HL Deb 19 March 1951 vol 170 cc1161-6

3.6 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

VISCOUNT SWINTON moved, after Clause 8 to insert the following new clause: .—(1) His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that the provisions of subsection (1) of section seven of this Act shall apply to one period of continuous training of not less than fourteen or more than twenty-one days undertaken by volunteer members of His Majesty's Auxiliary forces, whether under a legally enforceable liability or not, in the year 1951 and in every year in which Part I of this Act is in force following a direction under section twelve of this Act. (2) A draft of any Order in Council proposed to be made under this section shall be laid before Parliament, and the draft shall not be submitted to His Majesty except in pursuance of an address presented by each House of Parliament praying that the Order be made.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, when we were debating this matter on Thursday we were considering whether, in the new circumstances created by the call-up of the Z Reserve, where the men of the Z Reserve would be serving side by side with the men of the Territorial Forces, we ought or ought not to apply the provisions of Clause 8 to the Territorial Forces. We encountered this difficulty: that neither we nor the Government had the necessary evidence on which to come to a decision. All the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces associations, I believe, had been asked for their opinions on what they would consider it right to do in the new circumstances, but the majority of them had not replied. That is perfectly natural, because, I imagine, all the associations would want to contact and consult a number of commanding officers of their Territorial units. We were therefore faced with this difficulty: were we to lake a decision either to impose or to refrain from imposing these conditions when, in the light of later evidence, whatever decision we took might be wrong? If we imposed the conditions and the evidence accumulating showed that that was not a wise decision, then we should have taken the wrong decision. If, on the other hand, we passed the Bill without inserting this provision, we put it out of the Government's power to take a decision which they themselves would wish to take in the light of later evidence, except by introducing entirely new legislation which would have to go through all the processes of Parliament; and that might, especially with the Budget coming on, be extremely difficult to accomplish.

What we all felt, therefore, was this. We wanted the Government to get their Bill—and. indeed, they must have it this week. At the same time, we wanted to postpone a decision on this matter, while finding a way in which a decision to impose the conditions could be made rapidly effective if, in all the circumstances, the Government considered it right that that should be done. I therefore proposed to your Lordships that we might meet the situation by inserting in the Bill a provision that the Government could, by Order in Council, impose these conditions if later evidence showed that that was a desirable course to adopt. That suggestion, I think, appealed as much to the Government as to noble Lords on this side of the House. It had the great advantage that it would unable the Government to take a decision and to apply that decision immediately, because all that would be required would be an affirmative Resolution by both Houses approving a draft Order in Council, which would then immediately be made.

I have put this Amendment on the-Paper—though it is probably extremely badly drawn. The noble Viscount the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has a more extensive alternative, which, being the combination of his own genius and of that of the Parliamentary draftsmen, appears to be a great deal better than mine. If I understand it aright, his clause is more comprehensive than mine, in that it would enable the Order in Council to apply not only to the Territorial Force, as mine did, but to any of the Auxiliary Forces of the Crown. It is also very elastic, in that it would enable the conditions of Clause 8 to be applied with or without variation. It would also contain power, if a mistake were made or circumstances changed, to amend by a subsequent Order any Order made under the clause. If I apprehend aright the purpose and the scope of the Government's clause I think it is a much better one than my own; and if that is so I shall most gladly ask leave to withdraw my own clause and gratefully accept that which the Government has advanced. In the meantime, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment moved— After Clause 8, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Swinton.)

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount has relieved me of the necessity of reciting the relevant facts to your Lordships. The noble Viscount's historical survey is absolutely correct. I would say, in addition, that I find on inquiry that I was fully justified in my statement that consultations had taken place, and that in fact the Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association were consulted on February 10. It appears, however, that that consultation could not have been fully comprehensive in regard to the narrower issue, of the volunteer in relation to the Z Reserve man. That was one of the subjects of our debate on Thursday. A letter of March 14 was quoted by one of your Lordships on Thursday. That is the real evidence that the undertaking by the Under-Secretary of State for War in another place is being carried out. It is for that reason that that letter has gone out.

