Clause 7. — (Application of Enactments to Royal Auxiliary Air Force.)

Orders of the Day — Auxiliary and Reserve Forces Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1949.

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Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield 12:00 am, 24th October 1949

I beg to move, in page 8, line 27, at the end, to insert: so that one of the Vice-Chairmen shall be chosen from amongst those members of the association who shall then be serving or shall have served in the Royal Air Force and who have been appointed to represent the Royal Air Force. The Auxiliary Air Force has been in being for something like 24 years, during which time it has been administered in the main, apart from the war, by the county territorial associations, the chairmen and vice-chairmen of which have in the past been Army members. I am happy to say that in many cases that is not now the case. In the association in which I have the privilege to serve we have an ex-Royal Air Force officer as vice-chairman, and he is very good. I do not know, of course, what is happening in other associations throughout the country. I believe that the Clause should cover this point; the Royal Air Force is entitled to certain vice-chairmanships, and I hope that occasionally they will be promoted to chairmen. Not only will the Air Force benefit, but I am sure the Army will as well.

For many years I, as commander of a unit, have attended Territorial meetings and listened for hours to the domestic affairs of the Army. Before the war I always felt that the Air Force got very little consideration. They have, of course, become much more air-minded since then, but I think it is reasonable to request that the Air Force be given this right—a right which is due to them—for both the Air Force and the Army will profit by it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I say at once that, so far as the object of the Amendment is concerned, I find myself in complete agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I think that he perhaps has not realised that this rigid form of approach may make matters much more difficult in a particular association where it is desired to have an Air Force representative as chairman. It may be that in a particular association the intention or desire is to have the R.A.F. representative as chairman, an Army representative as one vice-chairman, and some third representative as the other vice-chairman, but if this Amendment were accepted that could not be achieved, because one of the two vice-chairmen would have to be an R.A.F. representative.

We have anticipated this difficulty, and what we have done—I hope it will meet with the approval of the hon. and gallant Gentleman—in the draft model scheme—which, as he knows, has to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, so that there will be an opportunity of seeing exactly what is proposed—which has been drawn up for adoption, if and when the Bill becomes law, is as follows: the association shall elect a member of the association, other than the president, to be chairman, and another to be vice-chairman. The association shall, if they so desire, elect two vice-chairmen. The chairman and the vice-chairman, or the vice-chairmen, shall include one member who is serving or has served in His Majesty's Military Forces, and one who is serving or has served in His Majesty's Air Forces, or is an Air Force member of the association. I suggest it is far better to deal with what we desire by the method set out in this model rule than willy-nilly to say that one of the vice-chairmen should be a member of the Royal Air Force. I hope that in these circumstances the hon. and gallant Member will agree with the Clause as drafted.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

If this model rule were incorporated in the Bill, I think my hon. and gallant Friend would be satisfied. What is the objection to putting it in the Bill? That would completely satisfy the point. I can see no possible objection to inserting the words which have been read out. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about a draft scheme. Surely a draft scheme is a scheme capable of amendment. He said that this is a rule under the draft scheme, and what we should like to see is the rule inserted in the Bill, which would be an improvement. Will he not consider an insertion to that effect?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

No, Sir. Under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, which has been the governing statute in all these matters, provision is definitely made for the drawing up of the scheme which is to operate to govern the administration of these associations. An additional provision was included in the Act, namely, as I said in my earlier remarks, that these schemes must be laid before both Houses of Parliament. That is what Parliament decided in 1907, and I should have thought it was a good precedent to follow, rather than to have all these schemes embodied in an Act of Parliament.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously to reconsider this, because the Royal Air Force did not exist in 1907? I have been serving on a Territorial association where we have the advantage of a Royal Air Force officer being the vice-chairman. It would be very much better if this could be inserted in the Bill, because all of us want to see the Royal Air Force playing a bigger part than it has played up to date. If the words read out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman could be inserted in the Bill, they would have much greater force. It is not the same thing to lay the scheme before both Houses of Parliament. If the words were incorporated, it would be an indication that all the Territorial associations want to work rather more closely with the Royal Air Force. We should do everything we can to bring the Royal Air Force more closely into the work of these associations.

