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Lords Chamber
03 September 1939
Volume 114

House Of Lords

Sunday, 3rd September, 1939.

The House met at twelve of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

The International Situation: State Of War With Germany

12.19 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make about foreign affairs.

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My Lords, the House will recall the communication to the German Government that we made on September 1 and which I reported to your Lordships. In that communication, your Lordships will remember, we instructed His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin to inform the German Foreign Minister that, unless the German Government were prepared immediately to give His Majesty's Government satisfactory assurances that the German Government had suspended all aggressive action against Poland, and were prepared promptly to withdraw their forces from Polish territory, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would, without hesitation, fulfil their obligations to Poland. That communication was made more than thirty-six hours ago and at 7.30 last night, when your Lordships met, I was still not in a position to report any reply received from the German Government. But I repeated that His Majesty's Government would be bound to take action unless the German forces were withdrawn from Polish territory, and I added that we were in communication with the French Government as to the limit of time within which it would be necessary for His Majesty's Government and the French Government to know whether the German Government were prepared to effect such withdrawal.

In view of reports reaching His Majesty's Government of intensified action against Poland, His Majesty's Government concluded that the situation admitted of no further delay. Accordingly we sent a telegram to the Ambassador last night instructing him to ask for an interview with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Berlin at nine o'clock this morning and to make to him or, if he was not able to receive him, to a representative of the German Government, the communication which I will read to the House in one moment. We added that if the assurance referred to in that communication was received the Ambassador was to inform me by any means at his disposal before 11 a.m. to-day. If on the other hand no such assurance was received here by 11 a.m. we should inform the German representative in London that a state of war existed as from that hour and the Ambassador in Berlin would act accordingly.

This was the communication that we instructed His Majesty's Ambassador to make:

"Sir,

In the communication which I had the honour to make to you on September 1, I informed you, on the instructions of His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that unless the German Government were prepared to give His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom satisfactory assurances that the German Government had suspended all aggressive action against Poland and were prepared promptly to withdraw their forces from Polish territory, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would, without hesitation, fulfil their obligations to Poland.

Although this communication was made more than twenty-four hours ago, no reply has been received but German attacks upon Poland have been continued and intensified. I have accordingly the honour to inform you that unless not later than 11 a.m. British Summer Time to-day, September 3rd, satisfactory assurances to the above effect have been given by the German Government and have reached His Majesty's Government in London, a state of war will exist between the two countries as from that hour."

We had a telegram from the Ambassador to say that he had carried out those instructions this morning at 9 a.m., the communication being received on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am in a position to indicate that the French Ambassador in Berlin is at this moment making a similar communication to the German Government accompanied also by a definite time limit in accordance with the arrangement made between His Majesty's Government and the French Government. No reply having been received from the German Government accepting the conditions of His Majesty's Government, a state of war now exists between this country and Germany and passports have been handed to the German Charge d'Affaires in London. It only remains for me to add that during these days His Majesty's Government have been in constant communication with the Polish Government, both through the Polish Ambassador in London and through His Majesty's Ambassador in Warsaw. I am confident that the whole country will be at one in their admiration for the courage and the resolution of the Polish Government and people, and will be inspired by that feeling in their determination to render to them all help in their power.

There is one other matter of a more technical kind on which I must say a word. In the financial sphere, the most complete arrangements have been made for meeting the situation. At the Privy Council, which His Majesty is holding at Buckingham Palace, the necessary Order in Council is being made to establish Defence Regulations for the strict control of the exchanges. The details will be stated in the wireless announcement which is about to be made. A Proclamation is being issued which will declare that to-morrow, Monday, is, so far as banks are concerned, a Bank Holiday. This will also apply to Post Office Savings Banks and other savings banks but not to general business. Banks will be open as usual on Tuesday morning for transacting business.

12.27 p.m.

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My Lords, the House will perhaps expect one or two words following the statement which the noble Viscount has made. What I shall say will be very short indeed. The spirit of peace and reason which we hoped would prevail has failed and the way of force has been chosen. We cannot avoid the consequences. We have no alternative for the time being except to meet force with force. It is impossible to say what the outcome will be and yet, as we face the peril, we do so sustained and fortified in our souls that the right for which men have lived and died will somehow not be put to the worst.

12.28 p.m.

