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Clause 3—(Amendment Of Definition Of "Active Service")

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 1 April 1952

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

Amendment proposed: In page 3, line 17, leave out "Subsection (1) of."

Question again proposed.

9.45 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) was making a short interjection at the time the debate was adjourned and we were discussing the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), which in its terms as here stated is perhaps a little deceptive. It seeks to leave out Clause 3 (1) but the result is really effectively to repeal the whole of Section 189 of the Army Act.

I always very much regret to express any sort of difference with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton. I think I may say that we agree on almost every subject under the sun except politics. I am bound to say, although I observe many hon. Members in the Committee who were not present to hear the able speech he made, that I do not personally face the matter in the same way as does my hon. and learned Friend.

This, in my view, is an exceedingly important Clause and one which should not be disposed of as summarily as was foreshadowed in his speech. My hon. and learned Friend only referred to paragraph (2) of the subsection and there are a number of important paragraphs. The matters to which we are referring are in subsections (2) to (6) of Section 189.

Subsection (2) says:
"Where the Governor of a Colony in which any of His Majesty's forces are serving, or if the forces are serving in a Dominion or out of His Majesty's dominions, the general officer or brigadier commanding such forces, declares at any time or times that, by reason of the imminence of active service or of the recent existence of active service, it is necessary for the public service that the forces in the colony or under his command, as the case may be, should be temporarily subject to this Act, as if they were on active service, then on the publication in general orders of any such declaration, the forces to which the declaration applies shall be deemed to be on active service for the period mentioned in the declaration so that the period mentioned in any one declaration does not exceed three months from the date thereof."
I agree with the intervention of the Secretary of State for War. It is quite clear that my hon. and learned Friend had not quite apprehended that these orders have to be renewed at least once every three months and, therefore, the point about a condition of active service having preceded is not an effective point because it may be a question merely of renewing an order after an emergency or between emergencies, but the renewal must take place not because of the preceding or possible emergency, but because the original order has expired. That seems to be clear.

I approach my next point with a genuine diffidence. I am the last to say anything which might cause even a blush to appear on the face of the Secretary of State for War and as an ex-lance bombardier I approach this with a real and almost girlish and virgin diffidence and reluctance. After all, the public interest must prevail—and if the hon. Member opposite will restrain his ebullience for a few seconds, I shall be happy to listen to him—

If the hon. Member will allow me to continue for a moment, he can ask all the questions he wishes. I apologise again, but, as an ex-lance bombardier, I ask, ought this to be trusted to a brigade commander? Really, brigadiers are two a penny today. I did my most effective service as a lance bombardier, but there are at least four or five ranks in the Service above brigade commander and this is a high responsibility for a brigade commander to take.

We are putting him on a level in this matter with a governor of a Dominion, because this Act takes no notice of the passing of the Statute of Westminster. It seems to me a matter which the right hon. Gentleman must consider, eliminating any personal reminiscences and approaching the matter objectively as a matter of importance and public interest.

Now the next point is very difficult—

The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) says he approaches the matter as a virgin lance bombardier. I have served in the Army, but I have never heard of that rank. Would the hon. Member mind defining what is an acting virgin lance bombardier?

I at once withdraw my offer to answer questions, because here is a question which I cannot answer. Eliminating the "lance bombardier," I should find it very difficult to define an "acting virgin." It is a state which when once terminated there is no question of resumption as an acting rank. But I certainly did not describe myself in any such remarkable way.

I wish now to come to my next point. We are discussing the circumstances in which the term "on active service" could be applied either in Britain, the Colonies or the Dominions. "On active service" as everyone knows, is a term which gets very rapidly applied in time of war. I served in a little wooden hut on the roof of some works known as the Crown Derby China Works in Derby, where we had a small machine gun of limited range which could not possibly reach any aeroplane had the pilot been foolish enough to fly over us. But we were on active service. We realised we were on active service because all of us knew that if we ever did fire the gun the roof would collapse, and therefore we were really in more substantial danger than some of those playing a more gallant and active part.

I am glad to see that my hon. and learned Friend has taken his place, and I am sorry that in his absence I expressed an opinion on the somewhat indiscriminate way he had approached the matter and had not faced up to some of the problems which do arise. I must refer to the definition in the Act of the expression "governor" in its application to a Colony because it is a very wide definition indeed:
"The expression 'Governor' in its application to a colony means the officer, however styled, who is for the time being administering the government of the colony."
It is important we should understand this.

If one was trying to discover an area where there may probably be trouble in the future, one would naturally think of Bechuanaland. At this moment who is the person who is administering Bechuanaland? It may be the resident whose functions are generally represented as advisory—the "man on the spot" to whom my hon. and learned Friend referred to with such approval on a previous occasion. My hon. and learned Friend says that the man on the spot always knows more than the man who is not there, although historically speaking the man on the spot has always proved to be wrong. Is it Seretse Khama, or is it someone who is to be elected chief of the Bamangwato tribe, or who is it? Or is it some collective ruler of the whole three territories? There is no definition which makes this clear.

What is more serious, however, is the reference to Dominions in the Clause, despite the Statute of Westminster. Everyone knows that we have no more legal right now to talk about active service for British troops in one of Her Majesty's Dominions than in any other part of the world.

There is one other matter to which I must refer, and I must differ from another of my hon. and learned Friends. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) who referred, I thought somewhat indiscreetly, to the provisions of the Schedules to this Act. He read out that apparently under the Army Act every British soldier billeted in billets has for all these years been entitled to 4 oz. of bacon for breakfast, 1 oz. of marmalade, 1 pint of tea with milk and sugar; 10 oz. of meat for lunch, 3 oz. of bread, 8 oz. of other vegetables and 4 oz. of pudding, to 4 oz. of meat for supper—

I am obliged. I entirely agree.

We are dealing with active service and civil disturbance, and if it should be thought that nothing was being done about it, we are faced with this possibility. It will have to be carefully considered, because there will be difficulties, not merely amongst the people who do not get the allowance, but among those who are responsible for supplying what they have not got.

It is quite true that that sort of thing in 1952 is quite irrelevant. Really, it looks like a preparation by the noble Lord the Minister for the Co-ordination of Food and Agriculture of a pre-election menu of red meat for the Beefeaters in the Bloody Tower. It certainly has no reference whatever to the conditions of ordinary service which our sons and daughters have to observe today.

We have to consider these things, and I suggest that we consider them seriously. I deplore the attitude of the Government in this matter, when we are seeking to amend the Bill and they are opposing our Amendments. They did not do it when they were in opposition. We have had a useful discussion, and we have tried to be objective and constructive, but we have had no assistance at all from the other side.

It is quite shocking that when there are a great many men with military experience on the other side of the Committee, apparently, they should be precluded from taking part in the debate. Why, even the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan), when we were dealing with the breakfast of the British soldier, never raised the question of porridge for the Black Watch.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but really, in the torrent of his oratory, I was not able to get a word in edgeways.

I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for that tribute; I always do give way when I am asked.

I come now to paragraph 3 of the subsection, which provides, in general, that if at any time
"the governor or general officer or brigadier for the time being is of opinion that the necessity continues he may from time to time renew such declaration for another period not exceeding three months, and such renewal shall be published and have effect as the original declaration, and if he is of opinion that the said necessity has ceased, he shall state such opinion, and on the publication in general orders of such statement, the forces to which the declaration applies shall cease to be deemed to be on active service."
The publication of orders means in the general orders of the unit, and nowhere else. It is to be published in what are called Part 2 orders, and really this is quite an extraordinary provision. That officer can go on for three months saying in Part 2 orders that the men are on active service. I do not want to say anything ungenerous, but the right hon. Gentleman may remember that the commanding officer has an interest in this matter.

When considerations of active service apply, the discipline can be much more strictly enforced and, subject to any Amendments that have been made recently, we have provisions for field courts-martial instead of general courts-martial, which is a very important matter. It seems to me that it is rather remarkable that we should continue leaving this matter to some brigade commander at any time, without giving any special reason, except saying that he thinks there has been or will be some other emergency and who can place troops under his command on active service. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider this point.

As far as I can see, there does not have to be any emergency at all, because the Section merely refers to the imminence of the service.

It is a curious point, and I did rather accept what the Secretary of State for War said on this matter. If we assume that the emergency is over, we come then to this period of three months during a temporary quiescence.

10.0 p.m.

Unless the theory may be that in a severe emergency the general orders would prescribe active service for the whole of the forces in the area.

Could not this argument within the Labour Party be carried on in another chamber, Sir Charles? Cannot the hon. Gentlemen opposite retire elsewhere?

I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman because I could not hear what was said.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) asked whether the argument within the Labour Party could be carried on in another chamber. He did not specify which chamber, but I suppose he was thinking of another place. My hon. and learned Friend and I have no particular aspirations to go there. We really are trying to get through this long and complex Clause which runs to many hundreds of words and which I do not suppose the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight has read, even if he can read.

