The following paragraph shall be substituted for paragraph (d) of Sub-section (2) of Section one hundred and eighty of the Army Act: —
(d) An officer belonging to His Majesty's Indian Forces who thinks himself wronged by his Commanding Officer, and on due application made to him does not receive the redress to which he may consider himself entitled, may complain to the Governor-General of India, who shall cause his complaint to be enquired into, and if so desired by the officer, make a report through a' Secretary of State to His Majesty in order to receive the directions of His Majesty thereon.
I spoke on this question the other day. Since then I have received a large number of letters from officers in all circumstances, urging strongly that this Court of Appeal should be established. It is a matter that concerns the whole Army. Throughout the Army the want of such a Court of Appeal is expressed. I am not particularising on the personnel of the Court, but an independent Court should be established. An officer who has a grievance should not be compelled to appeal to the man against whom he has that appeal.
This Amendment seems to be a hardy annual. It has been brought forward many times before on this Bill. I presume that the appeal refers not to the case of the officer who is tried by court martial, but to the case of the officer on whom an adverse report has been sent in by his Commanding Officer. Under the Army Act, an officer in that position has the right of appeal to the Army Council and to the King. What the Mover of the Amendment wishes to set up is either an alternative to that appeal or from the appeal to the King. I cannot conceive that it is the latter he wishes to do. What he wishes for, therefore, is an alternative to the former. I am speaking of the broad case, and everything depends on the nature of the Court. The only thing I can consider is the Court as it is proposed to be set up by the hon. Member (General Sir Ivor Philipps) in whose name the Amendment appeared on the Paper. The Court of Appeal that that hon. Member would propose would consist of five Members, two of whom shall be military officers, two not holding any official position under the Crown, and one to be one of His Majesty's Judges of the High Court of Justice. That is a Court the majority of whose members would be non-military. I cannot conceive that any officer on a question of discipline or efficiency, for these cases are usually cases affecting an officer's efficiency—
The Under-Secretary knows that a complaint goes up through the general officer to the Army Council and to the King as a wholly nominal procedure. There is really no court of inquiry which inquires thoroughly into a question. The Army Council cannot inquire as a council. What is wanted is that there should be some auxiliary court—not an alternative court—of military officers if you like, but an independent court which will inquire into a matter for the guidance of the Army Council.
After all, this is not a new question. It has been discussed on a great many occasions before, and I think those who have raised it year after year should have thoroughly thought it out now. I can only take the proposal as it appears on the Paper, and if the proposal be taken in conjunction with the rest of the Clause, as forming part of one whole, then the suggested Court seems to me, not only unsuitable to the case, but I think it would be very unpopular in the Army.
|Division No. 65.]||AYES.||[8.17 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hayward, Major Evan||Spencer, George A.|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormsktrk)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Swan, J. E.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hirst, G. H.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir 0. (Anglesey)|
|Cape, Thomas||Irving, Dan||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Kennedy, Thomas||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Mosley, Oswald||Wignall, James|
|Galbraith, Samuel||O'Grady, Captain James||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Gillis, William||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Preston, W. R.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Rattan, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Royce, William Stapleton||Colonel Sir C. E. Yate and Mr. J. Jones.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Armitage, Robert||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pratt, John William|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Herbert, Denis (Hertford, Watford)||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hills, Major John Waller||Rendall, Atheistan|
|Borwick, Major G. 0.||Hinds, John||Renwick, George|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Howard, Major S. G.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Jephcott, A. R.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Brldgeton)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)||Seager, Sir William|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Simm. M. T.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Ccwan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lloyd, George Butler||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lorden, John William||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Macleod, J. Mackintosh||Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.|
|Edge, Captain William||Macquisten, F. A.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Maddocks, Henry||Wallace, J.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mallalieu, F. W.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Evans, Ernest||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Whitia, Sir William|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Middlebrook, Sir William||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Mitchell, William Lane||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Wise, Frederick|
|Gardiner, James||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Neal, Arthur||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gould, James C.||Parker, James|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gregory, Holman||Perkins, Walter Frank||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Perrlng, William George|
"(4) Where any arrears have accumulated in respect of sums adjudged to be paid by any such order or decree ' as aforesaid whilst the person against whom the order or decree was made was serving as a soldier of the regular forces, whether or not deductions in respect thereof have been made from his pay under this Section, then after he has ceased so to serve an order of committal shall not be made in respect of those arrears unless the court is satisfied that he is able, or has since he ceased so to serve been able, to pay the arrears or any part thereof, and has failed to do so,"
(2) Where an order had, before the coming into operation of this Section, been made under Section one hundred and forty-five of the Army Act authorising deductions from pay, a further order may be made increasing the amount of the deduction to be made after the coming into operation of this Section under the former order up to the limit authorised by this Act.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, a), after the word "children" ["in respect of a wife or children"], to insert the words "whether legitimate or illegitimate."
The object of this and the other Amendments which I have put upon the Paper will be sufficiently obvious to the Committee. The Clause deals with the amount of money which may be deducted from the soldier's weekly pay in respect of an order made against him for the support of his wife and children, and, repeating the wording of previous Acts, it distinguishes between the amount that is to be deducted in respect of a legitimate child and that to be deducted in Respect of an illegitimate child. The Clause expresses an idea which offends modern public opinion, the idea that the children should be punished for the sins of their parents and that a man who has an illegitimate child has a less amount of responsibility for the care and support of that child than he has for the children of his lawful wife. This is not in the original Army Act, where there was no distinction made between the children of a lawful wife and other children. It was put in, I believe, in 1904, and it has been repeated without question ever since, merely, I believe, because nobody has taken the trouble to move any Amendment on the subject, but I want to urge my hon. and gallant Friend that the time has now come when this gross anomaly should be removed. There is only one possible argument which, it occurs to my mind, could be used against it. It might be said that the whole amount which can be ordered to be paid in respect of an affiliation order is 10s. a week, but there are several answers to that. In the first place, this Clause deals with arrears, as well as weekly payments, in respect of an affiliation order, and, in the second place, there is now on the Order Paper a Bill entitled the Bastardy Bill, in which the maximum amount a man can be ordered to pay in respect of an illegitimate child is increased from 10s. to 40s. a week. If that were to be passed, this anomaly would remain, that whereas in the case of the civilian the amount would have been raised to 40s., in the case of a soldier it would still be only Is. 6d. a day. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will give his favourable consideration to this Amendment, which would be an opportunity of removing from this Bill what I consider to be a blot upon it, and I believe I shall have the support of a large number of Members in the Division Lobby if the Government cannot accept the Amendment.
I wish to support this Amendment, in the first place, because the words as they stand seem to be an unfair discrimination against legitimate children. The provisions of the Clause as it stands allow 4s. a week in respect of a wife or children. There is nothing said about the number of children. There may be half a dozen or more, but the maximum amount is still 4s. If, however, there is one illegitimate child this Clause allows 3s., and I suggest that-that is an unfair dis: crimination against legitimate children. The second ground upon which I support the Amendment is that the Clause itself is against the War practice. We all know that at the beginning of the War, and in the whole course of the War, the War Office made no discrimination as between legitimate and illegitimate children. Indeed the mothers of illegitimate children were treated practically in the same way as the wives of soldiers, and it would be a retrograde proposal that we should after the War go back to a procedure which we openly scrapped at the beginning. A further reason in support of the Amendment is that it discriminates unfairly, or differently at any rate, as between Scotland and England, because if a child is born to parents who are unmarried, and they are subsequently married, in Scotland it becomes legitimate, whereas in England it remains illegitimate. The result is that in certain cases the children in Scotland would be treated quite differently from the same cases if they were in England, and I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that any provision of that kind is wrong.
I have no right to speak for the Labour party, but I speak for myself in supporting this Amendment, which I consider to be most just and reasonable. I have no desire in any way to foster immorality, but I desire to protest against the unjust treatment of children and mothers, and consequently I feel that if the Government can see their way clear to place all persons on an equality, whether their children are born in wedlock or out of wedlock, it will be a step in the right direction. I do not think any man, because he wears the King's uniform, should be protected from the full penalty of his acts, and I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment seemed to approach it from different points of view. The Mover introduced it on the ground that the illegitimate child would not get enough, but the Seconder stated—what is perfectly true—that in some cases the illegitimate child gets an advantage over the legitimate child. Under the terms of the Clause the higher sum applies to the mother and child, whereas the 3s., as it is in the first Sub-section, applies to the child only, so that in the first case, although it is 4s., it includes two people, and may include more, and in the second case it applies to one child only—
No, simply the one child. There is nothing about the mother in the Bill. I quite admit there is an anomaly, but the anomaly is not really in the Army Act at all; it is in the civil law. The state of the civil law is that £2 a week can be recovered for the maintenance of a wife and child, but only 10s. a week can be recovered for an illegitimate child. It is not possible for the Army authorities to alter that. All that they can do is to apply the existing law to the state of things in the Army, and, under every one of these Clauses, the illegitimate child, in whose interest this Amendment is moved, is able to get the 10s. a week. There is provision that 1s. 6d. a day can be recovered out of Army pay. That comes, of course, to 10s. 6d. a week, which is actually 6d. higher than the maximum which can be recovered under the civil law. However, great the claim upon the soldier, the Army does not think that, so long as he is in the ranks, he ought to be entirely destitute of money. As far as the illegitimate child is concerned, everything that can be recovered in a Civil Court can be deducted from the Army pay. My hon. Friend referred to the possibility of an alteration in the civil law on this subject. I can promise my hon. Friend that this matter will be carefully considered. I quite agree there are some anomalies, but I think that the time to make an alteration in the Army Annual Act would be not before, but after the alteration of the civil law has been made, and I can assure him, if and when that alteration in the civil law has been made, then the matter will be again fully considered by the military authorities. That being so, I hope he will not now press the Amendment.
