HC Deb 09 February 1955 vol 536 cc1992-2017

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

Mr. A. Henderson

Perhaps I might begin what I have to say by reading to the Committee the contents of the Clause: Every officer subject to military law who behaves in a scandalous manner, unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman, shall, on conviction by court-martial, be cashiered. My hon. Friends and I do not raise the point because we take the view that officers should not set an example. Officers are the leaders in the Armed Forces, not only by reason of the fact that they have had special training but because it is up to them to exercise qualities of leadership over the men who are entrusted to their command.

However, we do not consider that this provision fits into the present-day conception of individual relations. I hesitate to pick out any particular part of it. I notice that the term "a gentleman" is used. The term is used in a good many connections, but it is very difficult to know what one would say if asked to define it.

This reminds me of a story—I believe it to be a true one—of a very distinguished professor, whose name is well known, certainly to my hon. Friends, who in the First World War refused to take a commission and rose only to the rank of sergeant. He was wounded and eventually found himself in the military hospital at Oxford. There he was visited by a very distinguished bishop, Dr. Gore, Bishop of Oxford, who went to him in the most friendly fashion and stayed talking to him for half an hour, calling him by his Christian name. After the bishop had left, the nurse in charge of the distinguished professor said to him "Why did you not tell me that you were a gentleman?" In using the term "a gentleman" we must be careful to define exactly what we mean.

My hon. Friends and I are not opposed to the requirement that there shall be the highest standards of personal, social, and military conduct on the part of officers, but we do not believe that there should be a statutory provision making it a court-martial offence if an officer commits some kind of social solecism. The volume containing the Report of the Select Committee contains a memorandum by the Departmental Committee which cites two types of offence which it is considered by the Committee could be the cause of action under this Clause. The first one is where an officer, while present at a dinner party, behaves in a scandalous manner; for example, publicly making insulting remarks to a woman guest. The second is where an officer carries on an indecent correspondence with civilians.

I do not want to embark upon the legal aspects of that second example, but I should have thought that it was a civil offence to send indecent matter through the post. We take the view that an officer, or for that matter any other rank in the Armed Forces, should only be court-martialled for offences other than offences against the civil law. In those cases, in normal circumstances, he would be liable to be tried before a civil court.

If it is an offence that cannot be tried before a civil court, possibly not a civil offence, we propose that he should be dealt with under the provisions of Clause 69, which, as the Committee will know, provides: Any person subject to military law who is guilty of any act, conduct or neglect to the prejudice of good order and military discipline shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by this Act. We therefore suggest that there shall be no offence of this kind of which an officer can be considered to be guilty, unless it is an offence against the civil law of the land, or an offence which can be covered by the provisions of Clause 69.

8.30 p.m.

We invited the Departmental Committee to give us examples of this conduct by an officer which could not be dealt with either under the civil law or under Clause 69. It can be ascertained from a perusal of Memorandum 10, which was put in by the Departmental Committee, that the Committee frankly stated it had been unable to trace any ca se of misconduct by an officer which could not have been dealt with either under the civil law or under the provisions of what is now to be found in Clause 69. We propose that in those circumstances Clause 64 should be deleted, and that we should seek to rest upon the provisions either of the civil law or the provisions of Clause 69.

There is one further point. It might be said that there might be a case of serious misconduct on the part of an officer and that there might be some doubt whether it could be dealt with under the Clause dealing with conduct to the prejudice of military discipline. As the Secretary of State knows from his own experience, and as I certainly know from my own as Secretary of State in a Service Department, there are administrative regulations which permit the Army Council to call upon an officer to retire from the Services under the provisions of Queen's Regulations and the Pay Warrant in circumstances where the officer has behaved in such a way as to make it undesirable for him to remain an officer in Her Majesty's Service.

Therefore, under any one of those three headings, it seems to us that the requirement that an officer should live up to a reasonable standard of conduct can be dealt with, and it is not necessary that Clause 64 should be retained.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

I should like to support my right hon. and learned Friend's objections to the retention of this somewhat obsolete provision. It is really disappointing to find it still there. My first objection to it is that the single penalty of cashiering is a vicious provision. My more serious objection to it is that it provides for the authorities a dragnet in which to catch the officer they cannot catch on a proper criminal charge for an offence under the other provisions of the Bill, or an offence under Clause 69, or under the provisions of the ordinary civil law.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

I think I am right in assuming that the hon. and learned Member was, during the course of the war, in the Judge Advocate General's Department. Can he say from his own experience that there was any case where this was used as a dragnet for that sort of purpose?

Mr. Elwyn Jones

I did not wish my own experience to be called in aid, but, like the learned Solicitor-General, I had duties in connection with this at the end of the war. My recollection is that this was used in connection with dishonoured cheques and entertaining ladies in the mess. As to the former there seem to be other provisions in the Act then available. As to the latter, Section 40 of the Army Act was available if offences of that kind were pursued. We now have brought up to date the specific infringements which are dealt with in the various Sections of the Act and we still have Clause 69. Of course, the words, unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman have for some reason become part of the mystique of the Regular Army. I have never understood why it should be necessary to add the words, "and gentleman." If an officer behaves in a scandalous manner unbecoming the character of an officer, I should have thought was quite enough.

