HL Deb 09 June 1926 vol 64 cc320-31

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR asked His Majesty's Government if information can be given as to when the limitations were introduced which are at present imposed in regard to the discretion of Lords Lieutenant of counties, as to the qualifications, and also the number, of persons who may be recommended for appointment as Deputy Lieutenants; and also, to what extent the said limitations are based on statutory authority?

The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the Question I have put on the Paper may seem at first sight to be of quite a simple character. It is in one sense, but, nevertheless, it is not free from some complications and at any rate the subject has a history. It will be seen that there are two divisions in this Question. The first deals with the matter of the qualification of persons whom Lords Lieutenant wish to recommend. I am aware, and I am sure my noble friend who I am glad to know will answer the Question—I say "glad" because I am aware that he is familiar with all the details—would certainly remind me, if I were not already well acquainted with the fact, that there is an Act of Parliament—namely, one passed in 1918—which deals specifically, amongst other things, with this question of qualification. It may be said that such being the case, cadit quæstio. But there remains the matter of interpretation.

It used to be said that you can drive a coach and four through any Act of Parliament. I have not heard the phrase lately, but there was a time when it was rather often quoted. The obvious meaning is that a way can be found, by means of ingenuity, of interpreting any Act in more ways than one. I venture to think that I can find an example of this very process of interpretation in no less distinguished a quarter than the Department which has charge of this matter—namely the War Office, because there have been circulars issued from time to time in the name of the Secretary of State for War, based, I suppose, necessarily or nominally on this very Act of Parliament, and there are some points in these circulars which I do not find literally set forth in the Act. It is certainly stated in the Act that in order to be qualified for a Lieutenancy the person recommended must have taken part in one of His Majesty's Forces, the Army, the Navy, the Air, or Territorial Forces, but in a recent circular it is stated not only that the applicant or nominee must have taken part in some way in such service but is still so engaged at the time when the Lord Lieutenant of the County wishes to nominate him. I venture to think that is an example of interpretation.

This is not the first time this subject has been brought before your Lordships' House. Indeed, I find myself in uncommonly good company, because in the year 1907 this very subject was brought up by no less a personage than my noble friend Lord Rosebery, whom we all wish we could see often in this House. He remarked that the appointment of Deputy Lieutenants was the only means given to Lords Lieutenant of rewarding public service in connection with localities, and he asked the Secretary of State to give further attention to the matter so that it might be open to Lords Lieutenant to give these appointments to people, who had rendered public service. I think there can be no doubt that what Lord Rosebery had in mind was public service other than that connected with the military and other kindred forces. My late noble friend Lord Lucas, who then represented the War Office, replied to this suggestion rather in the sense of indicating that it would not come within the purpose of the circular alluded to, but he promised to bring what Lord Rosebery said before the Secretary of State. I hope I need not assure the House that I should be the last person to seem to fail in appreciation of the splendid services of all those who have taken part in different degrees but with the same mind and purpose, in the work of the Great War, and in connection with the Territorial Army and other matters. But the point is that there is at present a very real difficulty in recognising services of an important kind in connection, for instance, with county administration.

The other part of my Question refers to numbers. I do not find anything about that in the Act that I have mentioned, but at present there is a limitation in regard to the number of Deputy Lieutenants who may be appointed. I do not want to bring in a personal note, but I speak somewhat feelingly about this because for forty-five years I have had the privilege of occupying the position of Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and I have thus had opportunities of watching many changes. In the good old days the Lord Lieutenant had a comparatively free hand. I never heard any complaints as to lack of impartiality and the War Office, to whom recommendations were made, never questioned the propriety of any of the appointments proposed. But all that has been changed and now, as I have said, there is a limitation. What is the position? There are a number of men qualified tip to the hilt in exactly the light in which the War Office views the matter. They have done distinguished service and are prepared to do more, but at present only one in three can be appointed when vacancies occur. I have very little doubt that some of these distinguished men have wondered, or at any rate their friends have wondered, why they are not considered to be Qualified for the position of Deputy Lieutenant; and I confess that I should not be sorry if one of the results of bringing the matter before this House is that they will understand that it is not due to any negligence on the part of the person who has the privilege of recommending them.

Perhaps I have said enough, but I venture to allude to the Met that there has been, as your Lordships know, a gradual process of change in regard to central control in such matters. Instead of giving my own opinion on this point, I will recall a very notable utterance by no less a personage than the noble Marquess who was so long a leading ornament of this House, the late Marquess of Salisbury, who, on a certain occasion, uttered words which might be taken as an indication of his view regarding increased control on the part of the permanent Civil Service, especially as represented in the chief Government Departments. We all have a deep appreciation of the splendid work carried on by these very able men and we all know that their only desire is to do what is best for the country. Some would say, doubtless, that it is a very good thing for the country that matters should be regulated at headquarters rather than in each locality, but, after all, local govern- ment is an institution and I think we might almost claim that this matter of the Lieutenancy comes under that head. If anybody is likely to know who are suitable for recommendation as Deputy Lieutenants it is the Lord Lieutenant, who lives on the spot. The Lord Lieutenant himself, of course, is not appointed at the instance of the War Office or, at least, not ostensibly. That appointment rests solely with the Prime Minister, who recommends to the Crown the person who he thinks ought to be appointed, without, so far as I know, any special reference to his war service.