Then we get the conditions of the paragraph about publication to which I have referred before. It must be made by proclamation and published in the "Official Gazette" of the Colony. It is something like the "London Gazette." If one happens to lend money on deferred terms, one is interested in the "London Gazette," but it is not normally the type of reading in which people who study "Jane" in the "Daily Mirror" every morning are interested.

Those are two fairly substantial provisions and personally I am glad they are in the Bill. That is not what I am seeking to attack at all. These powers, of course, are also exercisable under Subsection (6) by an air officer in similar circumstances. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a very substantial matter. I know he will agree—because he is very fair—that the Sections need the greatest possible revision.

The reference to a governor of the Dominions is almost an affront for us to continue to perpetuate. I do not want to intrude a personal note in this matter, but I personally would not like to see the hon. Member for Oldham, West, allowing a huge botch like this being passed merely because someone says we have not time to discuss it and because we want to get back to the British Museum Bill which has been waiting 10 weeks for discussion.

I personally would have no objection whatever to sitting at a week-end if necessary to see some important legislation got through with decency and courtesy and with full consideration and debate. No one would deny that at the end of a debate one knows a good deal more about the problems one has to confront and about the necessity for emendation and elucidation of these matters.

One word in conclusion. Reference has twice been made, once somewhat churlishly by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, and once most politely and intelligently by the Secretary of State for War, about differences on these benches. It is truly quite surprising that anyone should expect that we should come with ready turned out opinions made in a mould and measured to a purely party style. This is a question of the House of Commons in Committee. It is a question where each and everyone of us on these benches is seeking to assist the House in producing Amendments which will improve the Bill.

The noble Lord has only just come in, and therefore it might have been a little wiser for him to have listened to what was being said. If he wants to make an interjection, I would suggest that he should ask himself why from half-past three this afternoon right throughout this discussion no back bencher on the other side of the Committee has risen and made a speech at all. And the one man who did rise twice to make a speech was chased out of the Chamber and has never been seen since.

It is quite monstrous that hon. Members opposite should say, "We are not prepared to assist the Committee to debate and we shall grumble if you fellows talk." I thought the Navy was the silent Service, but the Navy has never been as silent as the brigade commanders have been this afternoon and this evening. It seems that the Army and the Air Force are now the silent Services.

I am much obliged, and I would respectfully agree. Indeed, I had left the point—I was tempted to do so by what I thought was an ill-timed interjection by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). I have tried to indicate quite briefly the points which appeared to be of major importance on this Clause. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends will want to develop some of those points, and indeed to make their own. For the moment I would be satisfied with that.

In conclusion, I should like to say that I personally regret that the Solicitor General thought fit to reply so soon to the first speech in the debate. It is quite true he can rise again, but the impression he gave that he wanted to curtail the discussion—even though he did not mean to give it—is regrettable when we are trying to get on with constructive legislation.

When the debate was suspended at seven o'clock, I was addressing a few observations to the Solicitor-General who had then just spoken, and I apologise to him and to you, Sir Charles, for not being in my place when the debate was resumed prematurely owing to the unexpected and, if I may say so. Un- characteristic taciturnity of our Welsh colleagues.

The point I was addressing to the hon. and learned Gentleman was what may be at first a rather simple one yet which is a little complicated to grasp. He was referring repeatedly in his speech to the definition of "active service, engaged in operation against the enemy." Therefore, he was necessarily referring all the time to "the enemy." The point about the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill this year is that Clause 4 of it offers a new definition of the word "enemy." It is a definition which widens the meaning of the word considerably in its military application and it is a definition about which some of us are greatly worried.

As I was saying in the earlier part of my speech, I have an Amendment on the Order Paper which may or may not be called, but I hope the opportunity will occur to address oneself to this point. The point I am making now is that by using the word "enemy" in a definition in an Amendment of this Clause we are in a sense prejudging that questionable use of that word "enemy" in a later Clause. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will speak again in order to reassure us on this point.

There is another point in the definition on which I would simply seek information either from the Solicitor-General or from the Secretary of State for War. It is the question of a definition of a foreign country. I want to know simply whether the Sudan is a foreign country or not under this definition. There are, of course, as we know R.A.F. personnel serving in the Sudan and possibly some Army personnel—though I think that is covered probably by the Sudan Defence Corps. In any case, is the Sudan for the purpose of this definition a foreign country or not?

I venture to take issue with my hon. Friend about that, and I hope that the Secretary of State for War will be good enough to judge between my hon. Friend and me when he comes to speak. I do not think there is anything definite about it, and I am very surprised indeed that my hon. Friend thinks there is.

If my hon. Friend looks at Section 190 (24) he will find:

"The expression 'foreign country' means any place which is not situate in the United Kingdom, a Dominion or a Colony, and is not on the high seas."

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as I always am when he is helpful to me during my speeches, but he has not quoted enough from paragraphs (23), (23A), and (24). If one is searching for the exact identification of this territory which I have mentioned, and which I need hardly remind the hon. Gentleman is neither a dominion nor a Colony, but an Anglo-Egyptian Condominium—

I do not think it is a protectorate. If my hon. Friend wants to interrupt me, perhaps he will get up and do so. He says it is a protectorate. I do not think it is. It is an Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. The Egyptians have abrogated their share in the Condominium. However, we still insist on recognising it, and we refuse to recognise their abrogation of the Condominium.

The point is that paragraphs (23), (23A), and (24) of the definition Section, Section 190, define respectively Dominion, Colony and foreign country, and in paragraph (23) we find these words:
"The expression 'Dominion' means any of the following Dominions, that is to say—Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Eire, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Newfoundland."
Paragraph (23A) says:
"The expression 'colony' means any part of His Majesty's dominions"—
I suppose that should be "Her Majesty's dominions"—
"exclusive of the United Kingdom, and of any Dominion, and includes any British protectorate."
Then we come to the point at which my hon. Friend quoted:
"The expression 'foreign country' means any place which is not situate in the United Kingdom, a Dominion or a colony and is not on the high seas."
At first sight, that would seem to apply to the Sudan.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the Sudan does count as a foreign country.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for intervening.

I was saying that it might seem at first sight that the Sudan is a foreign country, since it is neither situate in the United Kingdom, nor is it a Dominion nor a Colony, and, quite manifestly, it is not on the high seas. But if the right hon. Gentleman says that it counts as a foreign country, how does it happen to have a British Governor-General, and how is it that the British Foreign Secretary answers Questions about it in this House? How can he take responsibility on behalf of a foreign country? Does the Foreign Office think that it is not a foreign country, while the War Office thinks it is a foreign country?

The fact that the Foreign Office answers Questions about it is an indication that it is a foreign country.

Oh, no. The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. He is quite new as a Minister, but even so, he was a very competent back bencher in the last Parliament, and he knows perfectly well that Ministers can only answer Questions about matters for which they are Departmentally responsible. He knows perfectly well that if he or any other back bencher questioned the Foreign Secretary about the internal affairs of any foreign country, whether Greece, Spain, Italy, France or any other foreign country, that Question would not be in order. It would be rejected by the Table.

I think this matter with which the hon. Member is now dealing hardly arises at this point.

I have not succeeded in making the trend of my thoughts clear, and I apologise to you, Sir Charles. What I was trying to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman was the exact status of the Sudan in this definition, and whether it is or is not a foreign country.

He said, speaking offhand, that it was treated as a foreign country, and I was venturing to point out some of the difficulties in doing so. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, as the learned Clerk to the Table would advise any back bench Member, that it is not competent to put to the Foreign Secretary a Question about the internal affairs of any foreign country—and yet we can put Questions to him about the internal affairs of the Sudan, so that, quite clearly, it is not a foreign country in that sense.

If there is any doubt about it, I should have thought that special reference should be made to it in one of the definition Clauses. It would be quite simple to add a new meaning referring specifically to "The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium of the Sudan." That is the second point on which I hope the right hon. Gentleman or the Solicitor-General will be able to oblige us.

10.15 p.m.

Whatever else has happened as a result of this debate, I feel that it has amply justified us in putting down an Amendment which made this Section of the Army Act available for discussion. In the first place, I am not for a moment suggesting that we should press this Amendment to a Division. It seems to me that probably the Clause as it stands is better than nothing.

Nevertheless, it is equally clear that the words are not satisfactory by reason of the fact that words like the imminence of active service, or the recent existence of active service, provide an inadequate description of the occasions to which active service ought to apply. Perhaps by next year the Government will have thought out a more adequate definition.

Well, whatever Government is there. This is a duty which goes from Government to Government—to get this in order. It is equally the duty of an Opposition, whichever party it may be, to draw to the attention of the Government that which requires putting in order.

What alarmed me a great deal more was what the Solicitor-General said about the other part of this definition because, as it applies to any particular man, it apparently depends—and I think that is right on the wording—on whether he is a member of a force. There is no definition whatever of what is a force for this purpose. Is the British Army of the Rhine a force? Is a section a force? Is a battalion a force? It seems to me to be left completely vague.

