Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 19i54, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th March, be approved.— [Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
On a point of order. As I understand it, an Order has to depend on a live statute. The recital to this Order quotes Section 8 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952. The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, has been passed by the House, but Section 19 of that Act provides thatThis Act shall come into force 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.Now, Sir, as far as I know—and I have taken the trouble to check it—no Order bringing this Act into operation has yet been submitted or passed. It therefore does not seem to me that this Draft Order depends on any statute that is binding on any person, and the Secretary of State would appear to have no authority, until the Act comes into operation, for submitting an Order under any of the Sections of the Act. I would sug- 1254 gest that until he brings in an Order under Section 19, bringing the Act into operation, Section 8—under which this Order is purported to be made—is of no effect, and no delegated legislation can therefore depend on it.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
As you will see if you look at Section 8 (6) of the Act, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the consideration which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has advanced has been anticipated in the form of the statute.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The subsection says:No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.If one takes the matter in the logical order, the first consideration is that this is only a Draft Order. My Motion is:That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, a copy of which was laid before the House on 18th March, be approved.The second point is that there is no subsidiary legislation until Her Majesty in Council has not only had the recommendation but has approved it, and the recommendation cannot go to Her Majesty in Council until the Draft Order is approved by the House. There is the third point, that the House has, in my submission, an inherent right to see that its own position as a legislative body is protected and assured. As the right hon. Gentleman and you are well aware, three Orders have to be introduced before this Act comes into force.
The first is the one the right hon. Gentleman has referred to, under Section 19 (2), which brings the Act into force. The second is under Section 1 (1), dealing with the countries which are affected. It would be a derogation of the legislative position of the House if, by bringing these two into force at a certain date, one 1255 presented the House with a fait accompli under this Order, which is the third. That is what we have tried to avoid by using this procedure, and for all three reasons I have mentioned I submit that we are in order.
§ Mr. Ede
My contention is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman fails on the first point he submitted. Section 8 (6) is not in operation at the moment, because no Order under Section 19 has been brought in to bring the Act into operation. I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman contends that the Act is in operation. Therefore, Section 8 (6) is not in operation either, and it is rather a queer doctrine, coming from the other side of the House, that one can promote delegated legislation on the authority of a statute which is not yet in force. I suggest, with all due deference to the position of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that until he has submitted and secured the approval of an Order under Section 19 (2), Section 8 (6) is not in operation, and therefore no delegated legislation can depend upon it.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to take a bad point. My first point is that this is not delegated legislation; it is a Draft Order. It cannot be recommended to Her Majesty until it has been approved, and we cannot have delegated legislation until it has been recommended to Her Majesty and Her Majesty in Council has approved it. That is my point.
§ Mr. Ede
Why have Acts of Parliament at all? Why not bring in Draft Orders and get along with them? It is the kind of thing that I understood the party opposite were always very frightened of. I submit to you, Sir, that this Act does not come into operation until an Order has been formally made, legally made, and is binding under Section 19 (2), and that until that has 1256 taken place the rest of the Act is not in operation, and that any legislation of any kind that depends for its validity on some Section of that Act cannot have validity until the first Order under Section 19 (2) has been approved. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is submitting his Orders in the wrong sequence, and that before we can deal with this Order there should be an Order under Section 19 (2).
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I should like to support what my right hon. Friend has said. The Home Secretary purported to justify this procedure by reference to Section 8 (6) of the Act, which he quoted.
§ Mr. Fletcher
That Section is not at the moment part of the law of the land. I think the Home Secretary himself said that this Order for which he is now seeking approval is not delegated legislation. If it is not delegated legislation, what is it? He himself said it was something he was bringing before the House because of what is written in Section 8 (6). That is what he said. That is the only excuse he can have for bringing it before the House. Either it is delegated legislation or it is brought forward because of what is written in Section 8 (6). That is his own argument. That Section 8 (6) is not yet part of the law of the land. It may never be. Perhaps no Order will be made. If an Order is made, it may be anulled.
Therefore, the first question is, what are we discussing tonight? By virtue of what are we asked to approve this Order? What is the statute on which this document depends, if any? It cannot be Section 8 (6), because that is not part of the law of the land. What is the basis from which this Order originates? The Home Secretary has entirely failed to put forward any argument that gives the House any basis on which to proceed with this discussion. This discussion ought to be adjourned until an Order in Council has been made bringing the Act into operation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcos Lipton (Brixton)
I have a further submission to make that has not yet been made. The argument that is now adduced by the Home Secretary is invalidated by words of his own 1257 choosing, words he uttered in this House on 11th March last. On that occasion he announced:It is the intention of the Government to bring the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, into operation in the near future. For this purpose three Orders in Council must be made and must come into force at the same time.He went on to recapitulate the three Orders in Council that would have to be made, and at the top of the list he put… first, an Order under Section 19 (2) appointing the date on which the Act shall come into operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 2442.]That means surely that the Home Secretary admits what he is now apparently challenging—that in order to make any move at all in the matter the first thing which has to be done is to take appropriate action under Section 19 (2) to bring that Act into effect.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) based his argument upon the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and upon the fact that this was delegated legislation depending upon that Act. It does not appear to me that it is delegated legislation; it is not an Order made under that Act but a Motion for a Draft Order. It is a matter for discussion by this House, but it is not delegated legislation depending on the Act of 1952.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
That being so, it would be for the convenience of the House if you could give a ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As I understand it, under the Standing Order this discussion must close at 10 o'clock. As you are aware, that Standing Order provides for a discussion to continue after 10 o'clock only on an Order made pursuant to the statute.
§ Mr. Bing
Now that you have resumed the Chair, Mr. Speaker, it might be convenient if we sought your ruling on this point now, rather than wait until 10 o'clock, when the debate might be interrupted. If you take the same view as myself of the meaning of Standing Order No. 1, this discussion is bound to be cut short on the ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker that this is not an Order made pursuant to a statute. It might be appropriate for the Government to put before the House for some general discussion a 1258 piece of paper which they have printed, but there is no Standing Order which permits discussion of it to continue after 10 'clock.
Perhaps the Home Secretary will consider adjourning the discussion rather than have part of it until 10 o'clock and a continuation on some other day. If you could give a Ruling, Mr. Speaker, it would assist hon. Members in knowing whether to prepare the various speeches which they have in mind on this important Measure or whether it is likely that the discussion will be abruptly terminated at 10 o'clock and adjourned to some future occasion.
§ Mr. Speaker
This is a complicated point. I notice that the Order itself does not express itself in the opening paragraph as being made under the authority of the statute. That is quite true. I have not looked it up, but recalling our previous discussion, I remember that the statute gave power for the provisions of the statute to be brought into effect by means of an Order of this kind. I should like to hear the view of the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General upon the point which has been raised.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)
I think the attention of the House should be drawn to Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, 1889, which reads as follows:Where an Act passed after the commencement of this Act is not to come into operation immediately on the passing thereof, and confers powers to make any appointment, to make, grant, or issue any instrument, that is to say, any Order in Council, order, warrant, scheme, letters patent, rules, regulations, or byelaws, to give notices, to prescribe forms or to do any other thing for the purposes of the Act, that power may, unless the contrary intention appears, be exercised at any time after the passing of the Act, so far as may be necessary or expedient for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation at the date of the commencement thereof, subject to this restriction, that any instrument made under the power shall not, unless the contrary intention appears in the Act, or the contrary is necessary for bringing the Act into operation, come into operation until the Act comes into operation.Under subsection (6) of Section 8—
§ The Attorney-General
A little education will not do the hon. Gentleman any harm. Subsection (6) reads:No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.That, therefore, gives a clear, positive power to lay the draft before Parliament and have it approved. That is what is being done this evening. It is covered by Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, and therefore I submit that the matter is in order.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
Further to that point of order. If I may venture to add a footnote to it, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has read out Section 37 of the Interpretation Act of 1889, but the Section he has read out was limited expressly to Orders which were necessary to bring the Act into operation. That would refer to an Order under Section 19 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, but clearly it would not refer to an Order under Section 8 of the Act which is not an Order to bring the Visiting Forces Act of 1952 into operation at all; it is an Order which is made for the purpose of the exercise of certain powers given under Section 8 after Section 8 has been brought into operation. So that whatever may be the answer to the conundrum which has been posed, it certainly cannot be Section 37 of the Interpretation Act, 1889.
The point of order raised by my right hon. Friend was that until the Act had been brought into operation this draft that we are asked to discuss is no more than a piece of paper, with no effect for any purpose whatever. I do not know if the view of the Home Secretary means that we may hereafter be called upon to discuss nicely written out pieces of paper which may, in perhaps 10, 15 or 100 years hence, be useful for the purpose of some Act which is then brought into operation but which is not related to any operative part of any Act at the time we are discussing it. If that is what it means, I suggest that to be asked to discuss a piece of paper of that sort is to abuse the processes of the House.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
You have given a Ruling, Mr. Speaker. Surely it is not proper for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to try to upset that Ruling on a side wind?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I thought you asked the Home Secretary and the learned Attorney-General to indicate their views as to this matter to you. The Attorney-General did so, and I was venturing humbly to raise a possible doubt which seemed to me to arise on a possible misreading of Section 37 of the Act.
