HC Deb 22 October 1952 vol 505 cc1197-200

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Bing

Earlier, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it was the proposal that until reciprocal provisions were made in regard to all countries other than the United States it was not proposed to apply this Measure in relation to their visiting forces. He also said in regard to the United States that we should pass the Measure even though we have not got that assurance.

As I understand it, that means to say that as we are repealing the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act and Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Allied Forces Act, that there might possibly be some form of interval. I do not know whether there are any such forces here concerned and this may be a purely academic point. But, if in fact the reciprocal legislation is not passed and there is an interval in regard to Dominion forces it seems important if we should hold over them the reciprocal provisions, whereas in the case of the United States the whole thing is in confusion and no one knows whether there is to be reciprocal provision at all.

So far as America is concerned, the Measure is brought into application almost immediately. I do not know if the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks this is likely to lead to difficulties, but I would like him to say a word on the matter.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I do not think the hon. and learned Member need be worried. As he will see by the next Clause, This Act shall come into operation on such date as Her Majesty may by Order in Council appoint, and different dates may be appointed in relation to different provisions of this Act. Assume that a date is appointed for Part I and Clause 1 comes into force, we have, as is seen from the drafting of subsection (1) of Clause 1: References in this Act to a country to which a provision of this Act applies are references to— (a) Canada, Australia, New Zealand,…" and Dominion countries. Then there is the provision extending the Measure to the N.A.T.O. forces and the provision for applying only part of the Measure. The position in regard to the Dominion countries is, as I toll the Committee earlier, that at the time of the 1933 Act they did produce reciprocal legislation which dealt with the position of our forces in the Dominions. I also told the Committee that Canada has already passed legislation dealing with the present position.

The answer to the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman is that as far as one can see there is not the slightest fear of the reciprocal arrangements not being forthcoming in the case of the Dominions that dealt with the 1933 position. With regard to the others, we very much hope that it will be forthcoming. And if the hon. and learned Gentleman analyses the provisions of Clause 1, the Clause we are dealing with, and Clause 19, he will find an extraordinary amount of flexibility has been kept to deal with any of the difficulties which may arise. He will perhaps share my hope that in this special matter there will not be any difficulty, for a great variety of causes.

1.15 a.m.

Mr. Paget

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman take the view that different provisions of this Act would enable him to take Clause 1 subsection (1, a) and treat Canada, Australia, and New Zealand each as being a separate provision so that the Act could be brought into operation, say, for Canada but not for Australia? I should have thought myself that if it is intended to bring it into operation separately for separate countries "provision" was rather an awkward word to use. "Provision" on ordinary construction would have meant a paragraph or a sub-paragraph.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will consider that.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

My hon. and learned Friend has raised a very important point. The impression I formed after listening to the Attorney-General on Clause 18 was that it will apparently be possible to get over such lacunae as may arise by Order in Council. It would have the effect of delaying the repeal, or effect of the repeal, imposed in this Clause regarding any one of the British Commonwealth forces found in this country. I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, with some justice, that the intention has been to leave the position as flexible as possible to deal with such events as might occur in achieving simultaneous reciprocity and such things.

The danger here seems to be that in attempting flexibility, which is very desirable, he is also introducing a degree of complexity. It makes it difficult for people studying this Act to find out what exactly may be the position regarding any one particular Commonwealth force, and to find out whether an Order in Council has, in fact, repealed the legislation referred to here in respect of that force or whether it still applies regarding another Commonwealth force.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he would consider the point, with his usual courtesy and spirit of accommodation. I am prepared, having subscribed to the view put forward by my hon. and learned Friend, to leave it at that.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.