I beg to move, in page 4, line 25, at the beginning, to insert: "Subject as hereinafter provided."
The joint effect of this Amendment and of the two Amendments immediately following is to arrange that when payments which the Admiralty may occasionally make to associations for services performed by associations to the Admiralty are made, a proper apportioning shall be made of expenditure between the Army Council and the Admiralty. By a curiosity of drafting, the Clause as it stands would have the entirely unintended result that all the expenses of the associations would fall on the Admiralty. Clearly that is not what was desired, and the purpose of the Amendment is to see that where an association is performing services for the Admiralty there shall be a proper apportioning of expenditure.
The services are not expected to be very great and, mainly, they will be of an advisory character. Where the Royal Marine Reserve are concerned, the services may be rather greater and may involve providing facilities for training and, where such a situation arises, through the membership of the association opportunity will be provided for the interests of the Admiralty and of the Royal Marine Reserve to be expressed.
I have no objection whatever to the Clause or the Amendment, nor have my hon. Friends, but, as we are in such a mellow mood, no doubt induced by a previous announcement, may I say that I object to the phrase, "owing to a curiosity of drafting." I should say that it was a case of the Minister not having read the Bill properly before it was presented to the House.
In line 41, at end, insert:
( ) In calculating the payments to be made to an association by the Admiralty under the last foregoing subsection or by the Army Council under subsection (1) of section
three of the Act of 1907, regard shall be had only to expenditure incurred by the association in connection with the exercise and discharge of powers and duties relating to matters under the control of the Admiralty or the Army Council, as the case may be; and the Admiralty and the Army Council shall make any apportionment of expenditure necessary for the purposes of this subsection."—[Mr. M. Stewart.]
There is one curiosity about which I want to inquire. It is in relation to the word "military" in line 14. The word "military" is not defined in the Bill, nor, as far as I am aware, is it defined in any Statute. I spent a little time this morning trying to find if it had been defined elsewhere, but without success. In one sense, military can be used to apply to any militant operation, but normally it could not be used to include any naval operation, although it might include Air Force operations. The question arises under subsection (1) of this Clause as to the precise meaning to be attached to the word.
Is it merely intended to make reference to Section 2 of the 1907 Act and to the organisation of the Territorial Army, or to make reference to the organisation of His Majesty's Army? If that is the intention, I suggest that the words "military forces" should be taken out and the word "Army" put in. That seems much more easily understood and economises in the use of words. Economy is very important in these days. That would make quite clear the precise significance of the expression, but I think "military forces" is a very unusual expression in an Act of Parliament. I should be grateful if the Financial Secretary can inform us if there is any precedent for the use of such an expression in an Act.
To my knowledge there is not a precedent. What I believe the phrase means in this connection would be the Regular Army, the Reserve and Territorial Forces and, should it be created again at some future date, the Home Guard. It is, therefore, somewhat wider in meaning than "the Army." I think it would be agreed that even where there is not an exact legal precedent we must be guided by the normal and accepted usage of words. It would cover all the things I have mentioned, but would not be regarded as covering naval forces. Whether it is regarded as covering air forces does not matter, because they are dealt with in another part of the Bill, and because there is another part of the Bill referring to the Royal Air Force and associations administering the Royal Air Force equivalent to the Territorial Army it is made clear that we are not dealing with the Royal Air Force here. To alter this reference to "Army" might put it in too narrow a framework.
I think it a pity this Committee should have to pass a Clause of the Bill containing words about the meaning of which the Government are not quite sure. The hon. Gentleman told us what he believed the reference meant. Cannot he put in an additional definition in the last Clause but one of the Bill? Secondly, if the Government intend that the Territorial associations only shall have to.
conform to the plan of the Army Council for the organisation of the territorial army within the area for which the association is constituted) for the reference to the territorial army there shall be substituted a reference to all His Majesty's military forces.
I think they are very old fashioned. It is about time they were forced to be made aware of the plans of the Air Force and the Royal Navy and the Civil Defence, as well as the Home Guard, and what effect they would have on their own. Since we are passing a Bill amending the old Territorial Army Act it would be useful to impose an obligation more in keeping with the spirit of the day. We have heard the right hon. Gentleman say that it is enormously important that all the forces should consider themselves part of a great whole and it is a pity to use such restrictive words here. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter, first as to the definition and let us have a word whose meaning we really know and, secondly, if an obligation is to be imposed it should be a proper, up-to-date obligation dealing with the whole of the Defence Forces of the Crown.
