§ (1) Every male person who was required to register himself under the principal Act or who is liable by virtue of this Act so to register himself shall—
- (a) if notice requiring the production of his certificate of registration has been given in accordance with the provisions of this Section, produce his certificate to the person, and at the time and place, specified by the notice; and
- (b) whether any such notice has been given or not, on demand by any police constable, or any person duly authorised in that behalf by the Director-General of National Service, either produce his certificate of registration or give particulars as to his name, address, age, and occupation.
§ (2) Any police constable or other person authorised to demand the production of certificates may, for the purpose of the performance of his duties under this Section, at any reasonable time enter any factory, workshop, or business premises and may inspect and take copies of any certificates produced to him.
§ (3) Any notice for the purpose of this Section may be given by any person authorised in that behalf by the Director- 1356 General of National Service, and either by delivering it to the person who is to be required to produce his certificate, or by leaving it at that person's place of residence, or by publishing it or causing it to be published at the place where that person is employed in such a manner as is reasonably calculated to bring it to his knowledge, and any such notice may specify a time (not being less than three days from the date of the notice), and a place (not being other than the residence or place of employment of the holder of the certificate), at which the certificate of registration is to be produced.
§ (4) If any person over the age of eighteen years fails to comply with the provisions of this Section or gives particulars which are false in any respect, or obstructs any person in the exercise of his powers under this Section, he shall be liable on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out paragraph (b).
This is the paragraph which gives power to any police constable, without any special authority, to stop any person between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five and demand his certificate of registration, or, failing its production, that that person shall give an account of himself, that is to say, name, address, occupation, and so forth. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fisher) does not need ma to remind him that a. prolonged debate took place on this question on the Committee stage of the Bill, and for my own part I have no intention of merely repeating for the sake of repeating the arguments used on that occasion. I regard this provision, however, as being one of the greatest defects in the machinery which is suggested in this Bill to carry out its object. I want to remind the House that no such provision was inserted in the original Act, and the only analogy to this provision is the analogy which is afforded by the Clause in the Military Service Acts, which gives a somewhat similar authority to authorised persons. It was said, I think, by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, on the last occasion on which this matter was under discussion that that had worked with great smoothness. I think he said that, and I think, at the same time, he drew a very moving picture of the affection that we all have for the police and of what a very important feature they were in the con- 1357 solidation of our social life, and so forth. I must remind the House that the only analogy which we have for this provision has certainly not proved to be acceptable to the public in the way in which it has been worked. I assume that I should be out of order if I made more than a passing reference to that matter, but the right hon. Gentleman will well remember the outbreak of indignation that took place at the police interference at railway trams, at meetings, and with the general public in the ordinary discharge of their peaceful duties. That is the only analogy we have.
The right hon. Gentleman now proposes in this civil Bill to give every policeman the right to stop every person between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five. It is a provision which, I repeat, is alien to the traditions of this country, and one which is bound to give rise to a great deal of friction and trouble if it is attempted to be carried out. As the Bill stands at this moment this provision affects also females between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five. but I gladly hasten to point out that the right hon. Gentleman promised at least to mitigate the matter to the extent of not allowing this police provision to apply in the case of females between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five. I believe he is going to give effect to his promise by an Amendment which he will move at a later stage of the proceedings to-day, and I may therefore assume that the power of the police in this matter is to be limited to males who are affected by the Bill, between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five. Although I think it was very offensive that it should have been suggested, and contemplated that time provision should apply to females, I think it is scarcely less offensive if it applies to males, and I wholly question the necessity for introducing this provision. It was, I repeat, not introduced in the principal Act. Why then introduce it into the amending Act? This paragraph that I am moving out of the Bill is extraordinarily wide in its application. The policeman has not to get special authority for his action, and the result is that any male person within this wide limit of ages may be accosted in the street, in any place of public entertainment, on the railways, at the station, or lie may even be visited at his private house by the police in order that it may be seen that he is registered.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not wonder that lion. Members smile when I repeat this amazing provision, and I think they smile because they really do not believe that such a provision is within the pages of this Bill. When they look at the Bill, however, they will find that there are no limitations placed on the place or the manner in which this provision is to be carried out. We may, for instance, have great round-ups at the railway station as was done in the ease of the Military Service Acts and which, let time House remember, were only stopped because of the gust of indignation which burst out in connection with those military round-ups which, by the way, proved to be wholly unnecessary. Are you seriously going to allow similar police round-ups to take place on all male civilians between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five? Is it really believed that the people of this country will welcome—notwithstanding the tribute which everyone pays to the manner in which the police, on the whole, do their duties—this kind of police supervision extending to almost all the public relations of life, so that on any day, in any place, and in practically army circumstances, we may be stopped, either as individuals or in crowds, by the police, required to produce our registration certificates, and, if we have no registration certifications, required to give an account of ourselves? I believe this is an extraordinarily drastic proposal. It is a proposal of the nature which we generally refer to as Prussianism, and I think you will find such a proposal existing in no other country except those countries which we do not usually hold up as examples for us to copy. The Secretary for Scotland well knows that when I dealt with this matter before he thought, as he himself said, that I was getting rather bankrupt of adjectives in describing this Clause, and I am bound to say that I think there was a measure of truth in what he said. I certainly do not propose on tins occasion to attempt to use adjectives which would adequately describe the character of this proposal. I believe that to state this proposal and to get it understood by the public is the surest method of finding out whether it is approved or not. I believe it is a proposal which, if you put into force in any wide form, would meet with general condemnation by all those who arc affected by it. It introduces a very disturbing clement in our social life, and 1359 it threatens—and I think this is a very serious point—the very harmonious relations which have existed in the past between the public and the police, for certainly the public are not going to welcome this kind of government through the instrumentality of the police. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to make any concession in this matter or not. Happily, he has promised to remove women from the operation of the proposal, and I am sure he will carry cut his pledge to do so: but I ask him to go further and to abolish this remaining proposal, so far as it affects men. In doing so he will certainly not hinder his Bill, but will, in my opinion, improve it.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to second the Amendment. I do so on grounds different from those which have been brought forward by my lion. Friend (Mr. Whitehouse). I do not say that I do not agree with him, because I think he is quite justified in making a speech and adducing the grounds that he has done. My point, however, is this: Is it really going to help you to give to any police constable, at any time, without any special authority, or without any written instructions, the power to stop any man, woman, or child—that is what it is in the Bill—and to make inquiries? That is the way to make the Bill unpopular, and I want this Bill, if it is going to be passed, to be popular. Moreover, is it going to give the assistance which you want; is it going to produce the information that you require? T offer my advice, believing it to be sound, and I say that if I had been drafting this Bill I should have allowed anybody to make inquiries at the house or the place of employment about any person. Really, it is very much easier and much more reliable, if you want to find out information about a young boy, to go to his home and ask for it there, rather than to stop him in the street, because if he is up to a lark he will tell you just the wrong thing. The information you will get from the boy as to age, place of employment, and all you want to know, will not be as reliable as if you go to his parents at home. In the same way, I should have given opportunities for getting the information wherever a boy or a girl is employed, and that would have been quite unobjectionable. No one would have raised any difficulty about it, but this vague power to a policeman to stop anybody anywhere 1360 is naturally resented. I will just call to mind the great number of speeches from ' Members who are quite respectable and who do not often intervene in Debates which were made on the Committee stage—I remember very well the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. A. Allen) making a most vigorous protest, on behalf of Scotland, I think, as to the feelings that would be excited in Scotland by this provision I am not., therefore, without hope that this paragraph will really be dropped.
The hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse) said the effect of this Bill has only to be stated for it to be condemned. Well, I will state it. The effect of it is that, first of all, everybody between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five must register, and, being liable to be registered, he is then liable to be accosted by any policeman—that is quite true—at any time, and called upon to show his certificate of registration. If he cannot show his certificate of registration he has to give particulars as to his name, his address, his age, and his occupation—and the hon. Gentleman said that this is alien to all the traditions of this House and of this country!
No; I will not give way. The hon. Member for Mid-Lanark said that this is alien to all the traditions of this House and of this country—
That this is really an insult to the people which they will bitterly resent, and which may produce serious trouble, and riots.
I turn round and look at the condition of this House when this Clause is being discussed. There are exactly fifteen Members in the House, arid yet the House has had the fullest possible notice that this Clause had passed through Committee, and that it was going to be discussed in the House to-day. There is not a single Member on the Front Opposition Bench, there is not a single member of the Labour party present, except my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. We are the great defenders of the freedom and liberty of the people, and there are fifteen Members present out of a House consisting 1361 of 670 Members! Really; it is difficult to deal seriously with the hon. Members of the House who use this extravagant language about a mild proposition of this kind. When it is said that it is alien to the traditions of this House and of this country, let the House remember that it is only a short time ago since we passed the Military Service Act, 1916, under which any policeman is empowered to demand of anybody a certificate of exemption granted under the principal Act, particulars as to the authority by which it was granted, and the ground upon which it was granted. If anybody resists the policeman and says, "I will not produce the certificate. I do not intend to comply with the law," he is subject, not to a minimum penalty of £5 as provided by this Bill, but to a penalty of £20 and to imprisonment for three months. The hon. Gentleman debated this question at great length with his Friends when we were in Committee. There were then, within the precincts of the House, 128 Members, and the hon. Member, after all his inflammatory oratory, only succeeded in taking eleven Members into the Lobby with him. So that twelve Members in all stood up for these great rights and the freedom and liberty of the people. Every hon. Member of the House knows perfectly well that this provision is a very mild copy of the Section in the Military Service Act, 1916, and that the whole design of this Bill is not to persecute or penalise, but to get the most direct form of register we can possibly obtain. As a means of doing that, it is absolutely necessary to have some such penalties attached to those who break the law, and it is absolutely necessary that we should be able to demand from those who ought to be registered and who ought to have their certificate a proof that they have a certificate, that they have duly complied with the law, and have carried out the simple registration imposed by an Act of Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman called attention to the fact that on the last occasion when this matter was discussed 116 persons voted against and twelve for the exclusion of this provision from the Bill. He also called attention to the fact that only fifteen or sixteen Members are present here now. One reason why the Division took the form it did was that those who voted for the retention of this provision in the Bill had not heard the Debate. The right hon. 1362 Gentleman admits that this makes an alteration in our existing law and practice. He says that it is applying to persons in civil life the principles of the Military Service Act, as if the Military Service Act could he set up as part and parcel of our normal legal system, and that it is going on for ever. That Act was passed for the period of the War.
It may be, but the probability is that it will be perpetuated for a long time after that. You are establishing by the Registration Bill a register of the people; you are establishing an organisation for that purpose. Do you think that the. National Register is likely to be abandoned once it has been introduced? It is introducing quite a. new system into our civil life. It will be said by those, who favour it that it will be necessary to keep it up to date, of course for the philanthropic purpose of finding employment for particular persons after the War is over. For the first time we are to become registered people, just as. people are registered in Germany. This provision puts on the police a duty that they have never had to perform hitherto. It is their duty to see that the register is. correct, and for that purpose to accost people in the street whom they see and do not know, and who may be complete strangers to them, for the purpose of finding out whether or not they are on the register. It means that persons going to a strange place, being seen by a policeman, it will become the normal duty of the policeman to find out whether that person is or is not a registered person. Of course, if the Clause is never put into operation, there need be no complaint about it; but if the policeman, who begins: by only occasionally exercising his power, gradually gets accustomed, as police authorities all over the world do get accustomed, to exercising these powers, and he makes it part of his normal duty, people moving about the country will be liable to be accosted in this manner. An amount or feeling will be developed of which the right hon. Gentleman has little conception at the present time. He has taken the same line which his subordinate took in the last Debate of pouring contempt on the attempt of ourselves to get some of our own opinions accepted. Much of our freedom has gone, and when the War is over we shall find that we have very little 1363 freedom left for which to fight. This is a new power which the police have not hitherto exercised.
This gives a new power, and therefore puts a. new duty on the police which they have never exercised before. It brings them more into the normal life of the people than they were formerly. It is a strengthening of the police system, which might develop into a system of espionage on the ordinary life of our people. That is against all our traditions, and an undermining of our liberties. It is a thing which, if understood by the people of this country and if it is exercised, will arouse a good deal of feeling which may, I hope, lead to the complete abolition of this kind of legislation as soon as the end of the War enables us to resume our normal life. I am not one bit less opposed to the provision than when the right hon. Gentleman's assistant poured contempt on what we had to say in the last Debate. I believe as strongly to-day as I did then that it is an evil principle to put into a Bill dealing with the civil population, whatever it may be with regard to the Military Service Act. It will create resentment of which the right hon. Gentleman thinks very little now, but of which he will hear more later on. I therefore support the Motion of my hon. Friend, and shall go with him into the Lobby against this provision.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I confess I was much disappointed to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill. We were taunted a little while ago by the Secretary for Scotland on the fact that we had not shown sufficient gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for the concessions he has made upon this Bill. I quite freely admit that, in deference to the criticisms urged on the Committee stage, there have been new Clauses and Amendments introduced which, so far as they go, are an improvement, but I cannot see why we should show particular gratitude when the Government make concessions in deference to a sense of justice and to real criticisms. I am quite ready to make any sort of recognition which the Secretary for Scotland thinks adequate as regards, the concessions 1364 already made, but I am sure he will not require us to continue our gratitude in respect of the speech to which we have just listened from the President of the Local Government Board. When he made that speech the right hon. Gentleman must have been aware that on the Committee stage there was a considerable expression of opinion from all quarters that this was an undesirable, and in some respects unprecedented provision in a Bill of this kind. It is quite true there were few people who went into the Lobby against the Government, but everybody knows that if you go into the Lobby against the Government on a Bill of this sort you are always likely to have your motives misrepresented, and you are supposed to be interfering with the prosecution of the War. How this Bill will assist the prosecution, of the War, nobody has yet explained. We might have heard some better arguments in support of this almost unprecedented provision than the cheap sneers and taunts of the right hon. Gentleman to the people who speak up for liberty in this House, who are at present a very small body. It is quite true that in. this House we are a small body, but is the right hon. Gentleman so sure that those who administer the present law, who are always engaged in suppressing free speech and putting people into prison for all sorts of small offences at the present time in the name of patriotism, have, at the present moment outside this House, a very large body of public opinion behind them? I am not at all sure that even the small despised minority who speak in this House for liberty have not a better hacking than some of the right hon. Gentlemen who occupy the Treasury Bench. I decline to be put clown by such taunts, cheap sneers and the kinds of arguments we have had addressed to us.
