§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Deputy Secretary of State and Minister of Defence for the Army (Mr. Frederick Mulley)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a second time.
Before I come to discuss the Bill itself it may be helpful if I say a word about the machinery by which the Armed Forces Legislation is conducted.
The House will recall that in former days the Army and Air Force Acts were renewed annually. This process had its origin in the seventeenth century for good and sufficient reasons; but its continuance into the twentieth century, while it consumed an ample supply of Government time, seems to have done little to improve the shape of the Acts. This was found in 1952 when it became evident that it was necessary to rewrite the Statutes from scratch. After that revision it was decided, in order that Parliament should keep this means of control over the military forces without legislative encumbrance, that the Acts should still run only for one year at a time, but should be renewable annually by Order in Council, requiring an affirmative Resolution of both Houses, for each of four successive years. At the end of the fifth year fresh legislation would be required to embark upon a new cycle.
We are at present drawing towards the end of the fourth year of the life of the present Acts. That is why we are asking the House today to approve the Orders which continue the Army Act and the Air Force Act until the 31st December, 1966, and are commending the Second Reading of the Bill which, if approved, will start them out upon a fresh quinquennial cycle. The Bill itself, while permitting a continuance of the Acts for five successive years, only provides for it up to the end of 1967. Thereafter their fate is in the hands of Parliament.
If the House gives a Second Reading to the Bill, we intend to move to send it to a Select Committee for examination. The 1955 Acts are, in fact, the product of the most select Select Committee, 919 which sat from 1952 to 1954, and which included such notable members as Mr. Deputy Speaker, the late Mr. Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and, of course, my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General, who served in this difficult and dangerous terrain as guide, pioneer, skirmisher and occasionally stretcher bearer.
They recommended the adoption of a new Standing Order providing for the committal of future Bills to a Select Committee after Second Reading. They argued that this would both speed up business and ensure a more efficient, thorough and impartial examination of the Bill. They thought also that by enshrining these provisions in Standing Orders, together with the system of extension by annual Orders in Council, they would compensate for the disappearance of the Annual Acts. The Government of the day very sensibly adopted the Order in Council procedure, but apparently did not read on as far as the bit about Standing Orders. At any rate, without exactly opposing this recommendation, they did not accept it.
Perhaps they were reluctant to face so stringent and competent a Select Committee another time. At any rate, the 1961 Bill, on the prompting of my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General, was in the event referred to a Select Committee. I shall not say too much about its work, as I was myself a Member, and do not wish to seem immodest, but I think I may say that the Committee did a sound job on that occasion; and as I see a number of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who were also on that Committee, I am emboldened to extend self-congratulation thus far.
My hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy was also a Member of that Committee, and if, as I hope, he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, later in the debate, we shall be making history by having a Minister for the Royal Navy participating in these debates. As the House knows, my hon. Friend has an overall responsibility, within the Ministry, for personnel matters 920 across the board, affecting all three Services, and he has been responsible for the co-ordination of the very considerable work that has gone into the preparation of this Measure.
When we came to consider, therefore, how we might invite the House to handle this Bill, we had no doubt that the sensible course would be to invite the House to send it again to a Select Committee, where hon. Members who are interested in these matters can examine expert witnesses, which cannot be done in debate on the Floor of the House.
When the Select Committee has completed its work the Bill will of course be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House. I trust, therefore, that the House will agree that prior examination by a Select Committee will be fruitful; and I may say that my right hon. and honourable Friends are well content that the Bill should be given thorough and impartial scrutiny in this way.
The Army Act and Air Force Act are immensely long statutes, running to well over 200 sections each. That the present Bill, in the parts dealing with these Acts, should extend to only about two dozen Clauses, is some testimony to the soundness of their structure and to the effectiveness with which they have functioned in general. There does, however, run one thread through this Bill which may help to draw together many of the provisions which otherwise seem to have no connection with each other. This is the intention to bring the three Services into line as far as is realistic, practical and worthwhile, in matters affecting their discipline and their conditions of service. However, one cannot find in a Bill of this kind any internal coherence by progressing through each Clause in turn. I think that the House would find such a process extremely tedious, and I propose instead to draw the House's attention to the more significant provisions of the Bill and try to explain what we want to achieve and the considerations that have prompted us.
This theme of unification is mostly strikingly shown by the presence in this Bill of Clauses relating to the Naval Discipline Act and to naval enlistment. The public esteem in which the Royal Navy has always been held, coupled perhaps with the absence of adverse historical 921 accidents, has exempted their Statutes from annual inspection by Parliament. The Naval Discipline Act is thus a permanent Statute, and corresponds to Part II of the Army and Air Force Acts. The House will recall that it was revised and brought up to date in 1957, and the Select Committee which considered it had before it the reshaped Army and Air Force Acts, so that much was done, with due allowance for the differing circumstances of the Services, to bring the Statutes into line. None the less, in the course of the past eight years the need has arisen for some amendment to the Naval Discipline Act, and in this Bill particularly we wish to adapt to the Navy the provisions we are making for the Army and Royal Air Force. This is a process which is working both ways; for there are some provisions of the Naval Discipline Act which we are adapting to the Army and R.A.F.
Because the Naval Discipline Act is not subject to periodic scrutiny it seemed convenient to take the present opportunity of amending it; this has the advantage that when the House is considering these matters it can see their application to the disciplinary codes of all three Services and examine their mutual relationship. Although the Naval Discipline Act on the one hand, and the Army and Air Force Acts on the other, are being amended in different ways by the present Bill, it is generally with the object of closing similar loopholes or applying similar sanctions.
We had hoped that it might indeed be possible to carry the integration of the discipline codes to the logical conclusion of a single code for all three Services. However, we recognise that a production of such a single code would be a long and complex task, and there was not the opportunity to undertake it this time. To the extent that the present Bill brings all three Acts closer into harmony, however, the task of their unification, if that should be undertaken at some future date, will be further simplified.
A separate group of Naval Statutes deal with enlistment. These are old and in some respects outdated, for the basis of the Naval Enlistment Code are the Naval Enlistment Acts of 1835, 1853 and 1884. At the time that the Naval Discipline Act was revised in 1957 proposals were considered to consolidate and bring up to 922 date the Statutes governing enlistment; but apparently right hon. Gentlemen opposite never had time available for this small but useful Measure. It therefore looks as if it will fall to a Labour Administration to put an end to the practice, admittedly infrequent in recent years, of allowing a sailor his discharge if he could produce two landsmen to replace him. We are, however, taking the opportunity provided by this Bill of modernising the naval enlistment code and bringing the enlistment provisions for all three Services within the same framework.
This brings me to Clause 2 of the Bill, which I am conscious is a somewhat radical proposal; though I trust that the House will find it nonetheless acceptable for that. In effect, it provides for the terms of enlistment for the Regular Army and Air Force, which have traditionally been laid down in the Statutes, to be removed from them and made the subject of regulation by the Defence Council. The reasons for this are purely practical and will, I am sure, commend themselves to the House as sensible. The whole trend of our modern society is away from the treatment of people as ciphers and towards recognition of their individual rights and claims. It is no longer enough to hire a man from a tavern, with the Queen's shilling, and expect to have the inexpensive and highly arbitrary use of his services for as long as authority sees fit. Men and women who join the Services today need more sophisticated inducements and detailed statements of their rights, which by this time have made the Acts extremely complicated. At the same time the Armed Forces must recruit in the face of atrractive inducements elsewhere.
This demands a flexibility in laying down terms of enlistment which the Army and Air Force cannot at present provide. It is not surprising, therefore, that even since the comprehensive revision of the Army and Air Force Acts in 1955 it should have been necessary first to revise the terms of Army enlistment in the Army (Conditions of Enlistment) Act, 1957, and then to produce almost complete rewrites of the Army and R.A.F. terms in the Army and Air Force Act, 1961, and still to find that legislation is again needed today. Moreover, the provisions governing enlistment are so detailed and complex, that the most trivial amendment produces a disproportionate disturbance 923 in the Statute. If, as is very likely, such an amendment may have to wait up to five years for the next review of the Acts before it can be made, it will not be surprising if we lose a good many recruiting opportunities. We therefore decided that we should ask Parliament to allow us a certain amount of flexibility in these matters—
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the inducements for men and women to enlist in the services, and I understand that the Defence Council is to be given power to make Regulations. Of course, pay and pensions are very important inducements to enlistment. Would the Minister give some details now about how the reference by the Government to the Prices and Incomes Board of the next possible pay and pensions increase under the Grigg biennial review will be tied in? On the face of it, it looks as if the Government have breached or may breach the conditions under which men and women are induced to enlist in the first place.
§ Mr. Mulley
That was a rather long intervention, made before I had reached that part of my speech dealing with recruitment and similar matters. There is not and never has been any provision for pay to be provided by Statute. There is no provision in the Statute for the Grigg procedure. The extent to which there may be complaint will be discovered on 1st April next when the sums due are to be paid. We are considering, of course, as everyone knows, whether the present period for pay is not rather too long. I think that these considerations will take us rather far from the treatment of enlistment as set out in the Bill.
To come back to the point, although the Army and Air Force have their enlistment provisions prescribed by Statute, as regards the Royal Navy, the Defence Council already has wide powers to prescribe terms of service, powers whose lack of definition, while enabling the Navy to manage for so many years on the basis of the nineteenth century Enlistment Acts, perhaps need now to be settled within the reasonable bounds we propose for the Army and the Air Force. I must, however, emphasise that we are not proposing to make subject to Regulations all the provisions now contained in Part I of the 924 Army and Air Force Acts: for instance, the duty to obtain the parents' consent to the enlistment of recruits under the age of 18, or in general the provisions governing the method of enlistment and discharge.
Subsection (1) of this Clause in particular contains no element of compulsion; it allows the Defence Council to make Regulations offering soldiers, sailors and airmen an engagement or a revised engagement which they are free to accept or reject as they think fit. Subsection (3) reserves any rights which a man may have under his engagement and prevents the Defence Council from withdrawing from him any right which its exercise of the new powers confers. The House will see, therefore, that the power to make Regulations is being sought in a fairly limited respect and one in which it is not only convenient but imperative that the Defence Council should enjoy the flexibility of response to new problems which provisions in a statute do not allow.
Even so, however, we are not proposing to move these powers from the control of Parliament. Any Regulations made under Clause 2 which amend or repeal any provision in an Act of Parliament would be laid in draft, and either House may resolve, during a period of 40 days, that no further proceedings should be taken on the draft. If the Regulations do not affect an Act, they will be subject to annulment by negative resolution of either House. In this way we hope to ensure to Parliament the greatest measure of practical control with the least amount of formal procedure.
