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Clause 21—(Interpretation)

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 8 May 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendments made:

In page 12, line 14, leave out "eighteen", and insert "twelve".

In line 17, leave out "eighteen," and insert "twelve"

In line 19, at the beginning, insert:

"For the purposes of this Act."—[Mr. Ness Edwards.]

I beg to move, in page 12, line 26, to leave out "(being a person who", and to insert "he".

I also suggest that the following two Amendments—in page 12, line 29, leave out "who"; and page 12, line 34, leave out from "suzerainty" to the end of the Subsection—might be considered with this Amendment, as they are consequential. These Amendments import the exception which is contained in Section II, Subsection (1 a), of the principal Act, and also the Amendment to that Act of 1941, namely, the exemption of persons who are Dominion subjects and resident in the British Isles. It similarly exempts persons who are employed by the Dominions and are also residents in the British Isles. If Dominion subjects were exempt from conscription during the war, it is not quite clear to us why they should be brought within the scope of this Measure after a qualifying residence in this country of two years. I move this Amendment to get some elucidation on this point. I would like an assurance from His Majesty's Government that the Dominions authorities have been consulted in this matter before it was included in this Bill. Otherwise, I suggest that there might be an accusation, to put it mildly, of a lack of tact.

I regret that we cannot accept the Amendment. Broadly speaking, the effect of this and the other Amendments is to exempt from liability under the Bill men from any part of the British Commonwealth or Empire or overseas possessions who come to live in Great Britain. As the Bill stands, the position of the men in question is as it has always been under the National Service Act and there has never been any complaint on the part of our Dominions about that. That is, if they come to reside in Great Britain, except for a temporary purpose, or for the purpose of education, they become liable for national service here after being here for two years. There appears to us to be no reason to change that position at all. Such a man who makes his home here can reasonably be expected to take his share in the defence of the country, like the rest of us. Another difficulty of this Amendment, which probably has not been noticed by the hon. and gallant Member is that as it is phrased it would exempt a man born in another part of the Commonwealth, who came to this country in infancy, has lived here ever since and intends to remain here. The change which is proposed is not at all necessary, and we regret that we cannot accept it.

Is there not surely the case of trade officials and representatives of one Empire country or another? A man might reside here for perhaps two years and one month and be required back in Sydney in his office, but he would be called upon for a period of a year's service and there would be a further compulsion on him to give part-time service in this country. Are there exceptions which would cover that case?

I cannot speak with legal definiteness, but if the case about which the hon. and gallant Member asks is that of an official of a Dominion or a Colony who is here on official business, he still remains a national or a subject of his own country, however long he stays. Also people from other parts of the Commonwealth may come here for temporary purposes or for the purpose of education without coming under the provisions of this Bill.

I take it that Subsection (3, b) overrides Subsection (3, c). In other words, a national of Australia, for example, might have lived here for more than two years, but by producing evidence that he had been sent to take charge of a London office, it would be accepted that he would at some time return, and he would take advantage of Subsection (3, b).

Amendment negatived.

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