HC Deb 05 August 1966 vol 733 cc886-7

Lords Amendment: In page 21, line 21, at beginning insert "Section 30(2) and"

11.15 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. David Ennals)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

It will be for the convenience of the House if with this we also discuss the remaining Lords Amendment, in Schedule 2, page 24, leave out lines 41 and 42 and insert "Section 30(2)".

Mr. Speaker

If the Opposition have no objection.

Mr. Ennals

I need give only a brief explanation. The effect of the Amendments is to remove the obligation on lieutenants of counties to appoint as many as 20 deputy lieutenants. Until the Bill becomes law, only persons with military qualifications, or other qualifications connected with the Services, are eligible for appointment as deputy lieutenants. As a result of Clause 20, persons with other qualifications can in future be appointed. However, Section 30(2) of the Militia Act, 1882 says: In every county twenty persons at least, or if so many persons cannot be found duly qualified, then all the duly qualified persons living within the county, shall, subject as herein-after mentioned, be appointed deputy lieutenants. Unless we amend Section 30(2) counties will be obliged to appoint at least 20 deputy lieutenants. Some smaller counties have appointed fewer than 20, some as few as 10, and it must be assumed that qualified persons have not been available.

We have now broadened the qualifications to include suitable individuals who lack a military background, but, unless the Amendments are accepted, we shall oblige lieutenants to complete their complements. This may lead to a disproportionate number of people without military qualifications. It is also probably true that some lieutenants in smaller counties do not wish to appoint their full complement and we do not see why in modern conditions they should be obliged to do so.

In Standing Committee B on 30th June, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) suggested that instead of broadening the qualifications to include those without military experience, we should reduce or under-implement the establishment. We still wish to broaden the qualifications and we have no wish to reduce the establishment, but we wish to give lieutenants complete discretion to under-implement the establishment and that is the purpose of the Lords Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Remaining Lords Amendment agreed to.