Perhaps the House will allow me, as it is, I know, of wide public interest, to say something at this point about the state of recruiting for all three Services. Hon. Members will be aware of the figures which are published month by month, and it is plain enough that 1965 has, on the whole, been a disappointing year. It began well but numbers declined rather more than usual during the summer months and the tendency has carried through into the autumn. Having said so much, however, and without wishing to underestimate the seriousness with which we regard this situation, I must emphasize that 1964 was a good recruiting year, and that the Services are having to compete for recruits in an increasingly hard market.
925 The total strength of the three Services in officers and other ranks continues to be maintained and, in particular, that of the Army is still rising. As I said, however, in answer to a recent Question, the Army is not likely to meet its recruiting target until next summer. The recruitment of ratings to the Royal Navy and of other ranks to the Royal Marines is at present running at a rate of just under 8,000 a year, which is about the same as a year ago, though more recruits are needed if the Navy's planned commitments are to be met.
For the Army, recruiting is running at about 20,000 a year and the increase in total strength from a year ago has been just under 2,000. Over half the serving soldiers are on nine-year engagements. This is a substantial core of trained and experienced men, though we should like to see it still higher. The increasing competition for young apprentices and technicians in industry, together with a smaller age group, led to a disappointing fall in the recruitment of junior soldiers between the ages of 15 and 17 from 6,500 in 1964 to 5,000 in 1965.
The recruiting pattern for the Royal Air Force has been similar to that of the Army, falling away after a good start and is causing some concern. However, the new arrangements for youth entry introduced in September, 1964, have been well received and technician and craft apprenticeships have been reasonably well supported.
Officer recruiting throughout the Services is fairly satisfactory, though there are shortages in certain respects. The output from the Service colleges continues to be up to requirements, though it is still no easier to get graduate entrants and difficulties have been experienced in recruiting technical officers. Recruiting to the women's services has been generally satisfactory.
Most of the other provisions in Part II of the Bill follow the principle of providing a framework of Regulations to govern enlistment into the three Services—
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of recruiting, he will, I am sure, agree that to give the figures which he has is only part of the 926 picture. Would he complete it by saying something about re-engagement?
§ Mr. Mulley
I cannot give figures on re-engagement, but this is, I know, an extremely important part of the picture, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy will be dealing with this in his reply to the debate.
Part III of the Bill deals mainly with amendments to the disciplinary provisions of the Army and Air Force Acts and Naval Discipline Act. Clause 15 provides a new power, applicable to all three Services overseas together with all civilians who are subject to service law. When people are stationed abroad, often in rather out of the way areas, they may fall foul of the local law. We owe a duty to the Service men and civilians whom we send out, and to their families, to try to obviate their being held in the custody of the local civil authorities, possibly under unsuitable conditions.
This is not to say that we seek or expect immunities for irresponsible or criminal behaviour; but we already subscribe to a number of international agreements and arrangements which provide for persons who are subject to service law and who are to be tried by a local court for offence under the law of the country, to be taken meanwhile into British service custody. At present, however, without any statutory basis for such an arrangement in our own law, it can only be lawfully done with the consent of the person concerned, unless the custody is authorised by local law.
This is not a satisfactory arrangement, because it handicaps our own service authorities in the responsible discharge of their obligations towards the local courts; and Clause 15 provides a statutory foundation for this practice. The power which the Clause confers will be clearly controlled by the Regulations which the Defence Council may make, calling for regular reports on the arrest and custody of the person held.
It may be appropriate at this point to mention new arrangements which came into force this year over jurisdiction. The House may recall that earlier this year there were incidents in Aden involving the death of civilians through acts of British soldiers on duty. In one case the soldier was tried by the local 927 court. This aroused a certain amount of comment from hon. Members on account of the difficult political situation obtaining in Aden.
The reason why the soldier had been dealt with by the local court was that the practice in Colonial Territories had traditionally followed the practice in the United Kingdom, which is that members of the Services who commit offences affecting civilian persons and property are tried by the civil courts; but when our troops go overseas to independent countries in Europe or in the Commonwealth, treaty arrangements are made for jurisdiction to be exercised by the United Kingdom Service Authorities for offences committed on duty. This is the accepted international procedure.
It seemed to us rather anomalous that with this becoming the general rule throughout the Commonwealth, the diminishing number of Colonial Territories should still follow the former practice. With the concurrence of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, we therefore devised new arrangements by which soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in Colonial Territories would receive protection similar to that which they enjoyed when serving abroad in independent countries with whom we had treaty arrangements.
These arrangements, which were embodied in an Order in Council promulgated in June this year, cover appropriate Colonial Territories and restrict the trial of offenders by courts of the Colony for offences committed on duty, or against other Service men and Service property, but as in other status agreements there are provisions for trial by local courts where the Service authorities do not choose to deal with the case. It is often convenient to do this, for instance, in the case of minor traffic offences.
My right hon. Friend and I feel that this is an important step forward in the protection of our Service men overseas, which is desirable not only because of the many occasions and many different parts of the world in which they are called on to serve but also because of the troubled circumstances in which these incidents can arise.
In Part III there also appears another theme, which unites these miscellaneous 928 provisions, that is, to bring Naval, Army and Air Force discipline more into line with present practice in the civil courts. Instances of this are Clauses 16 and 20 which deal with fines. Apart from fines for drunkenness, these have a fairly recent history in the Army and Air Force Acts. Forfeitures of a sum from pay were introduced as a punishment for offences for the first time in 1961. The amount which could be awarded was limited in all cases to a sum equivalent to fourteen days' pay.
The new punishment has been found useful, but courts-martial have sometimes refrained from awarding it, even though apporpiate in form, because they have not thought that the amount which they could award sufficiently represented the gravity of the offence. In consequence they have had to continue to award punishments such as forfeiture of seniority or reduction in rank, which may in the event prove to have a greater adverse financial effect and may be much more damaging to a man's career.
Accordingly, we propose to increase the amount of the fine which -a court-martial can award for a Service offence to a sum equivalent to 28 days' pay and to give a court-martial the same powers as a civil court to award a fine for a civil offence. This discretion, however, applies only to courts-martial. The amount of the fine which may be awarded by commanding officers remains unchanged.
While it would be wrong to suggest that a system of fines is popular—one soldier with whom I discussed it said that he was against fines because they hit the soldier's pocket—experience shows that it is well designed to meet the modem disciplinary needs of the Armed Services. The Adjutant-General recently conducted a world-wide survey of the operation of the system in the Army. The results have been reassuring. First, there have been a large number of cases in which fines have been substituted for what would have been sentences of detention before the introduction of this alternative. Secondly, subordinate commanders have been able to dispose of offences which would previously have had to be referred to commanding officers. Thirdly, although it is difficult to make a direct comparison between civil and 929 military practice, there are clear indications that the general level of fines imposed in the Army is comparable with that imposed by magistrates' courts.
This is perhaps an appropriate occasion on which to make some remarks about the working of the Discipline Acts. Hon. Members who turn through the pages of the Service Acts, will soon become aware that these Statutes enshrine, in effect, a complete criminal code, covering both the offences, such as desertion or insubordination, which are peculiar to Service life and the whole range of offences which are tried by our criminal courts. These powers are exercised either by commanding officers in summary trial or by courts-martial.
I am afraid that there is still some public misapprehension of the status and conduct of these tribunals, which appears both in public comment, and sometimes in correspondence which Service Ministers receive. There is an impression that courts-martial are in some way not real courts of justice, sometimes even that it is not real justice that they dispense; and people are sometimes surprised that we should expect them to take their verdicts seriously, and pained that they are not free to call into question their procedure, qualifications or integrity.
Courts-martial, as the House knows, are the equivalent of the civil courts of justice, exercising very much the same sort of powers, and the system whereby they are advised by special judge advocates is a real guarantee that they dispense justice in neither an amateur nor a haphazard fashion. The accused is given a fair hearing, conducted under rules of procedure similar to those which apply in the civil courts, and the confirmation and review procedure of every court-martial sentence is a considerable safeguard against any miscarriage of justice. Finally the Courts-Martial Appeal Court over which the Lord Chief Justice presides, and which is equivalent to the Court of Criminal Appeal, justly indicates the place which courts-martial occupy in our judicial system and the grave matters with which they are concerned.
It is a matter of some satisfaction that, in contrast with national trends in crime, serious offences in the Services continue to show a reduction. In the last year, for all three Services, there were 930 2,431 trials by court-martial as opposed to 2,689 the previous year and 3,105 the year before that. Of these, 25 only have resulted in applications to the Courts-Martial Appeal Court, of which seven have been granted and none so far upheld. These statistics are perhaps more eloquent testimony than any argument that I can employ of the high standard of justice dispensed by Service courts-martial.
This Bill, though of limited scope and technical nature, is, I suggest, of no little importance to us. It does three main things; it renews the Army Act and the Air Force Act, it establishes new machinery for regulating enlistment into the armed services, and it revises and consolidates the Discipline Acts of the Armed Forces. These Acts are the foundation of military discipline and the guarantee both of the Service man's rights and of our own civil liberties, for it is in them that are set the bounds of good order and military discipline.
That to achieve its simple and perhaps modest aim, this Bill may itself appear a rather complex measure, is due to the diversity of the Statutes which I have mentioned and which in turn reflect historic attitudes and the accidents of time. Such as it is, however, I venture to suggest that apart from its essential rôle of securing discipline of the Armed Forces, this Bill takes a modest step forward in the rationalisation of the law and quite a large stride towards the harmonious integration of the Services. With these considerations in mind, I commend it to the House.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Apart from Clause 1, which is of a formal character—and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is part of the framework of the current procedure for annual authorisation of the Army, Air Force, but not the Navy—the Bill consists of a miscellaneous collection of proposals, of widely varying importance, covering subjects which have little relation to each other, except in that they all relate to the Armed Forces of the Crown.
It has been suggested that if the Bill is read a Second time today it should be committed to a Select Committee for consideration, and I say at once that that seems to my hon. Friends and I to 931 be an entirely suitable way of dealing with a Bill of this kind. I intend in this debate to refer only to some of the more general and important features of the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman did, and to reserve, for the more careful and thorough scrutiny which must take place in Committee, the very large number of doubts and questions which the first consideration of the Bill has raised in our minds.
Clause 2, to which the right hon. Gentleman addressed a fair part of his speech, deals with the terms of entry, enlistment and conditions of service in the Regular Forces. These are at present governed by various Acts of Parliament. It seems reasonable, in general, that terms and conditions of service should, in future, be governed by Regulations made by the Defence Council to give the sort of flexibility to which the right hon. Gentleman referred and that those Regulations should be laid before Parliament, about which I will have something to say in a moment.
