§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bing
I shall detain the Committee for only an instant on this Clause which, in the Select Committee, I 738 passed with rather a heavy heart. My feelings about it have been a little increased by the experience in my own constituency, where I have an aerodrome, though the people who live there are not residents because they are never there long enough to register for a vote. But I have certain Parliamentary responsibility for them, and this is the Clause which deals with barrack room damages. This is a matter which I think ought to have been raised on the Army Act.
§ Mr. Bing
I am sorry I was not here on that occasion, because as far as my constituency is concerned, it is particularly an Air Force matter. I have Horn-church Aerodrome, which, having been one of the more distinguished aerodromes during both world wars, has now ceased to be operational and is now largely a base for people passing through. I am seeking from the Under-Secretary some undertaking that the regulations regarding barrack room damages will be very strictly interpreted, because there is nothing worse than people who are there for a short time being made to pay for other people's damages. Nothing encourages people to make more damage than the knowledge that they will be going out very soon and that somebody else will be left to pay for that damage. The unsatisfactory feature of the matter is that from time to time the garrison engineer or somebody else can just assess the damage and charge it to the people who happen to be there at the time.
I apologise to the Committee for not having been here when the matter was discussed in regard to the Army Bill, but I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some undertaking in this matter. Certainly in my own constituency there is a feeling that some people are being unjustly charged for damage done by other people. I hope that the Undersecretary can give an undertaking that there will be a strict regard for the way in which barrack room damage is charged up.
If we know who the culprit is who caused the damage he has to pay. The difficulty arises when we do not know who did it. Then, if that damage was paid for from public funds, it would immediately lead to a very large increase in damage. The only way is 739 to charge everybody who occupied that barrack. The question of people coming and going is a much more difficult one, because, clearly, we cannot add up damage and charge the men every few days. I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman the assurance that, as far as humanly possible, we will handle this matter in the fairest way we can.
§ Mr. Bing
The Under-Secretary says that there is a certain responsibility upon everybody in the barrack—but that is the responsibility of officers as well as men. It is so easy to pass it off—especially in transit barracks—and allow all sorts of damage to take place, feeling that it does not matter; that it will not fall upon public funds; that there will not be any fuss about it; that every three months the barrack damage will be totted up and charged against the people who happen to be there at the moment.
The ordinary man cannot say, "It was not me who made this hole in the floor." I know from my experience in the war how unfairly this can react. It bears out various complaints which I have had in my constituency, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look very strictly into the matter and ask the Air Council or somebody else to make a few examinations of the amounts charged up for barrack room damage. If we can have a few spot checks by the Ministry, and the amounts charged by one establishment compared with those charged by another, I shall be quite content.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman comes across cases which he regards as unfair, I hope that he will let me know.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clauses 149 to 204 ordered to stand part of the Bill.