It seems to me to be rather insulting to say that scandalous conduct unbecoming the character of an officer is not enough to constitute an offence but that it must be scandalous conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman. That seems to me to be an invidious distinction, and to suggest that in certain circumstances an officer may not necessarily be a gentleman; so that from the point of view of the mystique of the Army I should have thought that this Clause did that mystique no good.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

May I suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that he looks at the dictionary definition of the word "gentleman." There a gentleman is described as one who is authorised to bear arms.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

That is very interesting, but it does not add anything. If the definition of "gentleman" in Clause 64 is now to mean anyone capable of bearing arms, it adds nothing whatsoever to the Clause, except perhaps a faint touch of snobbery in the context of the Clause, and in contrast with what is provided for for other ranks, most of whom, in these days, may also be entitled to be called gentlemen.

I believe, therefore, that this does not add anything, except a dragnet of which a possibly incompetent staff officer might choose to take advantage. Drawing upon what recollections I have of Army experiences, I cannot believe that the retention of this Clause serves a useful purpose, though we on this side of the Committee are as anxious as hon. Gentlemen opposite to maintain discipline in the Army, especially among officers.

Mr. Wigg

When this matter was considered by the Select Committee the argument I used with my colleagues was, could they find any examples at all where officers charged under Section 16 could not have been charged under Section 40? That seems to me to be the gist of the whole argument. If the Government did as we ask and cut out Clause 64, would they find themselves hamstrung if a case arose which required disciplinary action? The truth is that they would not. They have ample powers under Section 40.

To keep the record straight, may I read paragraph 3 of Annex 10 on page 340 of the Select Committee's Report of October, 1953. The Departmental Committee said this: At the request of the Committee an examination has been made of offences which would have been charged under Section 16 in order to isolate offences which could not have been charged under Section 40 or Section 41 or some other section of the Army Act. It has not been possible to find any such cases … and, of course, it is not possible to find such cases.

I wish to make it quite clear that I am not, by implication or in any other way, challenging the good faith and competence or the integrity of my colleagues on the Select Committee. In my submission, the reason for the presence of this Clause is because it provides—if I may say so—a very useful bolt-hole. If an officer is charged with conduct of a scandalous kind unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman, he shall, on conviction by court-martial, be cashiered. The fundamental difference between hon. Members opposite and myself is that they are gentlemen and I am not. That is why the Prime Minister hurled his quite irrelevant insult at me the other night. By implication, anybody who happens to be born of humble circumstances and has accepted the "Queen's shilling" cannot possibly be a gentleman.

The Solicitor-General

He might be a martyr.

Mr. Wigg

I do not see the relevancy of that interruption.

I would point out that the penalty which will be imposed by hon. Members opposite under the Clause will not hurt me. If they are cashiered they will be barred from their clubs. That is the great penalty of being cashiered, II one is a member of a club in Pall Mall. The only club of which I am a member is the Dudley Labour Club, which is affiliated to the Working Men's Club and Institute Union. It is a working man's club, and if I am cashiered I shall be a martyr. I should be given a stained glass window.

I am against this distinction. I want one code of conduct right the way through, from the ranks up to field marshal. If a field marshal offends he should not be defended by the Prime Minister, but should bear the consequences of his action. That is all that I have ever asked for. The retention of this Clause is a piece of out-of-date snobbery which has no meaning. The Departmental Committee was forced to admit that it served no useful purpose. I challenge any hon. Member opposite—as the Departmental Committee was challenged—to quote one case that could be dealt with under this Clause and which could not be dealt with under any other part of the Army Act.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

If the hon. Member had read on he would have read examples which the Departmental Committee said it thought could be dealt with only in that way.

Mr. Wigg

They were social offences. The case was mentioned of the conduct of an officer while present at a dinner party, and an officer who carried on indecent correspondence. That matter was referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). I am sorry that I did not read on, but I had no intention of suppressing any evidence. My right hon. and learned Friend dealt with these cases. They could have been dealt with under Clause 69.

Mr. Hutchison

The Departmental Committee thought not.

Mr. Wigg

With respect, the Committee did not press the point very much. It is clear that those cases could have been dealt with, if not under Clause 69, then under the civil law.

But even if we suppose that the hon. Member is right and that Clause 64 is required, it would be grossly improper to retain the powers only to cashier an officer when, in other parts of the Bill, the penalty of cashiering has been replaced by a period of two years' imprisonment. If the hon. Member is right he must see the implication of his argument. This seems to me to be the only blot which besmirches two and a half years of useful work. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will agree that we are right about this and delete the Clause from the Bill.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I hope that circumstances will never arise when the Dudley Labour Club has to erect a stained glass window—not least because such a window is not a very elegant facility in a club at any time. After two years of working alongside me—I might almost say together with me—the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) knows what my views are. I cannot accept for my hon. Friends the attitude of mind which the hon. Member said inspired them to take the view they did.

