Clause 1. — (Appointment and functions of Minister of Defence.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 1946.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"

11.6 a.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Head Mr Anthony Head , Carshalton

There are two very small points I would like to raise on this Clause. The Prime Minister undertook, when the Bill was before the House, to look into the meaning of the words armed forces of the Crown, to see whether that included also Indian and Dominion Forces, in which case the expression would be wrong. It would be good if we could know the result of that inquiry, either now or on the Report stage. Secondly, there is a reference in the Clause to the Limed forces of the Crown as a whole, in relation to the application of policy by the Ministry of Defence. The words "as a whole" add nothing to the Clause, and it might be argued, if they are left in, that the Minister of Defence would be acting ultra vires if he applied his policy in a matter which concerned only two of the Armed Forces, say, the Navy and the Air Force. I therefore suggest that the words "as a whole" might be taken out of the Clause upon the Report stage.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

I came prepared to deal with the points which the hon. and gallant Member has now raised. During the Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was questioned by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) about the exact meaning of the words "armed forces of the Crown." When my right hon. Friend wound up the Debate he expressed the view that the words did not in any way include Dominion Forces, which were exempted by the Statute of Westminster from legislation passed by this House. Nevertheless, he promised to look into the point and to let the House know during a subsequent stage of the consideration of the Bill.

My right hon. Friend has looked into the matter, and I can now assure the hon. Gentleman, and the Committee as a whole, that the position is as my right hon. Friend indicated. Part of the Preamble to the Statute of Westminster runs as follows: 'And whereas it is in accord with the established constitutional position that no law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any of the said Dominions as part of the law of that Dominion otherwise than at the request and with the consent of that Dominion. It is, therefore, quite clear that the term "Crown" in United Kingdom legislation means and must be interpreted as meaning "Crown in right of the United Kingdom." I hope that explanation satisfies the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Committee. It is clear that the Armed Forces of the Crown mentioned here are the Armed Forces in so far as the United Kingdom itself raises and maintains Armed Forces. I might add, perhaps, that the Dominions, are quite entitled to use the same phrase when describing the Forces they may raise. For example, ii the Australian Government raised Armed Forces, as it does, it would be entitled in any legislation or in any context that might require it, to use the phrase "Armed Forces of the Crown," because their Forces are just as much Armed Forces of the Crown as Forces raised in this country.

To deal briefly with a further point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I would tell him and the Committee that the phrasing of this particular clause has been very carefully chosen and we think that the words "as a whole" are necessary. His fear that someone might read into the word "whole" something which should not be there, is quite unjustified. These words have been carefully chosen, they are general in application, but, of course, they must be read with the White Paper. We must keep the words in this clause.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.