HL Deb 20 July 1916 vol 22 cc874-6

LORD LATYMER rose to ask His Majesty's Government how alterations in the Statutes of the Order of the Bath are made; whether such alterations are made public, and, if so, in what way.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be within the recollection of many of your Lordships that I have on several occasions called attention to the injustice and disabilities from which the Royal Marines have suffered. There are still many things that ought to be readjusted with regard to this fine body of men. At the present time, however, I will refrain from taking up the time of the House on the subject, but some day I hope I shall be able to obtain a Committee of the two Houses to inquire into all their grievances and find out how the case stands.

It had been my intention again to bring up an injustice that had been done to the Royal Marines by the careful omission of their name from the Statutes of the Order of the Bath, thereby preventing any of them ever obtaining the G.C.B., which is open to all other branches of His Majesty's Forces and to civilians. But before doing so I thought I had better make certain of my ground. I accordingly applied for a copy of the Statutes of this Order, but was informed that they were only circulated amongst members of the Order. Therefore I called at the Lord Chamberlain's Office and asked that I might be allowed to look at the Statutes, and permission was kindly granted to me. To my great delight I found that by a Statute recently passed the injustice of which I have complained had been removed, and that the Royal Marines are now able to obtain the G.C.B.

But the putting right of this matter has not been made public in any way. Not only do the general public know nothing about it, but I am positive that it has not come to the knowledge of the Royal Marines. The noble and gallant Admiral, Lord Beresford, who is not now in the House, told me himself that he had not heard of this. I have put my Question on the Paper to-day because I consider it is important that when by a Statute of the Order a really encouraging matter like this has been effected the fact should be made known, so that it may get to the knowledge of the Marines who are now fighting our battles. I hope I shall not be told that the Statute appeared in the Gazette, because as a matter of fact very few people read the Gazette, certainly the Marines do not. I must say that it is to me extraordinary that there should be this strange mystery about the Statutes of the Order. I can see no reason for it. It is not as though the Order of the Bath were a kind of secret assembly of people like Freemasons. Every Order of the Bath is given for public reasons, and given publicly. Whatever other people may be entitled to know of the Statutes, I certainly think that members of both Houses of Parliament ought to be acquainted of them.


My Lords, the reply to the noble Lord's Question is that all changes in the Order are made by Statute at His Majesty's pleasure. As a matter of practice, if any alteration is desired—such as, for instance, occurred recently to provide for the admission of General officers of the Royal Marines into the Military Division of the First Class of the Order, or the constantly recurring question in war time of making provision for additional members—the Secretary of State concerned would advise the King that such a step was desirable, and, if His Majesty by using his own discretion and in accordance with his prerogative consented, the Statute instituting the change would accordingly be drawn up, signed by the Secretary of State, finally receiving the King's Sign Manual. The Statutes of the Order are not made public. Copies, however, are issued to all members on appointment, in accordance with a clause in the Statutes. But the placing on the Paper of this Question by the noble Lord has removed any doubt that there may have been as to the position of officers of the Royal Marines.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Seven o'clock, till to-morrow, half-past ten o'clock.