§ The Attorney-General
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has perhaps not considered the matter as fully as he might have done. If he will look at Section 8 (6) he will find that is a necessary thing for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation. Unless we apply the law, as the side-note of Section 8 suggests, there will be nothing to operate upon, and therefore it is just as necessary a part of bringing the Act into operation as anything else. What the two right hon. Gentlemen are trying to do is to make it impossible for Parliament to carry out the statute which it has passed.
§ Sir F. Soskice
If the Attorney-General is going to say that, Mr. Speaker, I must ask your permission to correct it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows perfectly well, so does the Home Secretary that the right and ordinary course to adopt is to bring the Act into operation by an Order properly made under Section 19. When the Act has been brought into operation, the next step is to exercise the powers which the Act confers by Section 8. I would not have made that observation with that heat if the Attorney-General had not tried to introduce into the argument a view which, I submit, is wholly insupportable on any possible view of this problem.
§ The Attorney-General
With great respect, I think that I should deal with that. The intention, as already stated, is that all these three Orders are to come into operation simultaneously for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation, and thus one is just as essential as the other. Therefore, if one looks at the matter from any common sense point of view and not from the severely legalistic point of view—
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Further to that point, I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will gather from what the Attorney-General has just 1261 said that he is practically conceding the case that has been made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice). In other words, the Attorney-General has asked you almost in terms to disregard the strict legal position and look at what he calls the commonsense position. I venture to submit in support of my right hon. and learned Friend that your Ruling must be determined on the strict principles of law and in accordance with the strict rules of procedure of this House.
Whilst Mr. Deputy-Speaker was in the Chair the Home Secretary admitted that this Order was not a piece of delegated legislation. In other words, it is not an instrument to which Standing Order No. 1 applies and therefore cannot be discussed after 10 o'clock. The Attorney-General also recognised that when he said that the Act of Parliament is not yet in force—and for all we know it may never come into force. The Attorney-General tried to suggest that it was necessary to pass this Order to bring the Act into operation. That is not so. If the Government want to bring this Act of Parliament into operation, it is quite easy for them to do so by making an Order under Section 19. After they have done that they can also lay this proposed Order before the House. At the moment the Act of Parliament is not in operation and it may be amended before it comes into operation. We are at the moment discussing a piece of paper which has no statutory or other authority at all.
§ The Attorney-General
I must apologise to the House for intervening again, but I am afraid that I read Section 37 of the Interpretation Act rather quickly last time, and perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) and his hon. Friends did not catch all of it. I will read it in part again. The words are, when one is dealing with these matters:… that power may, unless the contrary intention appears, be exercised at any time after the passing of the Act, so far as may be necessary or expedient for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation.…If this is not necessary, it is most certainly expedient.
§ Mr. Speaker
I should like to try to clear this matter up, although I have had only a very short time to study it. It seems to me that there has been some confusion as to what Standing Order No. 1 says. The term "delegated legislation" has been widely used tonight, but that is not used in the Standing Order. The Standing Order refers to… proceedings in pursuance of any Act of Parliament.…Therefore, the matter really comes to this, that the proceeding should be in pursuance of an Act of Parliament and not whether it is delegated legislation or not. That is quite irrevelant and beside the point.
The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, says in Section 8 (6), as a prohibition, thatNo recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament.…It seems to me, therefore, that this draft that is laid is laid in pursuance of an Act of Parliament. It is not delegated legislation in the commonly accepted meaning of that term. It seems to me to be in pursuance of the Act.
§ Mr. Bing
Further to that point, I do not know whether you were in the Chamber, Mr. Speaker, when your deputy ruled on this matter. He ruled that this document was not presented to the House pursuant to the Act and it was because of that Ruling that I raised this point with you, Mr. Speaker. Do you say that that Ruling was given in error?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Member will forgive me, but I thought that what my deputy said was that this was not delegated legislation. As I have distinguished between delegated legislation and proceedings in Parliament in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, I do not think that there is anything in the point.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This occurred before you had an opportunity of considering the point and when your deputy was in the Chair. It is quite clear that in accordance with your Ruling, the business we are to transact must be pursuant to an Act of Parliament. I endeavoured a short time ago to make the statement that to be pursuant to an Act of Parliament the Act of Parliament bad to 1263 be brought into operation and this Act of Parliament will not be operated until Section 19 (2) is brought into effect.
The Home Secretary, when announcing the intention of the Government to bring the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, into operation in the near future said, on 11th March last:For this purpose three Orders in Council must be made and must all come into force at the same time. These Orders are, first, an Order under Section 19 (2) appointing the date on which the Act shall come into operation …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 2442.]There is no Order under that point—
§ Mr. Speaker
I was sitting on the Treasury Bench and heard the hon. and gallant Member make that submission, or use words to that effect, but that does not alter my decision that this Order is in pursuance of an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
On a point of order. Can we be told under what power a draft of an Order can be made under an Act of Parliament which itself is not yet in operation? If the Act is not law, how can the Order be law?
§ Mr. Speaker
I will answer the hon. Member if he will resume his seat. The Act of Parliament is on the Statute Book and it has effect for all its provisions except those which are limited by the provision that the commencement of the Act must be on a future date, but all the other provisions of the Act are of full statutory force. Therefore, I say that this Order is in pursuance of that Act. It is on the Statute Book and has its effect.
§ Mr. Thomas
With great respect, Sir, are we to understand that an Act of Parliament which definitely contains a provision that it cannot come into operation until a certain step has been taken subsequently to put it into operation, nevertheless a Draft Order under such an Act, which has not yet been notified as being operative, is valid and legal?
§ Mr. Thomas
I suggest then, that on your Ruling, Sir, my interpretation is quite right and that the Home Secretary is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must have misunderstood the hon. Member. In my view, the Home Secretary is quite right.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
May I ask the House to descend from the metaphysical realms, which we have all enjoyed being in, and to consider the Motion now before us. It has been pointed out in several speeches and quotations that the Draft Order in Council before the House is one of three which are necessary in order to make the Act fully effective. One is under Section 19 (2), another is under Section 1 (2), and the third, this Draft Order, to which reference is made, is under Section 8.
Apart from the question of correctness, which we have fully discussed, it was, as I indicated, thought desirable that the House should pass its view on the one Order out of the three which is to be laid before the House before the other Orders were made. As I indicated before, if the Draft Order is approved it is the intention of the Government that this Order in Council, and the Orders to which reference has been made, should come into force simultaneously, and there will also be an Order under Section 15 applying the Act to the Colonies.
It is inevitable that the Draft Order under Section 8 should be long and complicated. That is the result of the form in which Parliament enacted Section 8 of the Visiting Forces Act, because that requires that the provisions of United Kingdom law being applied to visiting forces should be set out in detail. Whatever views right hon. and hon. Members have about the various aspects of the matter, I think they will all support this change in the law, because under the law as it stood the existing provisions—notably Section 2 (3) of the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, which was applied to the forces of allied countries in 1940—have the affect that any enactment conferring any privilege or immunity in relation to the home forces is automatically applied to visiting forces unless an Order in Council is made directing that a particular enactment should not apply.
That is a quite general provision which makes everything apply, unless it is excluded by Order in Council. I think everyone will agree that it is far better that we should have a detailed Order 1265 so that everyone can find out what is applied to the various forces. This Order makes the specific and detailed arrangements required by Section 8 of the Act so that Parliament will be fully informed of the precise privileges and immunities conferred on the visiting forces.
I wish to point out that the new arrangements are in certain respects more restrictive to the visiting forces than existing arrangements. There is one example to which I would refer the House again, because of the interest which has been shown in it by a number of hon. Members. It is that Sections 144 and 145 of the Army Act are not applied to visiting forces by this Order, and therefore maintenance and affiliation orders made by United Kingdom courts against members of visiting forces will be enforceable, if payment is not made, by the ordinary process of law.
I understand that the United States authorities will do all they can to persuade their members to pay without recourse to these powers. I have no doubt that in most cases they will be successful, but the position is that these Sections of the Army Act which would have had an exempting effect do not apply.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Yes. All our legislation is intra-territorial except, for example, that which covers British ships under special Acts. The member of the visiting forces is in exactly the same position as any other visitor to our shores. He can be got at by the courts when he is within the jurisdiction of the courts.
I want to say something about the obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement. As Parliament accepted when it enacted Section 8 of the 1952 Act, it is necessary that the laws relating to the home forces should be applied in essentials to visiting forces in this country if they are to be able to carry out their normal military functions here. We have had considerable experience during the past years of the facilities required by our own forces abroad and also of the needs of visiting forces in this country.
1266 I remind the House that the Government are already committed under the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement, which was signed in London in June, 1951. I remind the House in no combative spirit that in June, 1951, the party opposite were in office. The Government are already committed in respect of the more important provisions to be made for visiting forces. The Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and this Order, will enable the Government to carry out their obligations under the Agreement made by the party opposite when they formed the Government of the country.
