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National Service (Adaptation Of Enactments) Orders

Volume 467: debated on Wednesday 13 July 1949

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Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the National Service (Adaptation of Enactments) (Military and Air Forces) Order, 1949, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 21st June."—[Mr. M. Stewart.]

12.51 a.m.

At this late hour I shall not detain the House for many minutes, but it should be remembered that this Order comes just after the Second Reading of a Bill which is to amend a great many of the Acts dealing with the Reserve Forces and the Territorial Army. Also, the regulations made under an Act passed last year will have considerable effect on the same Acts to be amended by the Bill to which we have just given a Second Reading. We are getting into a legislative jam about our Reserve Forces and Territorial Army, and I hope the matter will be cleared up under a consolidating Bill.

I would like now to turn to the history of these draft statutory instruments. In subsection (3) of the Schedule Part I there appears the words:
"In section 83 at the end of paragraph (2) there shall be added the words 'or he was enlisted in pursuance of the National Service Act, 1948'."
This is an Amendment to the Army Act and the Air Force Act. Another of our difficulties is that the Army Act has been amended many times over many years. Even in the Library of the House it is extremely difficult to get a copy which is up to date. I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will introduce, if not merely for the benefit of Members, then for the benefit of officers in the Army, a fully amended edition of the Army Act.

Section 83 (2) of the Army Act reads:
"A soldier of the Regular Forces may at any time be transferred by order of the competent military authority to any corps, save however that, as otherwise provided in this section, a soldier shall not be so transferred except with his own consent, unless his attestation took place before April 30th, 1948, or he has after that date extended his Army service or the terms of his original service, or he has re-engaged after that date."
We are now adding the words:
"or he was enlisted in pursuance of the National Service Act, 1948."
What this does is to bring into line with what affects the Regular Army, the provisions now affecting the National Service man. It is giving the War Office power to transfer from one corps to another—without the man's consent—after April last year, any man called up for National Service. The only comment I have on that is that under the National Service Act, 1948, of which these regulations are the result, the only mention of transfer comes in Section 3, and that transfer deals only with transfer from one auxiliary service to another; whereas what this is bringing into effect is Section 26, in which no mention of transfer is made.

It seems to me that in regard to an important matter such as transfer between one corps and another—and the Financial Secretary to the War Office knows my views on that—the Act of 1948 made no specific mention of the fact that there would be a right by the War Office to transfer from one corps to another, any man called up under National Service. I am not contesting for the moment that they should have that power while the Regular Forces are under the same ruling, but it should have been specifically included in the Act that the National Service man was concerned, and I hope the Financial Secretary will say why that was omitted.

12.57 a.m.

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman answered his own argument. Whatever may be argued about this question of transfer, the objections to compulsory transfer are much less in the case of a National Service man than in the case of a professional soldier. It would be anomalous if the power of transfer existed over the volunteer soldier and not over the National Service man. The effect of this part of the Schedule is to apply to the National Service man that right of compulsory transfer. For legal reasons that we need not bother about, the regulation is necessary to get the required result. What we are doing here is to avoid an anomaly. Section 26 of the National Service Act was expressly included to avoid anomalies of this kind, and it is from that Section that the order springs. It would have been clear to anyone who studied Section 26 of the National Service Act that it would be used to clear up obvious anomalies and breaches of commonsense, of which this would be one. I think I shall carry the House on that point.

On the general question of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman called the legislative jam, I would say that there are two things that need to be done with the Territorial Forces Acts. They need to be altered, in so far as they affect the voluntary members of those forces, to absorb the main principles of the Bill to which the House has already given a Second Reading. There is the further matter of making such alterations and modifications as are necessary in view of the fact that we are going to have National Service men in the Territorial Army and the Supplementary Reserves. It is that we are dealing with in this draft order. Section 26 clearly foreshadowed that it would be done in this way. I know the further point to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, the difficulty of following the Army Acts from year to year, but it follows from the natural and jealous insistence of this House on having the Act brought before it year after year. The Army Act, amended up to date, was reprinted last year, and I trust it will be printed again, as amended, down to and including this order, on the assumption, which I hope will prove correct, that the House will now give its approval to this draft order.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved:

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the National Service (Adaptation of Enactments) (Military and Air Forces) Order, 1949, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 21st June."

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.

1.0 a.m.

I beg to move,

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the National Service (Adaptation of Enactments) (Naval and Marine Forces) Order, 1949, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 21st June."
This order is designed to modify certain Sections of the Acts of 1835, 1847 and 1859. It is necessary in order to fit those Acts into the system built up under the National Service Acts, 1948. It is entirely consequential on the passing of the 1948 Acts, and raises no new question of policy whatever.

As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines are in a somewhat different position from the Army and Royal Air Force. This order simply makes existing legislation with regard to the Service applicable to the National Service Acts, so we have no comments to offer from this side of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved:

"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the National Service (Adaptation of Enactments) (Naval and Marine Forces) Order, 1949, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 21st June."

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.