Whether such Regulations should, in general, be made under the negative or affirmative procedure is a matter on which we would like for the moment to reserve our position until after the Select Committee stage. The disadvantage of this system—of proceeding by Regulations and not by Statute—is that no amendment of Regulations is possible. They are laid in the form of a Statutory Instrument and the House is put in the position of either rejecting or accepting them as a whole, and no amendment can be made. That is the essential difficulty which we face with Regulations, but I see the force of the right hon. Gentleman's argument about flexibility, especially in a period of difficult recruitment. And, as I say, we would like to reserve our position on this till later.
On page 3 of the Bill is a provision for the Regulations to amend or repeal Acts of Parliament, and this is not entirely without precedent. The House will be familiar with other occasions when this has been done—but, I suggest, more particularly in Private than in Public Bills. It is done, but is the right hon. Gentleman really satisfied that this is a satisfactory procedure to adopt at this 932 stage? He referred to past Conservative Administrations, the number of Statutes and how things had become more complicated. However, is the right hon. Gentleman not adding to that complication and the number of Statutes? It would have been possible to proceed by repealing the earlier enlistment Acts and other similar Measures and to propose this procedure by Regulation, but that is not being done.
In the first Schedule there are three repeals, with some partial repeals in the Fourth Schedule, but, as far as I can estimate, the position which will exist if the Bill is passed will be that there will continue in existence about 116 Acts of Parliament regulating entry, enlistment and terms of service and other matters relating to the Armed Forces. I concede that about 20 or 30 of them are minor Acts, but there are still about 70 or 80 Statutes of significance regulating the matters with which the Bill is dealing. That being the case, it must follow that other exercises of the regulation-making powers will involve the amendment or repeal of some statutory provisions and that, therefore, we must pay considerable attention to this proposal in the Bill.
This brings me to my first question. Is it not the case that the Regulations which repeal or amend an Act will not be subject to the affirmative procedure? I understand that if they affect a Statute they will be laid in draft before the House. I would like to be reassured on this point because I do not think that that involves even the negative procedure. The right hon. Gentleman said that it did mean the negative procedure, but does it not perhaps mean that they will come into force unless an hon. Member puts down a Motion disagreeing with them?
§ Mr. Mulley
That is really the negative procedure. The drafts will come into force unless a Prayer to the contrary is put down and carried.
§ Mr. Bell
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman is on quite sound ground about this. It is an extremely technical point on which I will not press him now. I am sure that when the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy replies to the debate he will be adequately informed on the subject. There 933 is a technical difference between a Prayer to annul and an affirmative Motion. I may be wrong, and I am seeking guidance. Suffice at this stage to say that I have a feeling that these are not pray-able against, to coin a horrible expression. This is a matter of considerable importance.
In any case, is this really a good operation at all? Surely at the moment, when we are moving over to terms of enlistment and entry by regulation, this is the time for repealing the forest of old Acts of Parliament with which we are concerned in this branch of the law. I mentioned earlier the figure of about 116 Acts with probably 70 or 80 significant ones, but that is after the last Statute Law Revision Act, 1953, which swept up about 30 old Acts which had become either obsolete or no longer effective. The number which I mentioned are still operative Acts, which must have been the view of the Statute Law Reform Committee.
I require a further assurance about Clause 2. If the Regulations will be used in place——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point he was discussing, will he give an example of an old Act which causes embarrassment now?
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not quite grasped my point, which is that the Bill leaves old Acts in force so that the terms and conditions of enlistment remain, when the Bill receives the Royal Assent, governed by various Statutes. This must be borne in mind when considering that the Defence Council will, one assumes, exercise its power under Clause 2 to embody terms of enlistment, service and so on in Regulations. Those Regulations will have to include a number of repeals and amendments of old Acts of Parliament.
My point is that this is an unsatisfactory start to the method of proceeding by Regulation. It would be very much better at the same time to clear away the antique Acts—some of them are quite old; certain Navy Acts go back to 1835, if not earlier—and to have Regulations which are not made by reference to 70 or 80 different Acts of Parliament. It is not a question of some particular old Act 934 being embarrassing, but the principle of the procedure that is involved.
If we are to use Regulations, it is very important that they shall not be used so as to impose on the recruit an additional burden beyond that which he undertook when he entered the Service. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that that point is adequately covered in the Clause, but I have been in some doubt, because in subsection (3) the expression used is… a right … under any Act of Parliament (including this Act) …The right hon. Gentleman expanded that to a right which arose out of the exercise of the regulation-making power under Clause 2.
That is the assurance I sought. It is important to be quite clear that this is not protection given only to the first time the Regulations are made but that it applies each time amending Regulations are made, so that if a person enters one of the Services in reliance partly on the old statutory conditions which continue and partly on the Regulations, he is protected against onerous change both in respect of the statutory element in his terms of enlistment and in respect of the regulatory element in those terms——
§ Captain W. Elliot
My hon. Friend speaks of "onerous changes". As I read from line 22 onwards in page 3, the language means any changes in the man's terms of enlistment. Would my hon. Friend agree?
§ The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Christopher Mayhew)
I do not know whether it would be of assistance——
§ Mr. Bell
I do not know that it would, because I have other questions to ask the Minister of Defence, and it might be better if I got them all off my chest and he got them all on to his at the same time.
The second main subject dealt with in the Bill is reserves, and, again, I do not raise any fundamental objection to what 935 Clause 4 does. Broadly speaking, it brings the Royal Navy into relation with the Army and Royal Air Force. I wonder whether, in this respect, it is not desirable that the "competent authority"—which is the authority that can impose the additional burden on the enlisted man or rating—should always be the Defence Council, and undesirable that it can, in certain cases under Clause 14, be… an officer prescribed by regulations of the Defence Council …This is not a matter of minor importance but occurs where either… a state of war exists between Her Majesty and a foreign power; or … warlike operations are … in progress; …or the Royal Naval Reserve is called up. The rating is then retained in the Service.
This, again, is an action of such character that if done, for example, under subsection (1,b) of Clause 4 it has to be reported to Parliament at the earliest opportunity. I should have thought that such decisions as that—which are, therefore, on the political plane, and have to be brought at once to this House if the House is sitting—should be taken by the Defence Council and not by an officer nominated by Regulations.
Clause 5 is parallel to Clause 12, and I would ask the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy to tell us something which his right hon. Friend did not tell us, and that is why Clause 5 is in the Bill at all. This provision replaces Royal Proclamations calling up the reserves by, in effect, Orders under the hand of the Secretary of State. This may or may not be highly significant—I do not know. Royal Proclamations are very rare occurrences—I think that we have only had two since the end of the Second World War. Obviously, there must be great reluctance on the part of the Executive to advise Her Majesty to make a Royal Proclamation. If that is replaced by an Order under the hand of the Secretary of State—in the name, of course, of Her Majesty—is that not an easier procedure to undertake? Will it not increase the likelihood of recall or retention in marginal cases and, therefore, increase the burden involved by entry into any of the Armed Forces?
These are matters of real importance. I am thinking more especially of the Royal Navy in saying this, although I 936 realise that it will apply to all three Services. We are at present going through a difficult period in recruitment, and in the Royal Navy we are going through a very difficult period in relation to re-engagement. The liability which ensues at the end of the completed Regular engagement is a matter of considerable importance in relation to re-engagement by men in the Royal Navy.
Recruitment into the Navy is, to a very considerable extent, something that runs in naval families and ports. Those concerned are well informed about the incidence of the Service and the liability that remains for recall on the completion of their 12-year engagement or their re-engagement. A change of this character could be very significant. If it means that there is to be a change in practice and that such recalls are to be approximated in their gravity to recalls before Royal Proclamation, this could significantly affect naval recruitment. And—dare I say it?—this is on top of Grigg, because let no one think that what the Government have done about the Grigg formula, or what the First Secretary has done about the Grigg formula, in referring the subject to the Prices and Incomes Board, is a matter that will have no effect on Service recruiting. It will. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite know quite well that it will. It is not for me to mix myself up in their internal difficulties. All I say is that I approach some of the provisions in the Bill and their effect on recruitment to the Armed Forces having in mind the severe blow to the confidence of men in the Forces which has been struck by the Government in what they have done.
The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy will be relieved to hear that I have jumped to Clause 15, because I do not want to deal with minor points. Clause 15 has been explained to us in part by the Minister of Defence for the Army. It is a very odd undertaking. The right hon. Gentleman explained that there had been difficulties in Aden. The result is two and half pages of highly laborious drafting of extreme complication. I am not sure at the end that I know what it is all about, and, what is worse, I am not sure that the Minister knows either. I do not want to add unduly to his difficulties but I should like to ask one or two questions.
937 First, how have the Armed Forces lived for so long without these two and a half pages? This is an odd procedure which provides for the arrest of a person who may not have committed any offence at all. He is to be arrested as if he had committed an offence and he is to be arrested in odd circumstances. He may he arrested by a person who is junior to himself.
The Clause makes provision for this, first in subsection (1) which is straightforward. One starts with a person who is in the custody of a civil Power somewhere abroad. The Clause says that an officer of the British Forces may accept him into custody upon his being handed over by that civil Power. This is quite reasonable, but subsection (2) says that he may he arrested if there is some apprehension that otherwise he may be arrested by the civil Power. There is no requirement that he should be reasonably thought to have committed an offence. It is purely a case of getting in first in being arrested.
The odd thing is that in relation to the provision in subsection (1), which is fairly obvious—and I am surprised that we have not had that provision already—he can be received only by an officer who is either senior to himself in rank or, as mentioned in subsection (3), one who is authorised by virtue of the position which he is occupying at the moment to do so under the various Acts. In other words, he is a provost officer or something of that kind. In the case of subsection (2)—the highly imaginative arrest for reasons which did not apply in the past—he cannot be arrested by anyone below the rank of lieutenant-commander or equivalent rank in the Army or Air Force and the provision in subsection (3) does not apply, which seems a remarkable anomaly.
I find most remarkable and highly objectionable the exclusions in subsection (8). Here we have a case where a man is arrested who may not have been guilty of any offence. It is almost protective arrest and yet in relation to arrest in those circumstances, which can be made by a junior officer, all the safeguards written into the Service Acts about the need to charge a man in reasonable time, and the need to make reports to the Defence Council if he is kept in custody for more than a certain period without being charged, are all excluded. He can 938 be held for as long as the Service likes. It need not make a report or prefer a charge.
We are told that this is right because there is power in the Clause for the Defence Council to make Regulations and that no doubt those Regulations will provide for matters of that kind. If we are to give this somewhat unconstitutional power to officers abroad, these safeguards should be applied to these arrests as they apply to all arrests in the course of Service discipline. We shall have to ask the Defence Council to make Regulations covering basic guarantees of personal rights which are already written into the Statutes.