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My Lords, in adding a few words to what has fallen from Lord Snell, I merely desire to say, what I am sure we must all feel, that the noble Viscount opposite has done everything that a man could do, in concert with the Prime Minister and his colleagues, to find the way of peace if it could be found consistently with the honour of the country. I fear it is only too evident that, from the very first, these efforts were doomed to failure, that the war mind of the German Government was such that its character could in no way be changed. The only other observation I would make is to express satisfaction that the French Government have, all through, acted in close concert with His Majesty's Government. We feel that that country will play its part in circumstances, in some respects, of—I will not say even greater danger but closer danger than was the part it played from 1914 to 1918. And I must join the noble Viscount opposite in expressing our deep and unqualified sympathy with the Polish nation, which is standing out so bravely for the ordinary rights of mankind.

Business Of The House

12.31 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to move that Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for this day's sitting.

Moved, That Standing Order No. XXXIX be considered in order to its being suspended for this day's sitting.—( Earl Stanhope.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.

Military And Air Forces (Prolongation Of Service) Bill Hl

12.32 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg leave to present a Bill to provide for the prolongation of the service of certain men serving in the armed forces of the Crown; and to move that it be read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

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My Lords, I think I can explain this Bill to your Lordships in a very few words. The object of this Prolongation of Service Bill is to authorise the detention until the end of the emergency of all men who might under the terms of their enlistment be entitled to be discharged at an earlier date. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Munster.)

12.34 p.m.

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My Lords, this Bill has been introduced into your Lordships' House as one of the emergency measures. I take it that this is the one relating to Military and Air Forces (Prolongation of Service) which stands in the name of the noble Earl. As there are several other Service Bills I wanted to make certain of that. This is exactly the same legislation that we had at the beginning of the last War and my noble friends wish to support it.

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the Whole House this day.

12.35 p.m.

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My Lords, in order that this Bill should pass through its remaining stages to-day I should, of course, now move that the Bill be now committed, but I am a little uncertain at the present moment whether an Amendment is necessary to subsection (3) of Clause 1. In the circumstances, perhaps your Lordships would allow me to take the Committee and other stages of this Bill at a later period to-day.

12.36 p.m.

Navy And Marines (Wills) Bill Hl

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My Lords, I beg to present a Bill entitled Navy and Marines (Wills) Bill; and to move that it be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Earl Stanhope.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

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My Lords, this is a very short Bill. Its purpose is to put the wills of the men in the Royal Navy and in the Marines in the same position as the wills of those who are serving in the Army or in the Royal Air Force or in the Merchant Navy. Under previous Acts of Parliament a soldier since 1837 or a man in the Mercantile Marine has been entitled to make a verbal will in the presence of two witnesses, or a will which he writes in his own handwriting without its being witnessed by anybody. That was extended to airmen in 1918, but there has been no such provision for the Navy and the Royal Marines except during the last War. This Bill therefore is to carry out a similar provision to that which Parliament made on that occasion, and to place the Navy and Marines in line with the other Services I have mentioned. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Earl Stanhope.)

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

12.37 p.m.

Royal Marines Bill Hl

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My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill entitled Royal Marines Bill; and to move that it be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Earl Stanhope.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The purpose of the measure is to give the Admiralty in relation to noncommissioned officers and men of the Royal Marines whose terms of enlistment have expired the same power which the Admiralty have enjoyed for many years in relation to naval ratings under the Naval Enlistment Act, 1853—namely, that His Majesty may by Proclamation call upon seamen serving in the Navy to extend the terms of their services for a further five years if their services are so long required. This really places the Marines in the same position as the Royal Navy, and I do not think I need explain it further to your Lordships. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Earl Stanhope.)

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Trading With The Enemy Bill Hl

12.38 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to impose penalties for trading with the enemy and to make provision with respect to the property of enemies and enemy subjects, and for purposes connected therewith; and to move that it be read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

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My Lords, I think a few words of explanation are necessary on this Bill. As your Lordships are aware trading with the enemy is illegal under the existing Common Law, and a notice warning traders against illegal transactions will have been given full publicity immediately on the outbreak of war. It is nevertheless felt to be necessary to promote new legislation to clarify the Common Law prohibition as regards the definition of the term "enemy," to impose penalties and to make certain necessary supplementary provision, for example, as to the establishment of custodians of enemy property. The present Bill has accordingly been prepared. I think that is all I need say, but I will answer to the best of my ability any questions that may be asked by your Lordships. I move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Templemore.)

12.39 p.m.

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My Lords, this is, I believe the noble Lord will agree, the most important of to-day's Bills as far as I have been able to see through them, and I first of all would like on behalf of my noble friends to congratulate the Government on acting so quickly in this matter My noble and gallant friend Lord Chatfield will remember how long we had to wait on the last occasion before we could stop open and flagrant trading with our enemies, owing to loopholes in the Common Law. I suggest to the noble Lord that all we really want to do is to make absolutely certain there will be no repetition of those loopholes in the present circumstances. So much for that.