8.45 p.m.

The one point that has not been brought out very clearly in the discussion is that we decided to retain. I think rightly, the procedure that an officer in Her Majesty's Army receives Her Majesty's commission. Whereas I am entirely in agreement with the adoption of a fair and just code for all ranks of the Services, I think that a commission carries with it an additional responsibility. I believe quite sincerely that it is in the interests of discipline and of the Army itself that the higher people go the greater are their responsibilities, and that, if they offend against those responsibilities, the more severe their punishment should be.

I believe that the disgrace, which has nothing to do with belonging to a club, is a social disgrace in the eyes of the community. The hon. Gentleman was inclined to make fun of it, but, quite honestly, if he had been cashiered, he would not have been so happy as he made out. I do not think that he would have received the approbation of any part of the community if he had been cashiered for neglecting a fundamental trust placed in him by the highest authority.

Therefore, I believe that the principle underlying the Clause is a good one. I should certainly be against a heavier punishment being meted out to those in subordinate positions. That would be very wrong, and throughout our deliberations we have been quite clear about that. I believe that it is a right social principle, in the correct use of that word, that those in high places should, if they make mistakes, be more heavily punished because they are in those places. They should be in a position to understand what their responsibilities are and to carry them out accordingly. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend, for that very simple, single reason, will retain the Clause.

Mr. Bing

The poet Yeats, in defining the term "gentleman," described a gentleman as one who never uses that term. If that is so, we are putting the officers who sit on courts-martial in a very difficult position in enacting this Clause. Indeed, it seems to me that we are enacting a social anachronism which was perceived long ago.

I think I am right in saying that it was the playwright Pinero who, in one of his plays, introduced a butler who was, no doubt, brought up on the principles advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because he said to his employer, "Sir, there is an officer and a gentleman waiting for you downstairs." The gentleman in the case replied, "Oh, in that case, show them both up," which shows that, even at the beginning of this century, there was not this unanimity of view as to the essential unity of the officer and the gentleman.

If one looks round this side of the Committee to see whom one should discipline first, one's mind turns almost automatically to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). These two, I think I am right in saying are the most distinguished former non-commissioned officers on this side of the Committee. Why should they be placed in a special category, and, therefore have to be tried under the old Section 40? [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite interrupt to say that any section will do, but let us consider the matter seriously.

This penalty is either too much or too little. It is designed as an escape for officers, because the only penalty can be cashiering. If the officer has done something really serious, it is only too easy to say, "Well, after all, he was a very good fellow: we all knew him, and we do not want to expose him to all the penalties of imprisonment. Let us try him under this Section and then he will not be in any real trouble."

There was an intervention a short while ago—which I hope he will develop later—by the Solicitor-General, in which he said "Not only officers, but martyrs." Historically, the martyrs in the Roman army were not drawn from the officer class. As the Solicitor-General would say, they were not quite out of the top drawer, but they have gradually been accepted in the calendars of most Churches in the ranks of the martyrs despite the fact that they did not obtain officer status.

The object of the Clause is to avoid making people martyrs, even if they want to be, and in order to be able to say, in the case of a particular officer, "We will try him under this Section. The worst that can happen is that he will be turned out of the Army, and he will not be subject to, and the court cannot inflict, the other penalties." Why, at the same time, should he not be subject to the same sort of penalties as the ordinary soldier?

If two people commit an offence together, a senior N.C.O. and an officer, and it is conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, why should the officer be tried under a Section which prohibits him from being sent to prison, while the N.C.O. must be tried under a Section which gives the court an opportunity of sentencing him to a term of imprisonment? That is the ridiculous and nonsensical effect of this Clause.

The only reason why it is retained—as I think the deliberations of the Select Committee show—is a desire to maintain a certain sort of snobbery. It is very unfortunate that we should have that sort of thing in the Army today. We want to get away from such ideas. The Clause is really for dealing with dud cheques. It is an indirect form of enforcing the payment of tradesmen's bills, of using the fact that a man is an officer to enforce somehow his civil obligations to tradesmen and the like.

It seems to us on this side of the Committee that an officer should in no wise be in a better position than a civilian in regard to his civil liabilities. He should be able to be pursued in the ordinary courts, and if, in fact, his conduct is such and his personal position is such as to warrant it, it is open to the Army Council to terminate his career as an officer. It can always do that; the Bill gives it power to do that. This Clause seems to us, and seemed at the time, to be one designed to perpetuate a state of affairs which, in fact, has long since ceased to exist.

There is no conceivable reason why somebody who has served for 20 years in the Army, making his way up through the various ranks, should suddenly, when he becomes an officer, be liable to penalties to which he was not liable in his previous ranks in the Army. The only justification for the Clause would be if the Army were in two watertight compartments, and people started either as officers or in the ranks. If that were so, then there would be an argument for a different method of approach. Otherwise, it seems to us on this side of the Committee that there is no justification for such a distinction, and we hope that the Committee will reverse the decision of the Select Committee—taken, incidentally, by only one vote—and will remove this Clause from the Bill.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

It is difficult for me, as one who has been in the Army for 34 years, not to feel emotion about this matter. I trust that my emotion will not appear in my speech, because I feel very strongly indeed on the matter. I hope that hon. Members opposite who also feel strongly about such things as teetotalism and capital punishment, emotionally as well as factually, will respect my views.