I am sorry that I cannot give the exact date when Lord Salisbury expressed his opinion, but I shall continue my research and I hope to find the exact occasion. It may be asked why I do not apply to the distinguished son of a distinguished father, the noble Marquess who leads the House. The objection is that, though the noble Marquess has for a very considerable time taken a leading part in public affairs, the utterance of which I speak was made a considerable time ago and, though the noble Marquess entered public life very young, he can hardly be expected to carry in his mind what happened probably when he was at school or even earlier.

In conclusion, reverting to the scope of the functions of the Lieutenancy, perhaps I may be allowed, in a sentence, to draw attention to the fact that quite recently His Majesty was graciously pleased to address a communication to the Lord Lieutenant of each county in England and Scotland, drawing attention to the importance of the movement for providing playing fields and other means of recreation throughout the country, and expressing the hope that Lords Lieutenant would do all in their power to promote that movement. Your Lordships will, I think, agree that there is a significance in this incident, on which I need not now enlarge. I beg to ask the Question that stands in my name.


My Lords, the noble Marquess asks me when it was that limitations were placed upon the discretion of Lords Lieutenant in appointing deputies both as to numbers and as to qualification. Perhaps he will permit me to deal with the two matters separately and to take the question of numbers first. As the noble Marquess has said, there was a time when Lords Lieutenant were given full discretion in their recommendations and there was no limitation whatever as regards numbers. He has said with great truth that, so far as he knows, no questions were raised as to the justice or propriety of the recommendations that came from Lords Lieutenant. We are all agreed, I think, upon that, but it so happened in the year 1901 that the whole question was reviewed and the conclusion was come to that in order to maintain the dignity of the office of Deputy Lieutenant it was desirable that some kind of limitation should be placed upon the numbers which it was within the power of Lords Lieutenant to recommend.

Certain counties had a larger number of Deputy Lieutenants than seemed desirable. One county, for instance, a county without a very large population, had in 1901 no fewer than 130 Deputy Lieutenants, and there were other counties which also, perhaps, had a too considerable number in relation to their population. It was thought advisable to make some regulation. This was not a statutory regulation, and the noble Marquess was right in saying that he did not notice it in any Act of Parliament, but it was an arrangement arrived at by the then Secretary of State for War. The suggestion which was adopted was that the creations of Deputy Lieutenant should be based on the population of the county, and a certain quota was fixed. I am speaking now of England and Wales; I shall deal with Scotland in a moment. For the first 50,000 inhabitants the number fixed was ten Deputy Lieutenants, for the next 150,000 there were to be fifteen, and for the next 800,000 thirty-two. Then, when the population reached a million, one Deputy Lieutenant was allowed for every 50,000 people. Therefore, if you had a county with a population of a couple of million, you would be allowed a quota of seventy-seven Deputy Lieutenants.

Some of the counties had, as I said just now, more than this quota The question arose how the numbers were to be reduced to the exact quota which had been laid down and it was arranged that the first three vacancies which occurred were not to be filled but the positions were to lapse. After that, in the case of the next three vacancies one only was to be refilled; that is to say, for the first six vacancies one new Deputy Lieutenant was to be allowed and afterwards only one in every three. The result has been that in England and Wales there are now only three counties with an excess over establishment, and one of those is the City of London, which occupies a different position from any other county and should not be considered in comparison with any other county in England. Before I pass to the Scottish question I should like to say that although the counties have a quota regulated by population, as I have explained, yet every county is allowed twenty Deputy Lieutenants whether the population permits it or not. That is the case as regards England and Wales.

In 1901, when the matter was considered with regard to Scotland, it was not thought that the English and Welsh system was suitable for Scotland and so a different system was initiated and settled between the then Secretary of State for War, Lord Midleton, and the then Secretary for Scotland, the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The Scottish quota was not fixed upon the population basis adopted for England and Wales but was in accordance with a special scheme based upon the relative density of population per acre in the county. I will take the Scottish county of which the noble Marquess has been Lord Lieutenant, for forty-six years I think he said. In 1901 the density of population per acre in Aberdeenshire was 13 and so the quota fixed for that county was 43. The noble Marquess has told us that Aberdeenshire is exceptionally well endowed with men fitted to fill the position of Deputy Lieutenant, and that is fairly proved by the fact that in 1901 no fewer than 81 enjoyed that distinction.