I pass over Clauses 17 and 18, saying only that I find it a little difficult to understand why they are in the Bill. Clause 18 says that the Republic of Ireland shall no longer be considered a foreign country. I should have thought that we would have heard something from the Minister of Defence for the Army about this revolutionary proposal and what ulterior motive lies behind this innocent facade. Perhaps we may hear more about it at the end of the debate. Clause 19 has caused me some puzzlement. Its effect seems to be to equate British Colonies to foreign countries for purposes of some part of the Service discipline code. I do not think that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman explained why this is being done.
§ Mr. Mulley
I would have explained to the hon. Gentleman and the House but seeing that the time was passing I deliberately omitted this and other matters previously mentioned although they were in my notes. The purpose of the Clause is to extend the criterion for active service to Commonwealth as well as foreign countries, because often troops are forced to take an active course in Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Bell
The right hon. Gentleman has used a slightly unfortunate expression. He said "Commonwealth" when he means "Colonies". This is unfortunate because, later on, the Bill makes a distinction between the two. It will be seen from the Explanatory Memorandum that colonies are meant in this context. In fact another provision in the Clause displaces the Governor of a Colony as a person who can make a declaration about 939 troops being on active service. This seems to me also open to objection, although I reserve our position on it, because it implies the replacement of the civil power by a military authority. At present it is the Governor who declares that the troops are on active service. In future it will be the commander of the Forces, who is a military officer. One is bound to ask whether there is any topical significance here. Rhodesia is a British Colony and we on this side of the House are somewhat concerned about the rôle and status of British Forces in Central Africa. It may seem a somewhat odd significance that we should be discussing a Clause at this moment which puts Forces in a Colony in the same position in many respects as if they were in a foreign country. I hope that the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy will be able to clear that up.
I am doing what the Deputy Secretary of State did, namely, leaving out some attractive points, such as the one on Clause 20, which replaces stoppages of pay by fines. I think this must have been prompted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because when a rating's pay is stopped he does not pay tax on it. If he is fined the same amount, he has to pay Income Tax on the full rate of his pay, although it has been stopped, and pay the fine. However, these are pleasant points which we can go into in Select Committee.
I come now to three Clauses which cause a good deal of doubt. I refer to Clauses 24, 25 and 33. These are the ones which relate to civil and military jurisdiction. I know that some of my hon. Friends are very worried about what is here proposed. Broadly speaking, what is being said is that, if a man is convicted before a Service court, he shall not be subject to retrial for the same offence before a civil court. It is possible to have two views about this. I concede at once that this is a difficult problem. We shall have to look very carefully indeed at this provision, because in certain circumstances it could lead to some extraordinary results. If a man commits a very serious offence and his commanding officer sentences him for it to the loss of ten days' pay or something of that kind, the civil court is then totally excluded from proceeding in relation to that offence.
§ Mr. Mulley
It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman would give us some examples of what he has in mind and also make clear whether he is talking about civil courts in this country or civil courts abroad, because, as he knows, civil offences committed by Service men in this country are always tried by the civil court and not by a Service court.
§ Mr. Bell
That is a matter of arrangement. We must look at the form of the Bill. I am not necessarily disagreeing. I am merely pointing to the difficulty which arises. It may be a question of principle. If the man is tried by his commanding officer or by court martial, the civil court is ousted. One can choose any example one likes. It may be as extreme as one cares to make it just to emphasise the nature of the problem. One of the things which is being done in the Bill is to generalise this and apply it to civil courts abroad as well, so that it will apply anywhere in the world. I am not necessarily saying that this is wrong. I am saying that this is an innovation which we must consider very carefully indeed. It is very wide in its terms, because what is said is that he may not be tried for the same offence or for substantially the same offence by a civil court.
Here there is a peculiar anomaly. In the case of the Army and the Royal Air Force, if a man is tried in a civil court and is convicted, he cannot be tried before a Service court for the same offence but he can be tried for one which is different although substantially the same. That is the effect of Clauses 24 and 25. Clause 33 provides that in the case of the Royal Navy if the man is convicted before a civil court he cannot be tried before a naval court for the same offence or substantially the same offence. Therefore, a quite different test will apply to naval courts-martial from that which will apply to Army and Royal Air Force courts-martial. This is very strange indeed. I do not know whether it is accidental or whether there is some reason for it. This is what is being done in Clauses 24, 25 and 33.
If a man is convicted before a civil court, he cannot be tried by a Service court in these circumstances. On the other hand, if the civil court takes into account in sentencing him an offence 941 which he has committed—not that for which he is being tried, but another one—then, although that has been taken into account in the sentence, he can be tried for it by a Service court. There is no logicality here. There is no consistency whatever. I think that all this has not been thought out very carefully at all. I should like to know at some stage—perhaps the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy can help me—what "substantially the same offence" means. Substantially the same in fact? Substantially the same in law? Or substantially the same in fact and in law? Has anybody considered what this expression means or how it will work out in practice?
The last point on which I want clarification is Clause 26—Powers of command over Her Majesty's military and air forces"—in effect by foreign officers. This, again, seems to be an innovation. I do not know how this has been managed in the past, but the Clause would allow British troops to be put under foreign command. Perhaps I ought to ask the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy in particular whether this is in preparation for the Atlantic Nuclear Force or the mixed manned force, about which we have heard so much, or has it just happened by accident?
My final thought is that consolidation is now urgently necessary. It is impossible for those affected by the Bill any longer to understand what it means. There are altogether 116 Acts in force. Fourteen Acts are referred to in the Bill. Hon. Members who want an illustration of the difficulty which will face a Service man who wants to know where he stands in future about his liability cannot do better than look at the top of page 31, which deals with the Recall of Army and Air Force Pensioners Act, 1948.
The recall of reservists is a matter of great importance. I ask hon. Members to imagine that they are reservists wanting to know where they stand. I invite them to read the words at the top of page 31:The reference in section 2(3) (as amended by the revision of the Army and Air Force Acts (Transitional Provisions) Act 1955) to the provisions of the Army Act 1955 or the Air Force Act 1955 as to the term for which a person may be enlisted, which, by virtue of the Army and Air Force Act 1961 is to be 942 construed as including a reference to the corresponding provisions of that Act, shall be construed as including a reference to the corresponding provisions of section 2 of this Act and Regulations made thereunder.Where does the rating stand at the end of reading that? I have put in a little work on this. I think I know where he stands, although I am not sure. However, I am quite sure that the Deputy Secreretary of State could not tell me where the rating stands.
§ Mr. Mulley
This is a question which I can answer very simply and precisely. The hon. Gentleman should read the title again. The rating—namely a sailor—would not be covered by this provision at all. This is for the Army and the Royal Air Force.
§ Mr. Bell
The rating will now know where the Army or the Air Force man stands. The person affected will not know where he stands, nor can he. The right hon. Gentleman must face the fact that this kind of complication has now reached the ultimate and that consolidation must take place.
In general there is an enormous amount to examine in the Bill, but subject to answers given by the Minister of Defence for the Navy in reply to our Questions, we shall not oppose the Bill at this stage but, of course, we reserve our rights in the light of what he says.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I rise for, I believe, the third time at the quinquennial arrival of this Measure to welcome it. Its origins may be described as, "by good sense out of filibuster". I provided the filibuster and Lord Head provided the good sense. What happened was that the annual Army Act always had to come before the House until, for various reasons which, I must confess, had little to do with the Army, the Army Act in one year was obstructed by a group of us who put down a very large number of Amendments. It became reasonably clear that the Bill, as it was, had little chance of getting through and the Army looked like becoming illegal.
At that point, Lord Head, who was Secretary of State for War, came to me and asked, "What do you want?". We then brought up the idea of having a Select Committee working in parallel with a Departmental Committee so that each 943 point proposed by the Select Committee in preparing a new Measure should go to the Departmental Committee and we would receive back its objections. Sometimes the Minister himself came to us and we discussed what could or could not be done. By that process of dialogue a Bill came through these two Committees and eventually reached the House, where it was accepted both by the Government and the House without any Amendment at all. As a legislative device which, I believe, has been used only once, it has a record which deserves its being used again for other purposes.
Apart from giving the Bill a general welcome, I want to raise a rather small but nevertheless important point with regard to recruitment. Here we are providing that the terms of service shall be laid down by Regulation rather than by sections of the Act. Probably the all-important point is whether those who enlist can really be assured that the terms of service will be implemented and that they will not be varied unilaterally to their disadvantage.
When the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) raised the question of the reference of the Service pay increases to Mr. Aubrey Jones, he certainly rang a note as far as I am concerned. I was certainly quite unaware that Mr. Aubrey Jones's organisation has the power to vary terms of service or private contracts already entered into. If terms of service provide for an annual increase, then that is the bargain made between the employer and the employee on engagement, and I am extremely surprised to learn if, in these circumstances, Mr. Aubrey Jones can proceed to vary a contract already entered into at the beginning of service. If that be the position with regard to a private contract, then, in the case of a public engagement entered into upon terms which provide for biennial increases in accordance with the Grigg formula, set out as part of the terms of engagement, I am astonished that it is within the power of Mr. Aubrey Jones to proceed to vary the Royal Warrant unilaterally and without reference to those concerned.
I would like some reassurance on this and some very specific assurances indeed that, when terms of service are offered, whether it be by Statute or by Regulation, 944 and people accept the bargain and join upon the basis of those terms, then, whether it be as to pay or as to retired pay, those terms of service will be observed and increases will be granted in accordance with the formula laid down in the terms of engagement and that they will not be departed from. That is a very important principle in relation to the recruiting figures. That is the only point I want to make with regard to the Bill.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
There is only one point I want to raise, but it is important, as I hope the House will agree. At first sight, the Bill, as the Explanatory Memorandum states, makes minor changes, but, by Clause 24, it promises to make a constitutional change that might well be considered as of fundamental importance.
Members of the Armed Forces are not only subject to the ordinary law of the land but to the code of Air Force, Army and Navy law. Members of the Armed Forces, by reaching that status, do not cease to be ordinary citizens. By becoming members of the Armed Forces they do not debar themselves of the rights of citizenship. Nor are they exempt from the liabilities of being citizens. Nor are they removed from the ordinary arm of the law.