I should like to give one or two examples and to try to relate them to the Agreement to show how it works.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I shall come to that. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been present in the House when we discussed the matter before, he would know that I had mentioned that reciprocity was one of the most important matters in all our minds and that I said—I think at the instance of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher)—that I was delaying this matter until, in my view, there was reciprocity.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. and learned Gentleman probably does not apply it to his speeches, but it is necessary sometimes to take points in order and to deal with one point at a time. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman finds difficulty in that; but when one is opening a debate it is preferable to do it. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would, for once, take a slight suggestion, I am sure that he would find it useful.
I want to give one or two examples. The first example is Article 5 and the First Schedule of the Draft Order. They make provision by which certain powers vested in British Government departments to acquire land for use by the 1267 home forces may be exercised by those departments—that is the British departments—to acquire land for the purpose of visiting forces. This will enable the United Kingdom to carry out its obligations under paragraph 3 of Article IX of the Agreement, which obliges the receiving State to assume responsibility for making suitable arrangements to make available to a visiting force the buildings and the ground which it requires. I would point out that it was the view of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that paragraph 3 of Article IX of the Agreement should apply, and we are carrying out what they thought was necessary.
The Fourth and Fifth Schedules to the Draft Order provide respectively for the summoning of witnesses to the service courts of a visiting force, and for assistance where necessary in carrying out the sentences of those courts, both of which are essential if the service courts of visiting forces are to function in this country. These provisions are supplementary to Sections 2 to 5 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and, again, they are in accordance with Article VII of the Status of Forces Agreement.
I know that the summoning of British witnesses to a foreign service court is a matter about which the House is concerned. I would point out that under the Order the summoning of the witnesses must be done by an officer of the home Forces, and that the detention of a person sentenced by a service court of a visiting force, who must be a national of that country, in one of our prisons must be under the authority of a Secretary of State or the Admiralty.
I would also remind the House that under the Agreement, and under the Act, though the service courts of a visiting force are given authority to operate in the United Kingdom, members of those forces charged with an offence against United Kingdom law will normally be tried by United Kingdom criminal courts, unless the offence arose out of or in the course of the offender's duty, or unless it was an offence against the person or property of another member of the visiting force or against the property of the sending country.
Another example is that the Order adapts the Gun Licence Act, 1870, and 1268 the Firearms Act, 1937, so as to put members of visiting forces in the same position as members of the home forces, and enable them to carry firearms without a licence. I do not think that anyone would deny to the members of any force which purports to be a force the right to carry firearms without a licence.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Yes. It also enables them, if they wish, to acquire them for official purposes on the same terms as members of the home forces in like circumstances. This is in accordance with Article VI of the Agreement.
There is another point on which there has been interest in the House. I am trying to pick out the points which hon. Members have brought to my attention. I should like to detain the House for a moment with regard to road traffic legislation, because that is a point in which the House is interested. Article 8 of the Order deals with the adaptation, for the purposes of visiting forces, of road traffic legislation. One effect of this Article will be to exempt vehicles belonging to visiting forces and used for their purposes—I stress these words—and other vehicles so used by a person subject to the orders of any member of a visiting force, from the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts relating to compulsory third-party insurance.
This places visiting force vehicles in the same position as our own Service vehicles abroad and in the same position as vehicles of the home forces. When a member of a visiting force is driving a car when not on duty, he must have third-party insurance, and he will commit a criminal offence if he has not.
The Minister of Defence is making arrangements under Section 9 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, by which claims against a member of a visiting force who is on duty when the incident giving rise to the claim occurred will be dealt with by the British authorities; they will come into effect when the Act is in force and the Agreement has been ratified by us.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
This is a very important point. The Home Secretary says that the Minister of Defence is making these arrangements and that they will come into force. May we be told whether the details will be laid before Parliament? 1269 May we have full knowledge of the arrangements which the Minister of Defence is authorised to make under Section 9?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
There is a Question down for tomorrow on that point, the Parliamentary Secretary tells me. As I said, they will come into effect when the Act is in force. The hon. Gentleman will see the answer tomorrow, and if there is any point he wishes to raise, perhaps he will indicate it to me or to my hon. Friend. The last thing we want to do is to prevent him from raising any point or being satisfied about it.
I want to deal with reciprocity, because I know the House is interested and the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church has asked me about it tonight. I would point out that this Order deals only with the position of visiting forces in this country, but I know that the House has shown itself rightly concerned to know what is the position about the treatment of our own forces abroad. It is obviously important that we should not give extensive facilities to forces in this country if our own troops abroad are not to be given comparable facilities. We are all agreed on that, and that is the point to which I am going to address myself.
It will be seen that, apart from the member countries of the Commonwealth, the Visiting Forces Act and this Order are to be applied only to those countries which have already ratified the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement. I have here, and I am quite prepared to give them if the House desires them, the dates of the ratification of the Agreement. When we, in our turn, have ratified the Agreement, which we intend to do as soon as the Visiting Forces Act is in force and we are in a position to carry out our obligations, our forces will be entitled in those countries to the privileges and immunities for which the Agreement provides, and these are the main ones covered by the Order. I should say that many of these privileges are already being enjoyed, by arrangement, in the countries where our forces are stationed.
All the foreign countries named in Article 3 of this Order have ratified the agreement, and I have the dates here if anyone is interested. I am assured that, in those countries, no further steps are 1270 needed to enable effect to be given to the Agreement, except for one point. In the United States, legislation has been introduced to give effect to the provisions of Article VIII of the Agreement—I repeat Article VIII, in case there is any confusion. That deals with claims against members of visiting forces, and legislation is not needed in respect of the remainder of the Agreement.
I should just remind the House here that I made a statement in this House on this point on 11th March of this year, and it might be convenient if I were now to remind the House that I then quoted a statement of Mr. Bedell Smith, Undersecretary of State, which he made to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on 7th April, 1953. He said:The Bill to implement the claims provisions of the agreements has been transmitted to Congress. The interested agencies are agreed that they do not require, and accordingly they do not plan to submit, further legislation to implement any of the proposed treaties.That is an interpretation by the American Government of their own Constitution-which I suggest should satisfy us here.
In most of the countries concerned the act of ratification in itself makes the Agreement part of the law of the country without any specific legislation, as is. necessary in this country. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have performed the somewhat laborious task, as I have done, of comparing the different Articles of the Agreement with the Articles of this Order, I think they will have found that once the Agreement has become part of the substantive municipal law of the country, our troops would not be in a worse position than if an Order such as this were made.
§ Sir F. Soskice
One question on that point is important, and will assist my hon. Friends to form a view about it. Conversely, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure us—I daresay he can—that nothing in the Draft Order which he has put before the House, taken in conjunction with the Visiting Forces Act, goes beyond what is provided for in the Agreement to which he has referred? He has almost said that already, but a specific assurance about it, which he no doubt can give, would assist us to make up our minds.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I want to be meticulously accurate with the right hon. 1271 and learned Gentleman. I think I can go as far as to say that anything that goes beyond the Agreement is necessary in order to deal with the form of our statute law, but it is not a substantive increase. It is an increase necessary from the way our legislation is drafted. I must say that, because otherwise one could always find difficulties arising from a statute which might have a special history.
I have spoken of the position of the United States, and I would like to repeat what I have said already. The United States Embassy have given us an assurance that the United States Government, in ratifying the Status of Forces Agreement, have undertaken to meet the claims for reimbursement submitted to them under Article VIII of the Agreement. It is important, for those who have to meet the consequences of the Act, to know that that is a matter of financial adjustment between Governments. The individual in this country who has a claim accepted will be paid out of British Government funds, and it is the British Government who have to recover from the American Government under the terms of Article VIII of the Agreement.
I hope no one will think from that that if he had to negotiate with the American Government it would be to his disadvantage, but it is good that people should know that they have to negotiate with the British Government and that the British Government make the claim and get the money from the American Government.
I have tried to interpret the spirit of the House as I have understood it on this point. I do not think that the last Government, or any Government, would have designed to approach the matter in a spirit of strict bilateral bargaining, in the sense of seeking to make a separate agreement on the basis of strict reciprocity with each of the countries concerned.
We do not believe that it is the right approach, or that it accords with the spirit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In some countries we have a number of troops. In others, we have few, and it does not follow that countries where we may have many troops will have many of their troops here. At the moment, only the United States and 1272 Canada have substantial numbers of forces here, but there are, and will be, contingents and detachments from other countries from time to time.
I think that we ought to consider—and I am sure that the late Government did too—our feelings towards countries who are co-operating with us in N.A.T.O. as the feelings of different members of a team to one another. We would not expect treatment of these members to vary according to the number of their troops which happen to be in this country or according to the number of our troops that happen to be in their countries. We ought to try to lay down a plan which gives effect to the Agreement that we have made, and which ensures that that is done on any soil at any time.