This is a section which is the basis of criminal responsibility. It is the basis of such criminal responsibility as often involves the death penalty. I am often reminded, in dealing with that question, as well as with some other questions with which I was dealing in Germany, of a quotation from Lord Digby when he spoke on the impeachment of Strafford. Speaking then of the criminal law, he said:
"Let us have none of these vague charges. Let a cross be placed clearly upon the door and then let he who enters be punished."
That, I believe, is the fundamental wording which should apply to any criminal charge. If we are to charge men with crime, then in advance of their action we must have defined that crime with precision. We must have put the cross clearly upon the door. When we find, as the basis for a capital charge, a number of words and conditions which the Solicitor-General quite frankly acknowledge were so vague as to be quite incapable of definition that it would depend on a question of what was a force and what was not for the purpose of any particular crime—or who was a member of the force—then I felt we should all be agreed that, as a definition of the crime and as the basis of criminal charges, that must be unsatisfactory. I do not feel there is a difference between us on this.

Owing to the absence of time and the urgency with which this Measure, year after year, has to be forced through, it may not be possible to get out a satisfactory answer this time. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will feel that this is such an important matter that it ought to be given priority and that he ought to bring us something better on the Report stage, even this year. He may feel that it is so important, involving life and death as it does, that this is something where clarity should be provided this year. At any rate, he should make sure that we have it next year.

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) for his speech. I agree with him that this Amendment, as an exploratory Amendment, has been useful in respect of this Clause. I can give him an undertaking that we will bear in mind what has been said and that it will be our attempt to improve it. Whether we can improve it on this occasion is something which I hope he will leave to me and to my assistants. It would be patently wrong for me to give any undertaking that in the short time available I could make the kind of improvement that he and, indeed, all of us wish.

I have been asked to make certain comments on the remarks of the Solicitor-General and of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) who, I am sorry to see, has had to leave the Chamber.

For a short while. I am sure he will be back.

He and other hon. Members expressed anxiety concerning the fact that somebody of the rank of brigadier could deem a man to be on "active service." There are many anachronisms in the Bill. It says, "If he is in wireless touch." In these days I think that the occasions when he is out of wireless touch will be comparatively few and far between, and there is a definite obligation in the Bill that if such touch can be established he must gain the prior consent of the Secretary of State to carry out that action.

I can assure the House that this particular Section of the Army Act, which the original Amendment suggested should be left out, is one which, despite its known imperfections, is of considerable importance to us at present. In these cold war conditions the exact time when one would require to deem a man on active service, either before or after active service will, I think, quite often arise, and without the powers it would be extremely difficult to deal with the really novel situations which keep occurring under these present cold war conditions.

The hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) said that he was in great difficulties on the question of the Sudan. In a way he selected a duck-billed platypus of a country which obeyed no particular rule. I can assure him, on the best authority, that the Sudan counts as a foreign country; although I agree that in a lot of ways it is not so treated and Questions can be asked about it. For the purposes of this Bill it counts as a foreign country.

That is a thing which I will look into and take advice on.

The hon. Gentleman was also worried about the question of the definition of "enemy." I know it is not entirely satisfactory, but I have given an undertaking to look into this Clause and when we pass on to the next Clause we can look back to see how, in the light of this discussion, this word "enemy" fits in. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton for the sensible remarks he made at the end of his speech, and I give an undertaking to the Committee that I will look into this matter and see what can be done at this time or in the future to make this Clause better and more lucid.

I am sure we are all obliged to the Secretary of State for his undertaking to look into this matter, but there is one aspect of the Clause which worries me a great deal. When we were discussing the National Service Act, it was never in the minds of my hon. Friends, nor I think of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the use of National Service men outside this country would be a permanent feature of our policy. Indeed, the idea was that National Service men should be taken into the Armed Forces, trained, and in due course revert to reserved service and there be available should an emergency arise.

Unfortunately, the world situation has worsened and it has been necessary to use the National Service men, first in Germany, and then gradually they have gone further and further East until they have landed in Korea. It is one thing to send to a strange part of the world a young man who, of his own volition, has entered into a contract to serve, which includes service overseas. After all, he knows that he is likely to be posted there.

But it is quite another thing to take thousands and thousands of young men straight from civilian life and send them, for example, to Germany, where they find themselves in very strange circumstances, only a short distance away from their homes, where they might even commit a boyish escapade which would be of no great importance if they were in civilian clothes, or perhaps serving in a depot in this country, but for which they find themselves facing trial by court-martial on a charge involving a very long term of imprisonment.

To be quite fair to the War Office, under the last Government, those National Service men who were the first to go to Korea did not go their straight from civilian life. They had a period of training in Hong Kong. There was the Middlesex Regiment and—

I know of many cases where they went straight to Korea and never saw Hong Kong at all.

I did not say there were no cases. I said that in the bulk of cases those who went first to Korea, the first British troops to go to Korea in the late summer of 1950, were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Middlesex Regiment, and they both went from Hong Kong.

I am at the moment interrupting my hon. Friend, with his consent. We cannot all speak at once. I was merely saying that those troops went to Korea from Hong Kong where they had been training for a considerable time.

I only mentioned Korea to illustrate how far this House has departed from the original conception of the use of the National Service man.

What was uppermost in my mind was Germany. We know that a considerable number of young National Service men are going to Germany as part of their normal training. Indeed, we are led to believe that that is to be the training ground for the bulk of our Forces. Therefore, young men are going there as a matter of course—and going there, be it noted, not to serve on foreign service, but on home service.

Quite clearly, whilst we must for the time being accept the definition of "active service" laid down in Clause 3, I very much hope that this will not be a permanent feature. It was all right for the Regular Forces. It was all right to send a fellow to Egypt, or wherever he happened to be called upon to serve, who, when he got there, might find that charges he had to face were prefaced by the words "whilst on active service." But it is not good enough for National Service men, and we may have to find a special method of treating Germany.

I am wholly dissatisfied with the prospect of National Service men being permanently faced with the possibility of reaping the only possible consequence should they commit a breach of regulations and find themselves on a charge, either before their commanding officer or before a court-martial, of getting a much heavier penalty than would have been possible if they were serving in a depot in this country, and in circumstances in which the Service is precisely the same. They might find themselves in barracks in Germany just as remote from the civilian population and from the realities of life as they would were they serving in Aldershot, Catterick or on Salisbury Plain.

10.30 p.m.

I hope that the Secretary of State will face the fact that the House and the country have been forced to use the National Service man for a purpose for which he was never intended when the Act was passed. I must be honest and say that, although I was in favour of the National Service Act, and have made that plain both inside and outside the House of Commons. I know that many of my hon. Friends would have been more doubtful than they were when they came to vote for it had they thought the National Service man was to be used for any other purpose than to create a reserve.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of any hon. Member in any part of the House to take special care to safeguard the rights of the National Service man in this matter.

I think we should come to a decision. We have been over an hour on this Amendment.

I was about to ask leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment, Sir Charles.

Order. No one has refused to give the hon. and learned Member leave to withdraw his Amendment.

On a point of order. My right hon. Friend was on his feet. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I am addressing the Chair on a point of order, in spite of the discourteous noises from the other side. There was a certain amount of confusion, Sir Charles. I was respectfully calling your attention to the fact that to my clear recollection the voices were not collected as to whether it was the pleasure of the Committee that the Amendment should be withdrawn. I was also calling the attention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to the fact that a Member of his own Front Bench was on his feet. It would not have been our wish to seek to withdraw an Amendment until we had heard his observations.

I asked whether it was the pleasure of the Committee that the Amendment be withdrawn. I did not hear "No" from anybody. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I did not hear it, anyhow.

On a point of order. You looked at me, Sir Charles, and I said I was about to ask leave to withdraw, but then I saw my right hon. Friend was getting up and I sat down again. Clearly, if my right hon. Friend has something to say, I do not want to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

I am sorry if I made a mistake. I understood that the hon. and learned Gentleman was asking leave to withdraw.

I shall not detain the Committee long. I did not wish to get involved in the interesting question of the Sudan, but I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty in his place and I want to know whether consultations have taken place between the War Office and the Admiralty on this matter. It seems to be a matter of considerable importance which may affect the Admiralty if there is a complete re-definition of the words "active service." If consultations have taken place between the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War, it is obviously bound to affect the Navy and we must be quite certain that there has been adequate consultation and what the result of it has been.

I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he has anticipated our debate. I wish he was right. We have not yet reached the question of active service. We are now on the question of leaving out subsection (1) of this Clause, but it will come.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 3, line 25, to leave out "a foreign country," and to insert:

"an area comprising the whole or a part of a foreign country which has been declared to be an area of special danger to life or property by an order issued in accordance with the procedure laid down by subsections (2) to (6) of section one hundred and eighty-nine of the Army Act."
Perhaps, Sir Charles, you will first permit me to say that last time when we were discussing the Home Guard Bill, I am afraid I was extremely rude to the Solicitor-General. I thought he had been rude to me. He assured me afterwards that he had not been, and when I looked at the OFFICIAL REPORT I was bound to say that I thought the words he had used had been quite misinterpreted by myself. In the circumstances, therefore, I want to take this opportunity to apologise.