The right hon. Gentleman said that this provision, which gave the right to policemen to stop unoffending people in the streets and to demand of them all sorts of particulars about themselves, their occupations, their birth, their wives, and what not, was absolutely necessary to the construction of this register. The plea of necessity is a very old one. If the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read his own Bill he would know that it is unfounded in this case. It would be perfectly easy to work the Bill without giving any such power to the police as is here proposed. 1365 It would be perfectly easy to insist, under this Bill that if you gave proper notice to any individual to produce his certificate, as is suggested in one of the Clauses, that they should have power to inquire at the house regarding that individual. But why should they have the power of rousing up in the public streets, and stopping anyone who conies along? That is an unprecedented power, and is the kind of thing which, before the War, was always known as Prussianism in Germany and elsewhere. It is the kind of power which tended to make life for those who travelled or lived in Berlin a perfect nuisance. It is the kind of power which enables policemen to bully and victimise an unpopular man or woman in their neighbourhood. It is the kind of power which puts the private citizen under the heel of the Government and under the heel of the police. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should defend a power of that sort, because he belongs to the extreme section of a party which has always gone in for this sort of autocratic power for the Government and has always desired it. What is surprising is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, who belongs to a different section of political thought, should have thought it necessary on the Committee stage to support this provision, as he apparently does. We asked what precedent the right hon. Gentleman could give us for a power of this kind which enabled the policeman to go up to a man or woman in the street and demand of them all these particulars and ask that they should at once produce their registration card. What precedent did the right hon. Gentleman give? No other precedent than the Military Service Act, which was passed as an emergency measure in order to fasten Conscription very quickly upon the country.
How has that Act worked? We all know, in spite of what the Secretary for Scotland said on the Committee stage, that the rounding up which took place, created intense resentment, rightly, as I believe, among a large section of the people. The Secretary for Scotland appeared to have enjoyed being rounded up and stopped in his business, shut up in a pen and kept there until he had satisfied the police that he was a registered and well-conducted person. People will object to being stopped in that way and cross-examined by the police. It 1366 is unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman could not give us any better precedent than that of the Military Service Act. After all, in the case of that Act, you might advance the plea of necessity. You might say that it was necessary in order to make Conscription effective, when it was being adopted for the first time, that you should give these exceptional and extraordinary powers to the police, but no one suggests that there is any such urgent necessity for complete registration in the case of this Bill. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fisher) tried to make out that this was not so much a military measure, but rather one for advancing the interest of the people in time of peace, for collecting vital statistics and things of that sort, than for regulating the supply of recruiting. For that purpose we are to have this sort of power given to police constables in order to stop ordinary men and women in the course of their peaceful duties. The unhappy part of this Bill is that it has the trail of the criminal law and the policeman all through it. It is an attempt to make a register not in official ways by proper means, but by imposing penalties on private persons. If the right hon. Gentleman really wanted to make a correct and effective register his right course was to have it prepared by officials, as the Census is prepared. The worst way of all is to make a register by the imposition of penalties on people who do not understand these forms, and one of the worst of these penalties is that to which ordinary men and women will be subjected of heir g stopped and accosted and worried about their private affairs by policemen.
§ Mr. KILEY
If laws are made it is the duty of this House to give proper authority to those concerned with their administration to see those laws carried into effect, and on that point most people are agreed that proper power should be given to those concerned. But the point of disagreement, as I understand it, is in the methods to be adopted. Shall this House give into the hands of any police constable absolute power at any moment he chooses to stop any individual who is coming along and ask him, "Have you got your registration card? If you have not, or even if you have, come with me to the police station so that I can verify it."
§ Mr. KILEY
It did not say that in the Military Service Act, but I know of cases where a man was accosted by a policeman 1367 and although he produced his military service card he was taken to the police station and kept there for several hours till the police verified his statement. It is to prevent the repetition of such cases that I am intervening. I suggest most seriously whether some form of words could not be put in which would limit the possibility of what I have just described. Would it not be possible to limit it to a police constable of the rank of sergeant? I am bound to say, with considerable knowledge of the police, that I find the vast majority of them are thoroughly reliable men, but now and again you come across a case in which that description could not be applied. Why should the public be at the mercy of any constable at any time, under any circumstances, to be worried and bothered whenever he chooses so to do? If the right hon. Gentleman would place some limitation upon the drastic powers which he proposes to give to the police, I am sure he would remove a good deal of misgiving.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to enter my protest against this Sub-section being passed into law. It is a most drastic measure to pass. I gather from the speeches that have been made that the subject was well thrashed out in Committee, but I was not present then and I have seen this Subsection for the first time to-day. It gives the right to any police constable to interfere with any person within the ages of fifteen and sixty-five at any time and in any circumstances, ostensibly to ask him whether he is registered, but in reality to bully him with that excuse. This power is not in the principal Act. Why then is it to be put into this amending Bill? Was it found that the principal Act was a failure in administration, and was not drastic enough? Were the powers which were given there not sufficient to elicit the information which was necessary? The right hon. Gentleman has constantly told us that the principal Act was a great success and that no fault was to be found with it at all, and that this was simply an extension of that measure to rope in discharged soldiers and those who have arrived at the age of fifteen since the passing of that Act. But when they come to amend the Act they take this most drastic power of enabling a policeman on any occasion and in any circumstances to come up to any of us and demand our registration papers. The right hon. Gentleman always looks upon that action 1368 of the constable as if it were properly done in order to get information regarding registration. My hon. Friends and I look upon the illicit application of the Act when the policeman is not really wanting that at all, out using it as something with which to browbeat any man in any circumstance. A man who does not do anything to the satisfaction of a policeman can be badgered and bullied on that plea. I remember a power such as this being put into a Bill dealing with the importation of plumage. It was backed up by all the powers of a Government with a good majority, but When the Committee learnt that the policeman in any circumstance was to have the right to stop anyone on the plea of importing plumage the measure had not the ghost of a chance and it was lost. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that only fifteen Members were present while such an important matter was being discussed. The first answer to that is that it has apparently already been very well discussed in Committee, and the Government with a majority behind it would not listen to reason, but insisted on putting it in. It is only those persistent Members who stick to the right course to the end who are here to fight it. But the number in this House is no indication of the importance of the measure. The other day £650,000,000 were passing through the House and the benches were conspicuous by the absence of Members. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman will say that it was unimportant that £650,000,000 should be exacted from the taxpayer, but whether there are few or many here I desire to enter my protest against this power being handed over to the ordinary wayside policeman to accost any of us in the street. I prophesy to the Secretary for Scotland that this will not get on to the Statute Book, because it has to run through the criticism of the other House, which has unfortunately nowadays become the protector of the rights of the people. I think this Government does not protect the rights of the people, but the House of Peers will not allow this Sub-section to pass without some qualification of the power of the constable.