§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lucas.)
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Will the noble Lord the Under-Secretary allow me, on the Motion to go into Committee, to put to him a question which I ask, not in any critical spirit, but really to elicit information? The history of the question is this. The late Government brought in a Bill to deal with the subject of transferring certain powers of the Secretary of State, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Adjutant-General to the Army Council. Last year His Majesty's Government brought in a Bill which, except in one very small detail, was practically the Bill of their predecessors. The wording of the two Bills was practically the same—that is to say, they transferred all the powers except those falling under one very small head. This year the Army (Annual) Bill starts, so to speak, from the other end. It transfers all the powers that it mentions. I hope I make myself clear. The old Bills transferred all the powers with very small exceptions; this year's Bill transfers only the powers that are mentioned. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether the transference that we are asked to make this year is exactly the same as we would have been asked to make last year if the Bill that was then introduced in another place had been pushed through and had reached this House. I am anxious, as I say, to know whether the policy of His Majesty's Government this year is the 624 same as it was last year and as was the policy of their predecessors.
* LORD LUCAS
Clause 8, the object of which is to make individual members of Indian and Colonial forces subject to the Army Act when attached to any part of home forces for the purposes of training or exercise in the United Kingdom, is inserted at the wish of the self-governing Colonies. Clause 9 is merely an enabling clause. It makes it clear that the Colonial Legislatures can, if they wish to do so, apply the whole or any part of the Army Act to the Forces of the Colony when they are serving with the Regulars. The creation of the Special Reserve has rendered Clause 10 necessary. Under the Army Act as it stood the Reservist, when called up, became a Regular. That was in the days when all Reservists were ex-Regulars, and when practically the only time they were ever called up was on mobilisation. But now the existence of the Special Reserve has created a new kind of Reservist, and it is not thought desirable to treat him as a Regular when he is up simply for annual training. This clause, therefore, enables him to serve as a Special Reservist and not be treated as a Regular when on annual training.
The object of the provision in Clause 11—the last clause of the Bill—is to extend the definition of the Governor so as to include the High Commissioner or Commissioner of a British Protectorate. The definition of Colony was extended by the Army (Annual) Act of 1904 so as to include Protectorates, but no corresponding alteration was made in the definition of Governor. It is also made clear that in Australia and Canada "Governor" means the 628 Governor-General of Canada and Australia, and not the Governors of the Provinces of Canada or the States of Australia. I think I have now explained the whole of the provisions of the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I think the lucid statement of the noble Lord the Under-Secretary will have made it quite clear that a number of points have been dealt with in this Bill which have long required to be dealt with, but which, in the experience of successive Secretaries of State, have had to be put off through exigencies of pressure at this time of the year in the House of Commons and the necessity for carrying the Army (Annual) Bill by a particular date. I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with any remarks at this stage, except to congratulate the Secretary of State on having at last put in order a number of things which might otherwise have been left to be settled in time of crisis. But I would ask your Lordships to consider the statement made by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary with regard to the constitutional responsibility of the Secretary of State. I think that in the transfer of these duties to the Army Council, however necessary they may have become, it is extremely desirable that we should satisfy ourselves that the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament is not in any way interfered with.
I cannot, I confess, view with the same equanimity as the noble Lord does the position as it is left under Clause 4 of the Bill. New powers are conferred on the Army Council. Those powers are statutory and absolute; but the powers conferred upon the Secretary of State by the same clause are not statutory and absolute. He has a responsibility under the Order in Council of 1904, and care is taken to show that there is to be no interference with that responsibility. But that Order in Council is by prerogative, and what has been given by prerogative can be withdrawn by prerogative. There is nothing, so far as I am advised, which could prevent the Crown, on the advice of the Ministry, from withdrawing the Order in Council of 1904, and thereupon the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament, existing under and given by that Order in Council, would to that extent be limited and withdrawn. 629 What I would press upon His Majesty's Government is this. There certainly is, in the minds of many people, a doubt upon this question, and it seems to me that it would to only reasonable and wise, before parting from the Committee stage of the Bill, to put among the provisos in Clause 4 a clear statement that nothing in the clause shall interfere with the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament. That will not in any way affect the intention of the Government, and I commend it more especially to the consideration of the noble Lord because I understand that in another place an Amendment to that effect was down for discussion, but as the clause fell under the closure before the Amendment was reached there was no opportunity of eliciting the views of the Secretary of State and of competent lawyers in the other House on this subject. I do not wish to trouble your Lordships further, except to express the hope that the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, will press the Amendment of which he has given notice, and that it will not be placed in any way as a limitation of another Amendment, but will be allowed to form a subsection by itself, so that it may be clearly established that the responsibility of the Secretary of State, which has always existed, to His Majesty and to Parliament is left entirely unimpaired.