|Division No. 66.]||AYES.||[8.40 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayward, Major Evan||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hinds, John||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bramidon, Sir Thomas||Hirst, G. H.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Cape, Thomas||Irving, Dan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jephcott, A. R.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Spencer, George A.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Swan, J. E.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clltheroe)||Kennedy, Thomas||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Macquisten, F. A.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Mitchell, William Lane||Wallace, J.|
|Elliot, Capt. Waiter E. (Lanark)||Myers, Thomas||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Waterson, A. E.|
|Galbralth, Samuel||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Gillis, William||O'Grady, Captain James||Wignall, James|
|Glanville, Harold James||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Poison, Sir Thomas||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Preston, W. R.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rafian, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rendall, Atheistan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. N. Chamberlain and Major Mackenzie Wood.|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Armitage, Robert||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Ratcllffe, Henry Butler|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Hllder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Renwick, George|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Howard, Major S. G.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hurd, Percy A.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Insklp, Thomas Walker H.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Seager, Sir William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Blrm., W.)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Shortt, Rt. Hon E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Slmm, M. T.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lloyd, George Butler||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Locker-Lampson, Com. 0. (H'tlngd'n)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Lorden, John William||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Taylor, J.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Macleod, J. Mackintosh||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Mallalleu, F. W.||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.|
|Evans, Ernest||Middlebrook, Sir William||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Farqunarson, Major A. C.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Whltla, Sir William|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Gardiner, James||Neal, Arthur||Wilson, Colonel Leslie 0. (Reading)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Parker, James||Wise, Frederick|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Percy, Charles||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gregory, Holman||Pratt, John William||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Grltten, W. G. Howard||Purchase, H. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Randies, Sir John S.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
Major C. LOWTHER:
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause runs the risk of becoming what is called a "hardy annual"; but it is really the considered opinion, the representative opinion, of a minority of Courts-Martial Committee which was set up in 1919 to go into the whole question of the procedure of courts-martial, and so on. The motive, if I may so call it, At the back of this Clause is this: that a man who joins the Army should not, by reason of becoming a soldier, forfeit the rights he would have had were he to remain a civilian. To elaborate that point. In civil life a man convicted of a crime of which death is a penalty has, as a matter of course, a right of appeal to the Court 'of Criminal Appeal. That right does not lie with the soldier. There is instead—because we must be perfectly fair and clear in this matter—an elaborate legal machinery which eventually leads up to the Judge-Advocate-General, or his representative. In moving this Clause I do not in the least wish to infer that these representatives or subordinate officers do not put into this matter the maximum amount of skill of which they are capable. But there is no doubt that a Court of Criminal Appeal, consisting, as it does, of judges of the High Court of many years' experience in the sifting of evidence and the giving of it its due weight, is a body which is not to be compared with any other single body of junior opinion either in this country or serving in the Army.
Two objections were raised to this Clause last year. In the first place, it was urged by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J, Ward) that if such a Clause as this became part of the Army Act it would interfere with the prerogative of mercy which was used so freely during the late War by the Commander-in-Chief. It does nothing of the kind. It does not affect the prerogative of mercy at all. The object of the Clause is merely to short-circuit—if I may use the words—the long train of legal officers engaged at divisional headquarters, corps headquarters, Army headquarters, and so on—military Members and the Undersecretary will appreciate to what I am referring, and what was the custom during the late War. This would short-circuit the legal side of it and leave entirely untouched the prerogative of mercy of the Commander-in-Chief. I submit to the Committee that there is not any foundation in such objection.
The second objection was that in distant theatres of war it would be impracticable to bring every case where sentence of death had been passed before the Court of Criminal Appeal in London. I frankly admit there is some substance in that objection, but I would also suggest, that if it be felt that there is real substance in such objection it would be quite possible to arrange that cases in India should be referred to Calcutta, or in South Africa to the High Court at Cape Town. My main point is that the best legal minds should be brought to bear upon a question which is a highly technical question that is a question concerning evidence and the law concerning which officers, though they may have legal experience, cannot be expected to deal with so efficiently as judges of the High Court, or judges of the High Court in India or South Africa, who have for very many years been accustomed to handle these questions. I would call attention to the latter part of my Motion, which says that the Court shall be assisted by one or more military assessors. The object of military assessors in such a Court would be to inform the judges who might be sitting upon questions of merely military import. The Committee will follow when I say there might be, of course, questions arise upou which the judge would need advice as to their military aspect. As to the value of the evidence he would naturally need no advice. That he would be able to sift, and form a speedy and accurate opinion, better than the whole chain of Judge-Advocate-Generals' representatives or other officers in a junior capacity.
I do not know whether the Committee will or will not; reverse the decision on a similar Amendment last year. I appeal to them on the ground of humanity and in the name of the Army itself. The suggestion that in cases where the death sentence has been passed in the Army for a military offence the convicted man should have the right of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal seems to me one of the most cruel suggestions I have ever come across. The whole point of the death sentence on active service is as a preventive and a warning. If it is carried out after weeks of delay—necessary delay, it may be—after a rehearing, in the case of cases from the Indian frontier at Calcutta, or the northern frontier of Rhodesia at Cape Town, the whole point of carrying out the Sentence is gone. I repeat, the whole point of the death sentence on active service is to act as a preventive against a complete rot in the Army. Hon. Members who have Army experience may not know the present procedure in these cases, and they may not know what that procedure resulted in during the last War. It is that there is no necessity of appeal at all on the part of condemned men, because automatically there is a series of appeals coming through the different parts of the Army to the general headquarters, and the ultimate decision on active service rests with the Commander-in-Chief representing the Crown. When a death sentence has not been commuted by any of the revising authorities, on arriving at general headquarters the Commander-in-Chief refers it to the Judge Advocate-General, and he views it from the legal aspect. If he is satisfied that there is no legal flaw in the case he then passes it over to the Adjutant-General, who is responsible for the discipline of the Army. The Adjutant-General examines it from the point of view of discipline and the circumstances of the case, and the particular moment when the offence took place. If he is convinced then that it is necessary for the discipline of the Army that the sentence should be carried out, he initials the papers.
I ask hon. Members to consider the position of the> Commander-in-Chief deciding a case of this sort. Even the strictest Commander-in-Chief, even such an old disciplinarian as the Duke of Wellington himself, would examine the case from the point of view of how, by any means, he could save a man's life without injuring the discipline of the Army. That this is so can be proved from our experience during the last War. We had two Commanders-in-Chief, whose, evidence came before the Committee on Courts-Martial. In the one case the Commander-in-Chief had commuted 89.5 of the death sentences that came to his notice, that is to say, 89.5 of the cases which had not already had their sentences commuted by the various Army authorities on the way from the court-martial to the general headquarters. In the other case that I allude to the Commander-in-Chief commuted rather over 90 per cent. In these circumstances is it conceivable that any court of appeal regarding cases entirely from the legal aspect and the strict justice of those cases without any regard to humanity would have commuted sentences to that extent? The total number of death sentences "carried out throughout the whole of our armies, during the whole of the War, including native troops, did not amount to more than 350. I protest against this new Clause, in the first place purely from the humanitarian point of view. It relieves the Commander-in-Chief and the revising authorities from that moral decision which they give purely on the ground of humanity. It enables the Commander-in-Chief to throw off the re-responsibility and to say, "Let this man take his chance before the law" whereas at the present time every possible inducement comes before the Commander-in-Chief to commute the sentence if he can possibly do so without injury to discipline. I do not think it is necessary to go further than that. This subject has been very carefully thrashed out in Debate before, and I appeal to the Committee to see if they cannot once for all settle this matter, and I ask this in the name of every man who may be a member of the Army in the next war.
I should like to support the views which have been expressed by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I have been an advocate for a military Court of Appeal, but I have never suggested that it should be extended to court martial verdicts and decisions. My own experience is a fairly long one on regimental and staff duty both as a subordinate officer and a commander, and this has convinced me that there is no fairer court in the world than a court martial. The judges are men of all ranks, some of them quite juniors and often in sympathy with the persons who are brought before them. After it has come to a decision, the verdict passes through numbers of other hands. It goes to the Brigade and the Divisional Command, the Army Command, General Headquarters, and so on, and each has special officers dealing with this matter. I am sure that there is no officer serving who wishes to deprive the Army of a valuable life, and I have never yet heard of an officer who has had to give an opinion on this matter who has not given the very greatest care and "the most sym- pathetic study to every detail of the case. Therefore I, for one, cannot support this new Clause.
Probably some hon. Members will say that I am not consistent in supporting a military Court of Appeal, and refusing to support a Court of Appeal in the case of courts martial. I do not think so, because it is my knowledge of the Army that brings me to that conclusion. I think there is a great difference between the two cases. In the one case there is not that careful and precise consideration, of all the evidence brought forward, and from my own military experience I have come to the conclusion that the two are entirely different. Under the present system of military courts martial, in my opinion no other arrangement than that which at present exists is either desirable or possible, except perhaps the next Amendment which stands on the Paper, which suggests that a more experienced officer shall attend at courts martial. That is a different matter which we shall consider later on.
I intend to support this new Clause. I think the figures which have been given are most conclusive. In this matter we are dealing with the most sacred thing in the world, that is human life. The hon. Member below the Gangway has been giving us some, figures, and he says that in 89 per cent, in the case of one Commander-in-chief and 90 per cent, in the other, the death sentences have been commuted by a higher authority, which proves that in time of active service human life is treated as being very cheap indeed, because when these death sentences were referred to other officers no less than 90 per cent, of them were commuted. I believe that is proof that cases of this sort should be beard under the very best conditions, and entirely away from the atmosphere of the battlefield. When we are considering the taking of human life we ought to be more careful than in any other case, and I feel that this Committee ought seriously to consider giving every man, whose life is at stake, the best possible chances. After all, the soldier is a human being, and as a man is entitled to the very same consideration as any other individual in the country. These trials should be removed as far away as possible from the battlefield atmosphere, and be heard under the best possible conditions. I venture to assert that during the last War a very large number of human lives were taken which would never have been sacrificed if the trial could have been removed from the atmosphere of war. Exactly the same number of men might have been put out of action if they were simply made prisoners and kept in custody until a proper judicial inquiry could be held. It would therefore have made no difference. Exceptions could have been made in very bad cases of insubordination, but on the whole human life would have had a better and fairer trial than is possible on the battlefield. I support this as a reasonable commonsense Amendment.