Now with regard to the question of enemy property over here, the noble Lord did not tell us anything about that. Is it intended to confiscate all nominally enemy property over here? If so, I think that will need a little careful watching. A good deal of technically enemy property is really property of people friendly to this country who sought refuge here from abominable persecution. If that is going to be hypothecated and earmarked—seized in other words—great hardship and indeed injury to the public interest might happen. The second point is that the principle of seizing enemy property was always opposed by legalists of independent standing—I think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will agree with me there—as not being strictly in accordance with the accepted law and customs of nations. I have not had time to consult my noble friends here or my honourable friends in another place, but I rather suspect that they would wish to have some very satisfying explanation—perhaps not to-day, but later—as to whether it is intended to follow the same practice again.

Up to the last War the seizure of private property belonging to enemy subjects inside a territory was recognised as illegal and contrary to the customs and laws of nations. It was departed from in the last War and I think we ought to have good reasons given for following the precedent created in the last War. In other words, if you can avoid penalising ordinary persons who in perfectly good faith have built up businesses in this country, and in some cases have performed great service by building them up, you should do so. Great confusion was caused in the last War by the haphazard seizure of old-established businesses which were technically enemy businesses. They were handed over to incompetent people, who made a great mess of them, and scandals resulted. I do not want to delay matters to-day, but I feel sure that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will agree that we ought not to rush into hasty action under the technical rights given by this Bill.

12.42 p.m.

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My Lords, the noble Lord opposite has raised two points of great importance. If I cannot deal with them as fully as I should like he will perhaps excuse me, but I think he may take it that the Government will be extremely careful and considerate both in the case of property connected with persons who may have come here on account of persecution and in the case of old-established businesses which happen to be held by aliens. I think I may give him an undertaking that the Government will be extremely sympathetic in both cases. I hope he will take that explanation from me, but I am afraid I cannot go further into the matter at the moment.

12.43 p.m.

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My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word in regard to this, and to point out that the arrangements are only of a temporary character. The noble Lord will notice that there is a clause dealing with the collection of enemy debts—that is in their favour as far as it goes—and dealing also with the custody of enemy property. That, again, is not adverse to alien enemies. It is quite true that in the last War enemy property and British property held by enemies was dealt with in the Versailles Treaty which set off the one against the other, but that is not the subject matter of this Bill, which is really only of a temporary character.

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a : Amendments (Privilege) made: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

House Of Commons (Service In His Majesty's Forces) Bill

Brought from the Commons and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

12.45 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. This Bill is similar to one which it was thought necessary to present at the beginning of the last War, because difficult questions of law might arise under the Succession to the Crown Act passed in the reign of Queen Anne, as long ago as the year 1707. Those difficulties arise in regard to the position of people who might be elected to or be sitting in or desiring to vote in the Commons House of Parliament by reason of their occupying an office or place of profit under the Crown. The question may arise what is an office or place of profit under the Crown and there is difficulty often in the minds of quite a number of lawyers as to officers of the Regular Army, officers of Marines and naval officers. That difficulty may arise with regard not only to commissioned but warrant officers in the Services. Therefore it has been thought very desirable that all doubt should be removed by a simple Bill, which may be described as a Bill of one clause, which provides that:

"A person shall not be incapable of being elected to, or of sitting or voting in, the Commons House of Parliament by reason only that, as a member of any of His Majesty's Forces, he holds any office or place of profit under the Crown."

I beg to move—

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( The Lord Chancellor.)

12.47 p.m.

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My Lords, at first sight this Bill may appear not to affect your Lordships' House, but it raises questions of principle and I would like to state the situation as the members of my Party see it. With regard to the contents of the Bill we have nothing to say. The Bill is necessary. But on Second Reading we are permitted to raise questions of principle, and I want to be sure that it is not the intention to give any special privileges to a man because he is a member of the House of Commons that would not be open to any serving soldiers and sailors. If this is a long war we may have to have an Election later. My Party consider that the fact that a man is serving in the Forces should not preclude him from being adopted as a candidate in that Election.

Let me put another case of which my noble friend Lord Snell reminds me, that of a man in an Election who is at present a candidate for Parliament, who enlists or who takes a commission in any of the Services. The whole question of the political rights of serving soldiers and sailors is a thorny one, and I do not think my Party have ever taken an unreasonable view of it. Because a man has joined up to serve his country he should not be deprived of all political rights. We do not suggest that he should go to public meetings and make a fool of himself in uniform, but we do say that in case of an Election a man should not be under the disability of not being able to stand for Parliament.