Photo of General Sir George Jeffreys General Sir George Jeffreys , Petersfield

I am entirely in sympathy with the Amendment and in favour of a member of the Royal Air Force holding high office in a Territorial association. In the Territorial association of which I was chairman until a little over a year ago, we had a distinguished Air Force officer whom we welcomed as vice-chairman, and I am certain that any other Territorial associations where Air Force units are administered feel the same way. But are there not some counties which have either no Air Force units to administer or such very small units that it involves very small representation on the association? In these cases, is it desirable to make it compulsory that they should have an Air Force member as a vice-chairman?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

It applies only to joint associations.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

Does my hon. and gallant Friend disagree with an Air Force officer commanding the Imperial Defence College?

Photo of General Sir George Jeffreys General Sir George Jeffreys , Petersfield

Certainly not. I have already said that I was far from disagreeing with the desirability of having an Air Force officer as a vice-chairman or chairman of an association. I merely asked the question, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has answered, whether there were not some associations that administered no Royal Air Force units, and he has now told me that this applies only to joint associations, which satisfies me.

Colonel Dower:

I rise because the association to which I have the privilege to belong has a chairman who is a Royal Air Force officer. We are pleased in every possible way to have him as our chairman, but I think it would be a mistake if on top of that we were obliged to have a Royal Air Force officer as a vice-chairman. I am extremely ignorant of what is a model rule. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will inform me whether this will apply to all associations.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

Yes, Sir. Under the 1907 Act there is a scheme for all associations.

Colonel Dower:

The undertaking given by the Minister means that one of the chairmen will be a Royal Air Force officer, but will it be as binding as if it were in the Bill?

Photo of Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Daventry

But is that so? The right hon. and learned Gentleman says there is a scheme for all associations, but will it be the same scheme? I understood that there was a draft model scheme being prepared. Presumably the model rule will be considered in its application to each association. He also said that it would be laid before both Houses of Parliament, but we should have no power of amendment. If it is a scheme applying to all associations, it seems to me that the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman completely fall to the ground. Cannot he meet the point by saying that he will consider the insertion in another place of words similar to those he has read out, because it is obviously the desire that the position of the Royal Air Force should be recognised?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

The hon. and learned Member has not quite appreciated the position. Statutory provision is made under the 1907 Act for schemes for all Territorial associations. For 42 years every association has been governed by a scheme, and every scheme is based on the requirements of that Act and has to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. I do not want to be unreasonable—I hope I never am—but this is really quite unnecessary. I have given the undertaking that the scheme will contain what we all desire, and it seems to me that that should be quite sufficient.

Photo of Mr Ronald Ross Mr Ronald Ross , County Londonderry

Is it mandatory on each association?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

Certainly. I will not enter into any commitment because I am convinced that what I have said meets the need. I will, however, look at the matter again, and if there is any reasonable doubt about what the hon. and gallant Member and I both wish, from the point of view of the Royal Air Force, I will consider including something in the Bill. At the moment I am not convinced that it is necessary.

Photo of Mr Anthony Head Mr Anthony Head , Carshalton

There may be a case for saying that, by law, the inclusion of the Amendment in the Bill is not necessary. Nevertheless, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been invited by an airman to intrude into an Army Bill. Although, legally, the Amendment may not be essential as a gesture, I believe it is not unimportant. During the last part of the war, especially the training period of the Army, there was one long effort to get closer to the Air Force. As a matter of principle, I should like to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman running to the khaki bosom. It would be a gesture if he looked at the matter not as a lawyer but as a member of the Air Force who wanted to intrude into Army affairs.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

The Minister has gone some way to meet my point, although he has made heavy weather of it. He said that if there was an Air Force chairman why have an Air Force vice-chairman? I see no difficulty about having both.

Photo of Mr Ronald Ross Mr Ronald Ross , County Londonderry

Have two Air Force vice-chairmen?

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

No, not two, one. I accept what the Minister said, provided he gives an undertaking that he will consider this matter further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.