§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)
beg to move, in page 1, line 16, at the end to add:
Provided that it shall be unlawful to order any person subject to this Act to be present at or take any part in such worship or to carry out any duty in substitution therefor.
This Amendment seeks to put into the Bill some specific words to bring it into line with what, I understand, is naval practice, and to make sure that divine worship is, in fact as well as in law, a voluntary act, in that the old practice of having distasteful alternatives for those who do not attend divine worship shall be abolished. It is not, as I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will understand, an anti-religious Amendment. In fact, it is pro-religion, in that it tries to remove the stigma of compulsion from an act which should and must come from within a man's own self.
On this side of the Committee, we realise that, as elsewhere, there have to be many compulsions in a Service. Some are minor, such as a man getting his hair cut or not smoking on watch, while others are major, such as that a man shall not desert his post. But we believe that no man has the right to compel another man to worship. Indeed, that right today is exercised, so far as I know, only in schools and in prisons. I consider that in the past, when it was exercised in the Services, its effects were almost without exception harmful. It produced any number of attempts at evasion. Men who had hopes of avoiding the compulsion of worship used to select all kinds of odd religions which they did not really uphold —Seventh Day Adventists, Holy Rollers and the rest—in the hope that because there was no chaplain of that religion in the ship or establishment they would thereby be able to avoid what they considered to be the tyranny of compulsion in this matter.
Compulsion also led to counter measures by the authorities. If people really refused to go to divine service, on 390 grounds perhaps of conscience, they were on occasion given all the most unpleasant jobs they could possibly have, such as cleaning out the heads, doing potatoes and all the rest— Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East): I do not think that last statement of the hon. Gentleman must pass unchallenged. I have had some experience of these affairs, and I have never heard a complaint or any case such as the hon. Gentleman has suggested. Such a statement, suggesting that commanding officers allowed this type of unauthorised punishment, for really that is what it comes to, ought not to be made, because it is a most unjust one.
I know that the hon. and gallant Member has had great experience —indeed, far greater than mine—but his experience was in the stratosphere and mine was very much down on the ground. I can tell him that, from my own experience, I have known that sort of thing happening, though I think without the knowledge of the commanding officer, perhaps through a petty officer taking the law into his own hands. The effect of that sort of thing on some of the men in naval establishments has been to create an atmosphere of "bloody-mindedness". I remember one man who when forced to attend service spent his time in seeing how many times he could spit into the cap of the man standing in front of him. That was his way of expressing himself about a service which he had no desire to attend.
As the Service as a whole is a volunteer service, manned almost entirely by volunteers, and as it is governed much more by the compulsion of good neighbourliness than by the compulsion enforced by authority, I consider that the compulsion to worship reduces the Service to the level of a prison or a school in this respect, and that it also reduces religion to something which is an irksome Service routine.
Because of that, I think that both the Service and religion itself is brought into disrepute by any form of compulsion whatever in its observance, and I therefore hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will see his way to have these words written into the Act and so make quite clear what our intentions are in this matter.
§ Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)
It is only right that the Committee should know the history of this Clause and the way in which it got into the draft Bill. There was, of course, and there has been for centuries, a similar Clause in the old Naval Discipline Acts. It is perfectly true that in the existing Naval Discipline Act, and in those which have gone before it, afterthe worship of Almighty God ",these words were included:according to the liturgy of the Church of England established by law.Again, after the reference to the Lord's Day observance, the words "according to law" were added.
When the draft Bill was presented by the Admiralty to the Select Committee, over which I had the honour to preside, it did not include this Clause, and all the Regular Service members of the Select Committee were extremely shocked that the draft should not include this ancient historical Clause. Hon. Members who are interested will find that the first memorandum put before the Select Committee on the subject of public worship is to be found on page 412 of the Committee's Report, and that it is Appendix 16. None the less, when the Committee set about discussing whether or not there should be any such Clause in the Bill, there was a unanimous view in the Committee that there should be such a Clause in the Bill.
In the proceedings of the Committee of 11th June last year, recorded in page 132 of the Select Committee's Report, it will be seen that the Clause in its present form was inserted unanimously by the Committee, but, of course, it was not inserted without a very long discussion, and it is part of that discussion which is relevant to what the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) has been saying. If hon. Members who are interested will look at pages 16 and 17 of the evidence, they will find that a long discussion took place, and, in particular, the point was discussed whether or not the service was voluntary or involuntary.
