I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, after "established," to insert:
with the joint consent of, but only with the joint consent of the existing Associations concerned.
This is a drafting Amendment to give effect to what was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman. I understood the Minister to accept the request that amalgamation would not take place save
with the joint consent of the existing Associations concerned.
I take no exception to the principle embodied in this Amendment but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be content if I give him an assurance, on behalf of the three Services and of all those concerned, that there will be no attempt at enforcement in this matter. There appears to be some difficulty in relating this Amendment to the Subsection. We shall take into account the circumstances that prevail but there is no intention on our part to compel the Auxiliary and Territorial associations to do other than they desire.
Nobody can take exception to what the right hon. Gentleman has said because he has really given us all that is in the Amendment. The only thing is that it will not appear in the Bill. Is it not possible for the Minister to think out some words such as "after consultation with the Associations" to show that this absolute power of the Army Council will never be exercised?
We appreciate the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has offered the Committee. Certainly we are grateful to hear that there is no question of any compulsion in this matter. Speaking rather locally, however, there has been concern shown by the Cambridgeshire Association on this matter because there was an attempt made before the war to amalgamate the Suffolk and the Cambridgeshire areas. It is just as well that did not materialise in view of what the associations had to do when war broke out.
We appreciate greatly the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman has given but it would help to set the minds of people at rest if he could indicate what areas he has in mind as possible ones for future amalgamation. I imagine he has in mind some of the Scottish areas. I hope he can give an assurance that so far as England is concerned he has none in mind at the moment.
I, too, welcome the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman and I am not certain that I agree entirely with my hon. and gallant Friends who think that some alteration should be made to the wording. Without any intention of forcing the hands of the associations in a general way, there might conceivably be cases where it was obviously in the public interest to amalgamate the associations of two counties and where some question of county feeling might arise which would cause that to be opposed by one of them.
With reference to the suggestion that two such counties as Cambridgeshire and Suffolk should be amalgamated, I feel certain that would not be a case which the War Office would insist upon enforcing. Yet there are some counties which are so small in area and population that it is uneconomic to have an association to administer the small Territorial Force which may exist. Supposing, for some reason of county pride or amour propre, one of those little counties were to stand out, I can see that it might be necessary to say that in the interests of economy—we all realise that to be an important interest—the wishes of such a county must be overridden in order to effect an amalgamation, though I hope it would not be done in an inconsiderate or arbitrary manner. For that reason, I think that the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman covers the point made by my right hon. Friend in moving the Amendment.
May I say this to my hon. and gallant Friend? It is proposed to leave power in the hands of the Army Council, if necessary, to force an amalgamation. The insertion of my proposed words, however, would make it clear that they must consult the county associations and pay due respect to their views.
Despite what the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) has said, I must stand by what I have already said. The assurance I have given is that there is no intention to force amalgamation. It may be, as the hon. and gallant Member said, that the amalgamation of one county association with another may be desirable. We must, however, pay regard to Territorial tradition, and I am quite satisfied that no successor of mine would ever dare to force an amalgamation on to county Territorial associations who rejected the idea. It would be quite improper to do so. It will be quite adequate if I stand by the assurance I have given.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, at the end, to insert:
Provided that any Lieutenant of a County who has not been appointed President of the Association established for that County jointly with one or more other Counties shall be invited to be a Vice-President of that Association.
I hope that the Government will regard this Amendment as a matter of drafting more than anything else. In view of the fact that it has been an honourable prerogative of lord lieutenants of counties to be chairmen of county associations, I hope that the proposal contained in the Amendment will be accepted.
If the Minister will refer to the Territorial and Reserve Forces-Act, 1907, he will see that the Section dealing with the power of setting up a county association states that such schemes shall provide
for constituting the lieutenant of the county, or failing him such other person as the Army Council may think fit, president of the association:
Under that Act, therefore, it was by no means compulsory upon the Army Council to appoint the lieutenant of the county to be president. I am strongly in favour that in almost every case the lieutenant of the county should be appointed and that, in the case of an amalgamation, the lieutenant of the county who is not the president should be invited to be vice-president. At the same time, I do not see how the Amendment can be accepted so long as the Act of 1907 does not force the Army Council to appoint the lieutenant of the county to be president but merely gives discretionary power.
I would not have risen but for the reference to pacifists. The hon. Member was speaking of ex-pacifists. There should be a great differentiation between pacifists and ex-pacifists, because—