We have recently been reminded by the celebration of the fifth birthday of the North Atlantic Treaty that we are depending for our defence on the efficiency and preparedness of the forces provided by the countries taking part in that great joint effort. In the detailed provisions of this Order, the Government are providing for the forces of our Allies, who will from time to time be in this country in pursuance of our common aim, and making provision essential to their efficiency in this country.
I ought to mention that the member countries of the Commonwealth, with the exception of Canada, are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We have, however, a long-standing arrangement with them, and I am sure that no one in this House, wherever he may sit, would suggest that their forces ought to be treated in any way less favourably than the forces of our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Allies.
To sum up, the provisions of the Order are necessary to efficient functioning, and I have tried to bear in mind two things —which the House taught me with no uncertain voice—on this subject. The first is that it wanted as soon as possible to get the advantage of the more favourable conditions towards our people and a greater restriction on the visiting forces which this Act will give. But they did not want this Act to be brought into operation until reciprocity was clear.
I believe that reciprocity is clear, and that we all want to see that relaxation and a more favourable position for our 1273 subjects and a greater restriction on the visiting forces within the terms of the agreement. I believe that if we pass this Order and bring the Act into force we shall attain the more favourable position which we all desire.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
This is a very long, complicated and important Order, and is not the kind of Order that ought to be discussed at this time of night. In view of the way in which business was protracted today, I think it would have been better if arrangements could have been made either that it could have been started earlier or that, after the preliminary statement by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it could have been continued and finished on another day.
The Special Orders Committee in another place has more extended duties than the Scrutiny Committee of this House. The Special Orders Committee made a report on this Order a week ago. Its opinion was that the provisions of the Order raised important questions of policy and principle, that it was not founded on precedent, that, in the opinion of the Committee, the Order could not be passed by the House without special attention, but that no further inquiry was necessary before the House proceeded to a decision on the Resolution to present an Address to Her Majesty praying that the Order be made.
This Order arises from an Act which occupied this House for a very considerable time.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to call attention—with the greatest good temper and friendships—to the fact that, in nearly 20 years in this House, this is the first time that I have ever heard the right hon. Gentleman refer with approbation to anything which the other place has done?
§ Mr. Ede
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been in this House for 20 years and at least has learned that when my worst enemies do good I am prepared to recognise it. I only wish that he would sometimes feel that on this side of the House we are trying to help him.
The Order, if it were presented to the House as a Bill, would take a very considerable time to consider, because almost every Article raises most im- 1274 portant points. When he was able to get to it after the points of order had been disposed of the Home Secretary took the trouble to explain the Order to us in great detail, and took a considerable part of the time of the House. We willingly conceded the time to him, because he explained the matter with great care, and also because both sides of the House recognise, I hope, that this very important Order will in matters of military training and discipline control for some time very important aspects of the relations of ourselves and our allies. I therefore hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not think that I am being pernickety if I ask some detailed questions about the Order.
I should first like to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said when the Home Secretary made his statement on 11th March. We would have preferred that there should have been a separate Order made in respect of each of the nations outside the Commonwealth whose forces will have this Act applied to them. We think that that would have been desirable. We could then have considered in rather better circumstances some of the differences which may be involved in the question of reciprocity.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made clear, it is very difficult to draw a general clause that will cover that point, or to be satisfied that in the end we shall receive the same sort of reciprocity from each of the countries involved. The Home Secretary is, apparently, satisfied that he has secured reasonable reciprocity—I put it no higher—from the United States of America, which, so far as forces in this country are concerned, is at present the most important country with which we have to deal. The Canadians are members of the Commonwealth. The United States is the only country mentioned in Article 3 (1) of the Order which has a substantial number of forces here.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has devoted some time to a very careful study of this matter, and I understand from the discussions we had earlier that he received some of his legal tuition in the United States. Therefore, I shall not develop this point, because, in spite of the flattering adjective applied to me by 1275 the right hon. and learned Gentleman earlier in this discussion, I should not like to say anything that might have to be repudiated by my hon. and learned Friend.
Have the Government any idea how much land is likely to be required during the next five years, under the provisions of Article 5 of the Order, to carry out the obligations which the Service lands departments are to undertake when this Article becomes operative? In various parts of the country very hostile comments have been made about the amount of land required by our own forces, and in certain agricultural areas allegations have been made that it is not always the worst land, from an agricultural point of view, that is taken.
This Order provides for a very considerable extension of the demands that may possibly be made upon land, and I should be interested to know the extent to which it is expected that land will be requisitioned, and also the kind of relationship that will exist between the visiting forces and the officers of our own forces who will have the responsibility of acquiring the land which the visiting forces require.
We approve the action which has been taken to secure that the negotiations, as between the land owner, the tenant and the military forces, will be undertaken by our officers and not by those of a visiting force, but will our officers have the right—or even the duty—to submit the requisitions of the visiting force to careful scrutiny and to apply to them at least the same standards that are applied by our officers when they requisition land and buildings for our forces? We should have assurances on both those points.
Article 6, which deals with the appointment of special constables, again applies our Acts to further persons, and says that those Actsshall extend to the appointment of persons so nominated to be special constables …Are these special constables to be British subjects? Or can they be civilian persons attached to the visiting forces? Or could even members of the visiting forces themselves be sworn in as special constables under this Article and discharge in this country the duty of special constables?
1276 I am sure that if that is so there will have to be some limitation on the demands we can make on special constables, because, as I understand, a special constable, once sworn in, has to come up whenever he is called on by the chief constable to discharge such duties as the chief constable may wish to place upon him. I hope we can have some explanation of that.
I welcome, in general, what the Home Secretary said about Article 8, and the question of road vehicles. I have no doubt that one or two of my hon. Friends who are particularly interested in that matter will wish to put some further questions to him.
We come to Article 9 which will exempt from rating premises occupied by visiting forces and, I understand, applies to them, in granting them exemption, the same position as the Crown occupies in this country. Will the visiting forces make contributions in lieu of rates to the local authorities within whose areas those hereditaments are situated? The Crown, although exempt from rates, makes a contribution in lieu of rates which generally works out to about the same amount as would have been charged if the property had appeared on the rate book and a demand note had been sent by the local authority. Will that same action be taken by the visiting forces regarding properties they occupy?
We come to Article 11, which brings into effect the Second Schedule to this Order and numerous and very varied laws to which general Crown privilege applies. Similar privileges are to be enjoyed in future by the visiting forces. Are we quite certain that there are no additional safeguards necessary with regard to any of these?
I come to the Third Schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) made a comment about the carrying of firearms by visiting forces. I can well understand that it would be foolish to do other than exempt a man who is on duty, on parade, from any law that forbids the carrying of firearms. He should be in exactly the same position as members of our own forces in that matter. My hon. Friend asked, however, whether this exemption applied only to members of the visiting forces carrying firearms when on duty. Is this exemption limited to that? Or is a member of the 1277 visiting forces, when off duty, visiting the hostelries in the neighbourhood in the evening, or carrying on other off-duty pleasures and occupations, still entitled to carry, for instance, a revolver?
That is a point on which we should be sure because during the war there was considerable difficulty on occasions with the Polish Forces when, at dances, they appeared to have attracted the local young ladies rather more than did some of the native troops and there were incidents which were very ugly. This continued in peace time, as I knew when I occupied the position now adorned by the present Home Secretary. I cannot think that it would be a good thing for it to be understood that a member of the visiting forces was entitled, when off duty, to carry firearms which, if he imbibed too much, might be drawn in circumstances which might lead to very ugly and provocative incidents.
Paragraph 12 brings in the Fourth Schedule which relates to the Service courts of visiting forces. I notice that paragraph 8 (2) of the Fourth Schedule reads:Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing sub-paragraph, nothing in this Schedule shall compel any person to give or produce any evidence which he could not lawfully be compelled to give or produce in any court of criminal jurisdiction in England.That reads, and I have no doubt sounds when read by someone less hoarse than I am tonight, very attractive, but how is the ordinary British citizen, appearing as a witness before a tribunal presided over by officers of visiting forces, to be protected in the exercise of the immunity which this sub-paragraph purports to give him? Will there be a person of British origin and of legal knowledge present to hold a watching brief and to protest if an attempt is made to get from the witnessevidence which he could not lawfully be compelled to give or produce in any court of criminal jurisdiction in England"?I suggest that this is a very important matter indeed and might well be a serious invasion of the liberty of a subject of this country when giving evidence before these tribunals. I hope that the Attorney-General, if he is to reply to the debate, will be able to reassure us on those points. These are matters which appear on the face of this 1278 Order, and I hope we shall have explanations of them.
May I now raise generally the question which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and every other hon. Member knows has caused a grave anxiety in the country and in the House? I want to deal with the question of bastardy orders which are obtained against members of the visiting forces. I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that these can be enforced all the while the member of the forces remains in this country. Once he gets outside the three-mile limit, however, the Order has no further effect unless he chooses to come back. It is true he can continue to make voluntary payments, but there has been a feeling in some quarters, even in the House, that the effect of this Order would be to make the order of the court binding on the soldier after he had left this country and that the contributions could still continue.