For many years in the Array I, as an officer, suffered from the attempts of Socialist Members in this House and others outside it to do everything in their power to reduce the authority of officers. I am now suggesting that of all the inverted snobberies of which I have ever heard, this one—of the Socialist Party now championing the case of an officer, and trying to reduce the disgrace of his sentence, when he commits crimes which are not, and ought not to be, tolerated by an officer in the British Army—is the most object humbug I have ever listened to.

There is one golden rule, and it is this: that one's subordinates in the Army demand a higher standard of conduct from their officers than they would ever tolerate for themselves. That is a very good rule indeed. I am delighted that it is so. It is complete rubbish to say that there are other sanctions contained in the Bill which could be used against officers. There are certain actions of officers which cannot be punished, either by civil law or by military law. Admittedly, as already has been said, they can be deprived of their commissions by the Army Council. That means absolutely nothing.

Traditionally, and for years and years this country has understood the word "cashiered" to mean the greatest disgrace to which an officer can be subjected. If there are, as I know there are, many classes of crimes which officers commit, either socially or against men in their own regiments, for which there is no framework in the law which enables them to be sent to prison, to which of course they should be sent, then for goodness sake let us see that they are cashiered, because that will be a lasting disgrace to them. If they come before any Labour Party or Conservative Party committee for candidature for Parliament and they have been cashiered, what hope have they got? It serves them right.

With all sincerity, after 34 years in the Army, I implore my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to retain the Clause in the Bill.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I do not wish for a moment to make a martyr of the learned Solicitor-General, but I think that I must ask him to look at the Clause again in the light of two other Clauses, namely, Clauses 69 and 71. I hope that, first, we will all agree that there is no need for an emotional atmosphere in this matter. This is either a matter of common sense, or it is nothing at all. Why the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) should have got himself into the obviously emotional state that he was in, is very difficult to understand.

Mr. Ian Harvey


Mr. Turner-Samuels

Let the hon. Member try to contain himself for a moment.

Nobody on this side of the Committee or anywhere else with any sense is desirous of getting rid of a penalty which is properly there. The issue here is not whether this is a proper penalty, but whether, in fact, the Clause is superfluous. As a matter of good draftsmanship and safe legislation, it seems to me, beyond dispute, that if the Clause is redundant it ought not to be there. That is the issue.

What does the Clause do? It applies itself, or purports to apply itself, to the scandalous conduct of an officer, and it is right that there should be provisions, prohibition and sanctions in cases where there is scandalous conduct by an officer. But in this respect I want the Solicitor-General to march along with me, and follow the language not only of the Clause but of the provisions which are contained in the two other Clauses to which I have already referred, namely, Clauses 64 and 69—I should have said Clause 69 and 71.

9.0 p.m.

The Solicitor-General


Mr. Turner-Samuels

"Clause 64" was a lapsus linguaœ, but that does not absolve the Solicitor-General from applying his mind to the two Clauses that really matter here—Clauses 69 and 71. Let us look at Clause 64. That Clause purports to say that where an officer is subject to military law, he shall, if he is found to have behaved in a scandalous manner, unbecoming the character of an officer and gentleman, … on conviction by court-martial be cashiered. In the light of those words, I should like the Solicitor-General to apply his mind to Clause 69. Why should not identically the same thing be done under Clause 69 as is purported to be done under Clause 64? Of course, it may be said that Clause 69 is a Clause of wider scope because, in addition to using the word "cashiering," it also comprehends imprisonment. But the mere fact that it is a wider Clause does not in any way derrogate from the point that it renders Clause 64 entirely superfluous. It is quite clear that under Clause 69 we can do precisely, without any derrogation in any sense whatever, what it is stated we can do under Clause 64.

It may be argued, "Yes, but Clause 69 does not imply the word cashiering"—I should like to have the attention of the Solicitor-General. I should like a little animation of mind on this as well as animation of conversation. If the Solicitor-General looks at Clause 71 he will find a sentence which is clearly described as cashiering and, as Clause 69 brings in every other sentence that is spread over the whole of the Bill, it is clear that that is included in Clause 69.

To summarise the position, I ask the Solicitor-General, why should we put on the Statute Book a Clause which is superfluous in the light of another Clause being in the Bill which includes that, although it certainly contains other things, and which, in fact, brings in the very sentence of cashiering which is contained in Clause 71? The Committee is entitled to an explanation from the Solicitor-General. If Clause 69 is sufficiently comprehensive, sufficiently effectual, to bring in the same sentence as is in Clause 64, then Clause 64 ought to be expunged from the Bill.