At the end of the last War there was a case of a friend of mine which I might quote. Mr. Guy Wilson, a distinguished member of the Party to which the noble Lord, Lord Stanmore, belongs, was a neighbour of mine as member for North West Hull. He was serving in Mesopotamia. He could not get leave to come home, and, although he was given the coupon—I do not know whether he asked for it or wanted it—an independent Tory appeared on the scene and managed to get leave from his unit to win the seat, and Guy Wilson was turned out. This has a great deal to do with what we are now discussing. Though we are dealing with Members of Parliament who happen to be now commissioned we must think of people in the future who may not be Members of Parliament but who may be candidates. I only just want to stake the claim, because things are going to happen in a great rush and we want to stake as many claims as we can to the individual rights and liberties of the subject, especially of our own Party.

The other thing is this. There were complaints at the end of the last War that a candidate adopted by the Conservative Party or who was known as a supporter of the then Coalition could get leave, but in the case of anyone adopted by my Party or to a lesser degree the Liberal Party, a very good reason was found for not giving leave or for sending them further away from the scene of political action. By that time, political passions had risen. Political passions are dormant at the present moment, I am glad to say. The fact that my Party have declined an invitation with which we have been honoured to join the present Government does not mean that we do not support the Government in their recent action, as my noble friend made perfectly clear a little while ago. While political passions are dormant is the time to stake out these claims and that is why I am doing it now. I have a lively recollection of what happened at the end of the last War and if any noble Lord wants an illustration of the things that were done, I will tell him that when the General Election took place in 1918, the bluejackets did not know for whom to vote and they were told "If they have double-barrelled names, you can safely vote for them because they are sure to be Conservatives." We do not want that sort of thing to happen again. This is a war for democracy. We want to defend democracy, and we are doing it now from the very word "Go."

12.53 p.m.

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My Lords, His Majesty's Government will certainly pay very great attention to what has been said. I am chary of saying anything about the privileges of those who sit in another place, but when the Bill gets there, the matter will be considered. I may say that the Government of the day will keep in mind what has been said. I hope that candidates will not be of such a reputation that they have to be sent from this country for the safety of the Realm.

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Isle Of Man (War Legislation) Bill

Brought from the Commons and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

12.54 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. It is on similar lines to the corresponding Act which was passed into law shortly after the outbreak of War in 1914. Its purpose is to enable any United Kingdom War Legislation to be extended by Order in Council to the Isle of Man, with any necessary adaptations. This provides a much more expeditious method of legislation for the Island than the usual machinery of passing local legislation through Tynwald and getting it subsequently approved by Order in Council. The Bill is desired by the Isle of Man authorities; it is purely a matter of machinery and entirely non-contentious. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Military And Air Forces (Prolongation Of Service) Bill Hl

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My Lords, I do not know whether you will now let me refer again to the Bill I took through Second Reading just now and move the Amendment which stands in my name. I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the said Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Prolongation of service.

(3) In this section the expression "the end of the emergency" means the end of such day as His Majesty may by Order in Council declare to be the day on which the emergency that was the occasion of the passing of this Act came to an end; and for the purposes of this section a man shall be deemed to be a soldier of the regular forces or an airman of the regular air force notwithstanding that he is for the time being released from army service or air force service by virtue of an order under subsection (4) of Section one, or subsection (2) of Section three, of the Military and Air Forces (Conditions of Service) Act, 1939.

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In Clause 1, my noble friend Lord Munster has handed in a manuscript Amendment as follows: On page 2, line 2, to leave out from "under" to end of clause and insert "subsection (4) of Section three, or subsection (2) of Section five, of the Armed Forces (Conditions of Service) Act, 1939."

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My Lords, this Amendment is merely drafting, due to the fact that the measure which is described in the Bill as "the Military and Air Forces (Conditions of Service) Act" has been changed to "The Armed Forces (Conditions of Service) Act," I beg to move:

"Clause 1, page 2, line 2, leave out from ("under") to end of clause and insert ("subsection (4) of Section three, or subsection (2) of Section five, of the Armed Forces (Conditions of Service) Act, 1939").—(The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Business Of The House

12.58 p.m.

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There are four more Bills which we are going to ask your Lordships to pass, but none of them have yet appeared from another place. I think the most convenient thing to do is for the House to adjourn now till three o'clock and meet then, by which time we hope we shall be able to go ahead with our business and complete it. It will then of course, be followed by a Royal Commission so that the Bills may receive the Royal Assent. The four Bills are, as your Lordships know, National Service (Armed Forces) Bill, Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Bill, Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) Bill, National Health Insurance and Contributory Pensions (Emergency Provisions) Bill.