The first thing that was brought out by the witness in front of us, Rear-Admiral F. A. Ballance of the Admiralty, was that there is not and never has been any sanction in Clause 1 in the existing Bill, or in any previous Bill. It is really a Clause 392 which has come down historically from somewhere about 1660, and it might be that if a commanding officer did not attempt to hold any service on his ship, and did it deliberately, he might eventually get into trouble for some neglect of duty but whether or not a commanding officer holds a service is a matter, as far as that Act is concerned, for him, although the Queen's Regulations support the Act to a certain extent.
Regarding the evidence given before the Select Committee, it was to the effect that services were held in all the large ships in Her Majesty's Navy regularly every Sunday, and they were services of various denominations. We also have the evidence as to the number of chaplains, how many of them were Church of England, how many were Church of Scotland, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, or the Jewish faith, and so forth. All sorts of services are held in the large ships, although undoubtedly the Church of England service is the main service that is held. As regards the small ships, the evidence showed that when they were in harbour it would be almost certainly voluntary parties that would go to the various churches in the harbour.
As regards compulsion, the actual position was put before us, and will be found in the Answer to Question 90 in the Minutes of Evidence. The Answer given to the Question as to whether it is voluntary or not was:You can order boys to go to church, but you cannot order other people to go to church. But you have authority, on high days and holidays, when there is a parade, to order people to attend church but they moo not be ordered to attend a church of another denomination than their own.So the actual position in regard to ordering persons to attend services is that it is confined solely to boys under 17 or 17½—I am not quite sure which it is—who can be ordered to attend services and other parades, but on great occasions as, for instance, as I have seen myself at naval stations, the unveiling of war memorials, and so on, undoubtedly members of the Services can be ordered to attend parade services such as that on very special occasions. The idea that this authorises compulsory attendance at services is wrong, because that only applies, according to the evidence given to us, to boys and to the other special church parades on some great occasion.
393 Therefore, under these circumstances, the Select Committee unanimously thought it right that this Clause should be retained, and thought it right that nothing should be done to limit its present customary effect. We considered that it was desirable, and quite frankly it is desirable, that boys under 17 could be—not should be—ordered to attend church services of their own denominations, and we thought it was right that the Admiralty should have the power to order members of the Services to attend great national ceremonial parades. That is the whole effect of the Clause, and, in these circumstances, I think the Committee will understand why we thought it desirable that it should be retained.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee will not insert this proviso in the proposed Amendment, because it would make it impossible to order boys to attend services and to order any Service personnel to attend special parades on great national occasions.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I hope the Committee will accept the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu). I really do not see why the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) can object to this Amendment, which simplifies and clarifies.
It should be made crystal clear in this Naval Discipline Bill that no sailor in any circumstances whatever, and even if a boy of 16 or 17, should be compelled to attend a church service. After all, there is a church service in this Assembly in this Chamber every day, but there is no compulsion on hon. Members to attend the exhortations of the chaplain. Of course, it is said that the chaplain looks around at the Members and prays for the country, but some of us do not really know what the chaplain in the Royal Navy is praying for.
I fail to see why there should be any compulsion at all on anyone in the Navy, even on these other occasions, to attend a church service, and I think it should be crystal clear that there is no such compulsion. After all, the Navy is not a religious institution; it is a very secular affair, and it would certainly seem to me to be so. I have never been able to discover why religious services occupy such 394 an important part in the Armed Services. As to the special occasions to which the right hon. and learned Member referred, such as thanksgiving ceremonies, you, Mr. Duthie, will know that the poet Robert Burns wrote a very caustic verse about religious celebrations and occasions of national thanksgiving:Ye hypocrities, are these your pranks?To murder men and give God thanks?Desist, I say; proceed no further,God won't accept your thanks for murder.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ A large number of sailors will have their own views about what is said by the chaplain. I cannot understand the position of a chaplain who delivers an address to an assembly of sailors in a warship or in an aircraft carrier if he takes as his text, "Thou shalt not kill." Would not he be subject to correction for saying something calculated to undermine discipline? This Amendment makes the position absolutely clear. It might have been the tradition in the 1660s, but we are now in the year 1957, and apparently this Naval Discipline Measure will continue for the next 300 years. If so, why cannot we insert the point of view of people living in 1957 and not respect so much the traditions of 1660? I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East has clarified the Bill by this Amendment in such a way that sailors cannot be punished if they refuse to attend divine service.
§ Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)
As a result of thirty years in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, I have suffered from church parades and compulsory church attendance, and I ask my hon. Friend to look with sympathy on this Amendment; although I agree, after hearing what has been said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), that it could not be accepted in its present form.
It seems to me utterly wrong that in these days grown men should be compelled to attend religious services. I know that there must be exceptions, such as the occasion of funeral services or Armistice Day celebrations, or matters of that kind. But to force a man to attend Sunday service merely because he is put down in the official records as belonging to a certain branch of the Christian religion is, in my opinion, indefensible.
395 Despite what has been said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South I would say, after considerable experience that, in practice, compulsory church attendance does take place. As the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) was saying, I think it is only members of the Armed Forces, apart from people in prison, who suffer from this form of compulsion.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
To what date is my hon. and gallant Friend referring? Surely he is aware that compulsory church attendance was brought to an end, in, I think, 1947.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux
It may be that I am to some extent out of date, because I have not attended a church service in the Service since that time. But I think I should be correct in saying that all persons who arc listed in the official records as belonging to a particular branch of the Church will normally be detailed to attend a service?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux
If that is not the case, it seems to me, nevertheless, that this particular Amendment, or something consistent with what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South would clarify the position and make clear that in all cases over-strong encouragement, shall we say, should not be given to people to attend church services.
I know it is sometimes suggested that this practice may be due to the fact that the Armed Forces possess separate chaplains' departments. The majority of chaplains to whom I have spoken were in favour of entirely voluntary services in practice as well as in naval law. Naval padres to whom I have spoken prefer evening services where, although the attendance may be small, it is entirely voluntary.
If there is some form of over-strong encouragement to attend church it is better in the Navy than in the other Services, because the Navy does not go in for and make such a fetish of those irritating weekly ceremonies known as church parades from which the other Services suffer, and from which we in the Royal Marines certainly suffered 396 during the time when we were in barracks, with the attendant irritating weekend "spit and polish." I think it a fact that a man who is compelled to spend a large part of his weekend ironing his trousers and applying blanco, boot polish, Brasso and other forms of polish to various parts of his equipment is not likely to form a very high opinion of the religious ceremony connected with it.
I am not suggesting for a moment that ceremonial is not desirable in the Services. Though I dislike it myself, I know that a certain amount is necessary. But people who have to carry it out dislike it very much and for that reason I think that if it is possible, it should never be linked in any way with a church service.
Only last Sunday I read in the Sunday Expressthat a team from the Northern Command of the Army, from B Squadron of the 7th Royal Tank Regiment, were engaged in a soccer cup final with the 3rd Training Regiment of the Royal Signals. Apparently the match was televised and one gathered from the report in the Sunday Expressthat every time the Royal Signals scored a goal spectators from the Royal Tank Regiment, who were there in uniform, were seen to be cheering; and whenever their own team scored a goal they were rude.
Apparently the reason was that they had been forced to watch the match. They had been marched to the ground and most of their weekend leave had either been cancelled or curtailed. I think that that is a very good parallel because it gives one a good idea of the likely effect that the linking of church services with parade work would have on the outlook of the men towards religion.
In many ways I consider the Navy the most progressive of the three Services, but, at the same time, I feel that it has a tendency to hang on to old customs and usages because they took place in Nelson's day. Although this is one of the old customs which is still a very strong custom, to say the least of it—even though it may not be actually compulsory—it has certainly outlived its usefulness. Something on the lines suggested in this Amendment would make the position crystal clear to all commanding officers and would be useful. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will consider this matter sympathetically.
§ Sir P. Agnew
I am fully aware of the number of advantages accruing from having been a Regular member of one of the fighting Services before coming into this House. It is a considerable number of years ago—I have not had time to count them up—since my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) and I were together at an establishment called Whale Island, where my hon. and gallant Friend was in the process of converting himself from a naval officer into a Royal Marine officer—a rather rare process which I think the Admiralty afterwards brought to an end by one of its numerous regulations.