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, allusion has been made to an Amendment which I have placed on the Paper, to add, at the end of Clause 4, a new subsection to the effect that—Nothing in this section shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament.Perhaps it may be for the convenience of the noble Lord the Under-Secretary that I should state now my reasons for putting down this Amendment, rather than wait until we get in Committee.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I understand that the object of the Government is exactly the same as my own, and that they do not wish to interfere in any way with the responsibility of the Secretary of State. Indeed, it is stated in the Notes on Clauses which precede the Bill that— 630The full responsibility of the Secretary of State to the Crown and to Parliament is expressly preserved.Therefore clearly it is the object of the Government to preserve full responsibility. The question is, Is that responsibility expressly preserved by the Bill? In the Bill as it stands I venture to think it is not; and for this reason. At the present moment the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament is fixed by the Statute of 1863. If your Lordships look at Clause 4 of this Bill you will see that subsection (2) provides that—Nothing in this Act shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State under the Order in Council dated the tenth day of August nineteen hundred and four respecting the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament and regulating the distribution of business amongst the members of the Army Council and the powers and duties transferred to the Army Council by this section shall be deemed to be business within the meaning of that Order and any part thereof may be reserved to the Secretary of State accordingly.By the Letters Patent which constituted the Army Council the Secretary of State became a member of that Council, and therefore the question is whether, as a member of the Army Council and being one of that body, he still retains actual responsibility as Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament. The powers given to him by this clause are given with reference to such powers as are mentioned in the Order in Council, which, as has been pointed out, may be altered or abolished. Let me suppose, just for a moment, that this Order in Council were revoked. What, then, would be the position of the Secretary of State? I think, at all events, it is doubtful; and as I am sure the Government desire that no doubt should exist, I do not see, as at present advised, why they should object to insert a distinct and separate proviso to the effect that—Nothing in this section shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament.That is the whole point, and I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, that it is better that this proviso should appear as a separate subsection.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
* LORD LUCAS ,
who had an Amendment on the Paper to leave out subsection (2), which Lord Camperdown had just read, and to insert the following new sub-section—(2) The powers and duties transferred to the Army Council by this section shall as from the commencement of this Act be deemed to be business within the meaning of the Order in Council dated the tenth day of August nineteen hundred and four regulating the distribution of business amongst the members of the Army Council and the provisions of that Order as to the reservation to himself of any part of such business by the Secretary of State and as to the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament shall apply accordingly,asked permission to alter the wording of this Amendment by leaving out the words—and the provisions of that Order as to the reservation to himself of any part of such business by the Secretary of State and as to the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and Parliament shall apply accordingly,and inserting in their place the words—The Secretary of State may however reserve to himself any such business and nothing in this section shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament
This, he said, embodied Lord Camperdown's words, and the Government thought the provision appeared better in this form. The effect of the Amendment was two-fold. In the first place, the subsection was redrafted in order to remove any possible ambiguity as to whether or not it could be interpreted as being retrospective. As the Government particularly wished that it should not be made retrospective because of the case of Lieutenant Woods, which might thereby be affected, they had had it re-drafted so that by no conceivable circumstances could it possibly be considered as retrospective in any way. In the second place, the Amendment as he now proposed to move it gave absolutely everything that Lord Camperdown desired. It was not usual to insert in an Act of Parliament words defining the responsibility of a Secretary of State, because this responsibility had already been established by what he might describe as the unwritten law of the Constitution. There could be no question of the delegation of responsi 632 bility as between the members of the Army Council and the Secretary of State; and in order to make it clear that the responsibility of the Secretary of State did not rest on the terms of the Order in Council, the Government proposed this Amendment.