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My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships will allow me to ask my noble friend if he can give us any idea whether this House will sit to-morrow and on subsequent days of this week. If he is unable to say anything, I shall understand, but it will be a great convenience if he can tell us anything of that kind.

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I am afraid I am not in a position to say anything on that point at this moment, but later on I hope I shall be in a position to tell your Lordships.

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Shall we meet to-morrow?

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I am not sure. I think there are some more Bills to come, but I am not quite certain at this moment. I propose that the House do now adjourn till three o'clock this afternoon.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

National Service (Armed Forces) Bill

Brought from the Commons; and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

3.2 p.m.

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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill he now read a second time. The object of this Bill is to make all fit male British subjects, aged eighteen to forty inclusive, liable to be called up for service in the armed forces of the Crown during the present emergency. The Bill itself does not in general directly place a liability on such persons to be called up for service, but it provides for a Proclamation to be issued from time to time. This is provided for by Clause 1. By this means it is possible to issue Proclamations as and when they are required making the various age groups liable to be called up for service.

As the Prime Minister said in another place, it is not intended under this Bill at the outset that any considerable number of men other than those already liable shall he called up, and steps will be taken to ensure that the man power essentially required in industry shall not be taken away. By that we shall avoid the fatal mistake made in the last War in which everybody, so to speak, was taken for the Army and many sent out to the front only to be brought back again, sometimes in the space of a few months, because they were required for service at home. The present Bill follows very closely the provisions of the Military Training Act, which was put through this House a few months ago by my noble friend Lord Munster. Men liable to be called up for service will be required to register, they will be medically examined, and they will receive their enlistment notices. The procedure for these purposes will be similar to that which has been applied in respect of militiamen under the Military Training Act. The classes exempted from liability are similar to those exempted under the Military Training Act, except that a new class has been added in Clause 1 (e)—namely, a man in holy orders, or a regular minister of any religious denomination. The Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland nor to the Isle of Man, but there is power to extend it to the Isle of Man by Order in Council.

The provisions of the Military Training Act regarding anticipation and postponement of liability to register are not wholly applicable to men liable to be called up for service under this Bill. There is, however, provision in Clause 6 for postponement of the liability to serve in the forces on the ground of exceptional hardship, and the provisions of the Military Training Act with regard to Hardship Committees, and appeals to the Umpire, have been maintained in this Bill. Similarly, in respect of conscientious objectors the clause in the Bill is almost identical with the corresponding section of the Military Training Act. Under the Bill, as under the Military Training Act, a person with conscientious scruples may either be finally registered in the register of conscientious objectors, conditionally registered in that register or registered as a person liable to be employed only on non-combatant duties. The only alteration which has been made in the provisions of the Military Training Act is in respect of conscientious objectors conditionally registered. Under the Military Training Act there is provision for such conscientious objectors to be required to undergo a period of six months' civilian training. It is obviously inappropriate to provide civilian training for a conscientious objector throughout a war. What is required is that he should be directed to undertake some civilian work of benefit to the nation. Accordingly, the Bill provides that a conscientious objector conditionally registered should be required to undertake civilian work specified by the tribunal, or, if directed by the Minister, to undergo training provided or approved by the Minister to fit him for such work. There is one further modification. It has been found that there are a very few conscientious objectors who refuse to register or to apply to the tribunal. The Bill provides that in cases of this kind the Minister may, if he has grounds for believing that the man is a conscientious objector, provisionally register him in the register of conscientious objectors, and refer his case to the appropriate tribunal. This will avoid the present difficulty of such men being placed on the military training register.

The tribunals to deal with the cases of conscientious objectors under the Bill will be the same as those existing under the Military Training Act. A clause similar to Section 14 of the Military Training Act is included in the Bill in order to deal with what is commonly known as the "cat and mouse" procedure. It is Clause 13. The provision in the Military Training Act is not wholly appropriate to wartime conditions, and has accordingly been modified slightly for the purposes of this Bill. In the first place, the clause in this Bill is limited to persons who have already made an application to the conscientious objector tribunal. The object of the clause is to provide a safeguard for the genuine conscientious objector who may not have been able to convince the tribunal of the genuineness of his convictions, and therefore finds himself in the forces, and the limitation of the application of the clause to these persons is obviously right. Secondly, the clause is limited to offences committed while in Great Britain.