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I have listened with great care to the arguments with regard to this Clause, and I listened with equal care to the arguments which were used in Committee, and if repetition of an argument strengthens it, hon. Members have very considerably fortified their position, because I have been unable to find a single 1369 new argument from beginning to end of the Debate. The case was very fully presented in Committee. It was also argued on the Second Reading and fully replied to by the Under-Secretary to the Local Government Board. Much of the argument that has been used rests upon distrust of the police force. That is particularly so with regard to my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Watt), who spoke about policemen badgering, bullying, and browbeating people in order to get this information. That is not my conception of the police force either in England or in Scotland, and I am rather surprised to hear from my hon. Friend that it is his. However, when I hear that he relies upon another place to put things right which are wrong in this place, I am prepared to hear anything from him. The speeches that have been made have really exaggerated the importance of the provision which is under discussion. I can imagine my hon. Friends resenting even the attentions of a ticket-collector as being an outrage upon liberty.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am going to treat the matter quite seriously if the hon. Member will permit me to proceed, but it is impossible for two Members to address the House at the same time. I have made inquiry into the matter, and I am advised by those who know and are in a position to advise, that this is a necessary power in order to complete the register, and it is a necessary power also in order to keep the register up to date. If it is necessary for those two purposes and if the register cannot be at the outset completed, and if it cannot be kept up to date without this power, then I think we might as well have no register at all unless the power is given. We want an accurate register and a complete register, and according to the advice I have received the exercise of this power 1370 may be necessary to secure that result. I do no; think it would be possible to restrict the operation of the Clause in the way suggested by my hon. Friend (Mr. Kiley) by confining its exercise to a sergeant of police. Speaking for myself—and I have had a good deal more to do with the police than hon. Members who have spoken—I should be quite prepared to confide this discretion to an ordinary constable and to entrust him not to misuse the powers so confided to him. The power is already in existence in regard to certificates of exemption, and I do not see why it cannot be applied to certificates of registration. One cannot foretell how often the power may have to be exercised. It may be frequent or it may be infrequent, but one's experience teaches one that the conferring of a power upon an individual or upon an organisation may not infrequently render its exercise unnecessary. That is to say, that in such cases as this if it is known that such a power exists and has been conferred by this House upon the police force that may probably render its exercise less frequent than some of my hon. Friends think will be the case. At any rate, if it be necessary in order to have an accurate and complete register to give this power, then so far as I am concerned I regard that as a sufficient argument for inserting the power in the Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I regret very much to find my right hon. Friend defending this indefensible provision. It is strange to what lengths Liberal Ministers can be driven by the stress of circumstances. Here is a provision which in fact makes every male person above a certain ago in this country a ticket-of-leave man. I hold that to confer such a power is absolutely unnecessary, and if it were necessary it would be a complete condemnation of the measure which requires it. We were understood to be fighting against Prussianism, but if there is one timing more than another which is the badge, the emblem, and the symbol of Prussianism it is this ticket-of-leave system which is embodied in the provision we arc now discussing. It is an extraordinary doctrine that it is well to put an objectionable power into a Bill even although it will not be exercised, because its presence in the Bill may render the exercise if it is necessary.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think my right hon. Friend, on reflection, will regret the quarrel over my adjective. He certainly brought forward no argument to indicate that it was not objectionable. This power is contrary to the instincts and the traditions of the British people. No man would ever suggest a provision of this kind in ordinary times nor would it be suggested in this House now were it not for the extraordinary conditions under which the House acts at the present time. In the days of the Coalition we had a National Register Bill which did not include this provision. We were told that that Bill was adequate for the purpose of securing in the first place a National Register and also for keeping it up to date. But that was a Government which still contained ostensibly some Liberal elements. The present Ministry has so far lost itself that it declines to regard as objectionable a provision which is repugnant to the free spirit of every British citizen. The right hon. Gentleman has reminded us that this provision has been discussed on the Second Reading, in Committee, and now on the Report stage, and he took some objection to its iteration, although the forms of the House provide for these means of iteration, in order to prevent objectionable provisions of this kind being inserted. Right through all these discussions not a single attempt has been made by any representative of the Government to prove that this provision is not objectionable. It is justified on two grounds. First of all, that it is necessary for the purpose of having a complete register. Necessity, in other words, is used as an argument to overcome the objections which, on other grounds, everybody would urge against this provision. We do not accept the ground of necessity. There is no necessity for it. No such power should be conferred upon an ordinary constable, and I am surprised that my right hon. Friend, with his knowledge of the administration of the criminal law, should exalt the ordinary constable to the pinnacle to which he has exalted him. I think it is preposterous. He does not expect any of us to believe that the argument which he put forward on that head is the result of his experience as Lord Advocate.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
My right hon. Friend says most emphatically. He amazes me more and more. Some of us know some- 1372 thing of what police evidence amounts to, and the right hon. Gentleman, both as prosecuting and as a defending counsel, must know something about it. Yet he asks the Committee to believe that, as a result of his experience in both capacities, he finds the ordinary constable is a man upon whom these powers can with safety be conferred. It seems to me that we have reached a stage when it is impossible for us to treat any arguments or any contention coming from a responsible Minister with anything but contempt. They are willing to put the most indefensible provisions in their Bills, and they are willing to defend those indefensible provisions by the most contemptible and indefensible arguments. They will tell us that this is done to win the War. It would be a subject matter of some humour were it not for the serious position in which the country is standing. Nothing will convince the great majority of the people of this country when the time comes to look over the restrictive and punitive legislation which has been passed, that there has been any justification for half the legislation which this Government has imposed.
I would like to deal with the argument, if I can dignify it with that name, that this provision ought to be kept in because it will never be used. That is the most extraordinary doctrine that has ever been put forward. Why should we in this House say that every man is going to be subject to be badgered by any policeman who may have a grudge against him, because that is what this power amounts to We know perfectly well the extent to which in many other spheres of life policemen in the past have used powers conferred upon them under police legislation and regulations to badger people who were not servile enough and who did not please them. We know that men have been persecuted under the Lighting Regulations by policemen. Because some person uses possibly a sharp word to a policeman, he has been got at for a purely accidental offence against some Regulation, and has been brought into the Police Court and subjected to a heavy penalty. If you give this power, you render a large number of people subject to the same kind of persecution. I do not think this House has any right to set up this kind of petty tyranny and to put it in such hands. I believe that in the majority of cases the power will be quite 1373 useless as a means of keeping the register up to date, because in a large number of cases the police will not trouble to put it into operation, in view of the many other duties they have to perform; there will be other cases where policemen undoubtedly will use this power for the purpose of persecution. That is the kind of thing which the Government is opening the door to now, and it is a thing which they should set their faces against at all costs. It is absolutely unnecessary. It will bring in the worst features of the Prussian ticket-of-leave system, whereby the average citizen is exposed to all the espionage which in ordinary times has been inflicted upon the criminal.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Colonel GREIG
I hardly think the hon. Member has done justice to himself. In a speech in which he has abused the police and a Minister of the Crown he has made use of the ability which evidently he possesses to advocate something which would make it difficult to carry out what is necessary in the abnormal times which he admits we are going through. Abnormal times they are, and it shows the patriotism of the people that they have submitted and are willing to submit to many of these abnormal regulations and restrictions which no one would think of imposing in ordinary times. The hon. Member does not hesitate to cast odium upon the police, who of all classes at this time of crisis have done so much for the country. Many of them have enlisted in the forces of the Crown and many of them have shown a patriotism which might be imitated by other people. I do not need to point out
§ that this exaggerated language has nothing whatever to do with the Clause under discussion. It is a simple Clause dealing with the power of police constables to ask. for a man's registration card.