It is because like the last speaker I have such a high opinion of the value of human life that I cannot support this Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member on the front Opposition Bench (Sir Ivor Philipps) gave a certificate to courts-martial which in my experience was hardly their due. I hold that there is great room for improvement in our court-martial system, and any proposal for improvement would certainly have my hearty support. But I do not think that this particular proposal would have the result of improving court-martial procedure. Let the House look exactly at what is proposed by the Amendment. It is that any member of His Majesty's forces, if sentenced to death by court-martial, shall have a right of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. All that Court would consider, however, is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction, and practically in every case I feel quite certain the Court would be able to say that the evidence was sufficient for that purpose. But the point which really has to be considered is whether it is advisable that the death sentence should be carried out. That is the question which has to be decided at present by the General Officer Commanding. He has to consider in all these cases whether discipline demands that the sentence be carried out. There might be a tendency under this proposed procedure to consider human life too lightly, and the actual result would probably be that more death sentences would be carried out than are carried out under the present system, because the General Officer Commanding would say to himself, "there is the Court of Criminal Appeal to take the responsi- bility off my shoulders. That Court which Consists of His Majesty's judges with military assessors have come to the conclusion that this man was probably convicted, and why should I interfere? The result would be that the sentence would be confirmed, whereas if the decision had been left to himself he would probably have quashed it. As I am certain that this particular Amendment would result in more death sentences being carried put, I offer it my strong opposition.
I am sure the Committee thoroughly appreciate the humane instincts of the hon. and gallant Member (Major Lowther) who proposed this Amendment, but I really think he is suffering under a misapprehension in this matter. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) has pointed out what is practically an obligation on those who have to examine these sentences. They look at them from two aspects: first, they consider whether a capital offence has been committed; and, secondly, whether it is necessary that the death sentence should be carried out. I hope the Committee will weigh well the figures which have been quoted to-night, showing that 89 per cent, of the men found guilty and sentenced to death have their sentences commuted under the present system. It is not necessarily that there has been something wrong in the original sentence, nor should the matter be placed on the lower basis, that the Army naturally hesitates before it deprives itself of a fighting man. My hon. Friend can accept the assurance of soldiers who have spoken on this question that, in regard to these particular death sentences, there is really no fairer Court in the world; there is no Court which hesitates more before bringing in a verdict than a court-martial. What is it my hon. Friend suggests should be substituted for the court-martial? It is the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Well, my hon. and gallant Friend would substitute the Court of Criminal Appeal for the Judge-Advocate-General. It is necessary to examine how the Court of Criminal Ap- peal does its work. My hon. and gallant Friend is quite wrong when he suggests there may be a re-trial.
Then, I should be glad to know the hon. and gallant Member is clear on this point, that the Court of Criminal Appeal, in practice, only reverses decisions on practically two grounds—on the very narrow ground of a mistake in point of law, or of misdirection. There is no misdirection, so that we are left with the point of law. I cannot help thinking that the hon. and gallant Member has really not appreciated that that right is given, as the hon. Member for Mossley has said, without any kind of appeal at all, and that we really Can rest assured that the decision is scrutinised with the greatest possible care. There is no doubt that, when the prerogative of mercy is substituted for the prerogative which is exercised at the present time with the greatest possible conscientiousness and care, those people who are responsible for exercising the prerogative of mercy being only human beings will say: "This man has appealed, and his appeal has been turned down," and I have no shadow of doubt that the result, in fact, would be that many men who to-day do not pay the supreme penalty would then do so. I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have opposed this Clause on humanitarian grounds. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee), is not here. He told me that he was opposing the Clause, and was directly authorised to do so by some 27 regiments, who have given him authority to state that they would prefer the present method. We completely appreciate the motive of those hon. Members who are pressing this matter, but I think when they look further into it they will realise that everything that can humanly be done to safeguard these men is done under the present system.
I desire to support this Clause, upon the principle that every man has a right to fight for his life to the very last day. Every speech that we have heard to-night in support of the present condition of affairs in courts-martial has been made from the opposite standpoint [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, if you have all been privates I am mistaken, but so many titles have been given to you that I am led to believe that you are all officers, or have held commissions of some kind. At any rate, it is from the officer's standpoint that the case has been submitted to the Committee.
He is the one exception, and he proved our case right up to the hilt when he stated that 400 men were put to death during the last War. We have no record of that. We know nothing about the crimes that they committed or the process of trial. We do not know what attempts were made to save their lives. That could not happen in civil life. The public would know about it. If a man had committed a crime he would be brought before a magistrate, there would very likely be a prolonged hearing in the police court, the man would be committed for trial, and would have the right to employ the very best counsel that he could obtain. Then, if he were convicted, he would have the right of appeal, and he could, if he had money enough, engage the most eminent counsel in the land to fight for all they were worth to save his life. That would take place in a public Court, it would be reported in the public Press, and the public would come to its own conclusion as to whether the man had been rightly convicted or not. I say that the right given to a civilian should be given to a man in uniform, in whatever branch of the service he may be. It has been said that the penalty of death is more of the nature of a deterrent. That, to me, was the most damning statement of any I have heard here to-night. I understood that the death penalty was a punishment for the crime which had been committed, and was not intended merely as a deterrent. The old public execution used to be the deterrent and warning to other people not to commit the same crime. I do not want to say or to suggest that the officers in the British Army are not honourable men, or that they would wilfully and wickedly condemn a man to death. I am taking it from the man's standpoint. He has a right to fight for his life, and that is a right which we inherit, whether we are in the Army or not. The man or woman who has committed even the most abominable crime in the calendar has a right to fight to the finish to protect his or her life, and we ask that the soldier should be given the same right of appeal against a sentence which has been passed upon him. Never mind if it causes delay or extra expense; a man has a right to defend his life to the very last moment, and I support this or any similar Amendment which would give to a man who has been condemned the right of appeal against the decision.
After having listened to the arguments, my sympathies are with this proposed Clause. With great respect to those who are opposed to it, I heard precisely similar arguments with regard to the measure which gives the right of criminal appeal. It was said, just in the same way, that the judges would not take their responsibility so seriously, that they would leave it to the Court of Criminal Appeal to decide whether they were right or wrong. I do not believe that. Indeed, in my view, judges are even more careful in regard to the manner in which they direct a jury and in regard to the admissibility of evidence. I confess that I myself was never in favour of a Court of Criminal Appeal, but I do not hesitate to say that experience has told in its favour. I cannot believe for one moment that any officer sitting on a court martial would take more lightly the grave responsibility of eon-signing a prisoner to death because there is someone to supervise his decision. I could have understood the argument if it had been said that immediate punishment is required. We know all these sentences are reviewed and come home for revision. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Surely they do. I seem to recollect a case of a young officer who was condemned to death. The sentence came home for confirmation, and everybody agreed that the sentence should be quashed, and next morning he was shot. It is said that is quite impossible, but it was credibly reported in this country. I say unhesitatingly that if you are going to take a man's life, whatever his position and rank, he ought to have every protection. This is not going to alter the pro- cedure. You still have confirmation of the sentence. Some interval of time must therefore elapse. The Court of Criminal Appeal does not get rid of the prerogative; the Crown still exercises the right of prerogative. Even if the Court of Criminal Appeal dismisses the appeal, there have been cases in which the prerogative has been exercised. Is it supposed that the Home Secretary is so weak in recommending the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown that he is bound by the judges' decision?
Courts-martial were not wholly satisfactory in the late War, in fact, a Committee was appointed to inquire into them. I have no doubt that, with the best possible endeavours to do right on the part of the officers, mistakes were inevitably made. That was precisely the case in regard to criminal law, as I knew it, when I was first called to the Bar. The Court of Criminal Appeal has undoubtedly added to the administration of justice, and judges have been far more careful than they might otherwise have been. I find myself entirely in sympathy with this Clause, and regard it as only an additional safeguard for a man threatened with his life, and it seems to me a case which should command the sympathy of this Committee. In the late War, until the Military Service Act came into force, we relied entirely on volunteers, and I cannot help thinking it may be true on some occasions some of these volunteers may have been shot, possibly because the strain of the War was too much for them—some temporary nervousness in going over the top in the terrible conditions that existed. I shall most certainly vote for this Clause if it goes to a Division.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:
Except in the case of the hon. and gallant Member below the Gangway opposite (Mr. A. Hopkinson), I should have imagined most at the speeches, excepting also that of my hon. Friend below the Gangway on this side (Mr. Wignall), have been delivered by men who may have been soldiers, but who are certainly tainted with the law in deciding matters of this kind. If the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken (Mr. Hohler) were to consult the actual men in the Service in the very district that he himself represents as to whether they would like their case to be decided by the Court of Criminal Appeal^ purely as it would be from the legal point of view, I am positively certain that the hon. and learned Member's constituents would give him an entirely different view relating to this subject. A most remarkable thing has been brought out in this discussion. Here is a War that lasted nearly five years. In our own Army, from beginning to end, possibly anything: from 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 men were employed, and yet with all the extraordinary conditions that obtained, when even the bravest might flinch and commit an act of indiscipline from the purely legal point of view—there must have been thousands-upon thousands of these cases, as every officer in the Army must know—only 400 actual military executions took place. I venture to suggest that is a credit to the courts-martial and the military tribunals such as I should scarcely have imagined possible. It is a certainty that if lawyers get hold of this case, as apparently they are trying to do, and every soldier is for the future to be tried in accordance with the law, as is suggested by the hon. Member (Mr. Hohler), you will not when you employ another 8,000,000 men in a five years war have merely 400 cases. I listened to a speech that not a soldier in the King's army would listen to without objecting. I ought to have objected but I did not because the forms of the House allow opinions to be expressed however much you may differ from them. I acted as a trooper through one campaign. I have been before the C.O. I would sooner be before him than before the hon. and learned Gentleman. He would have looked through the Army Act and, my Lord! If it were interpreted according to the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal it would be an offence even to breathe. One of the most remarkable things when you come into close contact with courts-martial, as any C.O. will tell you, is the utter impossibility of getting a conviction unless it is so absolutely plain that they cannot let the man off. These lawyers would hang scores where courts-martial would hang one.