It is not, and, I understand, has not been the practice—indeed, regulation has made sure that it has not been the practice —for there to be compulsory attendance at church services. That in itself might seem—so long as the regulations continues in force—to render unnecessary the Amendment of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu). But the Amendment itself would have two practical disadvantages which. I think, could not commend it to the Committee.
One of them is that, if it were accepted, it would apparently prevent those below man's age, the boys in the Navy, from being made compulsorily to attend church services; in exactly the same way as their opposite numbers in civilian life, are, under the rules of our State education system, made to attend a short service every day according to the syllabus of the education committee in their county. It would, therefore, place them at a disadvantage.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The hon. and gallant Member will be aware that parents who do not subscribe to the religious views expressed by the teacher at those communal meetings is entitled to withdraw his child from the service.
§ Sir P. Agnew
I am, of course, aware that that right exists, but I am also aware that, contrary to the old practice, since the passing of the 1944 Education Act the number of parents who ask for their children to be excluded from the daily non-denominational services which are 398 held in our State schools are very few indeed. That is my understanding.
I now pass to the second disadvantage which the acceptance of this Amendment might create. Unlike the more measured existence in peace-time of life in the Army or the Royal Air Force, life in the Navy is, in a sense, much more akin to what one might describe as active service, because of the vagaries of the weather. On frequent occasions on Sundays, in harbour, when men hoped to "get their heads down", as the phrase is, I have known a gale to blow up suddenly and a number of men be detailed for duty to set an anchor watch, or some other strictly nautical evolution with which the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East will be familiar.
Were this Amendment accepted there might be the risk—I do not say that we should run it often—of men claiming that they had been unfairly detailed for a duty at the same time as there happened to he a church service taking place on board: and that instead of resting down below in their mess decks they had had to take part in a nautical evolution which actually had been rendered necessary by a change in the weather. This Amendment is not a practical one, neither is it necessary, and I feel that the Committee should not accept it.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) was a refreshing breath of fresh air on this subject and brought into the debate the atmosphere of 1957. We do not live now in 1660. The Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662, when it was believed that everybody ought to hold one faith inside the country. The people in control in the early part of 1660 were just as certain of that as those who passed the Act of Uniformity in 1662. The difference was that a slightly different form of religion would have been prescribed.
Acceptance of the Amendment would carry out the spirit of the Navy administration as we understand it is at present. As the hon. and gallant Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) said, the freedom that has been pleaded for by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) and the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, South may be safeguarded by regulations.
399 It is easier to alter regulations than to alter an Act of Parliament. The Amendment expresses the spirit of modern religious communities. They manage to live in a measure of amity that would have been regarded as impossible in 1660, and even as undesirable.
The hon. and gallant Member for Worcestershire, South tried to draw a distinction between denominational and undenominational teaching in schools supported by the State. Both are given—in a voluntary aided school—the religion of the school governors as prescribed in the trust deed. Anybody has the right to withdraw his child from that instruction and from the act of collective worship in accordance with the instruction. Similarly, he has the right in a county school, where undenominational religion is given. On occasions, and to my knowledge, Roman Catholics will withdraw their children, quite understandably. We cannot expect people of authoritarian faith to accept the ministrations of lay people of non-authoritarian views.
In the Navy, we are not dealing with children and I would not object to an addition to the Amendment at the appropriate stage or in another place that where the Navy is virtually in loco parentis,dealing with boys, there should be a right to secure that the boys attend the particular church that their parents desired, unless the parents objected to their attending church at all. Some parents, even religious parents, take the view that it is wrong to enforce on one's child one's own views in regard to so important a matter as religion.
I have not heard anything, either from the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), whose views on this matter I hold in very high esteem and whose work on this type of problem has placed every hon. Member under a deep debt of gratitude to him—[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."]—or from any other hon. Member which makes me think that the Amendment would do other than make clear to persons who have to administer the Bill what the spirit of the Committee is on these matters. It is out of keeping with the modern age not to make it clear that men above the age of boys are regarded as having the right to choose what religion, if any, they would like to follow and what 400 religious service, if any, they would like to attend.