§ Colonel GREIG
Just as a railway porter can at any time demand the hon. Member's season ticket when he goes up. the Clyde to Glasgow, and, if he does not produce it, can take his name and address. That is exactly the same power. Does the hon. Member for Haggerston, who, I dare say, has had a season ticket, think it an infringement of his liberty if he is asked to produce it? This is part of the contract between patriotic citizens and the community.
§ Colonel GREIG
It is the job of every man who wants to defend his country and to see an end to the War, and I am saying,. what every man must feel, that I regret that the hon. Member, whose abilities and. acumen are as great as those of any other Member of this House, should put his great ability to the purposes which he has exhibited on that bench.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed. to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 137; Noes, 28.1375
|Division No. 148.]||AYES.||[6.3 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Henry, Denis S.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Alien, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cowan, Sir W. H.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Barrie, H. T.||Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield).|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)||Hunter, Major Sir Charles Rodk.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.|
|Boyton, Sir James||Falle, Sir Bertram Godfray||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Fell, Sir Arthur||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Joynson-Hicks, William|
|Bull, Sir William James||Fleming, Sir John (Aberdeen)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Burdett-coutts, W.||Gardner, Ernest||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Butcher, John George||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Lewis, Rt. Han. John Herbert|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Greig, Colonel James William||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Cator, John||Gretton, Colonel John||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Cautley. Henry Strother||Griffith. Rt Hon. Sir Ellis J.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Cave, Rt Hon. Sir G.||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Lonsdale, James R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Cheyne, Sir W. W.||Hamersley, Lt.-Col. Alfred St. George||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hamilton. C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Macmaster, Donald|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Harcourt. Robert V. (Montrose)||McNeill Ronald (kent. St. Augustine's)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Haslam, Lewis||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Malcolm, Ian||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmanan)|
|Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby)||Weigall, Lieut.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth||Samuels, Arthur W.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks. E.R.)|
|Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.||Wilson, Col. Leslie C. (Reading)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Shortt, Edward||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Neville, Reginald J. N.||Smith, Sir Swine (Keighley, Yorke)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Newman, Major John R. P.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.||Stewart, Gershom||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks., Ripon)|
|Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend)||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald||Wright, Capt. Henry Fitzherbert|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Yco, Sir Alfred William|
|Partington, Hon. Oswald||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Younger, Sir George|
|Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Perkins, Walter F.||Thynne, Lt.-Col. Lord Alexander|
|Peto, Basil Edward||Tickler, T. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||Edmund Talbot and Capt. F. Guest.|
|Pratt, J. W.||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Lardner, James C. R.||Smallwood, Edward|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Gilbert, J. D.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Watt, Henry A.|
|Harris, Percy A (Leicester, S.)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Morrell, Philip||Wilson. W T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hinds, John||Outhwaite, R. L.||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Hogge, James Myles||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pringle, William M. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Kiley, James Daniel||Rowlands, James||Chancellor and Mr. Whitehouse.|
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words, "Provided that no discharged sailor or soldier shall be subject to the penalties under this Act."
This is an aspect of the discussion that ranged over a considerable time during the Committee stage of the Bill, and has been referred to during the present stage of the discussion; and I will, therefore, put the case for this Amendment as briefly as possible. The Bill places upon discharged soldiers and sailors the duty of registering under this Act. The President of the Local Government Board, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, made a special point of the fact that it was to bring within its purview the great numbers of soldiers who are being continually discharged from the Army by reason of wounds, sickness, age, or other cause. It is admitted that a very considerable number of soldiers will be affected by the Act. It places upon these soldiers not the duty of filling up a form that is sent to them, but, within a few days after their arrival in this country, the duty of knowing all about the provisions of this Act, and therefore being able to obtain a form from the proper authority, filling it up, and returning it; also the duty, if they change their address, of filling up another form within seven days, and, if they change their occupation or profession, the duty of 1376 returning the change on a form which they have obtained. If they fail to perform any of these duties placed upon them the discharged soldiers may, if prosecuted and convicted, be fined a sum not exceeding £5, and may be further subjected to continuing penalties of £1 a day, if they still fail to observe the provisions of the Act. That means that a soldier who does not register himself, or does not return a change of address or occupation, may be subjected to these penalties.
I ant quite ready to admit that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced certain modifications by which it is necessary, before a prosecution can be begun, to obtain the consent of the Director-General of National Service. While that is a slight concession. it. fails entirely to meet the real gravity of the case. The right hon. Gentleman, in a very eloquent speech, spoke of the object of including discharged soldiers under this scheme of registration. He wished to assist them to obtain employment, to facilitate their re-entry into industrial life. It was an act of friendship to them. I can only say that the soldier who, because of his failure to carry out the trumpery provisions of an Act of whose existence he may have no knowledge, is first accosted by the police, under the provisions of this Clause, and then, after permission has been obtained, prosecuted 1377 for failing to obtain forms and returning them in time, or, for not returning his change of address or occupation, is subjected to these fines and continuing penalties. I can only say that the discharged soldier, sick or wounded, will look with very grave suspicion upon the professions of friendship and consideration and regard which are made with respect to him when he finds himself under police supervision and under drastic treatment of the kind proposed in this measure, even though it be said to be in his own interest. I regard the proposals to place these duties upon discharged soldiers or sailors as a drastic step, for if he fails to observe them he is to be placed under what are, to my mind, preposterous penalties. I look upon it as a great scandal, and I am very much surprised that any Bill should have been brought forward in this House which contains any such provisions. I know very well that the right hon. Gentleman will get up and complain of my repetition of arguments, that he will say that it is an extravagant picture that has been made of this Bill, that no prosecutions will take place, that we may trust the police, the Director-General, the local registration authorities, end, above all, his own Department. In view of his past speeches any speech like that will leave me entirely unmoved. I am only concerned with the provisions of this Bill, and the picture I have drawn represents what may happen under them. The right hon. Gentleman has again and again laboured the need for having a register of discharged soldiers. Why should this extraordinary method of having a register of discharged soldiers be adopted? I should have thought that the first duties of the Army authorities in discharging a man would be to take full details about him—the place from which he came and was returning to; and I should have thought, also, that information could have been communicated to the local authority in the district where the man was going to live.