Amendment moved—In Clause 4, page 3, line 25, to leave out subsection (2) and to insert the following new subsection:(2)'The powers and duties transferred to the Army Council by this section shall as from the commencement of this Act be deemed to be business within the meaning of the Order in Council dated the tenth day of August nineteen hundred and four regulating the distribution of business amongst the members of the Army Council. The Secretary of State may however reserve to himself any such business and nothing in this section shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament.'"—(Lord Lucas.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said it was difficult to argue upon an Amendment which was not on the Paper, although the noble Lord the Under-Secretary had been good enough just before the meeting of the House to show him the Amendment as he had now moved it. The Amendment was open to the objection that it dealt with two subjects—first, the distribution of duties among the members of the Army Council, and, second, the responsibility of the Secretary of State. He preferred the words of his own proviso. As he had stated what his objection to the Government's Amendment was, perhaps the noble Lord the Under-Secretary would kindly tell him what the objection of the Government was to accepting the perfectly clear and distinct form in which he (Lord Camperdown) proposed to insert this proviso.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, I think there is not any very great difference between the Amendment of the noble Earl and the redrafted Amendment of my noble friend the Under-Secretary, but there is one particular advantage in the drafting of Lord Lucas's Amendment which I think the noble Earl will recognise when it is pointed out to him. In the first place, may I say that I am not aware of any previous Act wherein what is called the responsibility either of a Secretary of State or of a Minister of the Crown to Parliament has ever been expressly recognised. The truth is that all the powers conferred by an Act of Parliament upon a Minister are bestowed, so to 633 speak, in an atmosphere of Parliamentary and constitutional responsibility which is supposed to cover them all. No references can be found in an Act, for example, to the Cabinet, nor to its responsibility. It is a part of the constitution of the country, and as such is very well known by everyone. Accordingly, being somewhat of a purist in these matters, or, if you like, a prude, I do not like the idea of introducing this special reference to Ministerial responsibility in an Act of Parliament. However, it was introduced into an Order in Council in 1904, when the constitutional advisers of His Majesty did not include myself. There it is in the Order in Council, and now what is desired is, by Act of Parliament, to make a transfer of some fresh powers to the Army Council in addition to those dealt with by the Order in Council. That being the case, the noble Earl opposite proposes to provide that nothing in this section shall affect the responsibility of the Secretary of State to His Majesty and to Parliament. In my opinion nothing of the kind could happen: but what the noble Earl desires is secured by the Amendment of my noble friend the Under-Secretary, which also secures something else—namely, that the Secretary of State may reserve to himself "any such business." If it is desirable to say that responsibility to Parliament is to be preserved by Statute and ought not to be preserved by Order in Council, is it not equally desirable to say that the reservation by the Secretary of State to himself of any such business should be secured by Act of Parliament instead of by Order in Council? This is the difference between the two Amendments, and I think the noble Earl would be well advised to accept Lord Lucas's Amendment subject to reconsideration on Report.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said he understood that Lord Camperdown desired to secure that the reservation which he moved concerning the responsibility of the Secretary of State, and as to which the noble Earl and the Government appeared to be agreed, should be given the dignity of a separate subsection. It seemed to him that Lord Camperdown's Amendment in no way contradicted the Government's Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I would suggest that the settlement of the Amendment might be left over until the Report 634 stage, so that the drafting could be considered, and an opportunity allowed for a conference, if necessary, between the noble Earl and the Secretary of State. There is really nothing between us.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said he would be pleased to accept that suggestion. He only wished to make it plain that the reservation of business was one thing and the statutory responsibility of the Secretary of State quite another thing. Because they were different he had thought it better that they should be referred to in separate provisos.
L ORD LUCAS
expressed his willingness to withdraw his Amendment at this stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
* LORD LUCAS
moved to amend this clause, which dealt with billeting in cases of emergency, by providing that in the case of unoccupied premises the section should apply as if the owner were the occupier.
Amendment moved—In Clause 7, page 6, line 17, after the word 'Constabulary' to insert the words 'In the case of unoccupied premises this section shall apply as if the owner were the occupier thereof.'"—(Lord Lucas.)
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ * LORD HAVERSHAM
asked whether there was any real necessity for the large powers which the clause took to billet in private houses. Under the clause there was not a single private house that could not be entered for this purpose by the military authorities in the event of emergency. In the past, public halls, and buildings of that character, had been utilised for billeting Volunteers, and he hoped to have an assurance that the tremendous powers given by this clause would not be exercised except in the case of absolute necessity, and that the chief officer of police would in all cases consider the convenience of private householders by ascertaining first whether accommodation could not be found in public halls and 635 similar buildings and in victualling houses in the neighbourhood. If the troops were quartered at one place for any length of time they would, of course, be put under canvas, and the difficulty would not arise. The clause also provided that—The prices to be paid to an occupier other than the keeper of a victualling house for accommodation furnished and food and fodder supplied by him shall be such as may be fixed by regulations made by the Army Council with the consent of the Treasury.He trusted that, in fixing these prices, the Army Council would not adopt a schedule such as that contained in the Bill. That schedule would, in the case of soldiers billeted in private houses, be altogether unjust. He therefore hoped the Army Council would press upon the Treasury for a much more liberal scale of allowances.
* LORD LUCAS
replied that these powers would only be exercised in the case of great emergency. The best use would be made of public buildings, and it would only be in the last resort that billeting 636 would take place in private houses. Everything had been done to make the inconvenience necessarily caused in time of danger as light as possible. With regard to the question of prices, a schedule could not be laid down for a time of emergency, but when an emergency did arise full consideration would be given to the price of food at the time and the inconvenience to which the occupiers of private houses were placed.
Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
Remaining Clauses and Schedules agreed to.
Standing Committee negatived: The Report of Amendment to be received Tomorrow, and Standing Order No. XXXIX to be considered in order to its being dispensed with; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 31.)
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.