My noble Leader and my colleagues on this side take the view, as they did on Thursday last, that if it is at all possible to meet the point raised last Thursday by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, we should like to do so. Therefore, it is not by any genius of mine, but by the normal process and the ability of the Parliamentary draftsman, carrying out the obvious wishes of a House of Parliament, that we have been able to place on the Paper to-day this more comprehensive Amendment. In the first place, it does something which could not very well have been done under the Opposition Amendment—at least, not without a good deal of consultation: it clearly defines the Auxiliary Forces which are to be covered by the operations under this new clause. It also, as the noble Viscount suggests, makes the provision fully comprehensive and sufficiently elastic to deal with whatever situations arise. In view of what the noble Viscount says, it is probably unnecessary for me to make any further explanation of the matter. The bona fides of the Government have now been established in the mind of the noble Viscount. All I need say is this: that of course it is the policy of the War Office and other Service Ministries to take into consultation whenever possible those who are concerned, in order to benefit from their valuable help and knowledge in respect of the voluntary associations. But, of course, the central consultation must always be, in the opinion of the Government, between the War Office and the Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association, because there are so many associations and, when there are so many different views expressed, one must have a central body to co-ordinate them.

I should also make this statement, for the protection not only of His Majesty's present Government but of any future Government, that in administering the scheme the Service Ministry must have the ultimate responsibility. It may be that on some point there will not always be complete agreement between the Service Ministry and the council of one of the voluntary associations; but always the councils' views are regarded with the greatest respect and full weight is given to them. Therefore, if your Lordships accept this new clause, I am confident that there will be adequate consultation, and what action is required as a result of decisions taken by the Service Ministry, after consultation, will be carried through. Beyond that I think I ought not to go. If that is a sufficient explanation for your Lordships, I shall be happy to move my Amendment.


My Lords, may I, by leave of the House, add one word? I fully accept what the Chancellor of the Duchy has said. The responsibility for recommending an Order in Council to Parliament must, of course, rest with the Government of the day, but I am equally sure that it is the intention of the Government—for there is nothing here between us—to secure the fullest possible expression of opinion, take the wisest decision and recommend it to Parliament on those grounds. I am equally sure that, while of course the War Office must consult with the Council of the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association, as against the various associations, the Council, before offering its final advice to the Government, will make sure that it has ascertained the views of all the constituent associations. We are in such complete agreement that I shall say no more- except to beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause:

Power to apply preceding provisions to other reserve and auxiliary liabilities

" .—(1) If it appears to His Majesty in Council expedient in all the circumstances so to do, His Majesty may by Order in Council make provision for applying, subject to such adaptations or modifications as may be specified in the Order, all or any of the enactments referred to in the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act in relation to such liabilities (howsoever arising and whether legally enforceable or not) of members of any of His Majesty's reserve or auxiliary forces, or of any description of such members, as may be so specified.

(2) An Order in Council under this section may contain such incidental and consequential provisions (including provisions for adapting or modifying any enactment or instrument having effect under an enactment) as may be specified in the Order.

(3) A draft of any Order in Council proposed to be made under this section shall be laid before Parliament, and the draft shall not be submitted to His Majesty except in pursuance of an address presented by each House of Parliament praying that the Order be made.

(4) Any Order in Council under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent Order in Council.

(5) In this section the expression 'His Majesty's reserve or auxiliary forces' means any reserve force of the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines, the Supplementary Reserve of Officers, the army reserve, the Territorial Army, the Royal Air Force Reserve of Officers, the air force reserve, including the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force; and for the purposes of this section an officer of reserve to. or on [he emergency list of, the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines shall be treated as a member of His Majesty's reserve or auxiliary forces."

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move that the clause which stands in my name on the Paper be inserted. I hope your Lordships will accept it. It does not require any further explanation from me.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new clause. —(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule [Modifications of ss. 51 and 52 of 11 & 12 Geo. 6. c. 64 and regulations thereunder]:


My Lords, this Amendment is technical and consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 6, leave out ("Part II") and insert ("section eight").—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of March 15), Bill read 3a, with the Amendments), and passed, and returned to the Commons.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past three o'clock.

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