I object altogether to placing responsibility for registration upon the individual soldier. First of all, he is to be under police supervision, and, secondly, any failure to register is to be visited with what are extraordinarily drastic penalties. no matter bow they may be modified by quite small concessions that have been made by the right hon. Gentleman. It would 1378 be out of order within the limits of my Amendment to argue the effect of the provisions of this Bill on other people, because this Amendment is limited to the specific case of soldiers and sailors. I shall not detain the House by repeating the other obvious objections to the Clause; I will only say that I think all the provisions of the Bill will be especially repugnant to the country. I am quite sure that the last thing they desire is that the discharged soldier or sailor, who may be sick or wounded, should be subjected to police intervention, together with threats of penalties if he does not carry out the provisions of this Act. The first thing the public will desire is that these men should be met with the utmost sympathy and consideration; that it should be regarded as the first duty of the nation to help them back into civil life with every sort of friendly consideration. I submit that such consideration is impossible if you accompany the promise to help them with threats of penal legislation of this character. I am not deterred from moving this Amendment by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman will pooh-pooh all the arguments that I have used. He will point to the smallness of the numbers who have supported it before in the Division Lobby, and will repeat his speech, which has now become almost of stock form, in resisting the Amendment. should like to hear a new style of speech from the right hon. Gentleman, if I may respectfully say so; I should like him, with all respect, to address himself to the serious arguments which are placed before him. It is because I believe that the spirit of the country will be opposed to this Bill, it is because I believe it is a measure opposed to our traditions of toleration and of justice, it is because I think it introduces most alien and objectionable features into a class of legislation which should be free from them, and it is, above all, because it imposes harsh penalties for breach of pettifogging legislation, that I shall press this Amendment to a Division.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to second the Amendment.
I shall endeavour to introduce new arguments, and only new arguments, into my remarks. I would urge that the War Office already knows all about the discharged men, and would be able to give you all information about them. They have at the National Liberal Club—the old National Liberal Club—a complete record 1379 of every discharged soldier. Further, you could get practically all the information you require from the Ministry of Pensions, where a record will be kept of every man discharged from the Army. Again, why can you not automatically send to the local registration authority the information obtained by the Army authorities when a man is discharged? I think the imposing of penalties in the case of discharged soldiers whom it is sought to register is most undesirable, and is likely to cause fear, suspicion, and friction.
The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment remarked that I introduce no new arguments into my speeches, but it will readily be seen that it is difficult to do so when one finds that no new arguments are advanced to which a reply can be made. The hon. Member has not introduced anything new in his speeches on the Second Reading of the Bill, in the long discussions in the Committee stage and, for several hours, on the Report stage. In all the speeches which he has made I have not heard him advance a single new proposition, and his observations were always supported with exaggerated epithets and wild denunciations of the Bill. Therefore, having thing new to meet., I have nothing new to introduce into my remarks, nor anything to add to the various arguments which I have brought forward in condemnation of everything the hon. Member has said. The hon. Member for North Somerset said that the knowledge obtained by the Army authorities about discharged men should be sent on to the local registration authority automatically—all the particulars about him should be forwarded for local registration purposes.
What the hon. Gentleman wants is that the War Office is to send all these particulars to the local registration authority. or that the Ministry of Pensions might equally do so. But those authorities would not have the whole of the particulars which are required in connection with the form of registration proposed by the Bill. The War Office would not have the particulars we require, nor would the Ministry of Pensions. The latter body 1380 would only require such information as would relate to the granting of pensions, and the War Office would not obtain such information as is required for the register contemplated by the Bill. In order to have a useful register it must provide information as to the work which discharged soldiers and sailors had carried on previously, and as to the class of work they were prepared to undertake. A register which gave that information would show at once the discharged soldiers and sailors living in a particular area, and the kind of work, transport or other work. they were able to do, or the particular vocations they were fitted to follow. If a register of that kind were compiled. instead of being what has been described by hon. Members as a drastic measure of threats and penalties, it would be found to work to the advantage of these men. In the various localities large employers of labour in any particular area would be able to search the local register, and see the number of discharged soldiers and sailors living in the area, and to ascertain their qualifications and experience for particular kinds of work. Hon. Members have spoken of this register as detrimental to discharged soldiers and sailors. It will be nothing of the kind, nor is it what has been pictured by hon. Members. What we want, first of all, is to provide a register in the way now proposed, and, secondly, that there should be a systematic and accurate record of the available manpower of the country. Whether this register is going to be of such use as I think it will be, of course is a matter of question which may be introduced between me and the hon. Gentleman, but I am quite sure that the hon. Member will agree that if it is going to be of any use whatever it really must be an accurate register. How can it be an accurate register if the hon. Gentleman admits that hundreds of thousands of discharged soldiers and sailors in this country would be induced, so far as hon. Members could induce them, not to register?
Every argument, every observation, made by hon. Members who oppose this Bill has been of a nature to make the soldier or sailor suspicious. They in effect say to a discharged soldier or sailor, "If you are well advised you will not in any way help to make the register accurate; so far as you are concerned, keep off the register." If hundreds of thousands of discharged soldiers and sailors do not find themselves on the register, then that 1381 would do very much to destroy the value of the register, from the point of view of the Food Controller, or anybody else who is going to make use of it, and who really ought to have accurate statistics of the available man-power—and woman-power, for the matter of that—in the country, and as to the numbers of different people following various trades, avocations, and so on. It is because we want the register to be thoroughly accurate, and as far as possible up to date, that we have introduced penalties into the measure, in order to see that people carry out what will be the law of the land, by not only registering themselves, but by intimating any change of address which they may make subsequently. There will not be constant prosecutions, as has been said, nor will the heavy penalties be imposed that have been spoken of. The maximum penalty of £5 will riot always be inflicted, though that would appear to be implied from what has been said. Nothing of that kind has been clone under the Act, and nothing of the kind will be done under this measure. As far as prosecutions of these men are concerned none of the 1,800 local registration authorities will be able to set on foot prosecutions against anybody, whether discharged soldier or sailor or other person, without the consent of my right hon. Friend the Minister for National Service, and does anybody believe that that Minister would sanction, even if it were put forward by a local authority, a prosecution against a discharged soldier or sailor who had been wounded in the service of his country and who had arrived here without knowing anything of a register? It is inconceivable that my right hon. Friend would allow a registration authority to initiate a prosecution of that kind, and I think it is equally inconceivable that a registration authority would propose to institute proceedings of that kind. I am really confident that not only is there no desire to prosecute or oppress either the discharged soldier or sailor or any other member of the community, but I am equally confident that it will in practice be found not to be any disadvantage to the discharged soldier or sailor to register in this way, but that rather it will be to his advantage in the way of employment, and possibly also to the advantage of my right hon. Friend the Food Controller and others who may have the need to consult the register for the local statistics which it will contain and which I hope will be valuable.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am surprised, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that he has not seen his way to accept this Amendment. The last of the arguments which he put forward was to the effect that a provision had been introduced that no prosecution could be undertaken by the local registration authority without the assent of the Minister of National Service, and he added that the last thing that the Minister of National Service would assent to would be the prosecution of the discharged man who had just returned from service overseas disabled. If that is the attitude of mind which the Minister for Prosecutions will take up, then surely it would be far better to accept the Amendment at once and do away altogether with the penalties which this Bill imposes upon discharged soldiers. If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, discharged soldiers are not to be prosecuted, why not take out the penalties from the Bill? He went on to say that speeches which have been delivered here were responsible for the suspicions with which the provisions of this Bill were regarded by discharged men outside. If my right hon. Friend really knew anything about the views of discharged soldiers he would know that he is under a complete misapprehension when he makes that statement. The suspicion of the discharged men in relation to provisions of this kind dates from a period long before this Bill was introduced. It is due to his experience of registration as it already exists. A great many of them thought it was their patriotic duty to register voluntarily before this Bill was thought of, and in every case where a discharged man took that course he found that he was prejudiced thereby in that he was called up for military service before the man who had failed to register. That is why he has come to regard these new provisions for compulsory register with suspicion. Indeed, he believes it is going to be a further weapon either for industrial or military conscription. I think it would be will if my right hon. Friend would entirely remove that suspicion by taking away the penalty. He says that this is a totally mistaken apprehension on the part of the discharged man. He says that, nothing will be attempted to his prejudice, and that no such thing is in contemplation, and all that they wish to do is to provide machinery which will actually operate to the advantage of these men; or, in other words, that all 1383 this local register will provide is a simple machinery for these men obtaining employment when they return to civil life, and that it would be also useful for other administrative purposes. If this provision is simply meant for his benefit, there is no need for a penalty to compel him to avail himself of its advantages. Let the Government, instead of throwing suspicion on the discharged man, and saying "unless there is a penalty you will not register yourself and so obtain these advantages," show their own bonâ-fide belief in the benefits which this register is going to bestow on the discharged men. They can only show that belief in their own professions by saying to the discharged men, "While other men may be forced by penalty to register we are quite willing to rely on your patriotism on the footing that the Government really intend to extend these benefits to you."