I recollect that when I was in the Army I was registered as a Unitarian and that there was difficulty in finding a chaplain. On one occasion the Jews had a Rabbi come to them. The sergeant-major said to me, "Serjeant, you can go to this Service on Sunday. They only believe in one God and that's all you do." I replied, "I am not quite sure that it is the same God."
What happens at compulsory church parade? What used to happen when, if compulsion was not actually used, the pressure was very strong? A number of soldiers would be singing the lewdest paradies of the hymns, sotto voce,while the Service was going on. That certainly was not good enough. It was not good for the men who were attending service with a genuine desire to get benefit from it. Worship is a matter of the spirit and not of form. There is nothing more destructive of the spirit in these circumstances than the presence of people who are there as a matter of form and resent being there.
I have no doubt that what has been said about the liberal atmosphere of the officers in the Navy towards these matters is true of the great majority, but now and then one comes across an individual who, unless there are words in the regulations like those in the Amendment, can bring non-legal pressure, things he ought not to do, into play on men who, in a disciplined force, may very well feel unable to resist. I hope that the Minister will feel that, living in 1957, there can be no objection to, but every argument for, including these words in the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
A great deal of argument in this Committee is based upon misapprehension. Several hon. Members have supported the Amendment in the belief that attendance at divine service is still compulsory in the Navy. That was so up till roughly ten years ago. It is no longer so. Anybody who reads Clause I of the Bill carefully will see no idea in it of compulsion. It merely says that public worship is to be performed. There is no question of compulsion or of anybody attending public worship. Undoubtedly, the chaplain must attend because it is his duty to perform the 401 service, but there is no compulsion whatsoever in Clause 1.
If the Amendment is added to the Clause it will give the idea immediately by implication that there is compulsion. If the Clause is left as it is, it reads that there is no compulsion. For that reason, I could not possibly support such an Amendment.
§ The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Christopher Soames)
I am in complete agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon). There has been some misconception. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said that he thought that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) was living in the present day, 1957, in what he said; in fact, that is just what he was not doing. My hon. and gallant Friend said that church service was still compulsory in the Navy. It is not. It has not been so since 1947, with the two exceptions mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens).
In broad terms, the position is that the Bill will be supplemented by regulations, and, as the right hon. Member for South Shields said, it is easier to alter regulations than an Act of Parliament. The feeling of the Committee is that it should be made crystal clear to the Navy, not only in the Bill, but in the Queen's Regulations, which will support it, what the feeling is about religious worship. It is well known throughout the Fleet that religious worship is not and cannot be compulsory except in the case of boys and on certain very special ceremonial occasions. It is of national importance when there is a ceremonial parade and a service of some sort that the Navy should take part in that ceremonial.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me to explain the point of view of the Admiralty. The Department realised that this Clause was not included in the Army and Air Force Acts, but had been a feature of Naval Discipline Acts for many centuries. If it is to stay it would be the greatest pity to alter it in the way suggested in the Amendment. It is well known that worship is not compulsory.
402 It may be that some hon. Gentlemen think of it more in principle than in detail, but it is, in fact, written into the Queen's Regulations. I do not know what those who support the Amendment are frightened of. There would certainly be a most tremendous hullabaloo if the Board of Admiralty tried to make religious worship compulsory.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Does not the Clause do just that? In some ships there is not a chaplain. I suppose the Clause would apply to the service even if there was nobody there. In some ships, people go away for week-ends, and a junior officer is ordered to conduct the service.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Soames
Is the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) inferring that it should not be necessary to have services available for men should they wish to attend divine service? That, surely, is the logical conclusion of his argument. The services would not be conducted and anyone who wished to attend them could not do so. It is true that under this Measure the service must be performed, but the spirit of the Amendment is not to prevent an officer from performing a service. I do not think there are many of Her Majesty's ships on which there would not be one officer who would be prepared to conduct divine service for his ratings.
§ Mr. Soames
They are not ordered to do so; the regulations are absolutely clear on that point. This Clause has been a feature of naval life for a long time. It has inspired the actions of seafaring men for many generations. I think it would be a pity to destroy the spirit of it by adding this Amendment. I hope that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) will see tit to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire. West)
We owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield. East (Mr. J P. W. Mallalieu) for moving this Amendment. because by so doing he has raised a very interesting debate. If it has done nothing else, it 403 has at least made the intentions of the Admiralty clear.