Under subsection (4, a), there is mention of the association having regard to the principal industries of the area. I should like to be assured by the right hon. Gentleman that the phrase "principal industries" includes such bodies as chambers of commerce, etc., which deal with activities which are not strictly industries but the members of which are important as employers of men who play a big part in the Territorial Army, particularly in some services such as signals.
I wish to raise another question connected with the powers and duties of associations about which I am not quite clear from this Clause. In 1907 our attitude to the Army was much more static. In consequence the original Territorial Army Associations had very wide powers of administration given to them to deal with all units in their counties. Today it can be a great difficulty and a hindrance where a Territorial Army association is responsible for all the administration of units in its area, including units under the command of a formation with a peacetime headquarters and staff.
For example, at the present time, unless the power of T.A. associations is taken away by this Clause—I am not quite sure—the quartermaster of a Territorial Army battalion has to keep duplicate clothing and equipment ledgers, one for enlisted Territorial men and another for Regular N.C.O.s and men attached to them for duty. That is most confusing and a great waste of time. Not only is it duplication in peacetime but it causes confusion when a unit is embodied. We found out that mistake in 1939. Can the right hon. Gentleman clear this up and ensure that when units are raised which are definitely intended to be part of fighting formations they shall be administered for rations, clothing and equipment and normal services—but not, of course, for quartering—by their divisional staffs so that there shall no longer be divided responsibility between formations and T.A. associations.
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies to the points which my hon. Friends have raised, with which I am in complete agreement, I should like to affirm, as the oldest member of a Territorial association in this House—I was a member of a county territorial association in 1908—that this Clause, although there is nothing about it which is new—it was done in the days of the Coalition Government—derives from a long fight on the part of the Sea Cadets, the Army Cadets and, in later years, by the Air Cadets to be given official cognisance by the military authorities. It is only a variation of what was done at the time of the National Government, but it is of importance now, when, after long years of effort on the part of some of us, official recognition is being given to these most valuable bodies which have done so much for the youth and the defence of the country.
The point raised by the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) is one which is, at any rate, worthy of investigation, not on a very high plane but at all events for the purpose of satisfying myself if not the hon. Member. I should have thought that the point was quite clear. The term "military," so far as it relates to this provision, can be defined as meaning that the Army is responsible for all the functions that pertain to the Army, in other words that the Army Council should be responsible for all the functions that pertain to the Army Council, whatever they may be, at any particular time. At one time it may have functions which are confined exclusively to the care of the Army itself, but there may be occasions when it is necessary to extend those functions. Then the term "military" would be regarded in its more comprehensive sense.
I would direct the attention of the hon. Member to the provision which one might regard as a definition in Clause 17 (3), which states:
In this Act the following expressions have the meanings hereby assigned to them respectively, that is to say:—
Act of 1907' has the meaning assigned to it by section one of this Act;
It is quite clear. It continues:
'competent military authority'"—
which is the point at issue—
means the Army Council or an officer designated by the Army Council;
then it is stated:
'competent naval authority' means the Admiralty or an officer designated by the Admiralty.
It would seem to me that this creates the necessary distinction between the naval authority and the military authority and should suffice for the purpose. As everybody is aware, it is not always possible to achieve a strict and rigid definition which clearly conveys the precise meaning and intent. We have to make the best of the language which we employ. Some
employ language more eloquent and more comprehensive than others; others are a little impoverished in the use of language. I will look at the point and if further definition is required that will be included at a later stage.
The hon. Member raised a point about the "principal industries" which have to be consulted and possibly included in the associations. He asked whether these included chambers of commerce. I should not care to say off-hand, but in so far as chambers of commerce and chambers of trade—there are a great many chambers of the kind associated with industry—are representative bodies, there is no reason why they should be excluded. The Territorial Forces Association will no doubt have due regard to the importance of those bodies and take action accordingly.
The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) asked me a question. I confess that I did not gather what he actually meant. If he regards it as being of importance he will doubtless put it again. If he regards it of less importance perhaps he will leave the matter to be dealt with on another occasion.