This Amendment attempts to improve on the Government's effort to do what I recognise to be a very difficult job—to define "active service." I am not suggesting that even if, as I hope, the Government accept it, we shall have a perfect definition, but I do suggest we shall have a rather better one.

The Government's definition of "active service" is:
"'active service', in relation to a person subject to military law, means service in or with a force engaged in operations against an enemy …"
Let us pause there. Later they are proposing, in Clause 4, to define "enemy" as including
"all persons engaged in hostile operations against any of Her Majesty's forces."
One does not wish to be frivolous, but is a person who fires a pea-shooter at some soldiers on the march and is then chased engaged in operations against Her Majesty's Forces? These are very wide words, difficult to define. But let me pass to the next part of the definition: "is engaged in a foreign country." As a matter of pure construction, where is the subject of "is"—the force or the person? I suppose it is the force that is indicated. But to continue:
"is engaged in a foreign country in operations for the protection of life or property or is in military occupation of a foreign country."
My Amendment deals simply with that part of the definition which provides
"or is engaged in a foreign country in operations for the protection of life and property. …"
No special definition of operations is given in the Act, and therefore one must take the ordinary Oxford Dictionary definition: "Active processes; activity; performance; discharge of function."

I cannot imagine any military force anywhere that is not engaged in the function of the protection of life or property. Every military force has some person or property over whom they set a sentry, so that everybody in the force by this definition is on active service. If the Government want to provide that anybody in a foreign country is on active service it would be simple to say so. On the basis of that definition, any soldier in a foreign country who is part of any sort of a force must be on active service, because that force will be engaged in discharging somewhere the function of protecting life or property. That must be so.

Realising the width of that definition—and bearing in mind all the time that this is the basis of the gravest criminal charges and consequences—we considered whether it was possible to place some limitation upon the width of that definition, and it is an attempt so to place a limitation which we suggest in the Amendment. What we say is that instead of "a foreign country," there should be inserted:
"an area comprising the whole or a part of a foreign country which has been declared to be an area of special danger to life or property by an order issued in accordance with the procedure laid down by subsections (2) to (6) of section one hundred and eighty-nine of the Army Act."
Those, of course, are the subsections which we have just been discussing.

There would not be a governor in most foreign countries, but there is a Governor in the Sudan—

which is one foreign country. Therefore, I presume that an ordinance by the Governor-General of the Sudan would be the method of bringing this into operation and that that ordinance would have to be approved by the right hon. Gentleman.

As to the position of Malaya, I am not quite certain. Is it a Protectorate? Is it a foreign country for the purpose of that Section? Perhaps this information can be given. If it be a foreign country, then it would be on the basis of this definition; but I imagine that the Governor-General would be the person to issue the ordinance if the Amendment be accepted; otherwise it would be the General Officer Commanding.

I should have thought that it was not desirable to provide that all the troops, all the time, in a foreign country were to be deemed to be on active service, and that that should apply only to particular areas. I cannot help feeling that it was probably Malaya and the Canal Zone which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind in proposing the new definition. It is in that sort of area where this provision is required, and I submit that the best way to define that sort of area is by the procedure, which already exists, which is applicable to a Dominion or a Colony.

After all, there is not such a lot of difference between the sort of control that we have in the Sudan and Malaya and the sort of control which we have in, say, Kenya. Surely, the same sort of procedure should be applicable to both. I commend the Amendment to the Committee and to the Government. While the definition is by no means perfect, it is an improvement.

This Amendment has a good deal of substance. The whole question of the definition of active service is a most difficult one and, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has re-emphasised, we do not pretend to have solved it. The biggest difficulty which I see in the form of words proposed by the Government is one which my hon. and learned Friend has not mentioned: that is, the position of our Forces in Germany.

10.45 p.m.

Under the Clause as I see it, we should perforce have to regard the whole of the British Army of the Rhine as permanently on active service so long as it was in occupation of Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is the next Amendment."] I think that it comes under this Amendment, too. Here, my hon. and learned Friend has moved to substitute for "a foreign country" some part of a foreign country designated because special circumstances have arisen there; and I have Germany in mind.

Under the following subsections it should be possible to declare particular areas of Germany to be a part of a foreign country in which our troops would be on active service, but it seems far too wide to have the words of the Clause as put before us by the Government, whereby all our troops in Germany, all the time, would be on active service.

This Amendment, like the next, is designed to remedy that situation. I am well aware that what the Government are proposing is nothing new, because, under the old definition—

I must point out that the right hon. Gentleman is proceeding to discuss the next Amendment; could I ask, therefore, if we are to discuss both together?

If it is for the convenience of the Committee to discuss them together, I agree.

I submit, Sir Charles, that they concern quite separate points. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) is proposing to move the next Amendment, which is concerned with military occupation and not the guarding of life and property. In Germany our troops are in military occupation and this Clause would put them on active service. The next Amendment provides something different—where they are in a foreign country guarding life and property, but not in occupation.

Then the right hon. Gentleman has been discussing an Amendment not under consideration.

They are two separate points, and I shall call that at the bottom of the page separately, which is what I originally intended to do; I understood that the Committee wanted to take them together.

On a point of order. Would it not save time if they were taken together?

As I see it, the Amendment which we are now discussing is fully relevant to the British Army of the Rhine and its position in Germany. At the moment, it is a military Force in occupation of a country, but what will occur when negotiations with the German Federal Government are completed?

The future position of the British Army of the Rhine forms part of the next Amendment; it cannot form part of this.

Further to that point of order. Is it not clear that all forces which are in military occupation of foreign countries are forces engaged in foreign countries in operations for the protection of life and property? On the other hand, all forces engaged in foreign countries for the protection of life and property are not necessarily in military occupation. Therefore, my right hon. Friend is perfectly right, and we can discuss both the points on this Amendment, but we can also take the next Amendment separately.

My Ruling is that we are discussing the two Amendments separately, and I hope that hon. Members will keep to that Ruling.

If you, Sir Charles, rule that the point I am trying to make is more germane to the next Amendment, I will endeavour to make this argument on that Amendment. I think it applies to both Amendments, but I am quite indifferent as to which Amendment on which I make it. Perhaps you would give a Ruling on the matter.

Perhaps as the right hon. Gentleman has started to make his point on the first Amendment he had better carry on.

It seems to me that the position of the British Forces in the Army of the Rhine is profoundly affected by this Amendment which we are discussing. After we had made our settlement with the German Government they would not be forces in military occupation of a foreign country, to wit, Germany. It seems to me that these limited words which my hon. and learned Friend has proposed will be far better, because I do not see otherwise how we can avoid having the whole British Army on the Rhine permanently admitted to be on active service and that, I am sure everyone would agree, would be most undesirable.

We are not going to join the European Defence Community, but the whole future of that great section of the British Army which is associated with European defence will almost certainly be stationed, at least as far ahead as we can see, in Western Europe. But we hope and believe that conditions there will become increasingly stable, and it would be totally inappropriate to classify them as "on active service."

Therefore, what I understand my hon. and learned Friend has tried to do is to see that we get the definition "on active service" narrowed to the point where there will be no danger of our being compelled to say that these Forces are on active service. It seems to me that both Amendments are equally applicable and most applicable of all to the vital question of the status of the Force which we call the British Army on the Rhine.

The objection to this definition, taking the last three lines of it, is that it means that every soldier and every airman in a foreign country is to be permanently on active service. What we want to know from the Secretary of State for War is whether it is his intention in this definition to make every soldier and every airman permanently on active service when stationed in any force in a foreign country. If we take these two lines together:

"in a foreign country in operations for the protection of life or property or is in military occupation of a foreign country".
that is all inclusive, one could imagine, under every circumstance. It would make all British troops and airmen in Germany, or the Canal Zone or Malaya, permanently on active service subject to the most stringent discipline punishment and so on.

I think that the Secretary of State for War must very well see the objection of my right hon. Friend to that point because it is quite clear from a common sense point of view that very large numbers of these troops are no more on active service than troops in the United Kingdom. In fact, from any point of view, it is desirable that they should be under a much less strenuous discipline than the troops in the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend is speaking as though the troops in the United Kingdom were not on active service. But it is quite clear from the definition of "enemy" in the next Clause, which we have not yet come to consider, that under the definition in this Clause troops may very well be on active service when in the United Kingdom, engaged for instance in industrial disputes.

Of course my hon. Friend is perfectly correct. When we come to it we shall have to consider the circumstances under which certain bodies of troops in the United Kingdom might be placed on active service but there again the Clause provides for the possibility of defining these circumstances.

