§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FORWAR (The Earl of DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, this Bill has been prepared after consultation between the Board of Admiralty and the Army Council. The object of the first clause is to provide a summary punishment for persons who make fraudulent use of good conduct certificates of discharge granted to seamen, soldiers, and Marines. As the 913 law at present stands it is a misdemeanour I at common law to forge a character or to utter a forged character, but these offences are punishable on indictment and not summarily. Whilst providing that offenders may be punished summarily the Bill will not, of course, interfere with the power to proceed by indictment in aggravated cases. A number of cases have arisen which render necessary such a provision as is contained in Clause 1. The object of Clause 2 is to prevent false characters being given by men offering themselves for enlistment. Your Lordships are probably aware that for some time past we have demanded characters from all men who wish to enlist, but we have no way of punishing those who present false characters. This clause makes it an offence to furnish a false character. We had one very flagrant case in February last, of a man presenting a most excellent character from his brother-in-law. We subsequently found that this man had spent nearly the whole of the last seven years in prison and that his brother-in-law had given him this good character in order to get rid of him. Clause 3—the Last clause in the Bill—has been inserted because doubts have arisen as to whether Section 16 of the Naval Enlistment Act of 1853 applies to a man entering the Naval Reserve Forces. At the time of the passing of that Act the Naval Reserve Forces did not exist, and it is to remove any doubts and to ensure that the necessary provisions shall apply to these people that this clause has been inserted. I move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a (according to order), and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.