§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD PASSFIELD)
My Lords, this is a very small, insignificant Bill, much smaller than it appears to be in print. I think that it is a Bill of about 120 lines but only twelve lines of it, as I have counted, are new. The Department concerned, very meritoriously, in order to avoid legislation by reference, has chosen to reprint the two Acts of Parliament which are to be amended, and thus present a complete code on the subject for the sake of adding twelve lines of new law. The only two new provisions are that the Colonial Naval Defence Acts of 1865 and 1909 empower the legislative authority of each Colony to provide vessels of war and to raise seamen and others bound to serve in such vessels. But those powers are conferred only on each particular Colony individually, and apparently they cannot he acted upon by two Colonies jointly. There is reason for a number of small Colonies in a single neighbourhood, if 228 they are to have vessels of war, having them jointly—say, in the service of Gambia and Sierra Leone together, in stead of each of those countries being confined to its own vessel of war.
The second point is that, whilst the Acts already provide that such vessels, crews and volunteers may be placed at the disposal of the Admiralty, no provision exists for the training of the crews or volunteers outside the territorial waters of each particular Colony. That, of course, is nonsense, and as it has apparently been held that these crews cannot be trained outside the territorial waters of the particular Colony to which they belong, it is proposed to make those two changes in the law, and those two changes only. I think your Lordships will appreciate the good conduct of the Department concerned, and of His Majesty's Government in not asking you to make those two amendments by themselves, to be incorporated by reference in the other two Acts. The two Acts are embodied in the Bill without alteration, except for those two small provisions which legal opinion states to be necessary to give effect to the intention of the original Act. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Passfield.)
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I hoped that I was going to be able to congratulate the noble Lord on being able to tell the House that some part of the Empire was going to make provision to assist us in the defence which lies so heavily on the shoulders of the taxpayers of this country. Unfortunately we find that this is only a consolidating Bill, and therefore I cannot congratulate him in that way. I feel sure, however, that everybody will agree that it is an excellent thing that the noble Lord should have produced a consolidating Bill instead of legislating by reference, and therefore we can congratulate him in a minor respect. Let me remind the noble Lord that in these days vessels of war are strictly limited by the Naval Treaty, and therefore consideration will be required before the order is given for a Colony to have warships of its own, unless those warships are of the type required by the Empire and are efficient. I do not rise to oppose the Bill, which we on this side of the House warmly welcome.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, may I congratulate the Government on bringing in a Bill which does not seem to have much harm in it?
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.