The great objection to the definition we are now considering is that it is so wide that there are no exceptions at all to troops stationed in any foreign country being on active service. That is the real objection that we have to consider. We want to know from the Secretary of State for War why he desires that troops in Germany Malaya or the Canal Zone should be permanently under the most stringent discipline and the strictest code compared with troops in the United Kingdom. Very many arguments could be adduced for saying that troops in the United Kingdom should be under a stricter code of discipline than troops stationed in foreign countries unless the latter are actually engaged against enemy forces.

Therefore, my hon. Friends and I have tried to draft this definition in narrower terms to state under what circumstances troops in foreign countries should be classified as on active service, realising that there are very many circumstances when they should not be so classified. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State for War will either find it possible to accept this Amendment or will at any rate give an undertaking that he will himself re-draft it or provide some other definition or qualification to this line in his definition so as to limit the circumstances under which these troops are to be put on active service.

I think it is quite clear that there is a distinction between the two which is stated here, but obviously the Secretary of State for War cannot argue that there are no circumstances under which a force engaged in a foreign country is not engaged in operations for the protection of life and property. Obviously, all troops in a foreign country are in a force which is engaged in the protection of life and property. Therefore, under this definition, they are all to be put on active service. That is highly unsatisfactory, and I hope that the Minister will find it possible either to re-draft this Clause or to accept my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment.

There is a further complication to which no reference has as yet been made, and which I think ought to be raised at this stage. I do so because I hope the Secretary of State for War will help to remove a difficulty which exists at any rate in my mind if not in the minds of other hon. Members. The difficulty arises in this way. From certain points of view British troops serving in B.A.O.R. in Germany, or in B.T.A. in Austria or in Trieste are regarded as still being on home posting.

11.0 p.m.

Therefore, it is possible for a man serving in the Army to be in a foreign country, engaged in operations for the protection of life or property, and yet to be technically, from certain points of view, still on home posting. The matter has been raised on previous occasions and it has been officially stated that, subject to certain conditions, British troops serving abroad, in the circumstances to which I have referred, are nevertheless regarded as being on home posting.

There are, therefore, two kinds of troops on home posting. There are those serving in this country and those who are serving abroad. That calls for some further elucidation and I hope that the Secretary of State for War will have regard to what may be an additional factor which ought to be borne in mind in attempting to come to what, I hope, will be a reasonably satisfactory, if temporary, solution of the problem, which the Amendment, moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), seeks to clarify.

Might I again raise the point that I raised a little earlier? I do so because I see the First Lord of the Admiralty in his place. As we are discussing a completely new definition of active service, which may be introduced, may I ask whether consultations have taken place between the Admiralty and the War Office as to whether there would be any effect on the Navy of this definition, and what the result of those discussions were? It is of some importance, and I hope for elucidation on this matter.

I would add one further point. I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for raising this point, although it anticipates, to some extent, the sense of the next Amendment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), has already raised one issue, which was not made clear by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Government. It is not only the troops in Germany who matter. We want to know whether this phrase, "any military occupation of a foreign country," applies to troops in Germany, Trieste, and Austria.

Do we regard Austria, for instance, as completely on a par with Germany? Do we regard Trieste in the same position, because we must know, before we come to the next Amendment, what is the precise intention of the Government with regard to this Clause. It does seem ridiculous that a man can be posted back to England from Malaya or Korea from an overseas posting and then be posted to Germany, Trieste, or Austria as a home posting and find himself under the same code of military punishment as if he were on active service.

Either one is in a home posting or one is overseas. With regard to these three territories of Germany, Trieste, and Austria, the man has the worst of both worlds. He is both at home and overseas. Before we come to the Amendment in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, we would like the Secretary of State to clear up this point because we have much wider issues to discuss on the later Amendment.

We think it would be convenient to have the smaller points cleared away before we reach the broader issues of the later Amendment.

I do not feel that we are getting the co-operation we ought to on this definition of "on active service." There are innumerable hon. and gallant Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee, who have had experience of active service and who have won the V.C. or the D.S.O. When we were on that side of the Committee, they applied their minds, thought, energy, and intelligence to helping in these debates. I do feel that this definition of active service is a very important issue. We are in Committee, where we have a quiet exchange of opinions, seeking to arrive at an agreed conclusion.

I was surprised to hear one hon. Member suggest that hon. Members opposite had an interest in the Army but we had not, for I do not agree; some of us have a great interest in the Army, and especially in the citizen Army. I agree, however, that the preponderance of professional soldiers is to be found on the other side of the Committee, and who is better qualified than the professional soldier to assist the Committee to reach a clear conclusion about what is active service?

I am astonished at the mute, inglorious Miltons on the other side of the Committee. There are many familiar faces who used to sit on Spion Kop on this side of the Committee which are not to be seen on the Government benches tonight—brigadiers, colonels, generals, majors—

Why is this definition of active service important? Because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said, we are now sending our National Service men out to various parts of the world and we want to know whether they are on active service or not. We are calling up lads who, up to the age of 18, have been going to the cinemas, or to the "dogs" two or three times a week, going to dances with their girls, enjoying themselves; and we are sending them to places like the Canal Zone, where absolute boredom is their lot.

What is the reaction of these young lads? Can we wonder that some of them get into trouble. They get into trouble because of sheer boredom. I have a son out there, and I know what I am talking about, so it is no use hon. Members opposite becoming irritated. I have a son who is serving in the Canal Zone who says it is absolute boredom. He has not committed any offence, but he has told me about the kind of things that go on there.

There are a lot of bad things going on in the Canal Zone, and we cannot blame the lads if they get into trouble. We must blame the conditions out there and under which they live. It is important to know whether these lads, who are breaking out because of these conditions of absolute boredom, are to be punished as being men on active service or not.

I appeal to some of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite to be a bit matey in this matter. After all, we Service men are all comrades together. We want to do the best we can for the lads in the Forces. Let us pool our brains and our ideas and get a real definition of active service for the sake of the National Service men.

It would be wrong if, in response to that challenge, I did not rise at this moment to attempt to pool my brains with those of hon. Members opposite. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who moved the Amendment, made a very wise remark at the outset of his speech when he said this was a very difficult matter—this question of a definition of active service. I would suggest to hon. Gentlemen that they are making rather heavy weather of this Clause. One hon. Gentleman looked up the dictionary and read out various definitions, but I would point out that in the Clause it refers to a force "engaged in operations." That phrase, in normal parlance, means actually taking specific steps for the protection of life and property.

I can see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) getting restless. There have been hon. Gentlemen who have suggested that the presence of a force itself in a country means that it is engaged in operations and in the preservation of life and property. I would suggest that the presence of a force has a steadying effect, and, therefore, it has an indirect effect on the preservation of life and property. But that is not referred to in this Clause, which deals with a force engaged in operations and not sitting passively in a country.

Hon. Gentlemen are making heavy weather over a force sitting quietly in billets in a foreign country. This Clause is to cover forces engaged in operations. [Interruption.] I am talking about the Amendment. If it is causing the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East any embarrassment, I am sorry. He has promised us a full debate when it comes to his Amendment, and he has made a speech on this one. I apologise if I have misled him.

Surely any military force in a foreign country is bound to be engaged in operations? Surely the very fact of posting guards and having sentries implies being engaged in operations and in the protection of life and property?

The hon. Gentleman, from his own experience, should know that a force posting normal sentries is acting on a routine basis. This definition concerns a force engaged in operations. There can be no other interpretation. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen should let me go on. All I am trying to point out is that "engaged in operations" is understood to be taking positive and active steps, and not routine steps.

The question of interpretation arises. As has been said, it is difficult to make an exact definition, but whatever the definition, its interpretation must be left to the responsible authority. Hon. Gentlemen have been worried and said that if we did this we should be compelled to make all forces everywhere on active service. But there is no compulsion whatever.

The point is that the interpretation of this definition "engaged in operations"—for example in recent operations in Egypt, and during the cold war—and the right to take these steps is of immense advantage to the authorities. There may well be a delicate situation in which it is not desired to create a stir, but in which these steps can be taken if necessary.

That interpretation, together with the phrase "engaged in operations," has, after a great deal of thought and discussion, been arrived at. I can assure the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) that we have been in touch with the First Lord on this matter. There was complete agreement between all the Services on it.

Of course. But there was no question about that. I was asked a specific question about the Navy.

11.15 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman says he has had consultations with the Admiralty. Can he tell us, for instance, about the position of the Royal Marines who have been in operations inland in Malaya? Because in the previous Clause there is a reference to

"… forces for the time being in the service of Her Majesty, exclusive of the marine forces."
Does that mean that the Royal Marines are not covered by this definition?

They will come under the Naval Discipline Act, as I understand it. We cannot prejudge that question, which, I understand, is under review. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been full consultation with the Navy in this matter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East, was particularly disturbed about the question—I am afraid I am following him somewhat into a discussion of the next Amendment—

May I ask a question, before the right hon. Gentleman comes to that point? I raised the question of Suez. I should like to get the position quite clear. Were the men on active service when things were quite quiet, or did they become on active service when—to quote the words of the Solicitor-General—the warning signal was raised? That is the really vital question.