Indeed, the principle that a member of the Armed Forces still remains subject to the ordinary law is not a minor one, and to touch that principle or alter it in any way is not a minor change. It is indeed a major principle and has been described as one of the cardinal features of the law of England. If Clause 24 were left as drafted, it would remove, in effect, from the jurisdiction of the civil courts a member of the Armed Forces who had been tried by a court-martial, by a disciplinary court, by a commanding officer or by the appropriate superior authority. This is in contradiction and conflict with the law as it stands and as it is set out by both the Army and the Air Force Acts, 1955. The House should realise what a fundamental change we are undertaking if we allow Clause 24 to remain unamended.
The present law on the relation between military and civil law is set out in Section 133 of the Army Act, 1955, and Section 133 of the Air Force Act 1955. By those Sections a member of either 945 of those two arms of the Services is still liable to be tried before a civil court, even though he might have been tried and sentenced by a court-martial, a commanding officer, or an appropriate superior authority. Indeed, subsection (2) of Section 133 gives statutory power which clearly and plainly states that where a person is tried by a civil court for any offence, then the civil court has to take into account in awarding punishment any punishment which has been awarded by a court-martial, commanding officer, or appropriate superior authority.
It is quite clear that, relating as they do to the powers of a civil court, those Sections exclude any right by a member of the Army or Air Force to raise his previous acquittal or conviction as a bar to subsequent indictment for the same offence before a civil court. That is as it should be and as it has been for centuries. The civil liberties and rights of the individual in civil law have been protected by this feature of our law, which recognises the superiority of the civil over the military law. Way back in history, one famous Chief Justice, when being asked to say whether an officer of the Army, by suggesting that a soldier had been or would be tried by the Army, could resist arrest by the civil authorities, said,It were a vain thing to talk of courts and laws of military men who both give the law and control legal proceedings.I do not suggest that there will necessarily be any abuse by the military avoiding having one of its members coming before a civil court by finding him guilty by a court martial, or on summary procedure, and giving him a light sentence, thereby protecting him from the full force of the law. It would be quite artificial to argue that a court martial would behave in that irresponsible way. But it is not beyond imagination to envisage cases where a commanding officer would value a man or woman under his command to such an extent that, in order to protect him from the full force of civil law, he would bring him before military jurisdiction where he would be found guilty and given some light sentence. I am sure that this happens very rarely and is likely to be a very rare occurrence in future. But the fact that it might happen and that in 946 other circumstances could happen seems to me, as I hope that it will seem to the House, a good reason for keeping the law as it is.
After all, while one does not want to go to extremes in this matter or suggest what in practice is never likely to happen, when, as is the case with Clause 24 in its present form, the right is given to the military in effect to avoid the jurisdiction of the civil courts, there is always room for abuse. As it stands and as it has stood in the Army Act and the Air Force Act, 1955, the law avoids any possibility of abuse. This is a good thing and it is something which should be preserved.
One knows that in a civil court a person can raise the plea that he has been acquitted or convicted of the same offence and by doing so avoid, as he well ought to avoid and the law aims to see that he should avoid, the jeopardy of being put in peril twice. The law as it relates to this plea in bar of subsequent indictment, the plea of autrefois aquit or autrefois convict is strict and the plea can be raised effectively only when acquittal or conviction is for the exact offence already in the subsequent indictment. Clause 24 says in effect that the plea of a previous acquittal or conviction can be made where the offence is substantially the same. As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) said, the House would be grateful if we could know the meaning of the words "substantially the same", which is a far wider expression than that which is used in civil law—"the exact offence". Of course, in civil law one can also raise the fact that the subsequent indictment is based on the same acts or relations in respect of which the previous acquittal or conviction was made.
This is no small matter but a matter of great principle which we have always respected and followed—that the civil courts and their jurisdiction shall not be ousted. Clause 24 does just that and it is right that the House should now ask why.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
The Bill only tinkers with the real problem of the Forces. I want to relate one or two personal experiences while I was in the 947 Forces and some experiences of my constituents which have been brought to my notice. I will start with one of the latter.
Recently one of my constituents went for a medical examination for the Army, when he disclosed that he had previously applied and had been rejected for medical reasons connected with his ears. On this occasion, the doctor declared him to be fit and he was accepted into the Army, giving up his civilian job. Within a few days he had another medical examination, when it was found that his ears were defective. After a few days' service, he was discharged for lack of proper examination, having lost his civilian job. There is something seriously wrong with such a situation. I raised the matter in an Adjournment debate and, to my astonishment, I was informed that there were a number of similar cases and that this was not isolated.
This is surely a sad state of affairs. If we want recruits for the Army or any of the Services, then a proper examination should be carried out before they are accepted and before they have given up their civilian jobs. This does not appear to happen. There appears to be a routine procedure whereby recruits have a preliminary examination, are accepted and taken into the Services, and, following their entry, have another medical examination as a routine matter. For what purpose? Presumably, it is to find out if the first doctor made a mistake. If he made a mistake, who suffers? The man who volunteered. In the case of my constituent no compensation was paid. It seems that this procedure ought to be altered and that a proper medical examination should be carried out before people are accepted into the Services.
The second point I should like to make is that when a recruit offers himself he is liable to be sent anywhere in the world. This is an extraordinary state of affairs and it is not surprising that we do not get recruits. If a bakery wanted a baker and it advertised for one on the condition that he must be prepared to go to America or Japan or Timbuctoo, or anywhere else in the world, then it would not get that baker. That is why the Army does not get its recruits. This is a remarkable condition which ought to be examined. This same man is expected to sign on for a number of years, for 7, 948 14 or 21. He signs on at a particular rate of pay but, having once signed on, he has no guarantee that he will ever get an increase in pay. When one considers the implications of this, is it surprising that the Army cannot get recruits? I do not think it is.
People who become recruits under these conditions ought to have their heads examined. The obvious thing to do to rectify this, and many other annoyances within the Services, is to give the men the same rights as they would have in any other job—the right, if they are dissatisfied, to resign. If such a system works well in civilian life there is no reason why it should not work in the Armed Forces. Occasionally, people put up excuses saying that if a situation arose needing volunteers for a dangerous assignment no one would volunteer. But this does not work out in practice. I was in the Forces during the war, and the most dangerous assignments never lacked volunteers. In the early stages of the war, air crew suffered the highest casualty rate yet it was harder to get into air crew than into any other part of the Service. This excuse will not hold water. This is the one thing above all others, which would not only produce all the recruits we want, but would produce a better standard of recruit and which would remove the vast majority of what I consider to be legitimate grievances.
If a man in one of the Services wishes to leave for some reason—and there are dozens of people who want to leave from my constituency alone, who are continually writing to me and who all appear to have very good reasons for getting out—under the present system he is unable to do so. What can he do? He can make a nuisance of himself by committing a series of crimes, in which case eventually, after a long struggle, he will be dismissed from the Service. This is not a very sensible position in which to force a person.
I want to say a word about trials in the Forces. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner), I am afraid that I have not come accross the benevolent type of commanding officer he visualises, the ones who rescue the men—rather the reverse. My experience of some of these so-called trials is quite different. Take the minor offences. A man is brought in front of his command- 949 ing officer and his commanding officer relates what the offence is, and asks him if he has anything to say. Then the commanding officer says to him, and this is the classic formula, "Will you accept my punishment?" The man is asked to accept something, but he does not know what it is. There is no question of him being told the sentence and then appealing if he is dissatisfied. A man is expected to say, "I will accept your punishment", but he has not the slighest idea what it will be. It could be far worse than he thought he deserved, but he is asked in advance because the commanding officer wants to tie him down in advance to take anything which he cares to give.
It is time that that ordeal was stopped. Commanding officers should not be allowed to tie soldiers down in advance to accept something without protest before they even know what it is. Something is wrong with that set-up and it ought to be stopped. Something which happens in the Services far more often than the public realises is that a member of the Forces is placed in a position where he is bound to commit a crime. I have personal experience of this. I worked in a transport section of the R.A.F. during the war. We had to sign orders, saying that we fully understood them. One of these orders was that one had to have a form properly signed by one of a list of people detailed as capable of authorising transport. Without this form vehicles could not be moved. There was also another regulation stating that a man must obey any order given by any person of superior rank. So, if a person of superior rank comes along, as happened to me, and says, "Take out this car and go to so and so and pick up so and so," and he does not have the proper form, then whatever the man does he is wrong. If he takes the vehicle out he is wrong, because he has not got proper authorisation; and if he does not take it out he is disobeying the orders of someone of a higher rank than himself, and that is a crime.
This happened to me, and as it appeared to be rather a trivial thing I decided that the proper thing to do was to refuse to take the vehicle out, because I had not got the duly authorised form. The following day I was in front of the 950 C.O. for refusing to obey an order given to me by someone of a higher rank. I was asked the routine formula, "Will you accept my punishment?" As I felt I had done nothing wrong, I said "No". So I was told that the alternative was trial by court-martial.
I elected to have the trial by court-martial, and along came an officer to take what he called a summary of evidence. He visited me in the cells and asked me for a statement on how the affair arose. Therefore, I listed as witnesses the people I had asked to sign the document, saying that I had to have a form properly authorised and signed before I could take out a vehicle. I was politely told that I could not call them because they were not there at the time that this so-called crime happened. Did one ever hear anything so farcical in one's life? This is the law as it is administered in Her Majesty's Forces—or at least as it was administered during the war. As far as I know, it has not changed much.
If this is the sort of thing which goes on, is it surprising that the one question which every Service man keeps asking is, "When do I get discharged?" This is the one topic of conversation. If the Government do what I want them to do and give men the chance to resign when they want to resign, they will remove the main topic of conversation, just as when one is in a place like Singapore and the weather is practically the same all the year round there is no point in saying "Good morning" because every morning is a good morning.
This is not a joking matter. It is quite serious. It requires very careful attention, and it does not seem to have been taken care of in the Bill. The points to which I have referred require close examination to prevent this sort of situation from arising in future. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to take them into consideration before the Bill is put on the Statute Book.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
I believe that the Bill should have been called the "scrambag" Bill. In a warship, the scrambag is the bag in which all lost and found clothes and oddments are stowed away. In this scrambag today we find a mixture of the good, bad 951 and indifferent. Some of the things in it are well worn and comfortable garments which I recognise of old. Other things in it are quite new.
Clause 2 gives the Defence Council very wide powers, as has been pointed out by several hon. Members. The Minister explained in outline some of the reasons why he considers that the Clause is needed. One can see that the concept of a combined Ministry of Defence—of which, incidentally, I am 100 per cent. in favour—logically involves clearing away some of the anomalies in the conditions of service and enlistment in the three Armed Services. I hope that the Minister will be able to convince and assure us that this process will not be taken too far.
For example, the basic length of engagement or enlistment in the Royal Navy has usually been much longer than the basic enlistment in the other two Services. This is necessary for obvious reasons. However, I trust that the Minister can say that the primary consideration in a case like this will always be the needs of the Service.
