HC Deb 13 July 1960 vol 626 cc1375-6
16. Mr. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the Manual of Military Law, Part II, Section V, is complied with in the case of the Bank of England picket.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hugh Fraser)

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave him on 29th June.

Mr. Langford-Holt

With all due respect, that does not answer the Question I put. Can my hon. Friend now tell me whether this provision in the Manual of Military Law is complied with, especially in regard to paragraph 36, which says that the civilian authorities shall not obtain labour more cheaply than they would by the employment of civilians, and the employment is therefore charged for soldiers at the recognised civilian rate? Is that done or not?

Mr. Fraser

This is an institution which has run for many years, and it is one which we do not in any way propose to do away with. The point which my hon. Friend raises is really one of the interpretation of the order.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Would my hon. Friend agree that, although it may be an institution, so far as the Manual of Military Law is concerned it is an illegal institution?

Mr. Fraser

No, because the section comes into force only in the event of the troops being asked for to support the civil power. There is no question of these troops being used in support of the civil power. [Interruption.] They are there as guardians of the Bank, and, quite honestly, it is not a question of the civil power.

Mr. Strachey

Does the Under-Secretary feel that the Bank of England could not afford it?

Hon. Members


Sir G. Nicholson

When my hon. Friend said that this is an institution which the War Office has no intention of doing away with, was he referring to the Bank of England? In that case, all I can say is that the whole City of London will sigh with relief.

Mr. Jeger

Is not this a very happy arrangement between two nationalised undertakings?

17. Mr. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will take steps to see that the Bank of England picket obeys paragraph 1459 of Queen's Regulations regarding traffic precautions by marching troops; and on what authority bodies of troops ignore this regulation.

Mr. H. Fraser

The officer in charge of the Bank of England picket is instructed to cause as little inconvenience as possible to traffic. He ignores the regulations quoted by hon. Friend only where, in his judgment, this will reduce obstruction or delay.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my hon. Friend aware that, by personal observation, I know that this picket wheels to the right, wheels to the left, hops on and off the pavements, ignoring all signals, regulations, the Highway Code, the lot, and that it is only by motorists stopping suddenly, as I have seen myself, with a screeching of brakes, that accidents are prevented? Would he look into it again?

Mr. Fraser

No, Sir. I have absolutely no intention of abolishing this picket. [Interruption.] Every regulation must be interpreted with intelligence, and years of experience have shown the Bank picket how to get there, and that the quickest way to get there is the way that causes the least disturbance to traffic.

Mr. Langford-Holt

If my hon. Friend will not abolish it, will be at least make it a legal body?

Mr. Fraser

Under the law, it is perfectly legal when it is marching through the City of London.

Mr. G. Brown

If the picket is carrying out Government policy, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that his hon. Friend's description of what it does applies exactly to Government policy?

Mr. Fraser

In this case, it shows the flexibility and intelligence of the modern Army.