Do we understand that, on the right hon. Gentleman's view of these things, for some years in Suez they were not on active service; that then suddenly something happened, and they were? If the right hon. Gentleman holds that view, I would suggest to him that the Amend- ment would be a good deal superior to the Clause. I do not understand the Secretary of State for War. On his argument people are always on active service in Suez. There is a difference between the time when there was no active service to do and the time when there was active service to do. Our aim is to make the difference between those two. It is the responsibility of the Government to declare the state in which active service is necessary. Is that, or is that not, the case under the present Clause 3 definition of active service?

The hon. Gentleman has given a quite good example in instancing Suez. Perhaps I could elaborate that point. There has been a period when the troops in the Canal Zone have not been on active service at all.

This is the point I wanted to raise. If the men were not on active service until the recent troubles, then I think the right hon. Gentleman's definition has point. If, on the other hand, they were not, I think the proposed amended definition is better.

I do not know the exact dates—they were not announced to the House of Commons—but there was a time when they were not on active service, and a time at which they were on active service. They were when I came to office, and the step was taken by the late Government.

I cannot give way again yet. The hon. Gentleman has spoken already, and I have allowed him an interruption—which was one of the longest I have ever heard. [Interruption.] I know the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) thinks I always avoid dealing with anything he says.

They were not on active service before the war in the Canal Zone. That is the first condition.

The second condition is, they were deemed to be on active service under Section 189 of the Act—a different question from this. The third instance is, they were on active service because they were engaged in operations for the preservation of life and property—in recent events in the Canal Zone.

The Amendment says there is to be an area defined by the authority responsible. If we take this instance of the Canal Zone, it would be sensible to define that area and limit it to the Canal Zone itself. If there is a sudden emergency it might well be that operations would have to take place outside that zone because it would be very limited in extent. It is the opinion, therefore, after considerable thought, that to attempt to draw a line, to define the actual area where troops are on active service and where they are not, would lead to great difficulty and anomalies.

The point about this definition, which I agree one could argue about for a considerable time, is its simplicity, and that interpretation is left to the authorities concerned.

I know the hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head, but I cannot agree with him in his dictionary definition. As far as I know, everyone would interpret "engaged in operations" as not being consistent with the normal static duties of a force in a foreign country. It is on that basis that this definition has been made, and it is because of the difficulty of drawing a line that I must resist the Amendment. In admitting the difficulty, I believe that sensible interpretation is as good a solution as we are likely to get.

I am prepared to go a certain way on this matter with the right hon. Gentleman. It is not a matter very apt for a Division on the party line. When listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and recognising the desirability of approaching this matter from every kind of angle, I took the view that he was exaggerating the all-inclusiveness of the existing definition.

If we take the case propounded by my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State, of what the situation would be in Germany if a treaty of settlement is arrived at with Germany, and British troops remained in Germany and, whilst they so remained, no hostilities broke out with any other Power, what would be the position then? On that hypothesis it seems to me that we have there a Force which is not engaged in operations against an enemy, which is not engaged in a foreign country in operations for the protection of life or property.

At that point my inclination is to take the view expressed by the Secretary of State because on that hypothesis, there being no state of hostility, no actual threat against life or property, the British Forces situated on German soil can hardly be properly described as being engaged in Germany in operations for the protection of life or property.

I should like my hon. Friend to explain what this military Force was there for if not for the protection of life or property.

There are many things a force can do without engaging in operations. A force can sit and wait. A force can carry on all sorts of non-operational activities.

But surely if that force posts a sentry it is thereby engaging in an operation for the protection of property or of persons. What else is a sentry posted for?

I consider that the sentry is not a force. We can have a force in a foreign country that is not operational.

If it is non-operational, it is excluded from this definition. I differ from the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme when he says that this definition is all-inclusive.

I want to bring this argument down from the clouds, away from the lawyers, to a practical issue. In what places are these young men on active service? In Asia, for example, or east of Suez? Will the Secretary of State answer that, I will give way. It seems that. I cannot get him to answer. Again, what are the stations in the Mediterranean where British troops are not on active service? I would suggest Malta and, perhaps, Cyprus. One of my hon. Friends asked whether men are on active service on the Continent of Europe, say, in Trieste and Austria; and I am certain that wherever there are British troops on the Continent they are on active service.

I never get an answer from the Secretary of State; we always have to drag it out of him, and that is one reason why we have to put so many Questions on the Order Paper. I suspect he does not know who is on active service and who is not. Would any other hon. Gentleman opposite like to answer what stations are on active service? Here they are, these so-called men interested in the welfare of the troops, putting Clauses before the Committee—

Would the hon. Gentleman give us his most careful definition of what he means by active service? Let us have a clear answer.

I will give a clear answer. What the Committee, the young men, and their parents want to know are the stations where troops are on active service. It is difficult to define, and since I am not a lawyer I shall not attempt it. I want to know from the Secretary of State, and I think he does not know. The answer makes all the difference to the young men. The Secretary of State has committed himself to this Clause, as he has committed himself to many other Clauses in this Bill, and he has no idea what he has committed himself to. He has shown himself tonight to be not only incompetent but, as I always suspected, utterly irresponsible.

I should not have intervened if I had not been disappointed by the right hon. Gentleman's reply. He failed to deal with the very important point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton). It is the question of whether men serving in Austria, Germany, or Triente are on a home posting. It appears that they could be defined as being on a home posting, yet they are subject to a law different from that to which those serving in this country are subject.

That appears to me to be completely ridiculous. If some of the men on a home posting are somewhere abroad and some are in this country, the same military law should apply. Had the right hon. Gentleman listened for a few moments, he would realise how impossible is the position and how much anxiety he can cause to Service men and to their parents.

11.30 p.m.

Serving men have a right to know the conditions under which they are serving and whether, if they do a certain thing, penalties will be applied in Trieste, in Germany and in Austria that will not be applied in this country. It is not asking anything in the way of a favour to say that we should be given this information, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to settle this important point so that if any of our constituents who are serving on a home posting but are nevertheless abroad, come to us for advice, we can give them the guidance and information which they are seeking.

If the right hon. Gentleman refuses to give this information, thousands of men will be left in the dark and thousands of serving men may find themselves guilty of crimes in respect of which they had no knowledge that they would be charged when they committed a particular action. This is important, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to give us this information so that we can pass on to the next Amendment.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee proceeded to a Division

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. I rose to make my point of order before the Patronage Secretary moved his Motion, and I ask you to hear it.

I saw my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) rise to put his point of order. It is scandalous.

I ask that I may make my point of order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] My point of order is this—

Order. There is a Division now in progress, and I cannot accept a point of order.

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris. May I ask, for the guidance of the Committee, what procedure is now taking place? With very great respect to you, for some minutes you have been engaged in private conversation. None of us heard the voices collected, and I venture to assert, with the greatest respect, that the voices never were collected; and never was the Committee asked to decide—

The Question is, "That the Question be now put." Tellers for the Ayes [Interruption.]

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order. Can you assure us, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that the Division bell has rung, if the Division is actually in progress?

Mr. VOSPER and Mr. HEATH were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, The CHAIRMAN declared that the Ayes had it.

Question, "That 'a foreign country' stand part of the Clause," put accordingly, and agreed to.

On a point of order. We really are faced with a quite unprecedented situation. I am sure you acted because you believe you heard voices, Mr. Hopkin Morris, but may I ask, what particular voices did you hear? I have been sitting here, not taking part in the debate, and was listening most carefully and I assure you that we are faced with a situation which is unprecedented. What redress have hon. Members for a situation which strikes me, personally, as one which we on this side of the Committee find very difficult to accept?

There is none, for the Amendment is past. The only consolation is the consolation of philosophy.

You explained, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that Tellers were put in for the Ayes, but not the Noes. If I recollect the procedure correctly, Tellers are not put in by either side until after an attempt is made to collect the voices if either side presses for a Division. I did not hear the customary phrase, "Clear the lobbies," nor, I respectfully submit, was there any of the normal procedure leading up to a Division; I did not, for example, hear either side put in Tellers.

I think I used the phrase—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—at any rate, the position is decided. I call Mr. Crossman.

If you used the phrase, I think it is clear that it could not be heard by any hon. Members, nor by the servants of the House, whose business it is to act on hearing the phrase, and to signal that a Division is in progress.

I quite agree that, having given your decision, there is no redress open to us, but may I ask if, since we have several hours ahead of us, we can have an assurance that no such incident will occur again?

If there were less noise when one put the Question, hon. Members would hear.

It was not the noise, but the lack of it which was remarkable. You spoke, Mr. Hopkin Morris, of the consolation of philosophy as our only comfort, but I do submit that there are other steps which could be taken.

Further, may I ask what is likely to appear in HANSARD with regard to the collection of voices?

I hope you will consider the situation carefully, because there will be a report of what did take place; and from that I think it will be clear that no voices could be heard.

