HL Deb 10 March 1915 vol 18 cc654-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the amendments which are required in the Army Act are comprised in this Bill. The first one is an amendment of Section 83. It is intended to give power to the Army Council to transfer men from one corps to another, not, as at present, within three months of their service, but at any time during their service; subject to these conditions, that it is to apply only in time of war and to affect only men enlisted since the war.

The second clause is to clear up one or two difficulties that have arisen with regard to the method of impressment. The first point is to explain the meaning of "due payment," which is now defined as the fair market price between a willing seller and willing buyer. The second point is to enable the County Court Judge to include in his certificate a sum which will, besides giving the price of the animal or article requisitioned, also include a sum to cover cases where either the owner or the Crown has been put to expense. The third clause is to amend Section 183 of the Army Act, under which, as it stands at present, the Army Council have the power of summarily reducing non-commissioned officers but are not authorised to delegate that authority. It is desirable at the present time that the General officers commanding the new armies At the various training centres in this country should have this power, which is already possessed by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in the Field, and therefore it is thought desirable to enable this power to be delegated.

The object of the last clause in the Bill is to provide for mutual relations between naval and military authorities when acting together. At present a military officer has no power of discipline over a sailor. The amendment in the law is designed to meet this difficulty; and there is a similar amendment in the Naval Discipline Bill which will shortly come before your Lordships providing for the same thing from the naval point of view. I have now explained all the amendments in the Army Act which this Bill is intended to secure.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lucas.)


My Lords, I think there will be general agreement that the War Office, with the very great powers which they have of requisitioning, have done their best to exercise those powers with consideration to all who have had to give up their property. We may, on the Defence of the Realm Amendment Bill, have to say a word with regard to damage to property which in some cases, I think, has not been quite so much studied as it might have been. But so far as this Bill delegates to General officers commanding the new Armies work which has hitherto been done by the War Office, I am sure it will be welcomed by all members of your Lordships' House; because the one object, I think, in these matters at present ought to be to decentralise work from the War Office and give as much power as possible to those who are in immediate contact with the troops.

One point, however, has occurred to me with regard to this Bill. In future if requisitions are made the price given may be appealed against to a County Court Judge within three weeks; but with regard to all past requisitions the appeal must be made within three weeks of the passing of this Act. I am sure members of this House will feel that we know very little indeed of the Acts which we are passing, because they are put through in such a hurry, and if one member of the House besides the noble Lord in charge is fully seized of a Bill it is about as much as is the case. By the public, of course, these Acts cannot be equally well known, and I think, seeing that a large number of those from whom articles and stores have been requisitioned are now serving the country and are not in touch with their estates or their factories, it might be well to give a longer time for appeals in respect of past requisitions. Or perhaps the Government would meet the point by taking the opportunity of full publication of the fact that if there is to be an appeal against any requisition it must be made within three weeks. That would draw the attention of the public to this Act. I may say that I am the last person to desire to multiply these appeals, but. I think the suggestion I have made is a fair one.


I will draw the attention of the War Office to the noble Viscount's suggestion, which is an eminently fair and reasonable one. I agree that publication is the best way to secure that everybody who is affected by this provision may know the effect of this clause in the Bill.


There is at present a fixed price with regard to horses beyond which the authorities cannot go. I think very fair value has been given for draught animals, but in my neighbourhood some valuable horses have been paid for very much under price. I should like to ask whether the County Court Judge to whom the appeal is to he made will have power to go beyond the sum which the War Office have already fixed.


He will be guided by the value of the animal after he has heard the evidence, and he will assess the price in the way now defined in the Bill, where the definition is "the market value of the animal as between a willing seller and a willing buyer."

On Question, Bill read 2a.

Committee negatived: Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Bill read 3a, and passed.