The provisions in the Military Training Act with regard to reinstatement in civilian employment have been included in the Bill. Under the Military Training Act employers are required to take a man back if they can. It is recognised that the circumstances envisaged by the Bill under which the period of service is undetermined may seem to make it more difficult to include a provision of this kind in the Bill, but it is felt that nevertheless it is right to include such a provision in order, so far as possible, to safeguard those called up for service. The Military Training Act gives power by Order in Council to make provision for "consequential matters." This has been used to cover various kinds of civil liabilities. A power of this kind for wartime purposes is clearly necessary, and requisite provision has been made in a number of the Emergency Acts passed two nights ago, such as the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, and the Rent and Mortgage Restrictions Act. It is felt that these and other Acts should be sufficient, but in case experience should show that this is not so, it is proposed in the Bill to give the Minister power by Order in Council to make provision for such matters. If, therefore, it is found that further provision is needed, the Bill provides the necessary power.

Those are the main features of the important Bill which I have to introduce to your Lordships. This is a Bill which in normal times I should probably have taken half an hour or thirty-five minutes to explain, but as we are already at war I hope your Lordships will excuse any further explanation. I should, however, he very glad to answer, if I can, any further question put to me with regard to the Bill. I now beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .( Lord Templemore.)

3.10 p.m.

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My Lords, I am sure I carry your Lordships with me when I say that the noble Lord need not here apologise, because I think in the short space he really covered the ground very adequately, and I still believe that a ten-minute speech is better than a half-hour one. I have also some brief observations to make on this Bill, speaking for the Opposition. As a party the Labour Party are opposed to conscription. In these things we are very conservative. We have been for decades, and are still, opposed to conscription on principle, Nevertheless, at our Party meeting yesterday, the majority in favour of voting for this Bill in another place was overwhelming. Therefore my noble friends will offer no objection to its speedy passage here.

I have, however, certain observations to make. The noble Lord said that the War Office would discriminate in calling up men so as not to denude important industries of their personnel and hamper production, so as not to make the sort of mistakes that my noble friend Lord Addison has cited, where, for example, they took the chief gauge maker of Vickers and put him to pick up scrap paper on Hampstead Heath. I am sorry to say that that sort of thing is being done now at this moment. A friend of mine, who has a large and important factory making aircraft for the Government, telephoned to me. A number of his skilled men happen to have been Territorials for years. They have been called up and embodied. He cannot get them back and sonic of his production is held up because these skilled men have joined the Territorials. They say "We will get them back in a few days." At present they are mounting sentry and filling sand bags. There is an actual example. I promised my friend I would do what I could. You must release these Territorials who are key men in the aeroplane industry. With great respect to the distinguished military members of your Lordships' House, the production of aircraft is more important at this moment than the enrolment of Territorial infantry soldiers who need three or four months' training before they can take the field in any shape. I can give chapter and verse to any noble Lord whose business it is to see to these matters.

When the Militia Bill was before your Lordships' House I begged the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, as First Lord of the Admiralty, particularly, to see that young mariners, fishermen and others were not herded into the Army. Those men are needed at sea. You may not need many sailors at the moment but you do not know how long this position is going to last. You may need all the men with sea sense and sea experience whom you can lay hands on. I want to thank the noble Earl in regard to one particular case from Hull—a young seaman who had been bundled into the Army but has now been got out and put into the Navy. Both his father and grandfather were in the Navy. What I say is no stigma on the Army of course; it is a different profession. We know at this moment that you do not need a great rush of soldiers. I beg the First Lord of the Admiralty therefore to keep seafaring men for the Navy and let them go on at their present job.

Two criticisms of this Bill are made by my Party. They come from rather different directions but I want to cite them both. Many of us feel that eighteen is too young an age, that a boy's nerves are not set and that it is better to keep to the Militia age, which I think is twenty. Another year or so makes a great difference and you want to preserve your young life as much as possible. I do not know what happened when the proposal to amend the Bill was made in another place and we do not intend to move any Amendments here, but perhaps later on that will be considered. The other thing is that a great many of us think that 41 is a good deal too young.

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Hear, Hear.

