HL Deb 25 March 1924 vol 56 cc1025-8

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Thomson.)


My Lords, I have given private notice to the noble Lord, Lord Thomson—I hope he has received my letter—of my intention to move the postponement for a week of the Committee stage of this Bill. I had no idea that it was proposed to take the Committee stage so soon. When the Bill was read a second time, the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, expressly urged the noble Lord not; to hurry on the Committee, stage. The Bill was read a second time on Thursday last. This is the first time that your Lordships have met since then, and yet the Committee stage of this Bill is set down for this evening. When a noble Lord makes such a proposal as that made by the noble Earl, it is very unusual that no explanation should be offered of any need for immediate hurry.

With regard to the Bill itself, I should like to say that I welcome it most cor- dially. I look upon it as a very high compliment to the Territorial Associations that this very important work should be put into their hands. At the same time a good deal of consideration is necessary as to the possible effects of the Bill. One, thing that the noble Lord said on the last occasion rather puzzled me. In reply to the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, he said— I desire to express the gratitude of the Air Ministry to the Lords-Lieutenants and to all those people who have been connected with the County Association" for the work which they have done hitherto. Every association concerned has been approached, and they have all been most helpful and kind in their assistance. That, I own, has rather puzzled me. I have been Lord-Lieutenant of a county for thirty-three years. I have been connected with the territorial movement from the first. When the Act was first passed I, as Lord-Lieutenant, automatically became president of the Association, and on my own initiative I became Chairman of the Association. We have now a council which is more fully representative of the Force than it has ever been. I have been Chairman of that council for sixteen years now; yet I as Lord-Lieutenant and as Chairman of the council, the vice-chairman of the council and the secretary of the council have never been approached in any kind of way. Therefore, I admit that I was very much puzzled when the noble Lord said that every one concerned had been approached.

I must say that we are concerned. We consider we are very closely concerned in this matter. The reason I have ventured to move the postponement of the Committee stage is that there are, one or two points which, in the interests of the Territorial Associations, should be cleared up. The Bill, I understand, proposes to set up County Joint Associations. What I want to have clearly explained is, what is the meaning of the word "joint"? If it is a joint administration of the existing associations of sea and land forces, then, I think, it is a matter in regard to which we should be in complete agreement, but if, as is possible, "joint" means the grouping of counties, or the grouping of centres of industry, for the purpose of setting up a separate committee to deal with these things, then I think we shall be asking for trouble.

Take the two great centres near which I live—Wolverhampton and Birmingham. If they were to be made joint associa- tions for this purpose, that would entirely destroy the whole principle upon which the Territorial Force was originally formed. It would break down the Territorial system altogether, because Wolverhampton is in the North Midland division, and Birmingham is in another division, it would be impossible to work them together. I am perfectly confident that if, as I understand, the idea is that these are to be joint county associations—not new ones, but merely an expansion of those that originally existed—formed for the purpose of introducing into our present system representatives of the Air Force, I can assure the noble Lord that we shall give him all the support we can, it being clearly understood that when we are making proposals for the air we communicate direct with the Secretary of State for Air, while if we are making proposals for the land forces we communicate, as we do now, with the Secretary of State for War.

The learned Lord Chancellor answered some of my questions. I sec he claims to be the grandfather of the present Bill as being the direct descendant of the Territorial Forces Act of 1907. We, as his children, still desire to look upon him as the parent of the movement, and we consider that we are one of the most satisfactory of his off-spring. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that we recognise to the full the great benefit that the noble and learned Viscount has conferred upon the country by what he has done for the Territorial Force, and I can assure him that any views of his will carry great weight with us. As I understand it, the object is merely to enlarge the powers of the existing Associations for the purpose of dealing with matters that affect the Air Force. If that is so, while I beg to move that consideration of the Committee stage be postponed for a week, I think I can assure the noble Lord that he will find every support from those who are interested in the Territorial Force.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned till Wednesday, April 2.—(The Earl of Dartmouth.)


My Lords, after what the noble Earl has said I have no intention of opposing the postponement of the Committee stage of this Bill. I only want to make my excuse. I said the other day that all associations had been approached. What I meant was that all the associations which have been approached have given us their support. As regards the question of urgency, the reason I wanted to get on with the matter quickly was that the Air Ministry looked upon this Bill as an experiment. There is no one more alive than the Air Ministry to the assistance given by County Associations in the past. What we wanted was really to get our powers, and then go cap in hand to the County Associations for the first squadrons we proposed to form, which may, indeed, be the only ones. That is still the intention. There was no wish to rush the matter through. I am afraid there will be considerable delays in another place.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and Committee stage postponed accordingly till Wednesday, April 2.