You may support the suggestion, but do not pretend that you are doing it in the interests of the common soldier. You are doing him a most mighty injury. Even sometimes when the evidence is absolutely clear, and there seems no possibility of letting a man off, they do it. Get the hon. and learned Gentleman on the job and the poor Tommy's life, decided in accordance with strict legal formality, would be absolutely unbearable. Supposing, after all the evidence has been given, and the officer has fished all through every Act and every decision to see if he can let the man off, and it is utterly impossible for him to escape, he convicts him. The case has to go before the Court of Criminal Appeal, where they merely decided whether he was convicted in accordance with the Act. I suppose it would be vice versâ. I suppose sometimes the authorities would also be entitled, where the prerogative was likely to be used to let the man off, to insist on him going before the Court of Criminal Appeal, that the conviction in the first instance might be confirmed, as in civil cases. I suppose it would cut both ways. But, at any rate, let there be no mistake about this, that the 400 cases of death sentence in our Army during the War show that there is unquestionably, relative to our military discipline in the field, the most humane system that any country possesses. I would myself, so far as I could, stump the country against a proposal like this which handed it over to the lawyers merely to decide whether a man's offence was within the four corners of an Act of Parliament, and, if so, he must be convicted, leaving it to the prerogative of the Crown to rescue him from possible death or incarceration, as the case may be. I would a thousand times sooner leave it to the officers in the Army, who want the man and are determined to get him from the clutches of the law if they can for future service, and only in the direst necessity ever impose the full penalty of the law. Do not let anyone suppose that when you are claiming for the soldier the same rights as are claimed for the civilian you are helping the soldier. You are simply putting him on an infinitely worse plane than he is on at present.
Like so many colleagues in the House, I suffer under the disability of having had no military experience, but, notwithstanding that, as a Member of the House I am called upon to give my vote on this Amendment. I look at it from the standpoint of the condemned man, and my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) seems to argue entirely as though the proposed Amendment were a substitution for the existing law. If it were I should oppose it at once, but, as I understand it, it is not a substitution but an additional right granted to the condemned man If he thinks the existing system is the best for himself he will not exercise this right of appeal. It is only if, under the circumstances, he thinks the exercise of that right is best for himself that he will put it into operation, and if I am right that the passing of the Amendment will not in the slightest degree affect the existing law unless the man himself desires the right thus given him, I am clearly, in the condemned man's own interest, justified in supporting the Amendment.
I rise to bring forward one point in justification of my vote against the Amendment. My hon. Friend (Mr. Wignall) argued humanely, as he always does in my opinion, upon a wrong basis. He spoke about the civilian who is guilty of a crime and has been given the option of the Courts, which may be the ordinary police court, then the Assize Court and the Court of Appeal.
He gets three courts. He has two under the ordinary law. He is condemned when he is arrested by the authority that arrests him, and when he comes to the Assize Court if the death sentence is passed he has now a right of appeal. But the soldier has the right of five different courts before he comes to the last authority, which can pronounce the death sentence upon him. It has been said by every man who has had any connection with the Army, and I think it is accepted by all but a very narrow minority, that the British officer stands as high in his sense of honour and justice as any judge or lawyer who ever practised. Every Commander-in-Chief who has the unfortunate duty of considering the decision of the four courts beneath has the advantage of as good legal knowledge and as great legal experience as any that you will find in the Court of Appeal. I do not think that the lay lawyers will challenge that statement, that when it comes to giving legal advice to the Commander-in-Chief whether a man shall lose his life or his life shall be saved, he has access to as great authority upon law as he would have if the case went to the Court of Criminal Appeal. If that is true, then you are doing a very great disservice to the ordinary soldier if you impose upon him this further appeal [HON. MEMBERS: "By giving him another chance!"] He has already received the full limit of all the chivalry that exists amongst the fighting ranks, and he gets five courts instead of three, where he comes before those who have the serious and heavy responsibility of inflicting the death sentence. In the case of the soldier who is condemned to death, his sentence is not for taking the life of an individual, but in most cases it is because his conduct has jeopardised the lives of hundreds and thousands of men, and it is only a strict and stern sense of duty that leads a Commander-in-Chief to give his assent to the decision of the Courts below, and to send one man to his doom. That man does not stand in the same category as the man who is guilty of taking the life of a fellow creature in passion or in cold blood. He is condemned by his comrades for an act which has jeopardised the lives of hundreds, and by imposing this further so-called appeal you are bringing discredit upon those who have already tried him, and doing a great disservice to the soldier who, unhappily, is condemned to death.
This subject has already been considered by the Court-martial Committee, and was rejected by them. In that case there was no opposition between soldiers and lawyers. It is a fact that every lawyer and every soldier on the Committee was in the majority that turned down this proposal. It has been debated two or three times in this House, and has always been rejected. Therefore, I think the Committee will not be surprised if I say that it is a proposal which the Government cannot accept. With regard to what the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne) said, I may say that from whatever point of view you look at it this extra appeal is unnecessary. The Court of Criminal Appeal only decides on questions of evidence or on points of law. I do not think in a single case where a man was executed during the War that on a point of law he would have got off. I do not think that can be alleged.
Every lawyer on the Committee accordingly voted against the proposal. Leaving the technical point of view out altogether, as one who knows a little of the army and a little of the law, I must say that if I had to be tried for my life I would very much rather be tried by a military court, and the proceedings that would be subsequent to it, than I would be tried by an ordinary criminal court. That would be particularly so if I was guilty. If there is a complaint to be made against courts-martial, it is not that the innocent man gets convicted but that there is a great chance of the guilty man getting off. I think that is really the complaint that is made against courts-martial. We have discussed this matter before, and I hope the Committee will now come to a decision.
My hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) will, perhaps, allow me to correct a misrepresentation which he made in regard to my speech. He suggested, or he seemed to suggest, that I was out for my own advantage. That is as I understood it. He said that the 400 cases were clear, and that they had had the advantage of the generosity of the officers. How can he complain if, in addition to the generosity of the officers of the Army of which he speaks—we do not propose to interfere with that—there is also given the right in the ultimate resort to the Court of Criminal Appeal; a further chance? If it was found by the judges that, notwithstanding this alleged and, no doubt, true statement of their generosity, the officers had made a mistake, one of the 400 condemned men might still be alive.
|Division No. 67.]||AYES.||[9.55 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Brlant, Frank||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hogge, James Myles||Spencer, George A.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Swan, J. E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Irving, Dan||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir 0. (Anglesey)|
|Davles, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davles, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Kennedy, Thomas||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Kiley, James D.||Wallace, J.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lunn, William||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Finney, Samuel||Mallalieu, F. W.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Myers, Thomas||Wignall, James|
|Gillis, William||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Graham D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||O'Grady, Captain James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rattan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)||Major C. Lowther and Mr. G. Edwards.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Randies, Sir John S.|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Reid, D. D.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Renwick, George|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hills, Major John Waller||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Hinds, John||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Blair, Sir Reginald -||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Howard, Major S. G.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Borwick, Major G. 0.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Rose, Frank H.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Seager, Sir William|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Jephcott, A. R.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Lady wood)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Liamslly)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Collins, Sir G. P. (Greenock)||Lloyd, George Butler||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Colvln, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lorden, John William||Stewart, Gershom|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Lynn, R. J.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Macleod, J. Mackintosh||Taylor, J.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James 1.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Macquisten, F. A.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Maddocks, Henry||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Manville, Edward||Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Elliot, Capt. Waiter E. (Lanark)||Middlebrook, Sir William||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)!|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morrison, Hugh||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Forrest, Walter||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Murchlson, C. K.||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie 0. (Reading)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Neal, Arthur||Wise, Frederick|
|Gardiner, James||Parker, James||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Perkins, Walter Frank||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Perrlng, William George||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Gould, James C.||Phllipps, Gen. Sir L. (Southampton)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Gregory, Holman||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES,—|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Pratt, John William||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. McCurdy.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Prescott, Major W. H.|
In Section forty-eight of the Army Act (which relates to general and district courts-martial) the following new Sub-section (10) shall be added: —
(1) A court-martial officer specially qualified for court-martial duty shall act as judge advocate at every court-martial where the charge may involve a sentence of death, imprisonment, or loss of rank."—[Captain Thorpe.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Amendment does not suggest any form of novelty. The Army Act already provides for the appointment of a judge advocate in the case of a general court-martial or a district court-martial. Section 101A says:
Where the convening officer is authorised to appoint a judge advocate he shall in the case of a general and may in the case of a district court-martial by order appoint a fit person to act as judge advocate of that court-martial.
The judge advocate is, obviously, necessary in the case of a district court-martial. While I agree with the hon, and gallant Member who has just sat down in saying that British officers are men of honesty and justice, they are also men of supreme ignorance in questions of law and evidence. I can speak with some authority on this, as I am both a lawyer and soldier. While British officers have an extraordinarily high sense of justice and honour, they are painfully uninstructed in the first principles of evidence and law, and it could not be otherwise. It is suggested that if a man is impelled by the highest sense of justice and honour, it is reasonable to suppose that he will, if possible, let the accused person off. That, I suppose, will be received with considerable acclamation by my hon. Friends on the right. But that is not the object of justice. The object of a court-martial, as of every other court, is to find the guilty person by legal methods guilty and to punish, and to see that the punishment is just and speedy. At present a district court-martial shall consist of not less than three officers, each of whom must hare held a commission of not less than two whole years. What a wonderful period of training in the law of evidence! A
subaltern, who two years before was a cadet at Aldershot, goes into the Army. He passes some sort of examination in military law, and in two years he is qualified by Act of Parliament to try a man.