At the same time, it should be borne in mind that this is a Naval Discipline Bill. Therefore, the various provisions of the Bill are matters which have to be connected with discipline and it is obvious that any provision put in the Bill will be so treated when it becomes an Act. The experience of the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) is what the public generally think about these matters. I thought it a very good thing indeed that he should have the courage to make that speech in the Committee this afternoon.
I wish to draw one matter to the attention of the Committee. When the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) gave his interpretation of what had happened in the Select Committee he said that in the original draft this Clause did not appear. If that is so, when the draft Bill was put forward it must have been the view of the Admiralty that this Clause was unnecessary and that it should fall into line with what has been done in the Army and Air Force. The evidence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to this Committee was that it was on the insistence of the Select Committee that this Clause now appears in the Bill. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Admiralty accepted the advice of the Select Committee. Is it really pressing for this Clause to be in the Bill?
The views of this House should be taken into consideration. There is a fair compromise in this matter. In so far as we accept the advice of the Select Committee about having this Clause in the Bill at the same time note should be taken of fears expressed in this Committee. Whether this is the right Amendment by which that should be done or not, we should have an undertaking from the Government that that will be taken into account and some further consideration given to the matter. If an undertaking of that kind were given we would be prepared not to press the matter further today.
§ Mr. Soames
The position the Admiralty took is explained in Appendix 16 of the Select Committee's Report. It is quite clear and all set out there. The 404 Admiralty felt there might be opposition, not on this score, but on other scores, from the Church of Scotland, Roman Catholics and Non-Conformists. The Select Committee was insistent in its view that the Clause should be included. It was insistant that the Clause should be included as it is in the Bill, not with an Amendment. Nor was it the case that the Admiralty was concerned with having either the Clause or the Clause with the Amendment. The Admiralty was concerned about whether or not it was wise to put into a Bill affecting discipline something to do with religious services, because that went back to bygone centuries.
The regulations would still have stood in Queen's Regulations. The inclusion or exclusion of this Clause as it stands at present, unamended, would not affect the regulations applicable to non-compulsory attendance at divine service in any way. The Committee felt that the Clause should be put in and the Admiralty was delighted that the Committee felt that way It felt that way after going into the matter in considerable detail and quizzing a number of witnesses.
I think that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) was right when he said that the public do not appreciate what the position is. It is quite clear that there is no compulsion except for the two exceptions I have quoted. The Amendment is not necessary for that reason. It would detract from the Clause as it stands.
§ Mr. Steele
What the Parliamentary Secretary has now indicated is that the Clause itself is not necessary. He has all the powers in Queen's Regulations to do what he wishes to do. That appears to have been the view of the Admiralty when it put forward the draft Bill.
On the question of compulsion, I have read with interest the evidence given before the Select Committee. Even in Question 90, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South referred, it is not very clear. Rear-Admiral Ballance, replying to an hon. Member, said:You can order boys to go to church, but you cannot order other people to go to church.He went on to say:But you have authority, on high days and holidays…405 which is a rather curious phrase—when there is a parade, to order people to attend church…If the power is there to ensure that attendance at church can be made compulsory on one occasion, it can be made compulsory on another occasion and the Admiralty would decide what is a high day or a holiday.
We do not want to make a great deal of heavy weather on this point. The Parliamentary Secretary is, in fact, saying that our intention by the Amendment is more or less the present position. if he is prepared to have another look at this matter and to see whether the desire of the Committee can be met, we shall have been successful in the discussion we have had this afternoon.
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu
Is the Parliamentary Secretary about to give an undertaking on the lines suggested?
§ Mr. Soames
Quite honestly, I am not at all convinced that it is the desire of the Committee that this Amendment should be included. I do not believe it is. I have explained that it is unnecessary and I have said that in the view of the Admiralty it would detract from rather than add to the benefit of the Clause. Were I to say that I would look at the matter again, I would be leading the hon. Member astray if I gave him any encouragement to think that I would change my mind between now and Report stage.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.