I never took that view myself, but hon. Members who have been in the House when this has been the subject of Question and answer will agree, I am sure, that some hon. Members seem to have assumed that it was possible, through this Order, to enforce these payments.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
It was clearly understood the other night, on the Adjournment debate, that this was not the case.
§ Mr. Ede
But I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that certain people have been hugging to themselves the delusion that in some way or other this or some similar Order would put the matter right.
I heard it suggested in some quarters that there might be an arrangement between the forces whereby, if the claim was admitted, the visiting forces, when the soldier returned home, would undertake some form of collection and pass it on. I do not think that that was ever given official blessing, but I have heard it mentioned. I hope the Government will clear up tonight the interpretation of the Order.
I cannot help thinking still that it would have been better if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had submitted the Orders to us in what, to my lay mind, 1279 appears to be the reasonable consecutive order; that, first of all, he would have made the Order under Section 19 (2), then an Order under Section 1 (2), and then this Order under Section 8 (6). I understand that he will so introduce them that they will come into operation simultaneously. Surely the Order under Section 19 (2) has to be at least a few minutes ahead of one of the others to bring the Act into operation?
Although it may not be a very long time, I would still have thought that we have to get an Order under Section 19 (2) before anything else in the Act becomes operative; that is to say, that it imposes a liability on us or confers a favour or imposes a liability on the forces of some country other than our own. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after considering what may be said in the course of this debate, will take an early opportunity of putting the matter right by bringing in an Order under Section 19 (2).
May I say, in conclusion, that we are all grateful to the various countries who are associated with us in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and recognise the joint responsibilities that we have for preserving the peace of the world and for preparing ourselves to resist aggression. The conduct of visiting forces, whether our own or the forces of other countries here, has a great deal to do with the possibility of maintaining and consolidating any alliance that may be entered into. I have always believed, having been part of an army of occupation once, that the ordinary British soldier, a man from a regiment of the line, for instance, is certainly the best example of the British way of life we could send out in such circumstances. If he has any fault at all it is that he is too generous on occasions to those with whom he had been desperately fighting only a few days earlier.
We desire that this Order, and the similar legislation that will be required in other countries, shall be so used by our forces and by the forces of our allies to cement the brotherhood that it is necessary to create and to maintain, if our efforts for the preservation of the peace of the world and resistance to aggression are to be, as we hope they will be. successful in our day and generation.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
This is a measure which, I think the whole House is agreed, is of considerable importance. Indeed, its importance transcends the actual details we are discussing. It affects the whole of our relations with foreign forces which may be in this country for some time to come. Therefore, it is of supreme importance that in regard to our relations with our allies we should consider whether or not it provides reciprocity. I am sorry that the Home Secretary has left the Chamber, because he deceived the House—whether purposely or not I do not know—on this matter and I hope he comes back to hear what I have to say about it.
It is of supreme importance, in connection with our relations with the United States of America, that we should have complete reciprocity. If we have not that reciprocity all that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends are doing is to see that this country is treated in the same way that our party attacked them for years for treating the Egyptians and Chinese by insisting that foreign forces should have powers in our country that we do not exercise in theirs.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he had had a message from the American Ambassador.
§ The Attorney-General
What my right hon. and learned Friend was referring to were the provisions of age in relation to the reinvestment of claims. He said that the other matter was covered by the Agreement.
§ Mr. Bing
That is exactly the point I wish to lay before the House. The essence of these regulations, and of the Act, is that we give exclusive jurisdiction to foreign courts and take that jurisdiction away from our own courts. The Home Secretary—and I hope the Attorney-General will deal with this when he replies—quoted from the Year Book on International Law, saying there was a reciprocal arrangement with the United States. That article was contributed, I am sure, in a well-meaning way. 1281 It was a little note which appeared in the Year Book by an official of the British Embassy. It has, in fact, been repudiated completely by Dr. Barton, of the University of New Zealand, who is considered to be probably the greatest expert on this subject. It is absolutely clear, from reading the proceedings in the American Senate, that the American Government have, in fact, refused to, and find that under their constitution they cannot, give these rights. What the Attorney-General should answer is whether the United States Government are prepared to give to British military courts in the United States exclusive jurisdiction.
§ The Attorney-General
The Hon. Walter Bedell Smith said to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recently that:In the opinion of the United States Government no further legislation was required in the United States to give effect to Article Seven of the Agreement.
§ Mr. Bing
Yes, I am perfectly aware of the position. The whole legal position is set out in the Congressional Record and I will quote from it. It is the exact opposite of what the Home Secretary said to the House. If he misinformed the House on one occasion of what took place in the United States Senate there is a reasonable probability of the House being misinformed again by his colleague the Attorney-General. The Home Secretary said this:The facilities given to the United States forces under the 1942 Act, which, the House will remember, were exclusive jurisdiction in the hands of the United States authorities, were given to us in the United States reciprocally in 1944 by the Public Law, No. 384 of the 78th Congress and contained in the Presidential Proclamation. This reinforces the view I have been given.1282 He continued:Public Law, 384, brought into force as regards United Kingdom armed forces by Presidential Proclamation 2626 of October 11th, 1944, assumes the existence of this exclusive jurisdiction under international law and implements it. That this is the legislative intent is clear from the debate in the Senate reported in Congressional Record for June 22nd, 1944."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1952: Vol. 505. c. 1590–1621.]If one looks at the Congressional Record, it says exactly the opposite, word for word, of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House. Senator Revercomb, introducing the Bill, said:There is no reason why it could not happen, because we are not by statute recognising the existence of the friendly foreign service courts. If they want to try a man and convict him, …there is nothing … saying that the friendly service courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction.He went on to say that this was a purely administrative provision and they did not in any circumstances oust the jurisdiction of the Federal or State courts. It is quite true that people like Mr. Bedell Smith, in endeavours to assist the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the rash pledges they have given, did make statements, but when we come to deal with what was said in the Senate by persons responsible one sees that the position is the exact opposite of that described by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this House.
I think it a matter of some seriousness that the position should have been so misstated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I will read the words he quoted, possibly thinking they were the right statement of the position, from the British Year Book of International Law, for 1946, page 341, and the comment made afterwards on them by Dr. Barton, who is probably the most authoritative writer on this subject. Dr. Barton, referring to the second of two articles contributed by him to the British Year Book of International Law for 1949 and 1950, states:… the author (Bathurst)that is, at the time Counsellor in our Embassy at Washington,offers no proof of his statement. A careful reading of the recommendations of legislative committees and of the debates in the Senate reveals that, on the contrary, the existence of exclusive jurisdiction was not assumed, nor was it considered advisable or possible for 1283 Congress to make such a concession to the members of friendly foreign forces in the United States of America.That is the authoritative view of the position in the United States, but for some reason, the learned Attorney-General thought proper to say otherwise on no evidence whatever.
§ The Attorney-General
The hon. and learned Member has no right to make a statement of that kind. I have already referred to the statement by the Undersecretary of State, and that was made on 7th April, 1953, or seven years later than the time to which he refers. Since I have been challenged, I would say that the Under-Secretary of State said at that time that the Bill to implement claims had been transmitted to Congress, but that the interested parties did not propose to implement any of the proposed treaties.
§ Mr. Bing
But what the Under-Secretary says has nothing to do with what is decided by Congress.
When one looks in the Congressional Record, one must look at what the Judicial Chairman of the Senate says for an opinion of that sort. If I am to be challenged on this matter, I think it only proper for me to give to the House the concluding paragraph of Dr. Barton's letter to the Home Secretary on this very matter; and which was written on 17th August, 1953. Having dealt with the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this respect, Dr. Barton says:I have too high a regard for your high competence, which I have long admired, in the profession to which we both belong, to believe that you could personally be responsible for the statement that you made. Indeed, I gather from what you are reported to have said that this information was placed at your disposal by your advisors. It is a matter for regret that they should have seen fit to resurrect this discredited statement because it must have had the result of misleading the House on what was an extremely important point.I hesitated to quote this until I was challenged; but the House was completely deceived on the last occasion, and what I hope the Attorney-General will 1284 explain is whether there exists any legislation in the United States at this moment which ousts the jurisdiction of the United States courts for British subjects so that they have to be tried by British courts. If so, can that be implemented here? This is no small or light matter, but something which affects our whole relationship with the United States. Are we to give them rights which they are not prepared to give to us? Or are we to make a stand, and say that it may be only a nominal matter that we are asking for the same rights, but we are entitled to them, and why should we not have them?
It is not only a question of people being tried in our courts; it is also that people who come to this country have the right to the protection of our courts. If we deny American citizens, or anyone else, the protection of our courts we should do it only on a reciprocal basis. I say that is not being done by the United States Government; that the statement of Mr. Bedell Smith, in so far as it means anything—which is doubtful—has no validity at all. It is not even a statement made by a Member of Congress.