Under Sub-section (4) of Section 48 of the Army Act you can have the whole court consisting of young gentlemen who have had only two years' training. The Army Act from which I am reading, which appears to be an official copy, is not correct if I am wrong. What is a judge advocate? What is he going to add to the proceedings to make them more just or proper? The qualifications are laid down. You will find them under Section 101(a). A judge advocate shall, of course, be free from all suspicion of bias or prejudice, and should possess some acquaintance with military law and the rules of evidence. It is an old presumption that the Englishman is supposed to know all the law. I am glad that lawyers at the present time are expected to have only some reasonable knowledge of the law. A judge advocate must have some experience and some knowledge. As a lawyer, after many years of striving at a very difficult profession, I must admit, and every lawyer must admit, that in order to feel that you have any knowledge of the laws of evidence or of the state of the judicial mind, you have to go through years of the most earnest study and the most awful defeats. This Amendment merely makes a suggestion that the judge advocate shall sit, not only on a general and a district court-martial, but on every court-martial, and that would include, of course, the field general court - martial. The district courts-martial and the general courts-martial on active service are not held, except general courts-martial on officers, when their troops are in the fighting line. By the ordinary process of logic, if a judge advocate is necessary in the case of general and district courts-martial, why not in the other case?
Most of the field courts-martial in France during the last two years had a courts-martial officer on them. Every corps had a courts-martial officer attached to it. Every courts-martial officer was told that his duty lay, not only in seeing to the prosecution of justice, but in looking after the interests of the accused. I can remember innumerable cases where the accused came up and stated that he had no one to defend him. It became immediately the duty of the court-martial officer to look after his interests. My own custom was—and I daresay I shall be told it was wrong—that after the trial of a man in a case where the sentence might possibly be a sentence of death, I invariably, for my own conscience' sake, asked the man whether he considered he had had a square deal. Officers who are incompetent, not through malice, but through sheer lack of experience, should not be put in the terrible position of having to try another man for his life. Their job is a very heavy and difficult one, and if they can possibly do it they will naturally lean towards getting a man off. If that is the spirit which should prevail at courts-martial, let us abolish the death sentence at once. But no; discipline says, and every soldier will agree, that there are cases where men should be tried for their lives and should often be sentenced. My Clause asks that where men have to stand trial for their lives, they should have someone on the court who is in a position to know what is evidence and to give a judgment on the spot as to what the law is or what is not relevant—a person to whom the accused can turn and say, "Here am I, standing alone, before officers of whom I stand in great respect and perhaps some fear. I want someone who will skilfully and with a certain amount of knowledge lead my case and help me to see that justice is done."
Whether guilty or not, a man should leave a court-martial with the belief that everything which legal ingenuity can suggest for his defence has been relied upon. I have never yet met a, lay officer who did not loathe sitting on a court-martial. My proposal would give the officers who composed a Court the feeling that a certain responsibility had been laid on other shoulders and that the best had been done in ascertaining the facts and that the law could look after itself. That would have the ultimate effect of making justice, not only clean cut and equitable, but speedy. I am sure that the Secretary of State for War will agree that the percentage of cases on which court-martial officers sat which had to be returned for irregularities was practically nil, whereas 4 very large percentage of cases tried by lay officers were wrong, and had to be corrected in some degree or other. We must have courts-martial, for offences must come. We learned in the War that the best way to try a man was to try him with a court-martial officer. You say you must have them on general and district courts-martial. All I ask is that that principle, which the Army found to be effective and just in France, should be made obligatory for all courts-martial of the British Army in the field.
That being the case, I would like the mover of the Clause to consider what the position would be in a vast proportion of the cases involving death sentence on active service, when the Army is abroad. In most cases that are likely to occur under ordinary conditions, when there is no European or other great war, the cases that will occur will occur amongst small parties of troops operating while detached from the main bodies. The only objection we found to this principle on the Committee on Courts-martial was that it would be extremely difficult, if it were made a hard and fast rule, for these legal officers to be present in such cases. If I remember rightly, what we did recommend was that special legal officers should be arranged for in the organisation of the Army, and that wherever possible they should be present in the capacity of judge-advocate. We made that recommendation, and I think I am right when I say that ultimately the decision as to whether a system of officers of that type will be initiated depends to a very large extent upon this House. Therefore, I hope to see in the course of time, when these things have been thoroughly discussed, that an approach will be made to this House asking us to supply the necessary funds. I hope the hon. and gallant Member will withdraw this Clause, inasmuch as its obligatory character makes the application of the principle impracticable in active service.
Whenever a suggestion of this kind is made to the House of Commons there is a disposition to think that an attack is being made on the regular army officer. I hope no one will think that those responsible for bringing forward this proposal desire to reflect upon the efficiency or the bond fides of the regular army officer. During the last year of the War I had considerable opportunity for seeing courts-martial at work, and I found an enormous difference between them. Sometimes I found a court-martial which was all that could be desired in every way. Other times I found one which was utterly incompetent for its work. I thought it was a scandal to ask such a court to adjudicate upon any case whatever. I will give you an example of the kind of answers I have heard given by members of courts-martial when questioned on important points. I remember on one occasion questioning a sentence which had been meted out for what I considered rather a trivial offence. It was a sentence of two years' imprisonment and I gently suggested that it was too great for such an offence. "Well," came the answer from the officer, "I always impose the maximum sentence laid down by the Army Act. I know there is a confirming officer behind me who will, if he thinks fit, reduce the sentence, and so long as there is an officer of that kind to review my sentence, I think I am right in putting on the maximum." Of course the confirming officer thought naturally that the court-martial had done its duty and had taken into consideration the demeanour and the manner of the man whom it was trying. I remember a confirming officer on another occasion telling me that he never thought of reducing a sentence passed by a court-martial because in his opinion the members of the court, having seen the man, were in a better position to judge what was the proper sentence to inflict, and therefore it would be exceeding his duty if he exercised his power and reduced the sentence passed on any prisoner. That shows you that neither the court-martial officer nor the confirming officer properly realised what they were there for and were not carrying out their duty as they were supposed to do.
I will give another example of an even more serious character. I remember an officer telling me that on one occasion he was sent down by headquarters at the front specially to do court-martial duty, and on one occasion he sat as one of three members of a court, and he was quite satisfied with the guilt of the prisoner, but it took him a whole hour, he said, to persuade the other members of the court that the man was guilty. It was a question of desertion, and the death penalty was awarded, and the man was eventually shot, he informed me, but he said to me, "What would they have said to me at headquarters if I had gone back and told them that this man was acquitted when the evidence was so clear?" That gives an idea of the way in which some members of courts-martial in the late War looked upon their duties, and it shows the necessity of having on all courts-martial a man who has been legally trained in the taking of evidence and who is judicially minded. I quite agree that it is something of a difficulty when you come to apply this Amendment to field general courts-martial, but on the other hand it is precisely in field general courts-martial that a qualified officer is most required, and I am certain that the difficulty here is a small one and is not insuperable.
I would ask the Committee to consider what exactly a judge-advocate is. He is not a member of the court; he is only a legal assessor. He is not entitled to express any opinion on the facts of the case; he is only supposed to advise on questions of law if his opinion on questions of law is asked by the members of the court. I suggest that before we have a perfect court-martial procedure we shall have to go further than this Amendment and see not only that there is in attendance at every court-martial a legally qualified officer, but that there is a legally qualified officer, a member of the court, who will be able to exercise all the powers and privileges of a member of the court, and so make his opinion really effective in the deliberations of the court. The Amendment says that a court-martial officer should act as judge-advocate in every case where the charge may involve a sentence of death, imprisonment, or loss of rank. Apart from a field general court-martial, an ordinary general court-martial must be assembled if it is a question of a sentence of death, but in the case of a district court-martial it is in the discretion of the convening officer, and I never yet at any time saw a judge-advocate appointed for a district court-martial. Nevertheless, a district court-martial at present has the power of inflicting a sentence up to two years' imprisonment, and it will be obvious, therefore, that a district court-martial has very large powers, and that, I think, ought to be taken into account by this Committee when they are deciding as to whether a court of that kind should have legal assistance.
The last question to which I should like, to draw the attention of the Committee is the fact that the Amendment says that the court-martial officer should be specially qualified for court-martial duty. Every time a judge-advocate is appointed, he is appointed by the Judge-Advocate-General, or a general officer specially empowered to appoint judge-advocates, and the Judge-Advocate-General, at any rate, only appoints a man as a judge-advocate who is specially qualified—at least he is supposed to do so, but I have known in many cases that the Judge-Advocate-General did not consider that this imposed upon him the obligation of appointing only a man who was, say, a trained lawyer. Any soldier who had devoted a little time to military law was considered to be fit to discharge the duty of judge-advocate at a court-martial, and, from my own experience of many cases, I am certain no impartial observer would consider that the man was really qualified in court-martial duty. I suggest that these words in the Amendment ought to be interpreted—and, indeed, they ought to be strengthened so as to make them capable of no other interpretation—as meaning an officer who is a qualified lawyer. It may mean eventually the setting up of a system of law officers in the Army who are lawyers, but I do not think that the House of Commons need be afraid of that. The question at issue is far too grave to allow a mere question of a little more expense to stand in the way. From my experience—and it is a very considerable experience—during the last War, I am satisfied that something of this kind is highly desirable and even necessary.
I hope the Committee will very seriously consider what they are doing before they support this Amendment. It seems to me it is a matter about which we should be most apprehensive. One fears it is an attempt of lawyers who gained a little experience in the War to foist upon the Army their trade union system, which is a thing that has broken many a large concern, and from which the Army has been happily free since its inauguration. As a matter of fact, I think the soldier is quite well off. What does a lawyer know about the matters for which soldiers are tried; and, further, which is more important, what is to be the position of the president of a court-martial? Every officer who is trained in the service of the Army is trained in the knowledge of military law, and if, during the War, you increased your Army so enormously that it was impossible to have officers fully qualified, that is an emergency which might be well met by some temporary legislation. But the Committee should strongly object to the Army having saddled upon it this iniquitous system of transferring lawyers to adjudicate on military matters. So far as I know, no officer is afraid of his responsibilities, and I can conceive no position so difficult as that of the president of a court-martial who has a total stranger, an outside officer, unknown to military usage, and unknown to local conditions, sitting on a court-martial, and entirely overruling any opinion expressed by officers who have full information about the matter on which a soldier is being tried.