Under the original scheme which was approved by Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Lord Midleton the Aberdeenshire quota was fixed at 43, and under that arrangement when the noble Marquess had reduced the figure of 81 to 43 he would have been able to fill every vacancy as it occurred, but, unfortunately for those in Aberdeenshire who wished to exercise the office, a further change was made in 1921. There was a further conference between the then Secretary of State for War and the Secretary for Scotland, and it was arranged to assimilate the Scottish system to the English and Welsh system, and adopt the population basis. Under that system the population of Aberdeenshire only permits the minimum of 20, instead of 43. At the present moment I think there are 38 Deputy Lieutenants actually in the County, and so, in order to get down to the establishment, there must be a further reduction of 18, and that reduction, as the reduction in other counties, would be made by the same process of only filling one vacancy in every three.

I should remind your Lordships of one point where Scotland differs from England and Wales. There are in Scotland four Cities which are counties in themselves—namely, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. There is a separate Lieutenancy for the City of Aberdeen, which also has an establishment which is fixed at twenty. So for the City and County together there is a quota of forty. In England and Wales there are not many anomalies with regard to the geographical county not coinciding with the Lieutenancies. In England there is the City of London, there are separate Deputy Lieutenants for the Isle of Wight, appointed by the Governor, and for the Stanneries, appointed by the Wardens. In Wales there is the separate Lieutenancy for Haverfordwest, which has its own Lord Lieutenant.

The Acts of Parliament which regularise the status of Lord Lieutenants are as follows. The first, I think, is the Act of 1662, and under that the position of Deputy Lieutenant is defined. Under that Act they exercised with regard to the Militia very similar functions to those which are exercised by the Territorial Associations nowadays with regard to the Territorial Army. I have read a great- many interesting accounts of meetings in Surrey, and I think that if anybody has any interest in county history he will be well repaid by looking at the proceedings of the Council of the Lieutenancy. The Deputy Lieutenants continued to exercise military functions in raising troops for the Militia under the Militia Ballot Acts. When the practice of raising troops under those Acts lapsed there was nothing for the Deputy Lieutenants to do, and their military status became obscure until the time of raising the Territorial Army, but the fact that they had a military character was always recognised. That was shown by the Militia Act, 1882, because that Act included the qualifications for the position of Deputy Lieutenant.

That Act laid down the qualifications until 1907, when the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, made certain alterations in the qualifications. The object was to bring the duties and status of Deputy Lieutenants back to the old status and to enable them to be more closely connected with the Territorial Army. The qualifications which the noble and learned Viscount laid down in 1907 were these: either to have held a Commission for at least ten years, or to have rendered service to the Territorial Association, In 1918, however, a simple system was adopted whereby the Deputy Lieutenants had to have a residential qualification in the county, and also to show that they had rendered worthy service to the Forces. Those are the qualifications which exist to-day. This latter qualification has been the subject of a considerable amount of correspondence with Lords Lieutenant with regard to its interpretation, and I think that at the War Office what has been more particularly laid stress upon has been that the services should be as far as possible—not exclusively—with the Territorial Army. I think your Lordships will agree that this is not unreasonable, because the Territorial Army is a purely county organisation, and the Deputy Lieutenants are entirely county officers.

As regards the question of reducing the numbers of Deputy Lieutenants, a Deputy Lieutenancy is held for life. But it may happen that a Deputy Lieutenant who has been very active becomes unable, owing to ill-health or for some other cause, to give the services which otherwise he would wish to give to his county. It is open to such a gentleman to offer his resignation. Again, it may happen that a man may leave the county or, for a business or some other cause, he may not be able to render service. In such a case, if voluntary resignation is not tendered, it would be open to the Lord Lieutenant to report the fact and to recommend, under the Militia Act, the compulsory retirement of such an officer. In the event of Lords Lieutenant receiving the resignation of a Deputy Lieutenant, or of their being themselves compelled to recommend his retirement. it is open to them to recommend that such an officer, when gazetted out, should receive permission to continue to wear his uniform. I venture to think that this power which is exercisable by Lords Lieutenant offers some method of solving the difficulty of reducing the numbers to the authorised quota. After all, there must be many people in counties who, for various reasons, are not able to continue to perform their duties as Deputy Lieutenants or to render services to the Territorial Army. And if their position is recognised, and if they can become retired Deputy Lieutenants and are able still to wear the uniform, they might not be unwilling to retire and to open the door for younger men who are able to render more active service, and for whom at present there exist no vacancies.