I naturally regarded the matter as of importance when I troubled the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee with it. Very shortly, at the present time the administration of the Territorial unit is complicated by the fact that it is administered in two ways. I gave as an example clothing and equipment. Territorial Army associations are frequently responsible for all Territorial personnel, whereas the Regular N.C.Os. and men attached are administered entirely differently. I suggested that where a unit forms part of the order of battle of a formation it should be administered in peace-time as in war, which would do away with a great deal of difficulty and overlapping.
I am obliged to the hon. Member. It was my fault that I did not comprehend his meaning. That is a technical matter, however, which has nothing to do with the Bill. It is a matter of administration, and if there is any substance in the point which the hon. Member raised I will certainly do what I can to put the matter right.
I wish to say something about the legal opinions which were given by the Secretary of State for War. I think he ought to have engaged in a little more study. Seldom have I heard such a curious view put forward as to the meaning of the adjective "military."
First of all, his argument was that when one used the word "military" in the statute it related to something with which the Army Council was connected. I have never used the word "military" in that sense. The Army Council does not immediately spring to one's mind when one uses the word. He went on to imply that this word "military" in line 14 on page 4 is quite all right, because really there is something which might amount to an explanation of it, a definition of it, in the definition Clause, which is Clause 17. If we look at Clause 17 again we find that there is not a definition of the expression "military forces." All we have is a definition of the expressions "competent military authority" and "competent naval authority." There is no definition, however one reads Clause 17, or how often one reads it, of the expression "military forces."
This is a point which is of a little importance because here, under subsection (1) of Clause 3, we are in fact altering the tasks and the duties of the associations. We are entitled to ask, and I think they are entitled to ask, that the alteration should be effected with precision. As I have indicated, I would agree that I do not think that "military" would be taken to include "naval." That view, if it is supported at all, might be said to be supported by that bit in the definition Clause; but in some cases, as the Financial Secretary has said, it may be taken to imply air operations. He went on to say that he believed that it did not because there was a later part of this Bill dealing with the Air Force. To me that certainly was not a very cogent argument.
While I agree that this Bill in its present form in Section 3 really lacks definition—we are using, as the Parliamentary Secretary admits, an expression without precedent in any Act of Parliament—all I am urging upon the right hon. Gentleman is that if he sticks to the words "military forces," that novel expression, then at least he ought to give an undertaking that he will insert in the definition Clause a definition of what he means by it, because it certainly is not clear to this Committee. After what he and the Under-Secretary have said I do not think it will be clear to the associations or the country what exactly are the limits of the burden and tasks which the associations are being asked to fulfil. I think my request is a simple one and I have put it forward as clearly as I can. I hope that he will not divert attention from this important point by referring to other parts of this interesting Bill which have no relation to it.
May I offer a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman? He never replied to me on the other point that the obligations placed on the Territorial Associations in these days of the mid-twentieth century, ought really to conform to the plans of all His Majesty's Defence Forces; not just the Army Council, but the Air Force, the Navy, Civil Defence and the Home Guard. If he were to agree with me—and even if not—as he is in such difficulty with the meaning of words would he consider re-drafting the last few words of this Clause to have the same effect as if the word "military" were excluded? I think that would meet the wishes of everybody and would not put the right hon. Gentleman in the difficulty which he is now in, of using a word of which he does not know the meaning.
I wish to support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane). The Minister did say it was a technical point, but if he will consult with the Secretary of State for Air he will find that there is a most efficient way of dealing with the Department through the unit. I suggest that he consult with his, colleague and learn something about it.
That may be, but it still remains an administrative matter. Now that my attention has been drawn to it I shall make the necessary inquiries. If there is any defect in the organisation in the provision of equipment, or clothing, or any of the requirements of the Territorial Forces, which requires rectification, I shall see that it is attended to. But I must make the necessary inquiries.
As regards the point of substance raised by two hon. Members opposite, I am advised that what is asked for is contained in subsections (1) and (2) of
Clause 3. If hon. Members opposite will look at subsection (1) they will see that under the Act of 1907 it is:
the duty of an association to be acquainted with and conform to the plan of the Army Council"—
there a specific duty is laid upon it—
for the organisation of the territorial army …
Now we go on to refer to
all His Majesty's Forces.
That is the change which is proposed. Then, in subsection (2), the latter part says:
… and references in that subsection to His Majesty's military forces shall be construed accordingly.
I should have thought that was quite adequate for the purpose of definition, but it may well be there is some slight defect with regard to interpretation. I shall look at the matter to see if anything further is required. Perhaps with that assurance hon. Members opposite will allow the Clause to pass.