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I am glad to see that the noble and gallant Earl agrees with me there. I speak for many members of the Labour Party. In the Navy we are liable to serve up to the age of 55 and even later. Therefore why 41? There are many men of much more mature years than that who are fit for service. I rather think that the Leader of the House is more than 41, but I know many young men whom I would rather meet in a fighting mood in a dark lane than the noble Earl. We think this ought to be reconsidered Another matter I am going to raise has not been considered by my Party, but it was raised by my noble friend Lord Marley a couple of years ago. Both of us feel that there ought to be some compulsion, if it is required, in reserve in the background for women. I know this will shock many noble Lords but really the objections to it are only sentimental. You have got women doing national service of all kinds and to suggest that healthy young women who might be shirking should not be conscripted when at the same time you are conscripting fathers of families in one-man businesses—that is not equality of sacrifice or equality of the sexes either. I repeat I am not speaking for my Party, but Lord Marley agrees with me. We think that you ought to have, in reserve anyhow, some compulsion for women—if you like for non-combatant services. I myself take my hat off, particularly at this moment, to the women of the battalions of the Polish Army who are standing at the side of their men with their rifles, and I dare say there are many Englishwomen who would do the same. I have no sex feeling in this matter. If women are going to be bombed in their homes they might as well be bombed in the field. There might be these powers for the compulsion of women later on. I do not apologise for making these remarks. My Party recognises the importance of this Bill. We are satisfied with the safeguards in it as regards conscientious objectors, hardship cases and other points. No doubt as time goes on there will have to be amendments and other provisions for hard cases. If there is a Division in your Lordships' House we, like our friends in another place, are prepared to vote for the Bill.

3.17 p.m.

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My Lords, I have few words to say on this very comprehensive and drastic measure. Like the members of the Labour Party, Liberals also view with grave reluctance the extension of the principle of compulsion to military service. Yet in present circumstances I think the whole nation is agreed that a Bill of this sort is necessary at this juncture. The spirit of the nation in this regard is very different from what it was at the beginning of the war in 1914, or even at the time when I was responsible for passing through another place the Conscription Act of 1916. This Bill therefore will receive I am sure the unanimous support of your Lordships' House and the approval of the whole nation. There is only one specific point I should like to raise with regard to it. It is the one that has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, as to the liability to service of the younger men of eighteen and also the liability of young men, say of the age of nineteen, to be sent abroad. I understand that has given rise to considerable controversy in another place to-day and that the Secretary of State for War has made a statement on the subject and has given a certain undertaking. Perhaps the noble Lord in charge of this Bill would repeat to your Lordships either the terms or the substance of the undertaking that he gave.

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My Lords, I want to say only one word from the Back Benches in support of the plea for the young men of eighteen. I did not know an undertaking had been given. No doubt my noble friend will read it, and I will not say any more.

3.19 p.m.

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My Lords, I am glad that the Bill, as I expected it would in your Lordships' House, has received support from all quarters. The noble Lord opposite has raised two very important points. The first was as regards skilled men who, I think he said, have been called up from some aircraft factory for service in the Territorial Army, and presumably are doing the duties of infantry soldiers at Hampstead or somewhere. I have had an opportunity of conferring with my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for War (Lord Munster), and he assures me that this matter will be at once looked into. Although I cannot give an undertaking that these men will be released from service to-day or even to-morrow, I can assure the noble Lord that inquiries will be made and action taken as soon as possible.

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I will give the details privately.

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I am much obliged. As regards the point raised by the noble Lord opposite and by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and my noble friend behind me (Lord Balfour of Burleigh), about the age of 18 being considered too young, I should like to repeat to the House the statment made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War in another place about an hour ago. He assured the House of Commons that it was not intended to call up the 18–20 age group at an early stage. It was proposed to call up men by age groups, and to work upwards—that is, 21 to 22, 22 to 23, and so on. He also said that not only was there no present intention of sending the 18–20 age group overseas to fight, but they would not be called up for some time. He gave an undertaking that they would not be sent overseas, if called up, without Parliament being informed. That is the statement that was made to the House of Commons. That is with regard to the low age limit.

As regard the age of forty-one, which the noble Lord opposite said was too low a limit, the Government have considered that, and they wish to stick to that limit. It gives them a tremendous margin in reserve. If the war lasts a long time and it is found necessary to call up other men, they could call up the men of 45, 46, or even 50, and over, as was done in the latter stages of the last war. I cannot quite remember, but my recollection is that men of 45 were certainly called up. These are the only questions I was asked. I do not think there was any other point raised, and I hope the House is ready to come to a decision.

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Business Of The House

3.27 p.m.

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My Lords, I understand that three other Bills are likely to arrive shortly. It is difficult to say exactly when they may reach us, and I suggest we follow the same procedure as yesterday—namely, adjourn during pleasure, and bells will sound to summon your Lordships back when the Bills are ready for consideration.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Bill

Brought from the Commons; and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

3.47 p.m.