Every single statement made when the matter was considered for the first time by the Senators in the Judicial Committee of the Senate shows that not only were they unwilling to pass this law, but that the very Constitution of the United States forbade it being passed. Regarding the arguments on which the Home Secretary relied on the last occasion when the matter was discussed, the Attorney-General knows quite well, from the extracts which I have quoted, that they are completely discredited and repudiated in the Year Book of International Law, and that it was unfortunate that they were put before the House.
I hope that we shall have an explanation and an excuse from the Attorney-General and also a pledge that, before any Order is made under this Act so far as the United States is concerned, there will be complete reciprocity.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Colonel J. H. Harrison (Eye)
On behalf of the people of East Anglia, where so many American occupied camps are situated, I wish to express gratitude to my right hon. and learned Friend for his continued work to bring about this 1285 change in the law. Great hardships are being suffered by our local people. One need only open the local newspaper to see that continually Americans are seeking accommodation in the surrounding villages. This means that they have to travel from the villages to the camps by car.
Many of the camps are isolated and the troops visit the surrounding towns and villages. I consider that we have been good hosts to these allies of ours, but civil contracts do arise, and there is also the question of the personal relationships between the troops and the civilians. The change in the law which it is now sought to bring about will be welcomed by my constituents.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
It is certainly a venture for a layman to intervene in this matter and I do so only on the issue of reciprocity. That appears to me to be the most important issue. I recall the arguments that we had over the Bill, and that hon. Members on this side of the House admitted that it was an improvement on the existing state of affairs. On the other hand, that is achieved at the cost of making this very exceptional provision a permanent part of the system of this country.
We on this side came to the conclusion that that was worth doing, and was tolerable, only on conditions of reciprocity. Indeed, the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General have implied that they take the same view. Our deliberations tonight seem to me to turn almost exclusively on this question of whether or not reciprocity has, in fact, been given to us or, at any rate, if the prospect of it is sufficiently secure to warrant us going forward.
I have listened as carefully as a layman can to the learned constitutional arguments about the position in the United States, which, have been put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), and the submissions made by the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General. I must say I have been struck by the fact that so far in the debate the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General have given only one reply to the argument of my hon. and learned Friend, and that 1286 reply is to rely exclusively on the words of Mr. Bedell Smith, the American Under-Secretary of State.
That seems to be a profoundly unsatisfactory assurance. My point is a very simple one—it is a fact which a layman can judge just as well as a lawyer—that from all experience in our dealings with the United States, and all experience of United States procedure, the opinion of a Minister or official, who is not a Member of Congress, as to what Congress will or will not do, is an opinion and nothing more.
We are somewhat disturbed when the Attorney-General gets up and quotes, with some heat, and more emphasis, that opinion of Mr. Bedell Smith—given, I am quite sure, in the utmost good faith—as a conclusive argument which sweeps away all doubts. We have seen statements by American Ministers on other matters as to what Congress would or would not do, and we have seen efforts by American Ministers to get legislation which Congress thwarted again and again.
Nothing is more common in Congress than to refuse to carry out Acts of the Executive. It is an entirely different position from that in this country. When this House refuses to carry an important Act, the Executive falls and we have a General Election. But that is not in the least the case in the United States. Because Mr. Bedell Smith says he is going to propose a Bill to Congress does not give us the slightest hope.
He said it was necessary to have a Bill in one case, and in another case—perhaps the Attorney-General will contradict me if I am wrong—he said that special legislation was not necessary. I would address myself to the point that it is not necessary, in his opinion, that a Bill should be carried through Congress. That is just an opinion, and we must weigh most carefully in this House whether we can pass legislation on the strength of that opinion, and good intention, no doubt, of an American Minister. The Government should give us more substantial reasons than that.
Now I go to the second point and this applies to the question of the proposed legislation. It is admitted that it may be necessary to carry out some of these provisions to the point where Mr. Bedell 1287 Smith says that no legislation is necessary. That, again, is only his opinion and Mr. Bedell Smith, with the best will in the world, cannot assure us of that. The only authority which can assure us of that is neither the American Secretary, nor the American Legislature, but the American Supreme Court.
Time after time there have been instances where the action of the American Executive has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Executive believed that it was acting constitutionally in legislative or administrative action, but sometimes, a year or so later, its action was ruled unconstitutional. There are dozens of instances where that has happened, and a major one like the N.R.A. comes to mind almost at once.
The Attorney-General has quoted us the opinion of Mr. Bedell Smith as though that dispenses with the whole matter, because he is perfectly sure that reciprocity will come about. He argues that Mr. Bedell Smith says so, but our experience of the working of the American Constitution suggests that no such assurance can be given. Surely the Attorney-General has something more substantial to rest his case upon that reciprocity will come about. I hope he will give us something more to justify his feelings than repeated utterance of the words of Mr. Bedell Smith.
What is at issue is that we have the disturbing fact of the quotation given to us by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch that a very eminent constitutional authority says that reciprocity cannot be given to us, and that almost certainly the United States Supreme Court will rule that it would be unconstitutional. I may be wrong, but I cannot see that it has very much relevance to say that that opinion was given seven years ago. The American Constitution has not been amended in the last seven years in this respect, and, therefore, how that affects the matter I do not know.
Perhaps the Attorney-General has other arguments which can reassure us, and if he has I think he ought to put them forward. He cannot rest his case simply on the contentions of a particular American Minister who has had no regard to the legislative action that may be necessary on the part of Congress. What the 1288 Attorney-General has argued about that is very feeble ground on which to rest his case that there will be reciprocity.
If he can assure us that the American Government can not only act but will act in this matter, then we shall feel very differently from what we do now. It is very difficult to say that this House should affirm this Order unless there is some real expectation of reciprocity from the actions of the American Government, and I do not think that up to the present there has been any substantial assurance on that matter.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
The question of reciprocity under these arrangements is fundamental to the smooth and proper working of the arrangements in operation between the respective countries forming N.A.T.O. There are one or two questions, therefore, that I would put to the Attorney-General, to which I think the House and country are entitled to direct and straight answers.
First, can he give an assurance that similar arrangements are in operation in the countries cited in this Order, namely, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, U.S.A., France, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands? We are dealing here with definite provisions which will become legally operative when passed. I take it that the Government desires, as I am sure we all do, that these arrangements shall be in the nature of a two-way traffic between this country and all the other countries concerned in these N.A.T.O. arrangements.
The Government ought to be able to cite similar arrangements in those countries which would be applicable to British forces who may happen to be stationed in those countries. Can the Attorney-General say in what countries of those listed in the Order similar arrangements have been put into operation, or are being put into operation, through the legislative assemblies, and through constitutional channels?
There seems to be dispute about what appertains in the U.S.A. Surely quotation of certain statements by members of the United States Government, or Members of the United States Senate or 1289 House of Representatives, is not sufficient to give the necessary assurance. The only convincing assurance that there is reciprocity would be quotation of a comparable Act operative in America regarding forces from this country temporarily stationed there. Can the Attorney-General quote similar Orders, similar legislation, operating in America and in the other countries listed in this Draft Order? The Minister has a duty to perform not only to this House, but to the country, and especially to members of the British forces who may be stationed in any of these partner countries, and who may have occasion to exercise their rights. If those rights are not valid in law they are of no practical use or substance.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
I would not serve the purpose of the House by a long intervention, and I shall try to be brief; but I am sure hon. Members on both sides agree that this is an extremely important Draft Order. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) subjected the Attorney-General to a prospective cross-examination, if I may so describe it, and asked all the pertinent questions on which my hon. Friends would desire to be informed during the course of his Speech. I do not want to repeat them. I am sure that the Attorney-General, in the time which has elapsed since my right hon. Friend sat down, has had time to ponder these questions. I would simply like to underline them.
§ The Attorney-General
I have not had much time to consult anyone, as I was told that I must listen to what was being said; but I think I can answer all the questions.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I could talk indefinitely while the right hon. and learned Gentleman ponders, but he thinks he can answer the questions so I hope it will not be necessary. We want to have his answer. We are not just taking time over this. We are concerned about a Measure which vitally affects the lives of large numbers of people in this country.
I should like not to go over the ground which has already been covered, but to take one or two points which most acutely concern the ordinary man and woman in 1290 the street. The first one arises more strictly under the provisions of the 1952 Act itself. From the point of view of the ordinary person, that which is most surprising and perhaps least pleasing is the fact that an American citizen can, while in this country, commit grave offences and, nevertheless, not be subject to the jurisdiction of our own criminal courts. We are, by long tradition—as are most other countries—used to the concept that our criminal courts have jurisdiction over all the offences committed within our territory. That principle is invaded in very large measure by the provisions of this proposal.
I quite understand that the relevant provision of the 1952 Act was made to give effect to Article 7 of the Agreement to which the Home Secretary referred, but the Act simply relates to certain specific offences, which are divided into three categories. The first consists of offences committed by visiting forces personnel while on duty, and all those offences are amenable solely to the jurisdiction of foreign service courts. Then there are offences against other service personnel of the forces to which the offender belongs, and the third category consists of offences against property belonging to the visiting forces concerned. Those last two categories are further qualified in the Schedule to the Act. which sets out a whole catalogue of offences with which they are concerned.