Mr. Head

I am sorry, as many hon. Members are, that in a Bill which, in the Select Committee which devised it, met almost universal agreement, we should arrive at a Clause which causes such disagreement. As I see it, the real heart of the matter is the question of the status of the officer. In the final analysis, the responsibility of an officer and the object of all armed forces is battle, and the final job of an officer is to have the status and position of leading, encouraging and inspiring men when they are likely to be killed. When people are likely to be killed, they do not feel at their best—at least, I do not know of anybody who has done. Respect for officers, and good officers, is an absolute fundamental in the duty of the Services, which is to fight. I do not think anybody would disagree with that.

How does an officer acquire the position in which his men will follow him? Hon. Members may say that many N.C.O.s have acquired just as good a position, and I would not disagree; but primarily the object of an officer is to give that lead. Armies have tried, like the Russian Army, to have complete equality and at one time the Russian Army officers slept in the barrack rooms. The experiment failed and the officers went back to very ornate uniforms and a far bigger discrepancy in pay than exists in the British Army. Why I make this discursion is that the whole basis is respect for the status of the officer.

To acquire that status, an officer must have the respect of his men. I do not claim that every officer has that respect; officers vary—some are bad and some are good. What everybody knows is that if an officer lacks respect of a certain kind, he becomes disqualified from holding the Queen's commission, which should be a special trust in his conduct and value.

The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) asked why this should be expected of officers and why the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) should be exempted. The whole point is that an N.C.O., whether junior or senior, dislikes nothing more than having a "dud" officer whom he does not respect. It makes the life of an N.C.O. much worse. The object, then is that this code and standard of an officer should be retained.

Hon. Members can argue about this legally and can make many points, but I say that the status of an officer is intangible and to some extent the reason for the retention of the Clause is also intangible. The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) asked why cases could not be dealt under other Clauses, under a civil code or under the old Section 40. The case for the retention of the Clause is that perhaps, in the case of an assault or indecency, the charge could be made under a separate and different Clause—

Mr. Turner-Samuels


Mr. Head

Let me develop my argument. The hon. and learned Member was not very generous to me. It is difficult to break off, and he has interrupted me in the middle of what I was saying.

The object of the Clause is to isolate and show up quite clearly those offences in officers which are considered scandalous in the sense that they disqualify an officer from carrying out his duty and that they reduce his status. If an officer commits a scandalous act which is well known within the unit and which may come within the scope of the civil court, and he is charged with indecency or assault, it is far better to retain, both as an educative value and as a principle, a Clause which says, "If you fall below the standard which we expect of officers, you will be tried under this Clause and you will be cashiered." To get rid of the Clause and to leave that out is to suggest that we are tolerating a different standard today.

There has been a lot of talk about the meaning of the word "gentleman." There was something in what the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch said. It is not something that I particularly want to discuss, but I would say this. The word "gentleman," in my opinion, has nothing to do with the class term. In my opinion, it describes a man with certain qualities which are very difficult for anyone to outline. I think the finest gentleman I ever met was a lighthouse keeper. I believe that there are certain standards of conduct which come under humanity, generosity of character, understanding, braveness, a certain degree of humility, honesty, and so forth, which qualify a man to be called a gentleman. Whether he was born in the slums of Glasgow or in Blenheim Palace, his chances of achieving that are about equal.

I am trying to develop the theme that in the Services we are still trying—and I may say that both the Army Council and the Air Council were unanimous about this—to retain a status of conduct and behaviour which will ensure respect from the men. In any fighting force, that respect from the men is a vital factor when the task for which the force is designed, which is to fight, has to be undertaken. There is nothing more miserable for any soldier than to fight under a bad officer.

Here this Clause remains, and so long as it remains it points out that every officer in all three of our Services, as long as he holds the Queen's commission, is expected to maintain a standard of conduct which is worthy of a man's service for the Queen.

Mr. M. Stewart

The Secretary of State for War has said a number of things with which we on this side of the Committee and, indeed, people everywhere, would agree, but they do not seem to have much relevance to his defence of the retention of this Clause in the Bill. Let me mention two essential points about this Clause that were made clear early in the debate. First, there has not been any successful attempt to show that there are offences which would fall under this Clause which could not, in fact, be dealt with under Clauses 69 or 70. The two examples to which some reference has been made, such as the carrying on of indecent correspondence or insulting behaviour in public to a lady, could have been dealt with one under Clause 70 and the other under Clause 69.

What we have here is that an officer should be required not only to observe the civil law and to refrain, like other soldiers, from conduct which is to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and with that exceptional strictness which, I agree, is required from officers, but to conform to some kind of code signified by the word "gentleman," which is unknown to the civil law and is not connected with good order and military discipline. It is that that we criticise. Why should a purely social requirement that is not connected with good order and military discipline—that is to say, not connected with soldierly or officer-like qualities—be put upon an officer?

We have to remember that not only does it place this requirement on the officer, but it could—and this is a more serious objection to the Clause—become what has been described as a bolt hole. It is possible—I do not say that this has often happened—that an offence which, in the interests of justice ought to be dealt with under Clauses 69 and 70 with their heavier penalties—these would be imposed if the offence were committed by the other ranks—would be dealt with under this Clause in the case of an officer and the lighter penalties would be imposed if he were found guilty. Although, in time past, cashiering was possibly one of the heaviest dooms that could fall on a man in that position, that is not so today with the changing structure of society.