You said that the difficulty was because of noise in the Chamber, Mr. Hopkin Morris. I want to make it clear that I am not raising my point because of noise, but in relation to the fact that you did not say what you said you said.

May I put this point, with the utmost respect, Mr. Hopkin Morris? I should like your Ruling on it. Is it in order for Government Whips to engage the Chair in private conversation at a time when hon. Members are trying to raise points of order in order to get your Ruling on Procedure? It is within the recollection of hon. Members that the Government Chief Whip and other Whips engaged you in a private conversation while hon. Members were trying to get a Ruling from you on what was actually taking place. I should like a clear Ruling on that question.

When they were engaging me in conversation, they were putting in the Tellers.

Further to that point of order. It will be within the recollection of the Committee that you, Sir, quite properly no doubt, as it seemed to you at the time, refused to take certain points of order on the ground that a Division was then in progress. It now becomes evident that no Division was in progress. Is it not, therefore, a little unfortunate that you and the Committee were deprived of the opportunity of hearing those points of order which might have been of some help?

This does seem to me to raise the question of the character of the voices which you, Sir, Mr. Hopkin Morris, admitted to have heard. Were they inner voices? After all, you told us that our only consolation is the consolation of philosophy. But it is rather a mystical brand of philosophy if these voices are purely inner voices. I think this is a point of some substance, because the appeal of one side of the Committee is perfectly clear, unanimously clear, that no such voices were raised. It does become a matter of some substance, if the record of the House is to be a true record of what happened, that no Division was challenged. With respect, we on this side of the Committee feel aggrieved that a record, which seems to us all to be a mistaken record of the events which took place, will go down on the records of the House.

If I made a mistake about the voices, I certainly thought I heard them in the noise that was going on. But that is another matter. I certainly thought voices were saying that no one had proceeded to a Division. The matter cannot be discussed any further now. Mr. Crossman.

On a point of order. As later on some of us will want to consider putting down a Motion regarding your competence to occupy the Chair, in view of what has happened, may I ask—

The hon. Member can certainly put down a Motion, but he cannot discuss the merits of it.

I am not trying to discuss the matter. I am asking about one matter which can be decided here and now. Did the bells ring throughout the House? If they did not, there is substantial evidence that you did not say what you say you said.

Further to that point of order. If your recollection is correct, and you did use the phrase, "Clear the Lobbies" we have the situation where that phrase was used and was certainly not acted upon in the ordinary manner by the officials of the House. Would you at least direct that an inquiry be held into why your instructions on that occasion were not carried out?

This discussion should not now proceed any further. If hon. Members wish to put down a Motion challenging me, they are at perfect liberty to do so. But to continue this discussion is completely out of order.

Would you accept a Motion from me, Mr. Hopkin Morris, to report Progress so that we may send for Mr. Speaker to report to him what has happened? Clearly the rights of the Opposition are not safe in your hands.

Certainly, I will withdraw it. But I repeat my original request and ask if you will accept a Motion to report Progress so that we may send for Mr. Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "What for?"] In order to report to Mr. Speaker what has happened. I therefore beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

May I call your attention, Mr. Hopkin Morris, to the fact that for several minutes I have not been able to hear what has been going on, partly because of the noise, and partly because you were not speaking as clearly as you do normally. I am very anxious to know what is going on, because I do not want to raise a point of order which has already been raised.

That has been the difficulty for some time past. But the Question now is, "That I do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."

11.45 p.m.

I wish to support the Motion which has very properly been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in view of the unfortunate circumstances which have transpired. No one wishes to criticise the Chair in any shape or form, and I have no intention of doing so, but it is, of course, a relevant matter in considering whether the Committee should at this stage decide to report Progress and ask leave to sit again in order to consider the things which have happened in the last 10 minutes or so. [Interruption.] I have been accused of being inaudible, but I have never before been accused of being unnoticeable. Not only have I been here for some considerable time, but I have tried to catch your eye, Mr. Hopkin Morris, on several occasions.

I will recapitulate some of the matters which gave rise to this misunderstanding. I do so in no sense of criticism, but, because it is material to the Motion we are discussing, to decide whether we are so tired that we are beginning to err in our recollection of matters and whether it is worth while continuing the debate in this atmosphere.

I was going to raise a point of order, but decided against doing so because I did not wish to add fuel to the fire. But then two things happened. The first was that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley who speaks with great authority on this matter—[Interruption]—this, again, is an indication of the temper of the Committee. All the military experts on the other side of the Committee have not opened their mouths, but they are now criticising my hon. Friend, who has devoted many years of study to this matter, a matter on which we on these benches have already regarded him as a very considerable authority.

However, be that as it may, speaking with considerable authority, he put points of great importance to the Secretary of State for War, and no one will deny that up to now this debate has been conducted in a spirit of conciliation and that no attempt has been made from this side to exacerbate anybody, or, indeed, to say one irritating word.

What happens? My hon. Friend asks a series of questions and is treated with contempt. No one suggests an answer. The Secretary of State remains recumbent and then rises and leaves the Chamber while this important question is being discussed. We are all tired and I myself am very tired. I personally would prefer to listen instead of talking, but so little is being said to help us from the other side—

If hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will give the hon. Member an opportunity of being heard, then perhaps we can keep to the actual Motion before the Committee.

On a point of order. I distinctly heard the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) shout to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), "Resume your seat." Is that in order, Mr. Hopkin Morris? Is that not a trespass on your rights as Chairman of this Committee?

Let us resume the debate. No one wants to worry about matters of that kind or to pursue them. Much as I admire my hon. and gallant Friend, I always prefer to be the protector of my own reputation.

I suggest that, when unprecedented things happen, it is the hour of the day which is responsible and because people have been put under a considerable strain. We have to consider, now, the Motion under consideration, which, of course, is fully debatable. I hope I may say, too, that most of us are aware, however good-tempered we try to be about these discussions, however constructive we attempt to be, and, however we try to confine ourselves to the narrow path of debate and try to limit ourselves to making constructive speeches of elucidation, clarification, and so on, that no one will deny, as the hours go by and fatigue begins to weigh upon us, there is some lack of clarity and that the debate takes on rather a lower tone.

It is within the recollection of the Committee that during two debates, which continued into the early hours, we were deprived of the services of two of our most valuable hon. Members because, at some time, a little lack of understanding and, perhaps, because of some obstinacy or determination to assert rights rather more fully—

Does my hon. Friend wish to interrupt? I am always grateful to him for his rhetorical style.

On a point of order. I have been trying patiently to listen to what my hon. Friend is saying and I cannot hear a word because of the noise coming from the other side of the Committee. Can I ask you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, to keep the other side of the Committee quiet?

I must say I myself cannot hear what is being said and I hope that hon. Members, on both sides of the Committee, will give an opportunity to any speaker of being heard.

Further to my point of order. I sat here patiently to try and hear what my hon. Friend was saying and I now ask you whether, with your permission, I could ask my hon. Friend to repeat what he was saying?

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said, but may I come to the main point on this issue?

We have tried to make progress. It was, from many points of view, clearly unfortunate that there was a type of Motion on the Order Paper which interrupted our discussion earlier today and which necessarily involved some mutilation and lack of concentration. I see similar symptoms in the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

I think I am right in saying that, earlier in the debate, it was said there were 107 Amendments upon the Order Paper, so far. It is fair to say that the Secretary of State for War did himself say that that was something like 593 amendments less than he expected. Something like 700 constructive Amendments could be put down upon this Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman has intimated his intention to accept some Amendments, which will necessarily involve the Report stage, so that it is clear there will have to be prolonged discussion on another day.

Therefore, Mr. Hopkin Morris, would this not be an appropriate moment to report Progress? Hon. Members are put in circumstances of singular difficulty during all-night Sittings, and we do not undertake them unless it is necessary to serve the interests of the House.

If the Motion is accepted and Progress is reported, it will enable some of us to get home to our beds tonight, whereas if the debate is continued and Progress is reported in a couple of hours' time, when most means of public transport have ceased to be available, then we shall be put to an added and unnecessary difficulty which might well be avoided.

I do not suggest that that is an important matter. I have said that I am willing to sit all week-end to discuss the Bill if necessary, because it is so important, but what is extremely important and is a material matter for the Committee to consider is whether we are now developing the sort of temperament which will make for a careful, patient, considerate, useful and constructive legislative approach to the Clause. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) indicating the assent of the Liberal Party to the proposition.

I am glad to have at least that qualified assent. The Committee ought to consider whether this is a sensible way of proceeding. No one can say that at any time during the afternoon there has been an attempt to prolong the debate unnecessarily. Think of the matters we have been discussing. There is the whole question of the definition of active service—perhaps the most vital thing we can discuss on the Clause, because it is a matter which will rule so many items of subsequent discussion. It rules the question of courts-martial, questions of pay, and so on.

This is a Motion to report Progress, not to discuss other parts of the Bill.

