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Clause 7—(Modifications Of Enactments Relating To Persons Called Up For Service)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

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I beg to move, in page 4, line 45, to leave out Subsection (1).

With apologies, or rather without apologies to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) for putting down this Amendment, for at the time we did not know of his prejudices, my hon. Friends and I have done so in order to find out what the Subsection means. I think that the hon. Member, and Members generally, would agree that it is the duty of this Committee to scrutinise very closely all these empowerings of Orders in Council. I confess that I am not clear exactly what it is that is done here. Perhaps I may read what seem to be the operative words, leaving out the draughtsman's necessary verbiage, of the Subsection, in the hope that somebody on the Front Bench will explain what they mean, and, I hope, explain that they mean less than they sound as though they might mean to a non-legal man:
"His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that any enactment relating to the length or conditions of service of persons "—
brought under this Bill shall have effect subject to
"such adaptations and modifications as may appear"—
to His Majesty's Council—
"to be necessary or expedient …"
From these words, taking them at their ordinary consideration, it would seem to leave it quite at large to Ministerial discretion to vary the length and conditions of service of everybody coming in. No doubt that is not the intention or, indeed, the purport of this Subsection, but I think it ought to be made clear to the Committee exactly how much authority is being taken by this Subsection.

A little earlier in our proceedings—I think it was about five hours ago, or maybe even more—the hon. Member, when we were discussing an Amendment of this nature, rather argued that it made nonsense of the Bill to move to leave out a whole Subsection. I, therefore, thought that as he was here now I would make it clear that the intention is not by leaving out to wreck the Bill but that the Amendment has been put down by way of exploration.

There are two things I should like to say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I have been more continuously in this Chamber than he has. He has seen fit to refer on several occasions to my one absence and I am glad to know that he missed me so much when I was away. I also want to tell him that there is no connection between the matter to which he referred and the Amendment which he has now moved.

The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) failed to attach sufficient significance to the words which, in fact, he did not read to the Committee having regard to the provisions of this Bill giving power to make Orders in Council. The purpose of this Subsection is to enable existing enactments relating to the Aimed Forces to be adapted to the further liabilities imposed under this Bill in the case of men compulsorily enrolled under its provisions. The principal variation concerns the length of service with the reserve or auxiliary forces. The ordinary voluntary term under the existing enactments is four to five years, but six years is the part-time service provided under this Bill. Consequently these modifications have to be made. There will be certain other minor modifications. For instance there are the provisions in regard to the question of premature discharge. matters of details and things of that kind, but the Committee will see that not only is the power of making Orders in Council limited to the purposes of the present Bill, but that these Orders in Council are subject to confirmation.

Could the Attorney-General explain if it is possible under this Clause to arrange an additional training period if it is found that the 60 days in six years is not sufficient? In other words, could there be a period of service additional to what is now fixed as the normal?

I do not think that this Clause deals with that aspect of the matter at all. It does not enlarge in any way the period of service provided under the earlier sections of the Bill and the maximum is 60 days.

Could we have some explanation of the sort of case that this is intended to cover?

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 5, line 23, after "fails" to insert "without reasonable excuse."

This is similar to the Amendment moved by the Attorney-General earlier in regard to the Army, and it does the same for naval discipline. It insures that a man must be without reasonable excuse before he is actually treated as a deserter.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I should like to ask the Finiancial Secretary to the Admiralty two questions. I first direct his attention to Subsection 2 (a) and to the words:

"… the law for the time being. …"
What does that mean? Secondly, if he looks at the same Subsection he will see a reference to the Royal Naval Reserve (Volunteer) Act, 1859, and then it implies that this Act is to be altered. I should like to know if its to be altered and if so, in what particulars.

In answer to the first question, the point is that it is the law at the time of call up, not the law at the moment. In regard to Section 19 of the Naval Discipline Act which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member in his second question, it defines desertion by reference to the intention to return to the man's ship or place of duty. Some doubt was expressed whether a man could be a deserter from a ship in which he had never been. It was felt that it needed some clarification.

I should like to ask these questions again, because I have got no answer to them. I agree that the Financial Secretary told us in reply to my first question that it was the law at the time of the call up, not the law at this time. What I asked about is the wording which suggested to me that some change in the law was anticipated, and I asked if he would tell us if that were so, and if so what was the change. Secondly, I was not quoting the Naval Discipline Act at all, I asked him about a provision under the Royal Naval Reserve (Volunteer) Act and what provisions of that Act he anticipated would need to be changed.

6.45 a.m.

With regard to the first question, it is important that it should be the law at the time when the question arises, and for all we know, there might be some alteration in the law. Therefore, we are making this subject to the state of affairs that exists when the man is, in fact, called up.

May I have an answer to the other question? Can the hon. Gentleman tell me what is meant by alterations of the Royal Naval Reserve (Volunteer) Act, 1859?

I do not see anything in the provision about alterations. It says:

"subject to the foregoing provisions of this Subsection the Royal Naval Reserve (Volunteer) Act, 1850, shall apply."
There is then a reference to the "last foregoing Subsection"—obviously it is Subsection (1).

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.