HL Deb 09 July 1957 vol 204 cc817-21

2.45 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 117 agreed to.

Clause 118:

Application to certain civilians

(2) Without prejudice to the foregoing subsection, but subject to the provisions of this section, the following provisions of this Act, that is to say—

  1. (a) sections fourteen, thirty-eight and thirty-nine;
  2. (b) sections forty and forty-one, so far as they relate to the sections aforesaid;
  3. (c) sections forty-two and forty-three; and
  4. (d) Part II so far as it applies to an offence under any of the said sections,
shall apply to a person of any class described in the Third Schedule to this Act who is within the limits of the command of any officer commanding any of Her Majesty's naval forces outside Her Majesty's dominions, as they apply to persons subject to this Act.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "Her Majesty's dominions" and insert "the United Kingdom or any colony." The noble Earl said: Clause 118 is exactly in line with Section 209 of the Army and Air Force Acts to enable civilians employed by or accompanying the Armed Forces to get the benefit by the N.A.T.O. Status of Forces Agreement and other similar agreements. This means, in short, that where these circumstances apply, the Government of the country in which the offence is committed agrees that such persons can be tried under the Naval Discipline Act. The effect of this Amendment enables this arrangement to apply not only to foreign countries, but also to Commonwealth countries. This is necessary because the Status of the Forces Agreement applies, of course, to Canada and we have similar arrangements also with other Commonwealth countries. I think that is all I need say on this Amendment, which in fact does not change at all the purpose for which this clause is intended. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 54, line 13, leave out ("Her Majesty's dominions") and insert ("the United Kingdom or any colony ").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)


Am I to understand that this is intended to exclude specifically Her Majesty's dominions where the Fleet may be at any given time? Why are you confining it to the United Kingdom or any colony?


The position is this. As the Bill is now drafted, it excludes all Her Majesty's dominions, which means the Commonwealth or Commonwealth countries. We now propose to confine the exclusion to the United Kingdom and colonies. That means that the Status of Forces Agreement can be used where it is appropriate and agreed in Commonwealth countries. What we are doing is confining it rather than extending it.


May I ask a question, which is probably irrelevant, relating to the W.R.N.S.? The position in the war was, and, I believe still is, that whereas the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and the A.T.S. were subject to military discipline, the W.R.N.S. were not. A considerable sense of grievance about this was felt by the other two Services, and it fell to me during the war, on the instructions of the Prime Minister, to interview these people to try to see whether I could get some sort of solution. I remember well that the Admirals took the view, very strongly, that 999 out of every 1,000 of their girls were the right sort of girls, and if they had one who proved, if I may use: a vulgarism, to be a "dud", it was far better that she should go, and they did not want the power to send for her to come back to the Service. I believe I am right in saying that that still prevails. I have no doubt that a sense of grievance is felt by the other two Services to whom the contrary provision applies. Am I right in saying that it is still the law that the W.R.N.S.—who have given and are giving a most valuable service—are not subject to naval discipline, and that the girls in the Air Force and the Army are subject to military discipline? Is it thought that this anomaly should be continued? I ask merely as a matter of curiosity, because it was a subject which concerned me at one stage during the war. Then I came to the conclusion that it should be so, and it may be that it is thought that it should still be so. I should like to know.

2.50 p.m.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Earl for what he has said, because it enables me to say that I am entirely at one with him that the service which the W.R.N.S. give to the Royal Navy is most valuable. I did not know that the noble and learned Earl went into this question. I am grateful to him for the conclusion he came to during the war that they should not be subject to naval discipline. We find that quite unnecessary. I was unaware that there was any sense of grievance in the other Services. So far as I am concerned, I see no advantage at all in bringing the W.R.N.S. under the Naval Discipline Act except in the limited circumstances envisaged by this clause.


I am much obliged for what the First Lord of the Admiralty has said. It follows what I said on Second Reading. But if there was any objection at all so far as I was concerned, it was not raised by me with the other Services; it was raised by the then Director of the Women's Royal Naval Service, who thought that the W.R.N.S. ought, for the sake of their honour, prestige and position, to be treated as the others. That position was overruled. I entirely support what the First Lord has just said. It is quite unnecessary. I do not need to add all the other remarks I made on Second Reading.


I should like to thank the noble Viscount.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 118, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

First to Fifth Schedules agreed to.

Sixth Schedule [Enactments Repealed]:


These are drafting Amendments. Strictly speaking, all these enactments ceased to have any effect when we repealed the Act of 1866. However, for the sake of clarity I think it is desirable that they should be removed from the Statute Book. Accordingly, I beg to move the next four Amendments together.

Amendments moved—

Page 71, line 32, at end insert—

("47 & 48 Vict. c. 39. The Naval Discipline Act, 1884. The whole Act.")

Page 71, line 34, at end insert—

("9 Edw. 7. c. 41. The Naval Discipline Act, 1909. The whole Act.")

Page 71, line 40, at end insert—

("5 & 6 Geo. 5. c. 30. The Naval Discipline Act, 1915. The whole Act.
5 & 6 Geo. 5. c. 73. The Naval Discipline (No. 2) Act, 1915. The whole Act.
7 & 8 Geo. 5. c. 34. The Naval Discipline Act, 1917. The whole Act.
7 & 8 Geo. 5. c. 51. The Air Force (Constitution) Act, 1917. Section seven and the First Schedule.
12 & 13 Geo. 5. c. 37. The Naval Discipline Act, 1922. The whole Act.")

Page 71, line 46, at end insert—

("1 & 2 Geo. 6. c. 64. The Naval Discipline (Amendment) Act, 1938. The whole Act.
4 & 5 Geo. 6. c. 29. The Naval Discipline (Amendment) Act, 1941. The whole Act.")
—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.


This is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 71, line 51, in the third column, leave out ("In section thirteen, subsection (3).") and insert ("Section thirteen").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is also a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 72, line 15, at end insert—

("5 & 6 Eliz. 2. c. 6. The Ghana Independence Act, 1957. In section four, in subsection (2), the words 'and in section eighty-six of the Naval Discipline Act as amended by the revision of the Army and Air Force Acts (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1955'.")
—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Sixth Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.