§ Mr. Mulley
I can give the hon. and gallant Gentleman that assurance. He will recall from his own experience that the Royal Navy has enjoyed rather greater powers than it is proposed to give to the other two Services. I do not think that anyone would find that they have been abused over the years.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
I am very grateful for that assurance. I must admit that I am always a trifle suspicious of the D.C.C.S., the hidden directorate in the Ministry of Defence—the Director of Change for Change's Sake.
One inevitably wonders whether the additional powers foreshadowed in Clause 2 are designed to meet current difficulties in Regular recruiting. I should like to ask the Minister whether this is so and, if it is, whether he could give us some idea of the sort of schemes which the Ministry has in mind. In other words, what sort of ideas are included in what he called, rather nicely, "sophisticated inducements"? It may be that there are some very useful ideas here. But I hope that we can be assured that the Ministry will not play fast and loose, for instance, with the periods of Regular enlistment. There is a grave risk of getting the mem- 952 bers of the public whom we wish to recruit hopelessly confused. Young men considering making a career in any of the Services should not be enticed by shorter and shorter periods of service. This is definitely not the way to improve Regular recruiting.
I never agree with people who say that the relatively low pay which men get, or believe they get, in the Services is not a prime cause of difficulty in recruiting. I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order if I went much further into the problems of Regular recruiting, but I am very much in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot), who referred to the Government's action in sending the question of Service pay to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. This does not fill me with confidence as to the soundness of the Government's ideas on recruiting. It is, perhaps, not extraordinary that this point has been referred to by almost every Member who has spoken from these benches.
Why is Clause 2 singled out for introduction within one month of the passing of the Bill, whereas all the other Clauses, except Clause 19, which is linked with it, will come into force on 1st January, 1967? I do not know whether this is a significant point, but it would be interesting to know why this should be the case.
I pass to some of the other Clauses which I warmly welcome. Clause 10 concerns people who are newly enlisted. It would have been of assistance to Hannah Snell, who, as the Minister will know, was a young lady who enlisted in the Royal Marines about 200 years ago and served for many years in H.M.S. "Swallow". She might on occasion have had reason to be grateful for Clause 10 if she wanted to get out.
I welcome Clause 17, which is designed to operate against those who procure, persuade or assist deserters or absentees.
I welcome Clause 20, which lays down fines for disciplinary offences. As has been said, it will increase the powers of discretion available to courts-martial.
Clause 26 appears to give command of Her Majesty's military and air forces to people who may, in effect, be officers of 953 foreign powers. Fears have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) about the real meaning and purpose of the Clause. I do not understand the Clause. As my hon. Friend said, in present conditions in Central Africa, it could be a catastrophic idea to cast in the public's mind. My hon. Friend referred to the possibility of there being a sort of preview of some arrangements under the A.N.F. Like him, I am deeply suspicious of anything to do with the A.N.F.
Finally, I believe that the Bill puts the cart before the horse in a very important respect. This is the sort of consequential Bill which should have been brought forward after the defence review when we knew what the Government's broad thinking was on the subject of defence. Without the defence review, we are working on all these details very much in a vacuum. I hope that whoever is to reply for the Government will be quite specific on this point. Why have we not had their long promised defence review, and when can we expect it?
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I wish to take a little further the point which has been raised on Clause 2 and the power of the Defence Council to make Regulations, relating it specifically to the Government's reference of the Forces pay review to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. When I spoke a few days ago in the debate on the Pensions (Increase) Bill, I said that I had in one hand the Bill which would give an increase in public service pensions but in the other I held a scruffy bit of paper issued by the Government, which I had obtained from the Vote Office, which told me that certain pensioners would not get the pensions increase. That seemed to me then a most deplorable state of affairs for the House of Commons to be in, with all its great traditions, and I feel that the position is much the same on this occasion, except for a slight technicality to which I shall come in a moment.
Clause 2 will give to the Defence Council power to make Regulations governing the terms of enlistment, and I 954 direct particular attention to the passage in subsection (3) which provides thatno provision of the regulation shall be so framed so as, except with the consent of that person, to vary or revoke a right to which he is entitled …The Grigg Report recommending a biennial review of Service pay and pensions was accepted by the previous Conservative Government and is accepted by the Conservative Party today. I believe that it was accepted by the Socialist Party and I had hoped that it was accepted by the Socialist Government. I understand that this principle of biennial review has been written into recruiting pamphlets. I have not got one with me, but I am so informed. It has certainly received great publicity in the newspapers, and I have talked about it in my constituency, as, no doubt, many other hon. Members have. Yet it seems that this principle of biennial review is to be abandoned.
I hope that the Government will not take refuge behind the next words in subsection (3) which refer to a right to which a person is entitledby or under any Act of Parliament".The Grigg biennial review is not, I believe, covered by an Act of Parliament so that, sticking to the letter of the law, I suppose that the Government could get away with it. Nevertheless, I assure them that, whether it be covered by the letter of the law or not, it is accepted throughout the Services today as a built-in condition of Service which is greatly valued. If the Government, by some rather cynical use of the law, try to get away with what we suspect they are doing, they will cause a great deal of trouble.
I do not want to be alarmist—I am sorry that the Navy Minister is not here—but I cannot help reminding the House that there was a very good book written about troubles—to put it no higher—in the Navy over the centuries, and these troubles were always caused by interference with pay or by bad food. If these two things are right, the Navy will operate in practically any conditions. Let us remember that the last troubles in the Navy were caused by interference in the pay structure. I warn the Government not to take this matter too lightly. If changes are absolutely vital, they must not be made without the fullest and most careful consultation with all the professional officers concerned.
955 In opening, the Minister spoke of the harmonious integration of the Services. I have a small point to raise in this connection, following something said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Read-Admiral Morgan Giles) about the importance of ironing out all the anomalies between the Services. Clause 20, with reference to the Army and the Air Force, provides for the substitute of a fine for forfeiture of a sum from pay. Incidentally, before going further, I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) made an interesting point about the difference there can be between a fine or the penalty of docked pay. If a man loses three days' pay, presumably, he does not pay Income Tax on it, whereas, if he is fined an equivalent amount, he still has to pay the Income Tax on his pay. This can make quite a big percentage difference to the fine. In the Navy, for example, the forfeiture of 10 days' pay for the extended breaking of leave or something like that, is not uncommon, and we do not want the penalty to be increased by 30 or 40 per cent. This can be an important matter.
The particular point which I wish to make on Clause 20 arises because, for the Army and the Air Force, there is a specific reference in Subsection (5) to special fines peculiar to the offence of drunkenness. In the Navy, drunkenness is not looked on, rightly or wrongly, as a crime—at least, it was not when I was in the Navy—and it is treated as a special offence. I do not know why it should be differently regarded in the Army and the Air Force. This is a small point—no doubt, but there may be many others like it—and I suggest that it would be useful to try to bring the three Services into line on it. They will always be working together, and differences create a certain amount of difficulty and, perhaps, dissatisfaction. Although, as I say, it is only a small matter, I draw it to the attention of the Government as one worthy of consideration, having in mind the wider aim of trying to iron out anomalies of all sorts.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
It is rather noteworthy that every back bencher on the Government side has condemned the Government for their 956 handling of the matter of pay increases under the Grigg award. I think that the Government are, perhaps, looking at the Grigg system the wrong way. Grigg suggests that the pay of the Forces should be reviewed every two years, and that it should be brought up to make good the difference which has occurred between the Forces pay and the pay in civil industry in the two-year period. The reference to the Prices and Incomes Board is for a different purpose, to prevent a future award which would be inflationary for the nation. But this award cannot be in any way inflationary. It is only to give to the Service man what he is justly entitled to, and I deeply regret, therefore, that the Government have seen fit to make this reference.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) reminded the House of his filibuster which brought about the creation of the Select Committee. I was getting the worm's eye view of that, because at that time I was in charge of the discipline branch at the War Office, which was very considerably interested. I had to complain that it would be quite impossible for me to try to cope with the workings of the Select Committee and continue to administer the normal discipline in the Army, and so another branch was rapidly formed, and I am happy that I did not have to deal with the Select Committee but continued to operate the ordinary discipline of the Army. However, this did give me some experience of the operation of the civil and military courts, and the contradistinction which has been described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner).
In Clause 24 there is a proposal to make two considerable changes. The first is a change in the concept of the whole law of the land, in that under the present civil law one can claim bar to trial if one has already been charged with exactly the same offence, as my hon. and learned Friend has described. Under this new system it becomessubstantially the same as that offence".The second major change is on the question whether the civil law is paramount in this country.
As regards the first very considerable change, what exactly is meant byan offence substantially the same as that offence"?957 Is it arising out of the same circumstances? This produces many dangerous grounds, because similar circumstances can give rise to a great variety of offences. I think this idea is very unfortunate.
The question whether the civil law is paramount is also of very great interest. Under the old Army Act, Section 133, which Clause 24 seeks to replace, it is stated:Nothing in this Act restricts the offences for which persons may be tried by any civil court".The Minister of Defence for the Army was very complimentary about military courts, unlike his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig). On balance between the two, I would agree with the right hon. Gentleman rather than his hon. Friend. Nevertheless, I think he overdid it. I think it was in practically the first case heard by the court-martial appeals court by the then Lord Chief Justice that he said that a court-martial sitting under a palm tree could hardly reproduce exactly the conditions of justice which would occur in the Old Bailey. There is the concept of jungle justice; it is a little bit rough and ready. I think this is inevitable when we consider the system which is in operation. First, a quite junior officer, a company commander, is allowed to dispense justice; he may not be a very great expert on it. This is a rough and ready system, but, of course, this will be a trial which bars any possible recourse to a civil trial afterwards.
Then again, there is the decision of the commanding officer. He can decide either to send the accused to trial by court martial or he can offer to the accused summary jurisdiction. Of course, on these occasions there is a strong limit to what punishments the commanding officer may give. This is obviously rough justice being administered at this time. The reason for it is that justice needs to be done quickly, and, of course, the commanding officer knows his man personally, whereas in most cases in police courts the magistrate usually does not quite so well know his man.
I personally have had experience of the anomalies which arise under the present system where there is a tug of war between the civil courts and the military courts, and possibly a double trial. This certainly can happen, and it is permitted 958 to happen under the present system. Usually this can be explained to the man. A man has a sense of grievance; he has the idea at the back of his mind that if he is tried for one sort of offence on one occasion he cannot be tried for it again. Of course, he is wrong, because the only bar to another trial at the moment is that he cannot be tried for precisely that same offence. It is perfectly possible to explain to people how it is that this comes about. On the other hand, I have a letter from the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army who tells me that he can find no trace of this happening. I think he may be correct in saying there has been no case where there has genuinely been a trial by both civil and military courts on precisely and exactly the same charge. Here, however, we are going very much wider than exactly the same charge. We are going to make it "substantially" the same. That is a very different cup of tea indeed.