My experience, which extends to some years before the War, is that if there were a lawyer on any court-martial an atmosphere of the utmost suspicion would be at once created. After all the War Office has spent time in making out a form which, unless a person is a perfect idiot, he cannot help filling up according to the proper procedure. Although it is irksome to fill in these forms, it does assist officers, who use ordinary common sense. This is the thing the soldier appreciates more than legal experience, and what may be called knowledge of the law of evidence. We want to have men judged by men who know the conditions under which they work. I have never known a soldier who objected to being sentenced by a court-martial. I would be very much surprised if those who support this Amendment realise how far-reaching the consequences of it may be. At any rate, I would join with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) and would ask that this Amendment should be withdrawn until the military authorities overseas, who are now in consultation about this matter, will have a chance to report to the War Office. The matter can then be reconsidered as a whole. I would beg the Committee to give no support to this Amendment, which strikes very deeply at a most vital aspect of Army discipline.
I support this Amendment. I consider that one of the best arguments in favour of it, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down does not seem to realise, is that it was tried during the latter days of the late War—I think the last two years of the War—with the most complete success. I have never met any officer, regular or otherwise, who was prepared to state that this particular innovation did otherwise than materially assist him in his duty. I really do not understand what my hon. and gallant Friend means when he talks about introducing trade union methods into the Army. Does he seriously argue that providing a court-martial officer, specially qualified for court-martial duty, means necessarily the introduction of trade union methods into the Army?
Does it introduce legal trade union methods into the Army because you state you will have one particular expert for this particular work, a man who shall be an Army officer in every sense of the word? Trade union methods, legal or otherwise, do not enter into the question at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is allowing, if I may say so without offence, his feelings in this matter to carry him away. My hon. and gallant Friend persisted that this particular officer overruled the other courts-martial officers. As a matter of fact, he does nothing of the kind. He was not, during the War, given powers to do anything of the kind and he never did so. He stands in exactly the same position as the clerk stands to the magistrates. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Exactly the same position. He advises them on points of law, and there is no overruling power. I never came across a case—and I have had a very considerable experience—of objection to this particular class of officer.
I want also to refer to the objections raised by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). He raised the difficulty that, in the case of a small unit operating alone, it would be difficult to provide this particular officer. I would remind the Committee that this would only operate in a very unusual case of something under a corps. In the latter days of the War there was one of these officers attached to every corps. I do not think it would be a very great inconvenience, when you have units smaller than a corps operating alone, either to provide a special officer in this particular case, or to relegate back in this particular instance. But this is the great point: if my hon. and gallant Friend sympathises with the system of some kind of legal support generally to assist, I am quite sure my hon. Friend who proposes this Amendment is only pressing for the acceptance of the principle, and not for the exact words of the Amendment. I am well aware that it will be passing through the mind of the Committee that this will be a great expense, but as far as England is concerned ten men could do the whole of the work with ease. At the present moment my right hon. Friend has adopted the system in Ireland, where he has these particular gentlemen acting as Army officers, and they are doing most valuable work. In a very short time they will become redundant and it will be quite possible to absorb these particular experts without adding one single man to the British Army.
I could not agree with the general reference as to the incapacity of court-martial officers, as was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member (Major M. Wood), as I came across them during the War. I agree there were certain instances. The thing that impressed me in regard to the elementary rules of evidence and the elementary principles of law was the rarity with which they were wrong rather than the frequency of their errors. The training given at Sandhurst in elementary legal matters is excellent. It is only because I feel very strongly that in serious cases they can only be assisted by someone who goes a little deeper into the science of law; because I believe this change can be brought about without any additional expense; because I am convinced that the Regular Army Officer would only be assisted and would not be impeded in his work; because I believe that there is no kind of desire to 1overrule them, that I think nothing but good could come from accepting the principle underlying this Amendment.
If this Amendment is passed as it stands now, before you could reduce a corporal to the lower rank you would have to bring in a trained lawyer. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down has said is perfectly true as to the usefulness of court-martial officers during the War. During the recent War the duties of British officers were very abnormal indeed, and they acquitted themselves very well under the circumstances. The main object of my rising, however, is to protest against the speech made by the hon and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Major M. Wood). It seems to me outrageous for the hon. and gallant Member to have based his case on the ground that a certain member of a court-martial always gave the maximum sentence because he knew that would be subject to confirmation— Which he seemed to suggest was the normal practice.
I must protest against the suggestion that I did not make it quite clear that it was only one case I was referring to. I never said anything to suggest it was not an extreme case.
I certainly do not want to be unfair to the hon. and gallant Member. I am glad to draw from him the admission that this was a very extreme case. I am certain he must have struck some remarkably incompetent officers on courts-martial. He spoke of one who had said he never reduced sentences of courts-martial because he had such confidence in them. It is not right that statements of that sort should be made in the House of Commons without concrete evidence.
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that I am telling something which is not true? I gave two instances which had come under my own observation, and I quoted them as proving the necessity for some provision of this kind. I quite agree that they are not normal; I did not suggest for a moment that they were; but surely I am entitled to ask my hon. Friend to accept as matters of fact two experiences of my own during the War which I can vouch for.
At any rate, this Amendment would not provide a remedy for those particular conditions. There is nothing in the Amendment which affects the giving of the maximum sentence or the duties of the confirming officer, and therefore his speech was not only grossly unfair, but it was also irrelevant.
Perhaps the Committee would like me to reply now to the Debate which has ranged over a fairly wide field for some time. The Amendment we have been told is to be applicable only to cases where a man is to be tried for his life. But that is not the Amendment on the Paper, and as has been pointed out it would be impossible under it to reduce a corporal without having a trained lawyer acting as Judge-Advocate. It has been admitted too, in the course of the discussion, that it would also apply to Field General Courts-Martial, and it will be really impracticable unless you are going to have a legally-trained officer attached to every unit. I have no reason to object to that—far from it; but I think a little goes a long way. You cannot have them attached to every unit that may be on service in an active campaign. I cannot, therefore, accept the Amendment, but I have something else to say which, I daresay, will help to reconcile my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment, although not some other Members of the Committee. This question was considered by Sir Charles Darling's Committee, which was really a very representative Committee, consisting of officers, Members of Parliament, and members of the public;
and they came to a unanimous conclusion on this subject. They said:
During the War the system was introduced of employing, in connection with the work of courts-martial, special officers who were either barristers or solicitors, and who were called court-martial officers.
They found that there appeared to be a consensus of opinion among the witnesses and persons who submitted suggestions, that, in some form or other, this system ought to be continued. They agreed, and recommended that in both the Army and the Royal Air Force, in large formations—say commands and areas—there should be qualified legal officers who would be available for general legal work in the command, as well as for advising on court-martial work. Hon. Members will see that that is not at all the same thing as this Amendment. The recommendation simply amounts to this, that there shall be, as part of the Regular Army, men with legal qualifications who can look after the general legal education of certain officers, and it seems to me to be an entirely desirable thing that these legal officers should help in the administration also. From my own experience I am quite sure that they would be able to save, in many ways, at least a part, if not all, of the emoluments which they would be entitled to draw. This Report has been considered by a Committee set up in the War Office, and that Committee has reported. I was hoping that I should be able to make some definite announcement to-night of the final decision in the matter, but I am not in a position to do so, because, as hon. Members know, these questions which give rise to expenditure have to be very carefully considered. I am not, therefore, prepared to-night to say how far it is possible to go in the matter, but I am convinced that the Army will, in the words of the soldiers who were parties to this Report, benefit by having better legal instruction, and the public themselves will be better satisfied with the judgments given by courts-martial if they feel that they are subject to legal review. All of that seems to me to be worth obtaining, and I have no doubt that at a reasonable cost it will be possible to obtain it.
The statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made is of a distinctly interesting character, and it will, I think, go some way towards satisfying the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Amendment. At any rate, I hope it will. The Secretary of State did not tell us whether this proposal to have what would be a kind of legal staff officer—Staff Officer (Law), I suppose he would be called, or something of that kind—will be carried: out in the case of formations in the field, but I presume that that will be the case. Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether that is so?
That is precisely what I do not want to pledge myself to. I want to be perfectly candid with the Committee. After all, the Army is kept up for its fighting value, and not for its legal value; and, while a certain amount of law is necessary, I want to find that at a reasonable expense, and I do not want at this moment to be pressed to say to what extent, as regards the number of officers and so forth, I shall be able to go. I will, however, try and make it efficient.
If we had had that proposal earlier, I think it would have gone a long way towards satisfying those hon. Members who were so anxious to see sentences of death referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal. It is a great step forward, and I am sure that those who have been pressing for some years to get some improvement in the administration of the discipline side of the Army will welcome it with great pleasure. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Amendment was somewhat annoyed, I am afraid, at a remark of mine while he was introducing it. I did not desire to be discourteous to him, but I thought he was leading the Committee to believe that these sentences of death would be passed by young officers of a short period of service such as three years. Of course, a court-martial has a larger number than that. It is nine in this country and India, and not less than five elsewhere. The officer must have five years' service, not three, and must be of the rank of captain. My hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Thorpe) has only seen the Army in the days when men reached the rank of captain after two or three years, but we older soldiers only got our company after ten or twelve years.