As a matter of fact, I do not think that on the occasion of any of these Debates the Government has produced a valid argument for forcing registration upon the discharged men. My right hon. Friend has said that the War Office register does not provide the information which will be obtained under this Bill. I am surprised to hear it. I always understood that nearly eighteen months ago elaborate machinery was established by the War Office, for which special buildings were obtained which were said to be specially suitable for the purpose, in order to register the names of all the men in the Army for the purpose of demobilisation, so that the Government would have, when demobilisation came, a complete record of every man who had served and of their special aptitudes for various civil occupations. That was certainly the intention eighteen months ago, and I should be very much surprised if no steps have been taken to provide a central register of that kind. Obviously, if there is such a central register in existence, it is a very simple matter for those who are making up that central register to forward the particulars contained in it to the registration officer of the locality in which the discharged man is going to reside. There should be no difficulty at all. It is a very simple operation, and no speaker from the Front Bench has suggested that it is impossible if they have the particulars, and they professed here that they were making up a register containing these particulars. Under 1384 those circumstances why should it be necessary to ask the discharged man when he comes home to undertake this duty and to render him liable to all these penalties. Surely it is a very poor reward for the soldier who has been out of the country in any of the theatres of war fighting, as he believes, for liberty to come home and find himself a ticket-of-leave man, for that is what it really amounts to. The man has to carry this ticket-of-leave about with him in his pocket. He has, first of all, to register, and then to carry it in his pocket, and he is liable to be called on by any policeman to produce it. It is a strange paradox that this should be the first welcome he should receive on his return from making all these sacrifices. I think he would not look upon it in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I think an absolute case has been made out that it is unnecessary to place this indignity upon him, and if the right. hon. Gentleman knew nothing about the feelings of these men he would know that they resent it as an indignity. It is because they resent it as an indignity and because they deserve some better treatment from the Government of this country that I would appeal once more to the Government to withdraw these penalties.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I listened with great pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I like him much better when he appeals to us in a spirit of sweet reasonableness, and as I listened to his persuasive language I felt almost induced to support him on this occasion. I cannot do so, not, as he supposes, because I do not desire to see the soldier and the sailor registered. I think in many ways it is desirable that he should be registered, and I should like to see him registered, but as an act of his own free will. I do not wish to see him compelled, as he is going to be compelled, under penalties to register himself under this Bill. This Amendment does not prevent him going on to the register, and would not discourage him from getting all the advantages promised by the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendment proposes to make the discharged soldier or sailor absolutely safe from prosecution. We are told that he will not be prosecuted, and that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred there would be no prosecution, and that the local registration authority, even if it wished to do so, would have to go to the Director-General of National Service for his con- 1385 sent, which, I agree, is a great improvement in the Bill. I want to go one step further, and I say if you are in earnest in the benefits which you are promising to the soldier and the sailor, then it cannot be necessary to retain this ugly provision by which you are to bring the discharged soldier or sailor into the Police Court and subject him to a penalty, if not of £5, at any rate of a substantial amount. I submit that is an unnecessary provision, and certainly in a military sense, because no one supposes you are going to use it, and we are assured there is no idea of using these men for military purposes. Therefore, from the point of view of the War, it cannot be necessary to have these particulars. What is the other argument brought forward in favour of retaining this ugly and disagreeable provision? We are told that the register will work to the soldier's advantage, and that it is very important that it should be a systematic and accurate record. The right hon. Gentleman must know that under this Bill you will not have a systematic and accurate record in the sense in which the ordinary Census is so. You cannot get it, because it is not being done in the right way. The forms are not going to be distributed, and it is to be left to the discharged soldier or sailor to go to a post office and get one. In the case of lads under eighteen there are no penalties, and I think it is quite right there should not be. The initiative is left to them to go to the post office to get the forms. It is inconceivable that all these hundreds of thousands of lads will fill up the forms correctly, and all the more so if they learn there is no penalty if they fail to do so. Most of them will be patriotic and wish to assist the Government, but you are certain to have a number who are not, and who will be careless about the registration and will not see the advantage of registering.
Therefore it is impossible to suppose that the register is going to be a systematic and accurate record. If it is not going to be systematic and accurate, then what is the argument for rendering sailors and soldiers liable to these penalties? If you are really going to offer them preferential treatment, as the right hon. Gentleman said, they will hasten to register themselves. But why should you keep this ugly penalty up your sleeve? The reason the Government do not accept this Amendment, as they ought,on their own showing, is because they look forward to the time, and they are bound 1386 to anticipate the time, when it will become necessary to prosecute these men and enforce these penalties. If the penalties were never going to be enforced it would be absurd to put them in the Bill. The Government know perfectly well the time will come when the discharged soldier who has served his country, and it may be has been wounded, and who has done all that he thought necessary, will be brought up in the Police Court and prosecuted under this Bill. I say it will be a disgrace to this House and a disgrace to the Government when that happens.
I am perfectly certain the right hon. Gentleman was very sincere in his professions of how anxious he was to assist discharged soldiers. We are all anxious to do all we can for these men, for we owe to them a debt we never can meet. I say that nothing in reason is too much to do for the men who have risked their lives for the sake of the country as these men have. When a soldier who has risked his life in this way is brought up in the Police Court he hay well say to the right hon. Gentleman, "Why do you kick me downstairs? Why do you treat me in this way?" It may be you cannot get all the benefits for these amen that they ought to have. It. may be impossible to find in every case suitable, desirable, immediate employment. It may be impossible to treat them as we should all wish. At any rate, it is possible to see that under no circumstances are they subjected to penalties because owing to ignorance or prejudice, or whatever it may be, they fail to register themselves under this Bill. It seems to me this is a most necessary, a most reasonable, and a most just Amendment to this Bill, and if my hon. Friend goes to a Division I shall certainly support him.