They include a very large number of serious offences—murder, rape and that sort of thing. It shocks ordinary persons and is prima facie, surprising to them, that our own criminal courts should not be able to try all persons who, within the jurisdiction of those courts, commit those offences. I presume that the Attorney-General, with the assistance of his advisers, has carefully examined the provisions of Article 7 and compared them with the provisions of Section 3 of the Act of 1952, in order to make certain that the offences covered in that Section are only those which are covered by Article 7 of the Agreement. In other words, does the section of the Act go as far as, but no further than, Article 7 of the Agreement?
When the Home Secretary was speaking I ventured to put the question in a generic form, and he gave me an answer for which I am very much obliged. He 1291 said that the answer, in general, was "Yes," subject to the existence of minor features which could not be brought exactly within the provisions of the agreement. He said that there were some slight divergencies, not of substance but of detail. Will the Attorney-General devote his mind to a consideration of Article 7—because it is upon that Article that Section 3 depends? I hope he will be able to give us an assurance that a precise comparison has been made so as to ensure that the scope of Section 3 and the scope of Article 7 are, broadly speaking, co-terminous.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not think I am quite following the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. This matter was discussed when the Bill was before the House and when Clause 3, as it then was, was passed. It does not arise on the present Order. I cannot say that fresh consideration has been given to the matter, but it was most carefully considered and discussed when the Measure was before the House.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He will now have an easy answer to give me. By refreshing his memory he will be able to find whether the answer is yes or no. That is simply what I am asking.
We have already raised protests about the Order in which these things are taken, and we submitted to the House that we should be in a position of having a general survey over these innovations, and it is not at all satisfactory to take piecemeal first the Draft Order then an Order under Section 19 and then the Act itself. That is why I have ventured to raise my point when we are considering this Measure, and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to turn up the pages of the debate and call the attention of the House to the precise assurance given then—which I did not find.
Closely allied is the question of reciprocity. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was really very touchy with the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing). I could not for the life of me see why he should be so personally affected by my hon. and learned Friend's question. I do not want to recapitulate the argument, but may I 1292 present to him what seems to be the effect, as I listened. Certainly, while the Home Secretary was speaking I did get the impression that reciprocity was complete. I thought he said that legislation was to be introduced into the United States Congress to give effect to paragraph 8, and that, apart from that, all that was necessary was the Agreement.
I was very disturbed indeed to hear the argument advanced by my hon. and learned Friend, who pointed out that there was a very considerable difference of opinion in the United States as to whether or not this reciprocity was possible in terms of American law. Does the Home Secretary wish to interrupt?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It was only on a minor point. I was conferring with my right hon. and learned Friend, and I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman means Article 8; he referred to paragraph 8.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I am very grateful. I hope the Attorney-General will give me as much help as the Home Secretary.
Looking at the position as it has developed, the Attorney-General says that Mr. Bedell Smith has expressed one view, and my hon. and learned Friend stated that a contrary view had been expressed by Dr. Barton, who, I understand, is an authority who should carry weight. We are confronted with a conflict of authority. On the one side we have a recognised American jurist, and, on the other side, an American Minister who makes an ex cathedrastatement which may or may not carry weight. Pronouncements, even by Law Officers, cannot bind anyone. They are expressions of opinion, although founded on research, and there is no reason why Mr. Bedell Smith's opinion should be preferred to the contrary view expressed by Dr. Barton.
I hope that the Attorney-General will not brush this question of reciprocity on one side as he has done hitherto. I hope he will say that he and his officers have carried out such research as is open to them, and I hope he will not proffer the statement of a Minister of the American Government to the effect that Dr. Barton is wrong. I hope he has taken opinion himself, has made personal research, or taken advice from his officers, and feels 1293 confidently that he can assert affirmatively that the terms of the Agreement are by themselves adequate, and other legislation can be introduced if necessary, or if that it is not necessary the simple terms of the Agreement will suffice to bring in the necessary changes in American law to bring about reciprocity.
As a matter of history there is actually a provision in the letter written by the Foreign Secretary to the then American Ambassador, annexed to the United States Visiting Forces Act, 1942, saying that there should, if at all possible, be such reciprocity. That was 12 years ago. That Act contains similar provisions to the 1952 Act, though not exactly the same. That Act gave exclusive jurisdiction to American Service courts in this country, and the present Foreign Secretary asked that there should be reciprocal privileges extended to British troops in the United States.
I know that there were, and are, few British troops in the United States, but can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether, during the 12 years which have elapsed since the 1942 Act was passed, during all of which years it has been in operation, there has ever been a case in which a British Service court has prevailed and exercised jurisdiction in the United States in respect of a serious crime, such as the crimes dealt with in Section 3 of the 1952 Act?
I hope he will be able to tell us that he has researched into that and can say whether or not it is the case that there have been some examples. If so, my hon. Friends would be much reassured, and it is obvious from the speeches made from this side of the House that they are considerably disturbed, having listened to the interchange between my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch and the Attorney-General. I put it to him that the matter has been left in a very unsatisfactory state as a result of those exchanges.
Now I want to pass to another matter which again is one that particularly impinges upon the life of ordinary people in this country. That is the situation with regard to the driving of road vehicles on our roads by Service personnel of Powers which would be within the purview of this Act. The Home Secretary, in 1294 his careful, lucid and courteous exposition of the purposes of this Measure, told us the actual position, but so that I may make perfectly certain, and that those who read this debate may be able to inform themselves, I should be glad if the Attorney-General would check me as I recount what I believe to be the facts as the Home Secretary told them.
I understood him to say that when foreign soldiers were driving on duty then the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts which cover careless and dangerous driving would apply to them. But am I right in thinking that they would only be tryable by the courts of the visiting Forces? They would be offences ex hypothesi by the soldier when driving on duty; so that, if one takes a specific example, supposing a civilian is walking along a street here and a foreign soldier carelessly drives on to the pavement and knocks him down, the foriegn soldier being guilty of driving carelessly under that Act would be triable nevertheless by the Service courts of his Forces?
§ Sir F. Soskice
The Attorney-General nods; I am much obliged. If the soldier is driving off duty, am I right in understanding that he is subject to the full provisions of the Road Traffic Acts and then would be triable in our own police courts and courts of quarter sessions?
What would be the position with regard to foreign soldiers driving uninsured? As I understand the provisions of this measure, a soldier driving not on duty would commit an offence if he drove uninsured. I think that is so, but perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman could ascertain and give an answer later. It is a matter of considerable importance so there should be some sanction against a foreign soldier driving not insured. If driving on duty the provisions as to compulsory insurance would not apply to him, but no doubt his own Service authorities would make the necessary arrangements to see that his driving was covered in respect of third party claims.
On a previous occasion, during the debates on the 1952 Act, the Home Secretary gave a very clear statement about the question of claims to be dealt with under Section 9 of the Act. I understand that the position is that a claim 1295 against a soldier driving on duty would be dealt with by our own Minister of Defence and would be paid to the amount of any court award and that there would then be reimbursement from the foreign service authority.
A claim against a soldier driving not on duty, however, would not be borne by anybody, but the Foreign Claims Commission would have a discretion to make an ex gratiapayment. That, I understand, is the position supposing it turned out that the soldier was driving uninsured. Perhaps the Attorney-General would confirm that this is right? That is a matter of great importance for the ordinary people of the country.
As for affiliation orders, for the purposes of clarification, the position is that there again because Sections 144 and 145 of the Army Act are not made applicable to foreign soldiers the result is, I understand from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary—and I hope that this may be confirmed—that proceedings could be taken against a soldier in respect of an illegitimate child in the ordinary courts of this country, and enforced by the processes of the courts so long as the man is here. But supposing he goes abroad, would the Foreign Claims Commission make any endeavour to see to it that at any rate so long as he remained in the service of the foreign forces, be it American or other forces, he did pay the amount of any payment ordered to be paid by him even though he was abroad?
I hope that arrangements could be made in that sense. I rather understood from something that was said when the measure was considered in another place that arrangements would be made for that to be implemented. These are matters which have a great bearing on the people of this country, and I hope that the questions I have addressed will not allure the right hon. and learned Attorney-General from the number of questions addressed to him by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I see two very distinguished right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite, and when I conceive of them being cross-examined I cannot help 1296 thinking it was being done by a learned gentleman. I was mistaken. I hope the Attorney-General, who has a heavy burden of questions to answer, will give us a reply that will satisfy us, so that we will be able to make up our minds about the attitude we should take on this Order.
§ 11.28 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Lionel Heald)
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for having put the questions to him clearly, and for having given us general helpful support on the Order. I will try to deal with those questions, but it will involve a little detail.
