§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD CROFT)
My Lords, as your Lordships are aware, the Army Act and the Air Force Act are due to expire at the end of this month, and it is therefore necessary that this Bill should become law by that time, in order to keep these Acts in force for another year. The preamble and the first two clauses of the Bill are in the usual form. Clause 3 provides an alternative maximum punishment of a £30 fine for the offences of inducing or assisting officers or soldiers to desert or to absent themselves without leave, or of concealing 25 such persons. The existing maximum penalty is six months' imprisonment; and as by virtue of Section 52 of the Summary jurisdiction Act, 1879, Section 4 of that Act does not apply to the Army Act, a court of summary jurisdiction has no power at present to award a fine instead of imprisonment. The Home Office represented to the War Office that in some cases where there was a strong com-passionate element magistrates should be empowered to inflict a fine instead of imprisonment, and this clause gives them that power.
Clause 4 amends Section 163 of the Army Act, which relates to documentary evidence, by permitting documents signed by certain civilian officials in record offices to be admitted as evidence in proceedings taken under the Army Act. Ai Section 163 of the Army Act stands, such documents must be signed by a military officer, and difficulty arises because an increased number of posts in record offices are now filled by civil servants. The new provision is confined to persons appointed to be record officers, and does not extend to all persons employed in record offices. In practice these appointments will be confined to individuals whose status is equal to that of Commissioned officers. I hope that these two points are clear, and that they will meet with general approval. The last clause applies Clauses 3 and 4 to the Air Force Act, with the necessary modifications. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Croft.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.