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National Service (Channel Islands) Bill Lords

Volume 361: debated on Tuesday 4 June 1940

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Order for Second Reading read.

5.35 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill is short, and it is good. It comes to us from another place, and I can explain its provisions to the House in three or four sentences. As its Title describes it, it is to provide for the enlistment of men called up in the Channel Islands for service in the Armed Forces of the Crown. While the people of the Channel Islands have always been liable to compulsory service in defence of the islands, they are traditionally exempt from compulsory service overseas, except for the particular purpose of rescuing their Sovereign. This immunity is of very long standing, dating back to the early thirteenth century, but it was confirmed by a charter of Queen Elizabeth as recently as the year 1562. To-day the islanders are willing and anxious to play their part to the full in our war efforts, and they have expressed the desire to waive their traditional privileges. In fact, the States of Jersey and Guernsey have already passed, or are in the process of passing, legislation to that end. Constitutionally, however, such domestic legislation undertaken by the Channel Island authorities can have no extra territorial validity, and an Act of the Imperial Parliament is, therefore, required in order to confirm and regularise the position.

5.36 p.m.

As probably one of the few Members of this House who can claim Channel Island descent, I should like in a very few words to support cordially this Measure and to say how delighted one is to see every part of the Empire doing everything they possibly can at this time. It is, of course, perfectly right that the Channel Islands should be treated with every possible consideration. They attach great importance to their ancient historic rights, and joint legislation is clearly necessary in this case. When William the First came over and conquered England in 1066 he was as Duke of Normandy supported by the Channel Islanders who were then under his sovereignty. So, in some sense, they have always claimed to have participated in the conquest of England. But to whom it may concern throughout the world I should like to add that it is the last occasion on which England will be conquered.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[ Mr. Whiteley.]