I come to the next question which the noble Marquess raised, and that is the question of services, and especially War services. One feels that it is impossible to do too much, as the noble Marquess very properly observed, for those who bore the stress and burden of the War and rendered invaluable service to the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force during that period. But at the same time it is now seven years since the War was over, and there are many people who have rendered eminent service, especially to the Territorial Force, who perhaps were not able to serve—who perhaps were too young to serve—during the Great War. It seems to me that such men have at least an equal claim to consideration with those who rendered War service, and especially to those who rendered War service and good service then but are not in a position to render service now. We know that the War Honours List is now closed, and, as time goes on, those who have been able to join in the last seven years and have been able to render service of the Territorial Force should have the chance of having their services recognised.

The noble Marquess also raised the question of county administration. From what I have said it will be gathered that it is impossible by a commission of a Deputy Lieutenant to recognise services which are only rendered to county administration, and not services of a more or less military character. When I mentioned that Aberdeenshire has an excess over establishment—and I think there are one or two counties that I mentioned which have an excess over establishments—I ought to have added that there are many which are not up to the authorised establishment, and indeed are considerably below it. Of course, the incidence of vacancies arising depends on the number that existed in 1901 and the speed at which it has been possible to reduce the number of Deputy Lieutenants in a county to the quota which has been fixed. I do not know whether there are any other points which the noble Marquess wished to have answered, but I will endeavour to answer them if there were.


My Lords, if I desire to take part in this discussion for a few moments it is because I have had something to do with the history of the question. The noble Earl opposite has given a very fall explanation of the historical genesis of this question. He has referred not only to the old Militia Acts but to the Deputy Lieutenants Act of 1918. I want to put the answer to my noble friend's Question on a somewhat broader basis. What is the primary function of a Lord Lieutenant and of a Deputy Lieutenant? The Lord Lieutenant is the representative of the Sovereign in county affairs, and he has various duties, most of them of a highly honorary nature, such as attending at any public function or at the railway station when the Sovereign arrives. But he has other duties. He used to have a large responsibility in connection with the Militia. As the Militia ceased to be a prominent force and became, as it ultimately was, superseded by a new force, the functions changed, but the duty of the Lord Lieutenant was continued.

When the Territorial Force Act, 1907, was passed the county committees were set up for administrative purposes, for doing the work which the Quartermaster-General's Department of the War Office did for the Regular Forces, but doing it by means of county committees. The Lords Lieutenant were the natural heads of those Committees, and they were assisted by various persons who were supposed to be qualified by their zeal and interest in the Territorial Force. The Territorial Force grew until it became an integral part of the Army of the country, and it became more and more necessary to see that these county committees were put on a proper footing. In order to stimulate the zeal of the Lords Lieutenant, the Sovereign was graciously pleased to summon a conference at Buckingham Palace—I am not sure that my noble friend was not out of the country at that time—and there the King delivered an address in which he pointed out to the Lords Lieutenant what their duties were in connection with the Territorial Force. The office of Lord Lieutenant is not merely a statutory one. It is a Common Law office, and the Deputy Lieutenants are merely the deputies whom the Lord Lieutenant was allowed to appoint in order to assist him in the discharge of his local duties. It has been more or less regulated by Statute, but primarily it is a Common Law appointment.

In that condition of things it became important, when the Sovereign had issued this summons to the Lord Lieutenant to discharge these duties, that the matter should be taken up and looked into, and it was taken up with great zeal by a number of Lords Lieutenant who were members of your Lordships' House. The noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, in particular, took a mast prominent part and showed great public spirit on behalf of the new organisation and he was Chairman, I think, of the Territorial Force Association for a long time. But that was not all. There were Lords Lieutenant who did not enter with quite so great a zeal as others into this arrangement and consequently, as those Lords Lieutenant had been appointed and would continue to be appointed on the advice of Ministers, an arrangement was made by which the Prime Minister, in giving the advice which it rests with the Prime Minister to give, was to consult with the Secretary of State for War so that the Lord Lieutenant might be a suitable person for the discharge of those duties, and so that the Deputy Lieutenants were likely to be appointed in such a fashion as to make them suitable.

That was the arrangement which went on after 1907 and there were various persons who did not like it. They had to submit to the force of public opinion, and ultimately they had to submit to the Statute which was passed in 1918 for the purpose of declaring what the law already really was. That is the history of the whole thing, and your Lordships will see that it is necessary that there should be restrictions on the number of Deputy Lieutenants. You do not want more than are required for the specific purposes which I have described. It is necessary, too, that there should also be restrictions on the qualifications which are recognised as belonging to the office. It is for that reason that the whole matter has grown into the constitutional question which it now occupies, and, I think, that is in substance the answer which the noble Earl has given.


My Lords, may I be allowed to thank the Under-Secretary for War for his considerate reply? A good many people are very much interested in this matter, and I welcome the hints that the noble Earl gave as to certain possible alleviations.

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