The right hon. Member asked about the land to be acquired under Article 5. I know that the House will not tie me down to an exact figure, because I know that in a matter of this kind it is impossible to do anything but give a particular figure. The House can, I think, take it that, so far as can be seen at the moment, something of the order of 3,000 acres may be needed, and it might be interesting to compare that with the 80,000 acres required by our own forces in this country—and that figure for our requirements has been cut down from 700,000 acres.
As for the special constables under Article 6, I appreciate, if I may say so respectfully, that at first sight it might seem that it was contemplated using members of the visiting forces as special constables. That is not so. The intention and in fact the effect of the article is that special constables already employed by the Service Departments should exercise their functions in relation to premises occupied by visiting forces in the same way as they do for the home forces. In addition to that, special constables who are already acting in other capacities will be lent to the visiting forces and used by them. It is only persons nominated by the Service Departments who can be appointed special constables, and there is no intention that the foreign individuals themselves should undertake these duties.
With regard to Article 9, the question of rating, the position is exactly the same as in the case of land occupied by the 1297 Crown. It is hoped and believed that contributions to rates will be made in the same way as they are made in the case of land occupied by the Crown. There will be no more power to enforce that than in the case of such land, but we have every reason to hope that contributions will made in exactly the same way.
The right hon. Member referred to the Schedules and asked, in regard to the Second Schedule, whether there were any additional safeguards which were thought to be required. This has been very carefully considered, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman from my own knowledge that a great deal of thought has been given to that. As far as we know, the Second Schedule does contain all the safeguards reasonably required.
The right hon. Member raised an interesting point, which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), about firearms. I think I can give the assurance wanted. There is the Gun Licence Act of 1870 which provided an exception in favour of any person in the naval, military or volunteer services of Her Majesty or in the constabulary, or other police forces using or carrying any gun in the performance of his duty or when engaged in target practice. It would be necessary to show that these people were acting in the course of their duty, or going to or from target practice. The right hon. Gentleman will also know that there is the Firearms Act, 1937. That contains a definition which covers the Services and would apply correspondingly to the visiting forces. Section 5 of that Act gives the exemption. Members of the visiting forces are placed in the same position as persons in the Services of Her Majesty, or Service men in any of the forces, and the exemption is limited to when they are on duty.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a point with regard to paragraph 8 (2) of the Fourth Schedule. That is a general safeguard which ensures that no one is compelled to produce evidence before a court which he could not lawfully be compelled to give before a court of criminal jurisdiction in England. The right hon. Member wanted to know how we would ensure that that was applied. It is not possible to have a nurse in every court to look after anyone giving 1298 evidence, and this is rather speculation on my part, but the best way of doing it might be to ask that special instructions should be given to, and great care taken by, those conducting any court to see that these safeguards are applied. That is certainly the way I would advise doing it in our own case. If we were exercising jurisdiction in another country and were likely to have nationals of that country brought up, one would give instructions to those responsible for the conduct of the court to take great care that people are made aware of their rights. That would be the most effective way.
§ Mr. Ede
Some of these people may be very unlearned and nervous and not aware of their rights in their own courts. Anyone sitting on a quarter sessions bench knows the way in which from time to time learned counsel will jump up and object to some question being put, which is a complete surprise to the witness, who is about to volunteer something which would completely destroy the case being put before the bench. We all know that one has to be very careful where there will be nobody who actually practises in the British courts in the courtroom when certain points are raised; and if there is likely to be evidence which is in conflict, I suggest that some steps should be taken to draw the attention of the court to the provision which we are now discussing.
§ The Attorney-General
We will certainly look into that aspect, but one knows that in the administration of our own law it is sometimes the duty of the court to point out that a witness has certain privileges, and I think that we can probably deal with this in that sort of way.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice), among others, asked about bastardy orders—although he asked about it in a slightly different form. I think that there is no doubt about the position; except, of course, as pointed out, that there has been some doubt in the minds of some people, resulting from an article in the Press, whether these orders were to be made effective outside the jurisdiction of the court. That cannot happen; it cannot be done. All that can be done is to proceed as in the case 1299 of our own nationals. Any national of this country ceases to be liable after leaving the country, and becomes liable under such an order only on returning to it. But this question is under consideration and discussion, and, although there is nothing binding, it is hoped that arrangements will be made whereby some persuasion will be applied to those men, if they are liable, in order to try to get something out of them.
With regard to the question of our not bringing in this Order until the other one is made, I ought to point out to hon. Members that it would be undesirable to have a vacuum, and, after very careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that what we have done is the best way of dealing with the matter. If this Order is approved tonight, as I hope it will be, there will be time for those concerned to consider the various administrative actions which have to be taken so that, when the other Orders are brought in—those which have not to be laid before the House—the whole enactment can be brought into operation at the earliest moment.
I should tell the House that we have been pressed to bring the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, into operation because it is all-important that we should carry out our international obligations at the earliest possible moment. I hope that I have dealt with all the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman.
Then the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) raised several points, and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend said that I had spoken to him in a somewhat heated manner. If I did so, I am bound to say that I must claim that right because, in effect, what the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying was that the United States Under-Secretary of State made statements which were to be regarded as a lot of nonsense. I consider that when we are dealing with N.A.T.O. arrangements, we proceed on the basis that we trust our allies and endeavour to work with them. The Under-Secretary of State in the United States has told us that he is advised that no particular legislation is required for certain purposes. If N.A.T.O. is to work, surely we must accept the word of our friends in the United States, and not say the kind 1300 of things which have been said this evening—that no one pays any attention to what he says.
I could carry the matter further than I did, though perhaps it was unwise for me to have intervened at all. It was said that I had not proved the case and ought not to have spoken at all, but I thought that I might save time and restrain the hon. and learned Gentleman a little if I recalled his attention to the fact that we were not speaking in the air. Naturally, we have taken advice in this matter.
I was asked whether I had given an opinion on this matter, but, as I am not qualified in United States law, that would be a very foolish thing for me to do, and it is not a thing which I should do. I did take the precaution of getting the best possible opinion, from the legal advisers to the American Government, who tell us that there is no doubt that what Mr. Bedell Smith said was said with the greatest possible care and after the greatest possible consideration, and is right.
I was enjoined not to read again what was said and so I shall not do so, but in effect it was that Article 7 requires no further legislation in the United States. It can be said that automatically full effect will be given to Article 7. All I can say is that surely if we are to work with our ally, the United States, and we are told that the American Government have been assured by their legal advisers that all that is necessary has been done, it is a difficult way to approach our loyalties under N.A.T.O. if we say that some legal gentleman has given an opinion casting doubt on that.
§ Mr. Bing
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that in fact there is now in the United States a legal position existing? He says that no legislation is necessary, but a situation must exist by which the jurisdicton of the United States courts is ousted in favour of a Brtish court-martial in certain circumstances. If so, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain why it was said in the American Senate that that position was not only undesirable but impossible under the American Constitution?
§ The Attorney-General
I do not propose to undertake the obligation of ex- 1301 plaining what was said in the United States Senate.
Regarding the other matter, I asked the House to be satisfied that if we enter into an agreement with our friends and allies in the United States, I would prefer to take the view of the legal advisers to the United States Government.
The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) asked whether there were similar legal rights in operation in other parts of the Commonwealth. I can tell him that that is so, except in relation to India and Pakistan, where I am assured that if it were necessary and the situation arose, there is no reason to suppose that the necessary legislation could not be obtained without difficulty. With regard to other parts of the Commonwealth, it does exist already.
§ The Attorney-General
Yes, it does.
Then I come, finally, to the reference by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Neepsend to road vehicles. I can give him the examples, for which he asked. Perhaps the best way of looking at it would be if one took the three classes of accidents which might arise. First of all, if one has a member of the visiting forces in a private car; secondly, a vehicle belonging to the visiting forces being used on duty; and thirdly, a vehicle which belongs to the visiting forces used otherwise than on duty.
As regards the first class, the proposed Order in Council will rectify the position that has been causing the trouble, because it brings members of the visiting forces completely into line with citizens of this country: where private cars are concerned, they have to be insured 1302 against third-party risk or be liable to criminal prosecution if they are not. They can be sued for damages by a civil action.
As regards the second class, vehicles being used on duty, the visiting forces will be brought into line with the position of the home forces, except in this respect, that claims for damages will have to be settled by the Ministry of Defence under Section 9 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, instead of by the War Office Claims Commission.
Where visiting forces use vehicles otherwise than on duty, the legal position will also be as with the home forces in similar circumstances; that is, as the vehicle is not at the time on duty, it ceases to be exempt from the third-party insurance obligations, and the driver, accordingly, would be committing an offence if he drove without third-party insurance and be liable both to be prosecuted and to be sued for damages in civil action.
There was one other matter about which the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked, and that was whether there had ever been a case where British troops had been dealt with by British courts in the United States. I am told there have been, although, unfortunately, there are no records. They were only cases of minor offences.
I hope I have dealt with most of the questions that were raised. I am sorry if I interrupted once or twice, but it was only a desire to shorten matters. It does not always bring about that result, but certainly that was my intention, and I hope I have been able to answer most of the points raised.
That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th March, be approved.