Of course, if there had not been this trouble there would be no reason for a change, except the reason of uniformity. I should like just to go into the proposals in subsection (2). The first provision is that an unconfirmed or quashed court martial decision shall be no bar to civil trial, whereas if there has been a summary award which is subsequently quashed there shall be a bar to trial. This is a remarkable distinction, which I think would not be there at all had it not been for the fact that it occurs in Section 134 of the old Army Act, though there, of course, it is in entirely different circumstances. It refers there to where there has been a military trial which has been quashed, and then sets out the circumstances in which there could be another military trial. That is quite different from the position where there has been a military trial and, subsequently, a civil trial.
To return to the effect of this change as it is going to occur, paragraph 734 of Queen's Regulations lays down how the commanding officer is to proceed. If some really serious offence is committed, he has to report it to the police. The cases which he has to report are treason, murder, manslaughter, treason-felony, rape, and sexual assault on a civilian, which are all very serious offences. Then there is one other type of offence which 959 is not quite so serious, where the person or property of a civilian is involved.
In all other cases the commanding officer can deal with the accused, but that would be totally unacceptable in the new circumstances. For example, there might be a minor punch-up in barracks. One could say that that was just an ordinary military event which ought to be tried quickly by the military authorities. If it was so tried, it would be a bar to any possible civil charge.
Paragraph 734 of Queen's Regulations will have to be varied so that any offence which has a corresponding civil offence attached to it must be reported to the police. It means that a minor punch-up in barracks must be reported to the police by the commanding officer. The police are then in duty bound to investigate it. They come bumbling into the barracks taking statements from everyone and generally wasting time, and finally say that they will not prosecute. Then, at last, the commanding officer can get on and deal with that minor offence.
In the case of traffic accidents, it is necessary that the civil authorities should intervene, because now we have an arrangement under which a driving licence is suspended on the third endorsement. So far as I am aware, the military law does not give any sanction for endorsing licences. In a case of dangerous driving, which is a serious offence, and even in a case of speeding the licence ought to be endorsed. There should be the sanction. It is not fair that a soldier should have a different range of justice from the civilian. The licence ought to be endorsed, with the possibility that the licence ultimately may be lost.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy is not so prejudiced in favour of the Navy that he will not be prepared to look again and see whether it is not perhaps the Navy which is out of step. The Navy has always had the tradition that its trials are fierce, harsh and speedy and that there is no need for civil intervention at all. The man is flogged, and the ship sails away, and it is quite unnecessary to consider any civil trial. We have moved a little bit from that conception of justice, and it seems to me sensible that, if there should be a change, it should be in favour of the retention of the tried Army and Air Force procedure 960 and that, for once, the Navy might come into line.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
I am glad to be able to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) that flogging had been abolished in the Navy even when I was in it a year or two ago.
Like several speakers in the debate, I want to refer briefly to Clause 2 of the Bill. It was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), and I want to expand a little on what he said. As I understand it, the Clause is asking the House for a considerable departure from the practice of many years standing. The terms and conditions for entering into and service in the Services have always been approved by the House in an Act. There was a period when the Act had to be looked at annually so that we could discuss the detail of it every year. Then it was made a five-yearly Act and we only had a chance to discuss it in detail once every five years. Now, as I understand it, we shall not be able to discuss it in detail at all, because the terms and conditions are to be made by Regulation.
I must ask the hon. Gentleman who is going to wind up to turn up the point about whether these Regulations are subject to affirmative or negative procedure, because I understood his right hon. Friend to say one thing whereas the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill says another.
However, it does not matter which it is for the purpose of my argument. From the passage of the Bill, if the Clause is still in it when it passes, we shall not be able to discuss the Regulations in detail because we cannot put down amendments to them. We can only approve or disapprove of the whole list of items in the Regulations which the Defence Council will make.
There was only one hon. Gentleman who spoke in the debate today who did not refer to recruitment, and that is evidence enough to show how interested we in the House are in these matters. We always have been, and I do not doubt that we always shall be.
The Regulations that the Defence Council are going to make will have a 961 tremendous effect on recruitment, and some very good reason must be given to us before we give the Government power to make Regulations instead of coming for an Act of Parliament. The only reason advanced so far is that the Government will find it more convenient. Obviously they will. Governments always find it convenient to be able to do things without Parliament interfering too much, and that is what Parliament is about. We ought to be able to interfere, to cross-question and examine the Government not only on major matters of policy but on the details, too.
If that is the only reason for asking the House to give the Government power to make Regulations on such an important matter, whereas before they had to come for an Act of Parliament, I shall not be very inclined to grant them. Could the hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy give us any other reason? Can he say, for example, that the Ministry of Defence has been embarrassed in some way because it has not got the power? There may be other reasons, but I hope that he will deal with it, because we want a more convincing explanation than we have had so far.
With that proviso, may I say that I welcome the Bill? It is said to go a little way towards the unification of the Services. I believe that object is an excellent one. I do not think that it goes very far, but let us not criticise it for that. It goes some way, and for that reason I welcome it, subject to the proviso that I have made.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Christopher Mayhew)
May I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) on what I believe to have been his maiden speech as a Defence spokesman at the Dispatch Box. The Bill, though a good one, is complicated. It does not lend itself easily to great feats of oratory, but the hon. Gentleman put a number of very fair points very clearly, some of them constructive ones, and I am very grateful to him.
A great deal of the discussion has centred round Clause 2. It has been referred to by the hon. Member for 962 Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins), and perhaps I can begin by making one or two references to it.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether this procedure was being adopted merely to save the Government trouble. I assure him that is not so. The fact is that the whole business of enlistment necessarily becomes more and more sophisticated every day. A greater variety of skills is required in the Services, we are up again keener competition from other would-be recruiters, and the need for speed and flexibility in recruitment and enlistment is increasing all the time. That is one substantial reason for the proposed change.
I think that at the same time I can answer the hon. Gentleman's other point about the inability to amend Regulations. My answer to that is that these Regulations are going to be very detailed in themselves. Perhaps I could give three examples of Regulations which we would propose to bring in very quickly because we need them urgently. We would want to pass a Regulation to enable women in the Navy to come into line with women in the Army and Royal Air Force and reckon short-service engagements from an age below 18. We would want to pass a Regulation to allow Gurkhas to enlist for less than 22 years. We would also want to pass a Regulation to allow women to enlist for 6 years, with a break point after 4 years. It is true that one cannot amend Regulations, but, equally, they are very detailed, and I think that the Regulation procedure is much better than legislation for things of that kind. I think that the House will accept that when it reflects on it. Thus, I think that the great advantage of Clause 2 is that it meets our need for an efficient, flexible means of changing the terms of enlistment.
That, I think, answers the point Made by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles). I was sorry that I was not here when he spoke. I understand that he asked why the Act runs out at a slightly striking time, that is not before 1st January, 1967, which one might have expected, but thesaid sections 2 and 19 shall come into operation at the expiration of the period of one month beginning with the date of the passing of this Act.963 That will be before 1st January, 1967, if all goes well. The reason is simply that we want to get on with this kind of Regulation which has been held up for lack of legislative time. We want to get on quickly with these regulations in advance of the whole Act coming into operation. I hope that that answers the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Rear Admiral Morgan Giles
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves Clause 2, will he deal with the point about whether it is the intention to fragment engagements and make them shorter and shorter, which is rather more important than the point with which he has dealt?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am sorry that I did not hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman deploy his arguments on this point, but I shall study them in due course. The Navy is considering coming into line with the Army and Royal Air Force with regard to giving a right to a recruit to discharge himself very early in his period of recruitment. That is something which we are going to get, but I should like to study the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech if I may replying to his other point.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South asked why Clause 2 does not repeal a lot of other legislation. I hope that what I have said will convince the hon. Gentleman that we have here a weapon for rationalising the whole business of enlistment by these Regulations which will appeal and amend previous legislation. Perhaps this point has escaped the notice of the House. We could not repeal those Sections of the Army and Air Force Acts to which Clause 2 refers because, when the Act came in, the previous legislation having been repealed, we would be in the difficult position of putting forward Regulations to replace the repealed legislation, and if the House were to annul one of Regulations, or to resolve against it, all recruiting would come to a halt. For that reason, while Clause 2 in effect replaces the enlistment provisions of the Army and Air Force Acts, we do not specifically repeal them in the Bill. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's point.
The question of negative or affirmative procedure has been raised. This is the 964 familiar negative Resolution point. Obviously there is a difference here between Regulations which do and do not amend existing legislation. As the House knows, a Regulation which amends existing legislation does not take effect until 40 days after it has been laid before Parliament. The House can resolve that no further proceedings be taken on the Regulation, in which case nothing else happens to it, but unless the House so resolves, after 40 days it becomes effective. A Regulation which does not amend legislation becomes effective as soon as it is laid and continues to be effective unless annulled by Prayer of the House. That is the procedure, and I hope that I have made that clear.
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South also asked whether Clause 2(3), which safeguards the existing rights of Service men, will safeguard the rights which they will acquire under Regulations made under the Bill. My answer is, "Yes", and I think it is plain from the subsection which he quoted. It says that there is no powerto vary or revoke a right to which he is entitled by or under any Act of Parliament (including this Act) …The important word is "under". Therefore, any right that he gets under a Regulation under this Bill is safeguarded. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman.
I think that I have mentioned the draft Regulations under Clause 2, and perhaps I might now deal briefly with one or two subjects which have been raised during the debate, but which are not strictly concerned with the Bill, though obviously they have a bearing on it.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned the procedure for Services' pay. The Government are not setting aside the principles recommended in the Grigg Report. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary said on 25th November that the Government's incomes policyis a policy that applies to all incomes. It is not intended as a restraint on incomes, but as a way in which rises in incomes may be tested on their merits and criteria against a national policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1965; Vol. 721, c. 769.]I stress again that my right hon. Friend's statement made the point clearly that the Board is being asked to pay special regard to the need of the Services to recruit and 965 retain on a voluntary basis sufficient men to meet the commitments of the Services, and the special features of Service life.
Clearly Service men and Service Ministers are very anxious that the procedures for determining Services' pay shall be absolutely fair, but they feel even greater concern that whatever procedures are used the final pay award should do justice to Service men. That decision, of course, has not yet been made. This subject could, I suggest, be better debated when the decision comes before Parliament, as it will.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
Can the hon. Gentleman say in what form that will come before Parliament, and also perhaps when he expects it so to come?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I think I shall leave that to the Leader of the House. That is not a matter for me at this moment.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is correct about that either, although both when and how are matters on which I shall certainly want to consult my right hon. Friend before I make any statement.
