney-General
I thought the hon. Member had moved a little to the left. He and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton both raised this question of political refugees. If the hon. Member for Oldham, West is able to point out that there are likely to be or may be specific cases which have to be provided for and some sort of safeguard can be justified, that is a matter eminently suitable for discussion on Committee.
642 But his fundamental point is the position of those who are in this country and by some means or other, as I understand his argument, become members of a visiting force although they have not come over here with the visiting force. That seems to me eminently a matter for discussion in Committee. I cannot give the slightest undertaking as to what welcome any Amendment he suggests on that line would receive, but if he has any suggestion of that kind to make then naturally it will be considered on its merits, as it ought to be.
§ The Attorney-General
I am much obliged. The question was raised as to what would happen if two per sons were concerned, one American and one British. There I think that we must assume that the American and British authorities themselves would work together in a sensible and harmonious way and that ways would be found to deal with those cases. There is provision for a waiver in all these cases. We hope that in these matters the American forces, for example, as indeed I think the hon. Member for Oldham, West was good enough to agree, will behave, as they have done in the past, in a reasonable spirit. We must accommodate matters in that way.
The hon. Member is perfectly entitled to imagine these cases. I do not for one second complain or suggest that he is being ultra-ingenious. Such cases may well arise; but where, with respect, he is not being quite sufficiently realistic is in not realising that in these cases there will be constant exchange and contact between the respective authorities and we shall find them putting their heads together. After all, we have our Director of Public Prosecutions, who is accustomed to dealing with these complicated matters. He will have an opposite number on the other side and I certainly think that we can assume that they will work closely together and in harmony.
That is only one example of the whole matter we are discussing today. We have to work out a means of living in difficult circumstances. When we have these forces coming here and behaving in all respects as if they were citizens of this country we must be prepared 643 for difficulties and complications which will have to be eased and solved by mutual respect and understanding. That is only one example of what we are doing in the wider field. By means of this Bill we are making a real contribution to friendly co-operation and understanding between allies who are engaged together in a most important undertaking.
§ Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a passing reference to reciprocal arrangements for our own troops in Germany and he has also referred to a particular case in Japan. It is out of order to discuss that matter on this Bill, but there is a relevant question in regard to its timing. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman explain how it comes about that we are passing a Bill of this kind without any similar protection having been given to our troops in Japan? I realise that both the negotiations on the Japanese Treaty and those which are now under discussion were undertaken by the last Government, and I do not blame this Government for one moment, but something should be done as soon as possible. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman give the House any indication when this matter is to be attended to? Many people will be shocked to know that we are to give this protection to our visitors without getting anything in return for our own troops in Japan.
§ The Attorney-General
I cannot possibly give an answer to a question of that kind. I must point out that all this Bill does is to put us in a position to carry out a treaty which is to be ratified, and it does no more than that. I am not in a position to answer the hon. and learned Member's question, much as I should like to be able to do so.
I must apologise to those hon. Members whose points I have not done justice to. I have done my best to deal with the points of substance and I feel that that is really all I can do today.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Studholme.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.