Mr. T. WILSON
I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this Amendment. He is going to lose nothing by it, and if he knew how difficult it is to deal with labour matters just now he would do nothing which would be a cause of unrest. This week-end I have had an experience of how little it would take a very important section of the working men of the country to down tools. It has been avoided for the time being. I certainly do think that with the records there are of men discharged from the Army and Navy, there is no necessity whatever for imposing a penalty upon them if they forget or neglect to register under this Bill. I am certain that under this Bill you will get all that is useful 1387 without penalising the soldiers and sailors. Therefore, I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment. I believe that it will help to smooth the working of the Bill. It will certainly remove a cause of resentment and remedy something that may lead to bad feeling in the country. The right hon. Gentleman has not quite the same experience in connection with the feelings of working men in the works that I have. If he had I am quite satisfied he would not hesitate for a moment to accept the Amendment and so remove from the Bill any cause of resentment, bad feeling, or friction or anything that would cause unrest and upset in the country. Therefore I do join with hon. Members who have spoken in appealing to him to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to enter my protest against the non-acceptance of this Amendment by the Government. It is in my view a very necessary Amendment to the Bill, and I think the Government will regret the. day that they have not listened to the voices of my hon. Friends opposite and accepted this Amendment and similar Amendments. The Amentment, as the House knows, is that soldiers and sailors should not suffer the penalties under this measure, and the first reason why they should not so suffer is that the penalties are extraordinarily severe. In the second place, I think they should not be penalised, because under the Bill lads from fifteen and a-half to eighteen do not suffer these penalties. They are excluded from the penalties, and I venture to think that the sailors and soldiers who have done so much for us should be put in that category also. I have a tremendous respect for what these chaps have done for us. I do not think the country realises yet what they have done in the way of keeping back the Germans from our shores, fighting for our liberties and risking their lives, limbs, eyesight, and health. I ask, therefore, that these men should not be brought into this Bill: but it is practically fighting an uphill and a hopeless battle against this Government. My plea now is that, although they have been put in the Bill, they ought not to be penalised.
My hon. Friend who has just sat down indicated that if these sailors and soldiers, for whom the country has such 1388 respect, are persecuted and harassed there will be trouble in the country, because they are determined in some instances at any rate not to come under this measure. I have been handed a copy of a resolution passed by the London branch of the Federation of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors to the effect that they will not register under this measure. The reason they will not register under it is that they consider it either means industrial conscription or military conscription. These views, being held by discharged soldiers and sailors, no doubt, trouble will evolve. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the measure that it is entirely for the benefit of the discharged soldiers and sailors, that a beneficial result will accrue to them, and that they need have no fear. If so, these soldiers and sailors will get to know it, but they do not see it at the moment, as this resolution indicates. If they do see it, they will come forward voluntarily; but I do not believe, notwithstanding observations to the contrary, that the result of this measure will be beneficial to these men. At any rate, as this resolution indicates, they have a suspicion that industrial conscription or military conscription is hidden under this legislation, and I think the Government have been ill-advised in not accepting this Amendment to put these soldiers and sailors outside the penalties in the same way as boys from fifteen to eighteen have been put outside.
§ Mr. MUNRO
If I rise for a single moment at this stage, it is to deal with the point my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) has raised, because the speech made by my right hon. Friend at an earlier stage dealt so fairly and fully with all the arguments that he almost, but not quite, made a convert of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell). My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanarkshire said, "Have you not got a register at the War Office which renders the compilation of this register, so far as soldiers are concerned, quite unnecessary?" I do not really think so. That register, so far as my knowledge of it goes, does not keep the information up-to-date. It may give the first particulars of the discharged soldier, but the War Office has neither a right nor a duty to keep itself in touch with his subsequent career when he returns to civil life, when 1389 he may frequently change his address, and not infrequently his views with regard to the occupation he desires to follow, or for which he is best fitted. So that, even assuming the existence of that register, it would not be of any benefit for the purpose for which this register is particularly designed.
As regards the rest of the Debate, as I have said, my right hon. Friend dealt with it very fully. It is surely not necessary to say that he and I are not behind others in this House in fully appreciating what our sailors and soldiers have done for the country. But when one is compiling this register one wants to make it, as my right hon. Friend says, complete and accurate, and it would be very difficult to leave out of the ambit of the register one class of persons—to exclude one class of the community from all penalties under a British Statute. Really that is a very difficult thing to do, and one does not detract in the least from the services of sailors and soldiers in saying so. I think it would be a very difficult and dangerous thing to distinguish between classes when dealing with a matter of this sort. The fullest protection, I think, is given against the evil and dangers which are appre-
§ headed by the new Clause which any right hon. Friend proposed and the House accepted to-day. Is it, conceivable in any case where a sailor or soldier returning home from service has, through ignorance of the law, omitted to register under this Act, that any right hon. Friend the Minister of National Service would give his consent which is now required before prosecution? If these are the only cases—and they seem to be the only cases—my hon. Friend apprehends, then I really do not think there is any reasonable prospect of such cases arising, whereas on the other hand the benefits that would result—
§ Mr. MUNRO
That raises a much. larger question, with which my right hon. Friend has already dealt, and I should not; he in order in dealing with it on this Amendment, The Government desire this provision to remain in the Bill to ensure the completeness of the register and for the benefit of these men themselves.
§ Question put, "That. those words be. there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 113.1391
|Division No. 149.]||AYES.||[7.1 P. M.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Hodge, J. M.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Northampton)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Smith, Sir Swlrc (Keighley, Yorks).|
|Baker. Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Hudson, Walter||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||King, Joseph||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Bliss, Joseph||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Ctickiade)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Buxton, Noel||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Chancellor, Henry George||O'Grady, James||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S.)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Rowlands, James|
|Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||RunCiman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbuzy)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Smallwood, Edward||Pringle and Mr. Morrell.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Coats, Sir stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Griffith, Rt Hon. Sir Ellis J.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Hamersley, Lt.-Col. Alfred St. George|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrinchamh|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.|
|Bann, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Denniss, E. R. B.||Hanson, Charles Augustin|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Boyton, Sir James||Edwards. John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mld.)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Falle, Sir Bertram Godfrey||Higham, John Sharp|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bull, Sir William James||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian),|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Foster, Philip Staveley||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Cator, John||Gardner, Ernest||Hume-Williams, William Ellis|
|Cautley H. S.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Greig, Colonel james Willam||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Gretton, Col. John||Jones, W. S. Glyn (T. H'mts, Stepney)|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||Morgan, George Hay||Stewart, Gersnom|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)||Swift, Rigby|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||Terrell, Major Henry (Gloucester)|
|Law, Rt. Hon A. Bonar (Bootle)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. Herbert||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Newman, Major John R. P.||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend)||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R)|
|Lansdale, James R.||Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie G. (Reading)|
|MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Perkins, Walter Frank||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Mackinder, Halford J,||Pato, Basil Edward||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Macmaster, Donald||Pratt, J. W.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks., Ripon)|
|Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel-||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Samuels, Arthur W.||Younger, Sir George|
|Marriott. John Arthur Ransome||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord|
|Meux, Adml. Han. Sir Hedworth||Shortt, Edward||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Stanier, Captain Sir Bovine|
Question put, and agreed to.