9.15 p.m.

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) that it might well be that someone who was cashiered would find it difficult to persuade either political party to make him a candidate for election to this House. I am not sure how far that would be regarded as a penalty from that man's point of view. If he had more knowledge of this House he might feel that he was well out of it. I am not at all sure that if such a man—who, by definition, is not a man of high moral standards—instead of seeking entry to this House were to seek some more lucrative occupation in commerce or industry, he would find that having been cashiered would stand so much in his way. There has, in recent times, been a strong tendency to assume that if a man has been in any way penalised by the State that is the mere bureaucracy of the State—"This is the sort of independent-minded fellow we want in commerce and industry." This penalty of cashiering does not carry with it the injury it used to carry.

Mr. Ian Harvey

Do I understand that the hon. Member is saying that our responsible leaders in industry and commerce today are prepared to accept on their boards, and in positions of authority, people who have been cashiered?

Mr. Stewart

I would advise the hon. Member to turn to some of the old files of newspapers where he will see the sort of people who have got into responsible positions of that sort.

When the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) suggested that it was important that if an officer commits an offence he should be more severely dealt with and punished than is a man, we do not dissent from that proposition. What we are dissenting from is that, quite apart from military and civil offences, there should be this third, intangible code which, by definition, has nothing to do with being either a good citizen or a good soldier but which is created for the officer. We dissent from the proposition that, at the same time, there should be the possibility of his being punished not more heavily but more lightly than is the soldier for a comparable offence.

In the light of this objection I think this Clause could only be retained if it could be proved that it was necessary on what we must regard as social or mystical grounds. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing began his speech in a most moving manner and I thought that he was going to put forward a most impressive case. He began by asking us on this side to respect the sincerity of his feelings, but the next minute he was describing as humbug the feelings on this side. If he does not credit others with sincerity he cannot expect to be credited with sincerity himself, and most of us completely discredited his subsequent utterances in that respect.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

That goes for the hon. Member's side also.

Mr. Stewart

I do not ask the hon. and gallant Member to respect my sincerity. Whether or not he did would leave me unmoved. I say that he cannot expect credit for his sincerity if he does not accord it to others.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Mr. Stewart

This mystical argument is linked up with the word "gentleman." Among the many definitions of the word one was taken up, wrongly I think, by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing. I understand that in that connection to bear arms is not meant in the sense of a soldier bearing arms but in the sense of carrying a coat of arms. If what we are really being asked to say is that if an offence unbecoming to the character of an officer is committed by someone who has a coat of arms it should be made a special offence, we are being asked to perpetuate a piece of nonsense.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

The hon. Member knows perfectly well that I did not mean that at all. He seeks to put words into my mouth. I did not mean to bear arms in that sense. I meant privates, lance-corporals, corporals, lance-sergeants, sergeants—all the way up; men entitled to bear arms; gentlemen at arms, who in those days are not necessarily officers. But as the hon. Member doubts my sincerity he will take no notice of what I say.

Mr. Stewart

I am quite sure what the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought it meant, but it is not what the dictionary says it means. That is why his definition was completely misunderstood and misinterpreted. When he reads in the dictionary that a gentleman is someone who is authorised to bear arms, the meaning is somebody authorised to have a coat of arms, and I am pointing out that that is quite nonsensical when applied in this Clause.

There is another definition of an hon. Gentleman which we use in this House, where it means somebody who disagrees with one politically, as opposed to an hon. Friend who is somebody who agrees with one. There is another use in common speech to mean somebody who practises some kind of craft or sport but does not do it particularly well, as we distinguish, for example, gentlemen from players; and we distinguish from an ordinary farmer a gentleman farmer, meaning by that somebody who may or may not make money at the operation.

The wider we search for a definition the harder it is to find one. There is one which has not been quoted here and might be relevant. It is the definition which was given by Robert E. Lee, who remarked that the forbearing use of power is the hallmark of a gentleman. That is possibly what was in mind. Here we have men who are given power and authority and therefore certain obligations are imposed upon them. If it is meant by that that an officer must behave in a gentlemanly manner, that having been given power and authority he must use it for the public service and not for his private advantage, we shall all agree that should be so. Again, any deviations front that code can already be dealt with satisfactorily under other Clauses.

We cannot avoid the fact that the use of the word "gentleman"—which by etymology and derivation means somebody who comes from a family which is supposed to be mysteriously superior to other families—to denote a code of conduct is to attempt to link a code of conduct which a gentleman should observe with a society based on an aristocracy of birth. That is why it is unsatisfactory.

