HL Deb 29 July 1942 vol 124 cc105-6

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, in moving the Third Reading of this Bill I may remind your Lordships that, in the debate in Committee on his proposed Amendments to clause 5 (1), Lord Wedgwood asked for further consideration to be given to the position of certain members of the Allied Forces who may have joined those Forces under some misapprehension as to the powers of the Allied Governments to compel them to do so, and since joining have deserted from die Forces and are now in civil life. Lord Wedgwood pressed that these men should be allowed the option of serving in the British Forces and I promised to consider the point before the Bill was read a third time. The Government, after full consideration of the whole matter, regret that they cannot accept the Amendments in view of the considerations which I laid before your Lordships when the Bill was in Committee, but also because the position of the men to whom Lord Wedgwood has referred can be dealt with satisfactorily under the Bill in its present form.

These men, not having been discharged from the Allied Forces, are still members of those Forces, and while they remain so they clearly cannot be called up for the British Forces. Since, however, the Allied Governments have not taken steps to get these men back into the Allied Forces, there is a strong presumption that the Allied Governments do not desire their return and would not take advantage of the Bill to recall them. But in order to clear up the position, it is proposed to suggest to the Allied Governments concerned that they should issue certificates under Clause 3, subsection (1) (c) of the Bill, certifying that the men in question are no longer members of their Forces. If such a certificate is issued in respect of any man it will become possible to apply to him the main clauses of the Bill and, subject to any deferment that may be allowed him because of the importance of his civilian work, to call him up for the British Forces. It will still be open to any of the men concerned, or to any other person, to make representations to the British Government, and in that event the British Government would, in a proper case, approach the appropriate Allied Government. That is the best that I can do for my noble friend Lord Wedgwood. I beg to move the Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a—(Lord Snell.)


My Lords, immediately after the debate yesterday I got a letter from a Mr. Brattel which exactly emphasized all that I said. He does not speak Polish; he has been in this country many years, having left Poland when ten years of age. He was recently employed upon the Evening Standard and is now with the Daily Telegraph. He is terrified of what would now happen to him if this Bill passed. He writes: I could be arrested any day the moment the Bill is passed as a deserter. There is nothing to stop the Polish Government transferring me … to a Polish unit in Russia or the Near East, where I could be court-martialled for desertion, far which, under Polish law, I should be shot. He said he was speaking for about a hundred people in the same position.

I think that the explanation of the noble Lord to-day meets the point. It is perfectly clear that when this Bill is passed this Polish subject, and the other hundred people who have been for a time in the Polish Army, are liable to arrest as deserters. They are liable now whether the Bill passes or not. They have been liable for many months but the Polish Government have not arrested them for desertion. The Polish Government evidently do not require them in their Army. These people have only to apply, I presume to the British Army, to secure the necessary certificates from the Polish Government which shall free them from any liability to be arrested for desertion and enable them to get into the British Army. This particular man applied to get into the Army both during the Munich crisis and at the outbreak of war. I believe he has applied to get into every branch of the Fighting Services, including operational work in the Air Force. Now he will be able to get a certificate which he could not get before, and it will be possible, I hope, for him to join something more useful than the Pioneer Corps. I am very glad that the Bill should pass.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.