It is rather pleasing to me to hear so many champion of the Army come forth. I only regret that the champions who are so numerous to-day were not equally numerous in pre-War days when I was serving. I make no apology for intervening at this late hour, because no time is wasted in considering this question, when we have got lives at stake, and the lives of British soldiers. I perhaps am in a unique position in being one, if not the only one, of the Members of this House who have been tried by court-martial, and so I can speak from perhaps a definite point of view. I cannot allow this Debate to close without adding my small quota to this discussion. The proposition which we have got to decide is a very, very serious one, and I only intervene in this Debate because I have a direct mandate from no fewer than 27 different units of His Majesty's Army, whom, I have consulted on this question. I visited 27 sergeants' messes, 27 corporal's rooms, and 27 canteens, and in each one of them I put the same question, " Whom do you prefer to be tried by—the men you are living with, the men you will fight with, and the men perhaps you will die with?" and in every case I have had the unqualified answer that they prefer to be tried and dealt with by their own officers. When I went into detail with them over this Court of Appeal, I found the whole idea was ridiculed. Perhaps it may be interesting, and certainly educational, to some Members of this House if I were to run through the detail of what happens when a man is tried for an offence for which the extreme penalty may be enforced. I am speaking with a certain amount of experience, because, as staff captain of my brigade, when this unfortunate thing happened, I was the first officer to whom the court-martial proceedings were sent. I had to enter on the proceedings the time I received them. They were then handed by myself to the. Brigadier-General. He Went through them. He was then bound to record his opinion as to whether the penalty should be enforced or whether it should not be enforced, and to add his reasons. But it did not stop there. He also had to collect the opinion of the man's commanding officer, and the man's commanding officer could get the opinion of the man's company commander, and the company commander could get the opinion of any man in his company, provided it was to the advantage and not to the detriment of the prisoner. It was then sent on to the Divisional Commander, who read the evidence, and he, too, had to record his opinion and his reasons, and so it went on through the Corps Commander and the Army Commander until it reached the supreme man, the Commander-in-Chief. And then it was not as though one man had to decide on the life and death of a private soldier or officer. He had the expert advice of the Judge Advocate General. When I put this to the men of the various units that I visited, they agreed that they would far rather be dealt with by the man on the spot, the man who knew their privations, the man whose sympathies were with them, because he knew the living hell that they had passed through.
Now let us look at it from the other point of view. We will assume that you set up this Court of Appeal. Where are you going to set it up? Are you going to set it up in the theatre of war? Do you propose to set it up in England? But it does not make any difference where you set it up. The fact remains that by the time the case gets to the Court of Appeal you will find half the witnesses will either be transferred to hospitals or may be, unfortunately, killed, and you will have the dry-as-dust evidence in black and white and then you have the legal aspect only. The Court of Appeal will only be able to judge from the written evidence. They will be out of touch entirely with the sympathies of the men who have gone through this living hell, and the only thing to do is to leave it as it now stands and leave the officer and the man to be dealt with entirely by the officers with whom they are serving and living and whom only they trust.
The right hon. Baronet who lately replied found it possible to meet the principle for which I contended with a certain amount of sympathy, and that being so, I have no hesitation in withdrawing my Amendment. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend opposite will not interpret anything I have said as casting any aspersion at all on the serving soldier in the same spirit in which I believe the hardest things were said about lawyers without being wholly intended.
I am entirely in the hands of the Chair, and as I have been called upon I suppose I am in order. If there was an arrangement that all the things should be discussed on the first Clause, I do not wish to stand in the way of the Committee; but if there was no arrangement made, I propose to proceed.
I do not wish to say that there was an arrangement, but when I got up I said there was a sequence of Amendments and that I proposed to deal with the whole matter together I did not confine my remarks to India, but dealt with the whole subject.
I have raised this question on previous occasions and I was told by the War Office that I was depriving the officers of the right of appealing to the Crown. Therefore, it was interesting to me when I saw the Bill brought in this year to find that, evidently, the Army Council had put up this' argument against my proposal and then suddenly found that an officer in India had not the right of appeal to the Crown, and they had to bring in a new Clause to justify the argument which they made against me in previous years. I do not propose that this court of military appeal should have anything to do with courts-martial; but what is referred to in Section 42 of the Army Act—
If an officer finds himself wronged by his commanding officer.
During the War I was told that it was not possible to introduce this system because of the difficulty of doing so in time of war; but I hoped that now the War is over the Army Council would have adopted some measure of this sort of their own accord. There is one well-known occasion when a special inquiry of this sort was given where a colonel, a general, two commanders-in-chief, and a member of the Army Council had dealt improperly with the complaint of a young second-lieutenant. A special Act was passed in this House in 1916, and a special Court of Inquiry was appointed by the Army Council under that special Act of Parliament to inquire into the case of this young second-lieutenant of a Welsh Regiment. We had the good fortune at that time to have a very capable member of this House, now dead, Sir Charles Markham, who took up the case, and the present Prime Minister was Secretary of State for War. It brought home to me, and, I am sure, to a great many Members of this House, how important it is that officers or men should have the right to some appeal. We have been told that officers have an appeal to the Crown which they value very much. That is true in theory. In practice there is no such appeal. If an officer sends his case to the Army Council and if they do not satisfy him and he asks that it should be sent to the King it is sent to the King, and it is then marked straight back to the Army Council and the same answer is given as before. There is a large amount of dissatisfaction with the
rulings of the Army Council on questions of pay, pensions, and such matters. A military court of appeal in these matters would be of great advantage in removing discontent in all ranks of the Army, and it would be of great benefit to the Army Council by relieving them of responsibility in complicated cases.
I would like to support what has just been said. This question has excited great interest among officers in the Army. Some days ago the subject was brought before public notice, and I have had letters from all parts of the country about it, which show that an enormous number of men are labouring under a grave sense of injustice. One of these letters struck me particularly. An officer who had command of a battalion during the War was removed from his command, and he had no possible remedy. Fortunately for himself he came under another general and was given command of another battalion. He won the Distinguished Service Order, and every honour he could get. He came through the War with great distinction, and afterwards was assassinated in Ireland. The mother who wrote me the letter told that her son kept a diary, and that if she had not read that diary she could never have realised the mental anguish which he went through owing to the fact that he was unjustly removed from his command. These are not court-martial cases, but cases of grievances of officers who suffer from unjust decisions. I hope that the Undersecretary will take the matter into consideration and set up some court of appeal by which officers who have this terrible sense of injustice may have some appeal. I do not want to say exactly what should be done, but I do hope that the Army Council will take this into consideration and form some independent tribunal in which the matter can be decided impartially.
I want to deal with courts of inquiry, whose existence in the Army makes me think the Amendment may be worthy of support. I have had considerable experience in appearing before courts-martial, and I do not at all agree with some of the comments made upon the conduct of those courts. My experience of them is that they are admirably conducted, and I know of no fairer tribunals. They have what, no doubt, some hon. Members would regard as the drawback of having a judge-advocate general attached to them, but he seemed to me a most useful official and he summed up at the end of a case. Courts of inquiry are entirely different. They ought not to be called courts at all. There exists a procedure in the Army under which a commanding officer may direct an inquiry to be held into the conduct of some other officer. He is summoned to the court of inquiry without being told the object for which the court is to be held. In a case in which I appeared, a colonel was summoned to appear before a court without the least intimation as to what the court was to inquire into, and only when he got there did he find that the allegation against him was one of having encouraged drunkenness in his regiment. The courts are held subject to a condition which will rejoice the hearts of some hon. Members—the laws of evidence are not observed. There is a rule to that effect. The laws of evidence are nothing but the rules of commonsense. They are laid down for the protection of the accused and they form the greatest safeguard that he has. You cannot get a just result unless you observe the rules of evidence. I can give a concrete example. I was engaged in the case in which a man was accused of a very serious offence. During the trial a written communication was produced. It had been written by a, man abroad to some friend and was about the case. The rules of evidence not being observed, it was produced in court and read, and it certainly commented in very scathing terms on the conduct of the accused, setting out all sorts of facts which were very unfortunate for him. By a pure coincidence the writer of the letter happened to be in court, and as soon as the letter had been read he demanded to be called. He stated in evidence that since having written the letter he had found that the facts upon which he based the letter were altogether wrong, and he wished to withdraw the letter. But for the accident of the writer being in court, the accused would probably have been convicted. That is the procedure of a court of inquiry, and because upon the report of a court of inquiry a man may lose his whole career, I do think the man whose conduct is being inquired into in such circumstances should, as soon as he is accused, be given the option of going before a court-martial instead of a court of inquiry. If he goes before a general court-martial he will get a fair trial. There will be a judge advocate-general, and, although to lawyers the procedure seems rather cumbersome and old-fashioned, a fair trial is certainly provided. Anybody subject to a court of inquiry should at least have some right of appeal. There is of course the appeal to the King, but—
On a point of Order. Is all this about courts of inquiry relevant to the Amendment at all? The proposal is to make an alteration in Section 42 of the Army Act. That deals with an officer who thinks himself wronged by his commanding officer, and it states that he may appeal to the Army Council. There is no mention of courts of inquiry.
On the point of Order. Any particular case where a court of inquiry is held in regard to an officer into any subject whatever, it may be that this officer will be found by the court of inquiry to have done something wrong. Then his commanding officer punishes him or treats him in such a way that it is equivalent to punishment. Such cases happen every day, and I do not think that there is a single Member who has not got cases submitted to him of this kind. I submit that is exactly the sort of thing that I am trying to put right; and it is on that particular question that I am moving the Amendment. If an officer or man is shown to the court of inquiry to have done something wrong, and if he is then punished, and the punishment is wrong, I want to give him a right of appeal, so that the Secretary of State for War has put his finger on the spot, and has shown that, instead of being out of order, this is exactly in order.
I had practically completed the observations I proposed to make. Whether the remedy lies in the creation of a court of appeal, or whether it is by giving the accused the option of going before a court-martial instead of a court of inquiry, the fact remains that there should be some means whereby a man who is going to be tried by a court of inquiry can get some other body's decision on his case. That is the reason why I support the Amendment.