The Secretary of State spoke about the undoubted fact that an officer must be one who, by his own character and attainments, is capable of leading and encouraging his men. He asks how it is that an officer acquired that position. One very great element in the answer to that question is that he acquires it by knowing his business. One of the questions which men ask—and this is more true today perhaps than a generation ago—and to which they will particularly want an answer when they are asked to submit to a man's authority is, "Does he know his business?" They will ask, "If it is he who is the boss, will the result of that be that the necessary military job will be done in the most efficient manner?"

In the last resort, that is the only rightful justification for the authority of any man. The only proper reason why "A" should have authority over "B" is that a necessary job is to be done and that it will be done better if "A" is in charge and not "B". There was a time in society when the mass of men had been too restricted in their education and opportunities to realise that principle. Therefore, they looked to aristocracy of birth to lead them, and there were many in that aristocracy who behaved honourably and responded nobly to the obligations of their position.

That conception of society will not work today with widespread education and with an increasingly mechanised society. We have to see that an officer's authority must rest upon his being in every respect fitted for his job. That includes not only the characteristics to which the Secretary of State was referring but refers also to plain competence at his job, which is often of a technical character. I sometimes think that not sufficient attention has been paid, when considering the officer's position, to the plain question of competence, the great and increasing importance which is given to it by men today and the part it plays in determining whether or not an officer is respected.

Is it really suggested that if we remove the Clause from the Bill men throughout the Army will say, "In future, if our officer tenders a cheque which is subsequently dishonoured, he will be dealt with not under the gentleman's section but under Section 69 or Section 70 as if he were no better than we are?" Will they really ask how they can be expected to respect a man like that, who is merely subjected to the ordinary law and merely required to observe good conduct and military discipline? It is nonsense to suggest that the Clause has anything to do with the way in which men will regard their officers?

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Who suggested that?

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman suggested it. It was the main burden of his speech. The case has not in any way been made out.

Let it not be said that the Opposition do not realise the high and important position which an officer must prove. I say this very strongly, because I have sometimes disagreed with some of my hon. Friends on the point. I believe that in an Army it is important that an officer should have great authority, that his right to impose discipline should be effectively safeguarded and that his duty to set an example and be a leader should be constantly before him, but I believe that it is bound up with our ensuring that the men who become officers do so because they are fit to be officers and not because they are supposed to be connected with a completely outworn social code. It is because the retention of the Clause seems to be bound up with the retention of that old out-worn code that I believe the Committee would be right to take this opportunity to delete it from the Bill.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

I was concerned about the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who has just left the Chamber. I sympathise with him in that he rose feeling rather emotional. I rise feeling much the same after hearing his speech and that of the Secretary of State. I was never more than a private in the Army. There are many other hon. Members in this House who began as privates, but they did not remain privates.

When I hear the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing and the Secretary of State talking about the conduct of officers and the conduct of other ranks as necessarily being different, it gets under my skin. The Secretary of State referred to a standard of conduct for officers to win them respect and to give them the prestige of leadership, and, by inference, suggested that the private soldier could not possibly attain the great heights of perfection occupied by the officer and gentleman.

I am a fairly keen student of human nature. Even in the bad old days when I was in the Army there were men in the ranks who were far superior to any of the officer class in their standard of conduct, honesty, decency, love for their fellow men, and desire to do a good turn for somebody. Today, with our higher standards of education, with men with university degrees undertaking National Service, it is preposterous to talk of two standards of conduct—that of the officer and that of the other ranks.

9.30 p.m.

I agree with my colleagues who have urged that we should delete this Clause on the ground that it is a piece of social snobbery. I am not concerned with the legal and the nice argument. I am not a nice chap. I am concerned only with hitting out and saying what I believe. I believe that, in this age, to retain this anachronism in an Army Act from which we are gradually clearing away all the lumber of past ages and which we have modernised in almost every other respect; to retain this Clause, which differentiates between the classes so pointedly, which talks about a scandalous manner, unbecoming … an officer and a gentleman, is wrong.

I want to see "conduct unbecoming the character of a private soldier and a gentleman" punished. I know that when I first came into the House in 1929, hon. Members were always referring to hon. and gallant Gentlemen all over the place; never when I got up to speak. An hon. Lady dared to refer to it on one occasion and there were some very surprised, super-

cilious, and superior looks from the officers on the other side of the House at a private soldier being referred to as an hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Mr. Head

I always call the hon. Member that.

Mr. Simmons

The right hon. Gentleman does, because he has learned to respect me.

I would say that an officer's prestige and standing are decided by his conduct and not by the existence of the punishments proposed for bad conduct, and because of that I hope that the House will reject the Clause.

Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 207, Noes 192.