I was not thinking of discussing them. I was saying that up to now we have made progress. We have dealt with the whole question of active service. If we report Progress, I apprehend we may well find—and I am giving my honest recollection of the matter—that the Committee has never given assent to the proposition that the discussion should be terminated at that point or that the Amendment should be negatived.

That is an exceedingly important matter, and it is an additional reason why we should consider this Motion quite seriously. There is talk about shortage of Parliamentary time. That is too bad, coming from people who deliberately compelled us to go away in the midst of winter. I had no opportunity of going to the Riviera—

Or Moscow, or indeed to indulge in the lazy contemplation which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was enjoying, I think in Switzerland, during that delectable period when we were told the Government were planning the production of houses.

The hon. Member is very wrong in his recollection, because he was good enough to pair with me the night I returned. The fact is that while Parliament was sitting I left the House on a Friday to go to Tangier and was back here on the Monday afternoon, and I suggest that that can hardly be regarded as a gross neglect of the public interest, particularly as I was going on political matters of the greatest possible importance.

Let me recapitulate, if I may. This sort of thing cannot go on. We have fought against it, we have struggled against it. I have complained about it before, and it is true that there appears to be a lack of co-operation from the Government benches. At moments when a clear explanation might have terminated the discussion, we have had an obstinacy which inevitably arouses opposition. There should be more co-operation from the Government in view of the spirit in which we commenced the debate, and in which I think it may be said that we are continuing the discussion now.

In those circumstances, I should like strongly to support the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. It is just on midnight; we are on the verge of a new day. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) is not in his place to misinterpret my words again; I said on the verge of a new day. I ask the Committee to say that they will now accept the Motion to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

12 midnight.

I have listened very attentively to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and I could not quite make out why he thought it was necessary to report Progress except that he was tired and wanted to go home. Well, let him go. Certainly we do not have to report Progress for that purpose. Indeed, I am very doubtful if we have made sufficient progress in this Bill to justify us reporting that we have made it.

The only other reason I gathered from him, apart from an obscure allusion to Tangier, was quite beyond my knowledge. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's private affairs are, and I do not want to know them. Apart from that, the only other observation of any importance which I gathered was when he suddenly turned round and said he admired the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg).

It is the fact that this is an important Bill and unfortunately the time within which it has to be enacted is short, if we are to have an Army. I dare say the hon. Gentleman does not want to have one. But most of the Committee have always considered that an Army is a necessary adjunct of our life, and indeed of our general position in the world.

In support of the Motion, the hon. Gentleman said there were 107 Amendments down. I have not checked that, but it seems to me that if it is true that is all the more reason why we should proceed rather than go home because he is tired. Finally, in his impassioned peroration, he said that he had heard the clock strike midnight. So did I. If we are on the verge of a new day, as he said, I would remind him that it is no longer 1st April. Perhaps some of the levity which may have been associated in his mind with that important date will now pass away, and we can get on to the serious business of adequately discussing this Bill.

I hope that the Committee will act with the dignity with which it normally deals with important Measures, will throw out this Motion, and consider some of the Amendments which the Opposition, in their wisdom, have thought worth while discussing. It is not all that late. It is only just after midnight, and I think we now had better proceed with our work. There is a lot in front of us, and let us do it with such brevity, dignity, and decorum as we can muster, and not accept the suggestion to report Progress. If the hon. Gentleman is tired and wants to go home he has, at any rate, my permission to do so.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee proceeded to a Division

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris. May I ask you whether, in your recollection, you have ever known a Motion to report Progress put after less time for discussion than on that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)?

(seated and covered): On a point of order. It is not the case that when a right hon. Gentleman on the Government Front Bench is actually on his feet, it is not the practice to move, "That the Question be now put," or to accept it?

(seated and covered): On a point of order. Are we not on this Front Bench entitled to define our attitude at all to the question?

Mr. VOSPER and Mr. HEATH were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN declared that the Ayes had it.

Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put accordingly, and negatived.

May I, on a point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris, respectfully seek your guidance. I do not want to put it in a controversial way or to stir up animosity. I ask you to tell the Committee whether, on thinking over the matter now in the light of what has happened and in your recollection—and certainly not within my limited recollection of seven years in the House—there has been any precedent for the acceptance of a Motion to close a discussion immediately on the conclusion of a speech made from the side of the Committee opposite from that from which the Motion was moved and without any reply being made from this side and while my right hon. Friend was on his feet.

On a point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris. In the course of the recent Division you instructed me to withdraw a derogatory remark which apparently had been overheard. I wonder if I could have been heard to make that remark and whether I could have withdrawn it since I was not wearing a hat at the time? Surely points of order are only in order during a Division if the Member is seated and covered. That did not occur to me at the time, I say it quite frankly, otherwise I should not have felt myself in a position to withdraw the remark.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris. During the Division, from this somewhat remote perch I distinctly heard the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) say, regarding your Ruling, "Disgraceful" and "Shameless".

The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. CROSSMAN:

In page 3, line 26, leave out from "property," to end of line 27.

It is now difficult to resume the debate on the substantial things we have been discussing because we have been deeply disturbed by the events of the last half-hour. The Amendment I rise to move concerns the last five words of Clause 3 of the Bill, but I must remind you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that in the interval between discussing the Amendment moved by my hon. and learned Friend and my own Amendment, two things have taken place of a quite extraordinary character. First we have had a Division taking place without any voices being collected. Secondly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] The Chairman will decide order, not hon. Members.

May I appeal to the Committee to conduct the debate in such a way that hon. Members can be heard, and with a due sense of the dignity of the Committee itself?

I am sure, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that you will appreciate that I am explaining the reasons it is difficult to resume the debate on my Amendment with the same equanimity and good temper as we had half an hour ago. Then we had a Motion to report Progress, when the Leader of the Government side made a speech, and before even a spokesman of our Front Bench could make his point clear, the vote was taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] The Chair has to decide order, not hon. Members.

We cannot review those things now. If the hon. Member will move the Amendment standing in his name—

On a point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris, surely it would be more decent, if hon. Members opposite want to raise points of order and do not want to get on their feet to do it, if they conveyed them to you privately.

I beg to move, in page 3, line 26, to leave out from "property," to the end of line 27.

I appreciate, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that you realise that I was expressing the reasons why I found it difficult to resume this debate in the same spirit of co-operation in dealing with the Army Act as before the unfortunate and unprecedented events of the last 45 minutes. Because of those, some of our confidence on this side of the Committee has been shattered, and the behaviour of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite has been part of the reason why our confidence has been shattered. But we had better resume the debate in the best spirit we can. Unfortunately, this pseudo-Division that took place—[Interruption.]

12.15 a.m.

On a point of order. The hon. Members for Burton (Mr. Colegate) and Southgate (Mr. Baxter) and others are continually shouting "Order!" and making my hon. Friend's speech inaudible. Could we have a Ruling whether order is to be maintained by you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, or by the hon. Members opposite?

I will ask both sides of the House to preserve order. The question of order is for me, and I hope that the Committee on both sides will observe that. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he must not review the past.

I was not describing the past, but describing why it is difficult for this side to regain the co-operative spirit that had been manifested from 3.30 p.m. until a short time ago in discussing the Army Act. Before these unfortunate events we had been seriously discussing a matter of major importance with regard to the Army.

Now we have had a very discordant period in which our confidence has been shattered, and we shall have to regain that confidence slowly, and in the course of the next 20 minutes we must try to struggle through and understand that, in spite of the majority, the rights of the minority may still be guaranteed. I am confident that they will be guaranteed in the future.

May I turn to the Amendment? For Members who were not present I will now spend a few minutes explaining what had been going on previous to the incident.

On a point of order. Would not the rule about tedious repetition be broken if the hon. Gentleman carried out his threat or promise?

It is impossible to tell whether it is repetitive or tedious until it has been heard.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) had the same thought as I. For the large majority of Members who have come in here to destroy the rights of the minority there is no possibility of tedium; they have not heard a word of it. Some of us, and I include the Secretary of State for War, have been trying to disentangle the nature of active service abroad, and it would be instructive for the Lobby fodder if I briefly touched on the nature of the previous Amendment, on which we had the pseudo-Division. This Amendment, which was moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) contained substantially one of the points I wish to discuss.

The Amendment that stands in my name and the names of my hon. Friends proposes that in Clause 3 we should delete the words, "or is in military occupation of a foreign country." I would not have had to say this if the obstreperous Lobby fodder which has poured in below the gangway…

The hon. Gentleman said, "or is in military occupation of a foreign country." Does he intend to leave out "property", which I understood was included in his Amendment?

If the Secretary of State could read my Amendment he would observe it runs from the word "property". We are discussing this Amendment as it has been set down on the Order Paper and not as it has been improved by the Secretary of State.

At least, the minority must have the right to have their Amendments moved in the form in which they move them and not as an unwritten Amendment of the Secretary of State for War. Perhaps we could get back to the substance of what we were discussing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do not be pompous."] Pompous?