I hope we shall not rashly divide on this very important question. I had hoped my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench would have answered the criticism which has been put forward and which is evidenced in this Amendment. Few of us, who have had the necessity at any time to professionally represent officers whose whole career was at stake, will do otherwise than support the Amendment. In such experience as I have had, I venture to say that when an officer, who possibly has never in his life had anything whatever against him, has a complaint made against him by the Army Council or by his commanding officer, supported by the Army Council, he has to-day no redress which is of any value whatsoever. What is the good of appealing through the Army Council to His Majesty in person? That is the only possible redress which an officer has, and it is a most dreadful thing, in my view, that year after year we should go on confirming this Act and denying to an officer that right of appeal which is open to every other subject of the State. It may be the view of the Committee that there should be no appeal beyond the Army Council, but if that is the view, let us amend the Act and make it quite clear that the word of the Army Council is the last word; do not let us go through the farce year after year of confirming this Act when we know that in the practical working of it there is no appeal whatever, because the body to which you are appealing is the Army Council, and it is the Army Council who, if the officer requires it, shall make their report to His Majesty in order to receive the directions of His Majesty thereon. Of course, that is a farce in practice, and if it is a farce, let us get rid of it. There is not one of us who has had any experience of these matters who could not give case after case of officers who, in our humble judgment, have been treated with injustice. I do not blame the Army Council, because they have formed the best judgment they could form on the cases before them, but there are officers who, in our view, have been treated with injustice and who have no right of appeal, and their whole career may be blighted. If they are to have an appeal, give them a real appeal, and, if not, amend the Act and say right out that the view of the Army Council shall be final and conclusive. The Amendment asks that an officer may require that his complaint be referred to a military court of appeal, and I cannot think of anything more moderate as a request to make before you blast a man's career. I hope my hon. and gallant
Friend will make this stand, though he may be defeated to-day, but I believe this ridiculous enactment before many years will be repealed, and I hope we shall go on year after year endeavouring to give an opportunity to an officer to appeal against the decisions of the Army Council to a military court of appeal. I shall support my hon. and gallant Friend if he goes to a Division.
|Division No. 68.]||AYES.||[11.25 P.M.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayward, Major Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hinds, John||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Briant, Frank||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hood, Joseph||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Spencer, George A.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Swan, J. E.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomas, Brig. -Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kiley, James D.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Thome, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Lunn, William||Waterson, A. E.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Finney, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Gee, Captain Robert||O'Grady, Captain James||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Gillis, William||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Glanville, Harold James'||Parry, Lieut. -Colonel Thomas Henry||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Rendall, Atheistan|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||General Sir Ivor Philipps and|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Royce, William Stapleton||Colonel Sir Charles Yate|
|Atkey, A. R.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Parker, James|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Chadwlck, Sir Robert||Hopkins, John W. W.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Howard, Major S. G.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hurd, Percy A.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Clay, Lieut. -Colonel H. H. Spender||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Colvin, Brig. -General Richard Beale||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Seager, Sir William|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Lamber* Rt. Hon. George||Seddon, J. A.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Evans, Ernest||Lorden, John William||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lynn, R. J.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. C. A.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Macleod, J. Mackintosh||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Manville, Edward||Stewart, Gershom|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Forrest, Walter||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut. -Col. J. T. C.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Ganzoni, Captain Sir F. J. C.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Neal, Arthur||Wallace, J.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Waring, Major Walter||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Whitla, Sir William||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavlstock)||Wise, Frederick||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Division No. 69.].||AYES.||[11.35 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayward, Major Evan||Spencer, George A.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hinds, John||Sugden, W. H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, G. H.||Swan, J. E.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thomas, Brig. -Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davles, Major D. (Montgomery)||Klley, James D.||Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Thome, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Finney, Samuel||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Gee, Captain Robert||Parry, Lieut. -Colonel Thomas Henry||Williams, Aneuriri (Durham, Consett)|
|Gillis, William||Rendall, Atheistan||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Gould, James C.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Royce, William Stapleton||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||General Sir Ivor Philipps and Sir John Butcher.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Ganzoni, Captain Sir F. J. C.||Macleod, J. Mackintosh|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Glyn, Major Ralph||Manville, Edward|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut. -Col. J. T. C.|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Berwick, Major G. O.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Neal, Arthur|
|Buckley, Lieut. -Colonel A.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Parker, James|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Hood, Joseph||Pratt, John William|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-Geenral G. K.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Purchase, H. G,|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hopkins, John W. W.||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Howard, Major S. G.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hurd, Percy A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Roberts, Sir S, (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||James, Lieut. -Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Evans, Ernest||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Rose, Frank. H.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Ferrest, Walter||Lorden, John William||Seager, Sir William|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Lynn, R. J.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Tryon, Major George Clement||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Steel, Major S. Strang||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Stephenson, Lieut. -Colonel H. K.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Wise, Frederick|
|Stewart, Ger shorn||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Sturrock, J. Leng||Waring, Major Walter|
|Sutherland, Sir William||Whitla, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Townley, Maximilian G.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. McCurdy.|
|Townshend, Sir Charles V. F.||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
In Section 44 of the Army Act (which relates to scale of punishment by courts-martial) after the word "flogging" in Subsection (5) thereof there shall be inserted the words "and other than personal restraint by being kept in irons or other fetters" and the words "and such field punishment shall be of the character of personal restraint or of hard labour" in the same Sub-section shall be omitted, and the words "and such field punishment may be of the character of hard labour" shall be inserted in lieu thereof"—[Major Hay-ward.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I must apologise for not having placed the new Clause on the Paper. The Bill came on unexpectedly, and I had no opportunity of giving the necessary notice. I will now formally move the Second Reading without developing the arguments for it, excepting to say that the object of the Amendment is merely to abolish the objectionable and degrading features of what is known as Field Punishment No. 1. The merits of this case are well known to the Committee. It is another of those hardy annuals, and I sincerely trust that by accepting the proposal to-night the Government will make it unnecessary to bring it forward on any future occasion.
In 1919 the then Secretary of State for War undertook that an inquiry should be held to obtain the opinion of the military authorities in various theatres on this subject. No one likes Field Punishment No. 1, and if it can be dispensed with everyone will be only too glad to get rid of it. This inquiry was instituted with a view to seeing whether any substitute could be devised for this form of punishment without impairing the means by which discipline is maintained and without leaving behind the danger of a more free infliction of the death penalty. The inquiry was held, and the consensus of opinion was in favour of the retention of the existing system. Sir Douglas Haig,
Sir William Robertson, and others of great experience, were in favour of its retention. The opinions of non-commissioned officers and men were reported by various commanders, and it appeared that on the whole the non-commissioned officers and older soldiers were in favour of its retention in the interests of discipline. This is endorsed by the Army and Air Force Acts Revision Committee. They say:
The Committee consider that the question of the retention or abolition of Field Punishment No. 1 is one depending mainly on whether any other punishment can be devised to take its place which is suitable and effective on active service. The views of Officers Commanding in various theatres of war were obtained by the Army Council. These strongly support the necessity of retaining Field Punishment No. 1, and this view is endorsed by the service members of the Committee. No suitable alternative punishment which has the support of Military and Air Force opinion has been suggested to the Committee. In these circumstances they do not feel that they are in a position to recommend the abolition of Field Punishment No. 1.
I will give one further opinion on it, and that is the opinion of General Mac-ready. In 1916, when he was Adjutant-General, he said:
Soldiers cannot be treated like civilians. On active service punishment should be short and sharp, and must not require for its infliction the withdrawal from the fighting line of more men than are absolutely necessary. The nature of the punishment must be such that the men on whom it is inflicted will return to the firing line with the least waste of time, and any question of substituting imprisonment or detention for a form of punishment which is physically disagreeable is impossible, for the reason that many men, even good characters, when they get war-weary, are ready to commit themselves with a view of getting into prison in order to get away from the field. The abolition of Field Punishment No. 1 would have disastrous and far-reaching consequences, and as a result calls for the death penalty would become more frequent.
A promise was made by the Secretary of State for War that this subject should be thoroughly inquired into. It has been thoroughly inquired into, and all those most competent to give an opinion say that, disagreeable and irksome and dis-
tasteful as this form of punishment is, to abolish it would only lead to a worse thing, and that would be of necessity the more frequent infliction of the death penalty. Therefore, I cannot accept the Clause.
I shall vote for the Second Reading of this Clause. Only two arguments are used against it, the first being that, if this punishment were abolished, the death penalty would be inflicted, and the second that, if it were not inflicted, it would mean the withdrawal of more men from the actual fighting line than ought to be withdrawn. There is not a word of excuse for the humiliating, degrading exhibition; there is not a word of excuse for a punishment absolutely unfitted to any man with a spark of self-respect. During the War it was my lot to travel on very long journeys with men who had returned from the Front, and I heard their stories; and Field Punishment No. 1, if their stories were to be believed, was often inflicted for very minor offences. Men were strapped to wheels in all kinds of humiliating positions, or were manacled, for very small offences indeed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rot!"] I say that any man who believes that a fit punishment for a British soldier is to tie him to a wheel, is rotten himself. [An HON. MEMBER: "Very rotten!"]
|Division No. 70.].||AYES.||[11.53 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hinds, John||Sugden, W. H.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hirst, G. H.||Swan, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lunn, William||Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thome, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Morgan, Major O. Watts||Waring, Major Walter|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwelity)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Finney, Samuel||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Forrest, Walter||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Gillis, William||Rankin, Captain James S.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Rendall, Athelstan||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Royce, William Stapleton||Mr. Hayward and Mr. Thomas Shaw|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Spencer, George A.|
From conversations that I have had with private soldiers, many of them belonging to my own immediate family, who had seen this punishment inflicted, I could see that the effect on their minds was extremely bad. I noticed a very significant remark in the statement to which we have just listened. That was that the commissioned officers and the non-commissioned officers and the old type of soldier were apparently agreed that this punishment was essential. Not a word of the new type of soldier.
That rules out the new soldier. It is the same thing in effect. I suggest that a punishment which inflicts degradation on a man, which incites his comrades, is a bad punishment, and I also suggest there is something seriously wrong in the discipline of a force that requires a punishment of this kind. If we were savages, Red Indians, one could understand it; but we are supposed to be civilised Britons. I shall certainly vote for the Second Reading of this Clause, believing that a punishment of this character denotes a low state of civilisation, a bad state of discipline, and finally makes for inefficiency.