Division No. 33.] AYES [9.33 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Duthie, W. S. Kerr, H. W.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lambert, Hon. G.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Errington, Sir Eric Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Fell, A. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Arbuthnot, John Finlay, Graeme Lindsay, Martin
Armstrong, C. W. Fisher, Nigel Linstead, Sir H. N.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Llewellyn, D. T.
Assheton, Rt. Hn. R. (Blackburn,W.) Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Baldwin, A. E. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Barber, Anthony Garner-Evans, E. H. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Barlow, Sir John Glover, D. Macdonald, Sir Peter
Baxter, Sir Beverley Godber, J. B. McKibbin, A. J.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Gough, C. F. H. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Gower, H. R. Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Graham, Sir Fergus MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Gresham Cooke, R. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Bishop, F. P. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Black, C. W. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Hare, Hon. J. H. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Boyle, Sir Edward Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Braine, B. R. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Marples, A. E.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Brooman-White, R. C. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Maude, Angus
Browne, Jack (Govan) Heath, Edward Medlicott, Sir Frank
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Higgs, J. M. C. Mellor, Sir John
Bullard, D. G. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Burden, F. F. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Nabarro, G. D. N.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Holland-Martin, C. J. Neave, Airey
Campbell, Sir David Hollis, M. C. Nicholls, Harmar
Carr, Robert Holt, A. F. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Cary, Sir Robert Hope, Lord John Nield, Basil (Chester)
Clarke, Col. Sir Ralph(East Grinstead) Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Oakshott, H. D.
Colegate, Sir W. A. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) O'Neill,Hon.Phelim(Co. Antrim,N.)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hurd, A. R. Osborne, C.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C. Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Page, R. G.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Perkins, Sir Robert
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Iremonger, T. L. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Davidson, Viscountess Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Peyton, J. W. W.
Deedes, W. F. Jennings, Sir Roland Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Digby, S. Wingfield Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Powell, J. Enoch
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Jones, A. (Hall Green) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Doughty, C. J. A. Kaberry, D. Profumo, J. D.
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Kerby, Capt. H. B. Ramsden, J. E.
Rayner, Brig. R. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Turton, R. H.
Redmayne, M. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Vane, W. M. F.
Robinson, Sir Roland(Blackpool, S.) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Robson-Brown, W. Stoddart-Scott. Col. M. Vosper, D. F.
Roper, Sir Harold Storey, S. Wade, D. W.
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Wall, Major Patrick
Russell, R. S. Studholme, H. G. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Sutcliffe, Sir Harold Wellwood, W.
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)
Sharples, Maj. R. C. Teeling, W. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Shepherd, William Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Wills, G.
Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Soames, Capt. C. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N. Woollam, John Victor
Spearman, A. C. M. Tilney, John
Speir, R. M. Touche, Sir Gordon TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (K'ns'gt'n, S.) Turner. H. F. L. Sir Cedric Drewe and
Mr. Edward Wakefield.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hamilton, W. W. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hannan, W. Oldfield, W. H.
Awbery, S. S. Hardy, E. A. Oliver, G. H.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hargreaves, A. Oswald, T.
Bartley, P. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Owen, W. J.
Bence, C. R. Hastings, S. Paget, R. T.
Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Hayman, F. H. Paling, Rt. Hn. W. (Dearne Valley)
Beswick, F. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Bing, G. H. C. Herbison, Miss M. Palmer, A. M. F.
Blackburn, F. Hobson, C. R. Pannell, Charles
Blenkinsop, A. Holmes, Horace Pargiter, G. A.
Blyton, W. R. Houghton, Douglas Parker, J.
Boardman, H. Hoy, J. H. Peart, T. F.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Popplewell, E.
Bowden, H. W. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Porter, G.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Proctor, W. T.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Janner, B. Rankin, John
Burke, W. A. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Jeger, George (Goole) Rhodes, H.
Callaghan, L. J. Jeger, Mrs. Lena Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Carmichael, J. Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Chapman, W. D. Johnson, James (Rugby) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Clunie, J. Jones, David (Hartlepool) Ross, William
Coldrick, W. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Royle, C.
Collick, P. H. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Keenan, W. Short, E. W.
Cove, W. G. Kenyon, C. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Crosland, C. A. R. Lawson, G. M. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lewis, Arthur Sorensen, R. W.
de Fretias, Geoffrey Lindgren, G. S. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Deer, G. MacColl, J. E. Steele, T.
Delargy, H. J. McGhee, H. G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) McInnes, J. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McKay, John (Wallsend) Stross, Dr. Barnett
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) McLeavy, F. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Sylvester, G. O.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mainwaring, W. H. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Fernyhough, E. Mann, Mrs. Jean Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Fienburgh, W. Manuel, A. C. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Foot, M. M. Mason, Roy Thornton, E.
Forman, J. C. Mayhew, C. P. Timmons, J.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mellish, R. J. Turner-Samuels, M.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Messer, Sir F. Usborne, H. C.
Gibson. C. W. Mitchison, G. R. Viant, S. P.
Glanville, James Monslow, W. Wallace, H. W.
Gooch, E. G. Moody, A. S. Warbey, W. N.
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Watkins, T. E.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Weitzman, D.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Lewisham, S.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hale, Leslie Mort, D. L. Wells, William (Walsall)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Moyle, A. West, D. G.
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Mulley, F. W. Wheeldon, W. E.
White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. Williams, Ronald (Wigan) Yates, V. F.
Wigg, George Williams, W. (Droylsden)
Wilkins, W. A. Willis, E. G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Williams, David (Neath) Winter-bottom, Richard (Brightside) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 65 ordered to stand part of the Bill.