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My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I think I can explain its object quite briefly. It is to provide grants in respect of injury or death caused by air raids or other operations of war among the civil population. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear in a statement which he made on January 31 last, that loss or injury from war ought not to be treated as merely the concern of those who directly suffered from it, but must be regarded as an affair of the whole community. In accordance with this policy he spoke these words:

"A scheme is being worked out to cover casualties to civilians, its purport being that in addition to persons enrolled as volunteers in air-raid or other such services who might be injured or killed while on duty, the scheme would apply to casualties among civilians wholly or mainly dependent for their livelihood upon their employment or occupation. Provision will also have to be made in the scheme for other cases where need arises."
The working out of a scheme to comply with these conditions was entrusted by the Government to my honourable friend the Minister of Pensions. The present Bill is designed to give the Minister of Pensions authority to formulate the scheme in agreement with the Treasury and to make the various grants which may be made under it. I am advised that a scheme has already been prepared and in accordance with Clause 2 (3) it will be laid before the House with the least possible delay. Your Lordships will observe that the Bill covers civil defence volunteers and persons engaged in employment or business. I do not know whether there are any further remarks I can usefully add, but I think your Lordships will observe from reading the measure that it is one which really requires little explanation. It is, I think, quite straightforward. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Munster.)

3.50 p.m.

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My Lords, the only question I should like to put to the noble Earl concerns when this measure will come into effect. Is it retrospective from the time the scheme is prepared and approved? In other words, suppose someone was killed somewhere to-night, would his dependants receive compensation retrospectively?

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My Lords, I understand that Clause 9 of the Bill states that the Act will come into operation, or shall be deemed to have come into operation, on such date as His Majesty may by Order in Council appoint. From that date, in answer to the question which the noble Lord raises, those persons will be covered.

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May I ask again, when will that date be—because obviously this Bill was printed weeks ago—and will it be retrospective?

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I understand there is a meeting of the Privy Council this afternoon or this evening and therefore it will probably appear there as soon as it has received the Royal Assent in your Lordships' House.

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May I point out that it is limited only to "injuries sustained during the period of the present emergency"? It does not go beyond that.

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I mentioned tonight. Suppose somebody is hurt tonight and the scheme is not tabled and approved for some weeks, will it be retrospective?

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Yes, I think I can assure the noble Lord, it is retrospective.

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I am much obliged to the noble Earl.

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

On Question, Bill read 3a , and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force And Mercantile Marine) Bill

Brought from the Commons; and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I need not weary your Lordships more than one moment. I understand that this measure is substantially an administrative measure, for it provides for the transfer to the Ministry of Pensions from the Service Departments of their powers and duties in regard to the grant and administration of all pensions for disablement or death due to service in the armed forces of the Crown which will be engaged in this war. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( The Earl of Munster.)

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

On Question, Bill read 3a , and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

National Health Insurance And Contributory Pensions (Emergency Provisions) Bill

Brought from the Commons; and read 1a .

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended:

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My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The object of the Bill is to secure that persons insured under the schemes of national health insurance and contributory pensions do not suffer any loss of rights under those schemes by reason of joining the armed forces of the Crown, or entering upon war occupations, and that on return to civil life all such persons will find themselves in the same position as if they had been continuously in insurable employment throughout their period of service or war occupation. The Bill further provides that double payments from public funds are not to be made in respect of the same event. The approved societies are safeguarded against having to make payments for which no financial provision is made in the scheme of national health insurance. There are further provisions in the Bill by which insured persons will be able to receive payment of benefit or pensions notwithstanding that some record affecting their title may not be available when the claim arises. I do not think it is necessary that I should explain the Bill further, but I will do my best to answer any questions that may be put to me.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( The Duke of Devonshire.)

On Question, Bill read 2a : Committee negatived.

Bill read 3a , and passed, and a Message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

Royal Commission

The Royal Assent was given to the following Bills:

  • National Service (Armed Forces),
  • Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions),
  • Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine),
  • National Health Insurance and Contributory Pensions (Emergency Provisions),
  • House of Commons (Service in His Majesty's Forces),
  • Isle of Man (War Legislation).

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.

Business Of The House

4.22 p.m.

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My Lords, there is no business for your Lordships' House to-morrow, but I suggest we should meet at three o'clock because I understand the House of Commons is meeting at a quarter to three, and of course it is always possible that some statement may be made there. I expect your Lordships will desire to have it made here also, if there is such a statement available. We also propose to meet on Tuesday when there will be several Bills to deal with. Therefore I propose that we should meet at three o'clock both to-morrow and on Tuesday. I am afraid I am unable at the present time to say anything further as regards the other days of the week.

House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past four o'clock.