I appreciate, as we all do, the tremendous importance of re-engagement, even as against recruitment, because certainly from the Navy's point of view—and this applies to all Services—a man who re-engages is from that time onwards a much more valuable member of the Service than a man who is recruited and has to he trained and taught the necessary skills, and then gain experience.
We appreciate the enormous importance of encouraging re-engagement, and I very much regret having to give the House disappointing figures concerning re-engagement in recent months. The required re-engagement rate for naval ratings on 12-year engagements is 65 per cent., and for those on nine-year engagements, 50 per cent. For those in the first category the rate has fallen from 54 per cent. in 1963 to only 48 per cent. today. and for those in the latter category from 33 per cent. in 1964 to only 24 per cent. today.
966 The Army requirement is for a 100 per cent. re-engagement of technicians and the higher skilled tradesmen at the six and nine-year option points, and 60 per cent. and 40 per cent., respectively, for all other men. The rate of re-engagement at the first option point—that is, after six years' service—is about 40 per cent., and at the second option point the evidence shows that the overall re-engagement rate is no more than 35 per cent. The number of airmen prepared to extend their service fell in the past two years from 9,800 to 3,460, leading to a shortfall in the current year of 45 per cent. against the requirement. These are disturbing figures and we shall no doubt debate them in the months ahead.
§ Captain W. Elliot
Can the Minister give any figures concerning Fleet Air Arm aircrew, in respect of which I understand there is some difficulty?
§ Mr. Mayhew
Speaking from memory—recruitment for Fleet Air Arm aircrew has held up quite well but re-engagement is far from satisfactory. If the hon. and gallant Member will put down a Question I will gladly take the matter up and give him the figures.
I now return to the Bill. I was asked by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South about Clause 4(4) and (5). He asked me who was the "competent authority" referred to there, who may order the continuance in service of naval ratings, and whether it should not be specified as the Defence Council. I do not think that there is any point of substance between us, because Clause 14 defines "competent authority" asthe Defence Council or an officer prescribed by Regulations of the Defence Council to act",and so on. The important decisions taken under Clause 4 are those referred to in subsection (1). Those decisions are naturally taken by the Defence Council, where a state of war exists or warlike operations are in preparation, and so on. There is no question of devolving the Council's responsibility once those circumstances exist. But once we are in a situation envisaged in subsection (1) it is clear that the actual work of retaining certain ratings in service must be devolved by the Defence Council. It is not a matter for the Defence Council 967 to handle itself. I hope that that makes the position clear.
Several questions have been raised on Clauses 5 and 12. Members have asked what is the point of changing the old form of issuing a proclamation to acting by a Queen's Order. I want to make it clear that there is no change of substance. The decision is made by the same people and on the same grounds as before. The decision is the act of Her Majesty, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Defence, taken by the same people for the same reasons and in the same kind of circumstances as before. All that has been altered is the machinery. At present it is ancient and inconvenient. It involves the issuing of an order by the Queen, the affixing of the Royal Seal, and the publication in the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes. That may have been all right in the old days but in the nuclear age, while the count-down is in progress, waiting for the Belfast Gazette to come out does not match the needs of the moment.
This is a simple procedure and we think that it is a better way of going about the matter. We are all for perpetuating ancient history in certain fields of Service life in order to maintain the spirit of a ship, a squadron or regiment, but not in the case of issuing a proclamation.
The hon. Member went on to refer to Clause 15, which empowers Her Majesty's Forces to arrest and hold in custody a person subject to Service law who is arrested or about to be arrested by local authorities abroad. It is only right that this Clause should be fully examined. The taking into custody of such people in such circumstances already goes on. What we have not got is statutory authority to do so. A person so taken into custody can simply walk out of the guardroom at present. The matter is on an informal and voluntary basis.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I said "taken into custody". Here lies the basis of the misunderstanding between some hon. Members opposite and myself. In my view "taken into custody" is a much better phrase. We would not charge such persons.
968 In speaking of subsection (8) the hon. Member failed to grasp the fact that what we are doing is to take into British Service custody someone who otherwise would be incarcerated in a local gaol. Thus, it is not appropriate for hon. Members to ask for what length of time we should hold him, and whether there would be sufficient safeguards against our holding him for too long. As soon as the trial comes on, or as soon as the charge is dropped, we release him from custody. But there is no point in releasing him from custody if the only effect is for him to be snapped up by the local police and put into a local gaol.
The procedure in respect of the Regulations referred to in subsection (7) lays down the number of actions required to be taken, such as the making of reports. If it were strongly felt that these Regulations should be in statutory form the question could be discussed, but I want to impress upon the House that these provisions will be formalising something that exists, and by preventing the arrest and gaoling of Service men we are doing something which may be in their interests and in the interests of the Service.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
The hon. Member has explained Clause 15 very satisfactorily, except for one thing. I do not understand why, in subsection (5,a), the man, who may be described as having been taken into custody more or less for his own protection, may afterwards be handed over to the local authorities.
§ Mr. Mayhew
This is because we do not contest the right of the local authorities to try such men. We cannot do that. Therefore, when the time for his trial comes on, he is handed over.
I now turn to Clause 17, which deals with desertion. It covers a quite simple point. It is already an offence to persuade or assist a Service man to desert or to go absent. This is already covered by the Discipline Acts. But it is not an offence to persuade or assist him to remain a deserter or absentee. We did not think that the law covered this point, and this Clause is merely designed to do so. It is not wholly academic. There have been one or two cases of this recently and we think that it is necessary.
969 Clause 18 is about Ireland. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South was not sure why the Clause is in the Bill. The point is that the Ireland Act, 1949, declared Eire not to be a dominion but also that it should not be treated as a foreign country for the purposes of United Kindom law. The subsequent 1950 Army and Air Force (Annual) Act tried as best it could to make sense of this in terms of Service legislation but failed. It did not matter so much then, because Irish Servicemen at that time were all British citizens. Today, the new recruits are not British citizens, and certain anomalies arise.
We want to ensure that Irish Servicemen today are not aliens. If the House pressed me to explain exactly how the 1950 Act tried and failed to get over this difficulty and exactly how the Bill gets over it, Et would take me some time and would be a little complicated. An Irishman once declared that, not being a bird, he could not be in two places at once. Clause 18 is an attempt by the Ministry of Defence to get him out of this difficulty.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
Am I right then in thinking that the effect of Clause 18 will be that an Irishman is not a member of the Commonwealth, he is not a British subject and he is not a foreigner? What is he? [An HON. MEMBER: "An Irishman."]
§ Mr. Mayhew
I think that is true. That explains my bird story.
The hon. Member asked why Clause 19(1) is necessary. I think that that was answered by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Secretary of State: it is to bring in the Commonwealth as well as foreign countries.
He also asked about subsection (2), which deals with declarations of active service. The present position is that the Governor of a Colony can declare active service, but we are worried about the protectorates—particularly, around Aden and Brunei—which do not have Governors. This Clause, I think sensibly, makes the forces commander the declarer of active service, with, of course, consultation with the Governor if there is a Governor—if it is a Colony—and, wherever possible, prior agreement by the Secretary of State for Defence.
970 I now come to the two Clauses which have given rise to most discussion, Clauses 24 and 25. The hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) declared that they represented a tremendous breach of some ancient principle of law. If so, it is a breach which has been part of naval law for many years. The Navy already debars trial for the same offence by a civil court——
§ Mr. Allason
How does the hon. Gentleman explain, then, the express extension from the same offence to the same or similar offences? This is the point which my hon. and learned Friend was making.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The Navy has had civil trial for the same offence barred for many years. The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) slightly ruffled naval feathers with his speech. He spoke of flogging and of harsh and summary naval discipline. I will point out to him—I do not know how seriously he meant these things—that naval law is summary but it is not harsh. It has to be summary, as we all know—the Select Committee went into this in great depth—because powers of summary punishment must be in the hands of commanders of warships. It must be so.
A very interesting example of why it must be so occurred not long ago. H.M.S. "Protector" was due for a six months' cruise in the Arctic ice. Just after she sailed, a rating committed an offence which in the Army or the R.A.F. would have required a court-martial. If the Navy had not had these powers of summary punishment the situation would have been very awkward. Either the man would have been under arrest for six months and useless to the ship, or the ship would have had to go back to Simonstown or Portsmouth for a court-martial.
I cannot imagine an equivalent difficulty arising in the Army or the R.A.F., which shows why we must have summary powers of naval discipline which are not needed in the other Services.
§ Mr. Allason
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to be fair. He will recall that I was speculating on the origins of the Navy getting out of step. I therefore expressly talked about a ship sailing away and gave the precise example which he has quoted.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I accept completely what the hon. Member says.
Clauses 24 and 25 bring the Services together. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South quoted parts of the Bill and suggested that there are anomalies in it between one Service and another. I have read and reread these Clauses and I cannot see this difficulty. I can assure him that the intention is to bring all the Services together in this by means of the phrase "substantially the same". If the Bill does not do this, we shall have every opportunity of making Amendments. I cannot see the anomalies which the hon. Member mentioned.
As to what "substantially the same" means, the intention is to deal with offences which are different in wording but are the same. Otherwise, a civil court might be in the position of virtually having to try something which to any common sense view was the same offence. With great respect to the hon. and learned Member for Billericay, that is contrary to an even greater principle of common law—that a man should not be tried twice for the same offence. This is what we are trying to do and I believe it is what all hon. Members wish to do. I think that these two Clauses fulfil this intention, if they do not, we shall have plenty of time to change them.
I hope that I have covered most of the main points made in the debate. Obviously, this is not a spectacular Bill, nor is it one which lends itself to oratory, but, certainly from the Government's point of view, we have had a useful discussion. The Bill will lead forward to a great cleaning up of Service legislation. The powers to make Regulations will help especially towards this. It is also a Bill which brings the Services very closely together. The actual framing of the Bill was a piece of inter-Service collaboration which was extremely smooth and helpful.
As the Secretary of State for Defence explained not long ago, Service Ministers are now becoming increasingly concerned with various functional subjects in all three Services. This has been part of the work of making the Bill. As I have responsibility across the board for personnel, I was able, with the good will of my Service colleagues, to take a tri-Service approach to the Bill. As I said, it is not a spectacular Measure, but it leads us 972 forward, and brings the Services closer together. That is the spirit in which I recommend it to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Select Committee.—[Mr. Ifor Davies.]