HC Deb 16 June 1976 vol 913 cc655-91

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Ron Thomas

The clause concerns the summary punishment of both soldiers and airmen by their commanding officers. Therefore, it is concerned with discipline. The discipline that is applied to members of the Armed Forces, just as to those outside, is as much concerned with morale as with having adequate opportunity to deal with the many grievances that in industry we should describe as the disputes that arise.

As an ex-member of the Royal Navy, an ex-able seaman—[Interruption.] Hello, sailor! I was an able seaman, lower deck, in the Royal Navy. I soon realised that there were no recognised forms of procedure, no representational systems via trade union, and no sense of consultation between what we used to describe as the pigs who ate in the wardrooms and those who did all the work and prepared their meals. There was no sort of communication. It was for that reason that my hon. Friends and I—many more of my hon. Friends would have supported the amendments had I had time to collect their names—decided to make a simple request regarding discipline as it applies to this clause or any other clauses.

9.15 p.m.

We are dealing here with summary punishment and discipline. We suggest that if there were the right, as is laid down in the Employment Protection Act, for members of the Armed Forces to join a trade union, if there were the setting up of collective bargaining machinery, as there is throughout the bulk of British industry—I think that the Government are to be congratulated on that—and appeals machinery and procedures for avoiding disputes—all that goes with trade union recognition—the exercise of discipline under this and other clauses would be carried out in a totally different fashion from what is suggested in this legislation.

In my judgment, to deny members of the Armed Forces the right that most workers in British industry have is to treat them as second-class citizens.

Many members of the Armed Forces are highly skilled technicians. In many REME establishments they work side by side with civilians who are members of well-organised trade unions. Members of the Armed Forces can therefore see the difference between the summary discipline that appears in this clause and other clauses and the rights of their fellow workers in organised trade unions to have issues dealt with through proper negotiating machinery.

The Deputy Chairman

Order. I am sorry to intervene, but the clause makes no reference to trade unions. I have looked through the Bill very carefully, and I find that there is nothing in it that relates to trade unions. Therefore, I regret that I have to rule the hon. Gentleman out of order regarding any references to trade unions. If he can show me a reference to trade unions, I shall be prepared to entertain his argument.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

On a point of order, Sir Myer. We are debating Clause 5, which deals with summary punishment.

The Deputy Chairman

That is correct.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I submit that it is in order for an hon. Member to give reasons why he cannot support the inclusion of Clause 5 as it stands and to allude to the fact that if certain things were happening he might be prepared to support it.

The Deputy Chairman

The point is that the hon. Member appeared to be going on to deal with amendments that have not been selected.

Mr. Thomas


The Deputy Chairman

Order. I must be allowed to put my point of view. I shall allow hon. Members to raise points of order if they wish.

Mr. Thomas


The Deputy Chairman

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat while I rule on the point of order that has been raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I make it clear at the outset that I shall not allow a general debate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because there is no reference in the Bill to trade unions. We must consider what is in the Bill. I shall allow a passing reference to trade unions, but not a detailed debate on trade union membership inside the Armed Forces.

Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)

Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. You will recall that Clause 5 refers to a period of detention. It seems to me that that is the punishment to which we are addressing ourselves when we allude to the way in which a member of the Armed Forces may seek to exercise certain rights. If a worker in the industrial sector is wrongfully dismissed, he can make representations under the Employment Protection Act through his trade union. I think that is relevant. I submit that there should be some way in which a member of the Armed Forces can appeal against detention and bring in his trade union representative to resubmit his case.

The Deputy Chairman

We are dealing with the Question, That the clause stand part of the Bill. Does the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) wish to continue, or has he finished?

Mr. Thomas

The clause gives a commanding officer the right to punish a soldier or an airman by putting him in detention for up to 60 days under a procedure in which the airman or soldier has no involvement in any sense, whereas in British industry, as has been said, any form of disciplinary procedure would be worked out between the trade union and the employer concerned. There would he procedures to deal with grievances and disputes.

However, as a former ordinary seaman in the Royal Navy, I know that we have a situation in which there are no such procedures whatsoever, and no one to whom one can look when one is having to put up with quite intolerable conditions. There is no shop steward to represent a person and no trade union to back him up in any way.

In that kind of situation we are being asked to support an amendment that suggests that a commanding officer should have the right unilaterally to put someone in detention for up to 60 days under a procedure in which that person has not been involved to any extent, and in which there is no appeal. Neither are soldiers represented in any way. If practically any worker in British industry finds himself in difficulty, he can call upon his shop steward, often his full-time union officer, and then the whole legal department of his union, to represent him.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

I was surprised to learn that my hon. Friend had been a seaman. May I take it that if the clause were amended by the Government on the lines that he has suggested, which the Government could do at a later stage, such a case as that of the naval officer who was accused of having a homosexual relationship—a case that went to the courts and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayer's money—might not take place? I am assuming that such a naval officer could have taken the matter to his trade union, which would no doubt have been called the Naval Officers' Trade Union, which could have discussed the matter then and resolved it, and saved the tax-papers a lot of money. Is my hon. Friend out to save the taxpayers' money?

Mr. Thomas

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Had the authorities in this place selected the other amendments that we have tabled, it would have become apparent that we were asking that the Government cease treating soldiers and airmen as second-rate citizens by giving them those rights set out in the Employment Protection Act, and that the trade unions, such as mine, ASTMS, and the Transport and General Workers' Union, should be able to sit down with those concerned and work out procedures for avoiding disputes, appeals procedures, and so on. In respect of this Clause, we offered an amendment. It is on the Notice Paper, but unfortunately it is starred. In my ignorance, I thought that if there was a star against it, it was bound to be called. Indeed, all we ask for, in terms of the new clause, is that an individual who has to go before his commanding officer—who may be able to incarcerate him for up to 60 days—should have the right of representation and the right to appeal against the decision of that commanding officer.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am surprised. I am trying to follow my hon. Friend's point. As I understand it, what he is asking for is that British soldiers, airmen and seamen should have the same privileges as the Germans. Is he suggesting that British Service men should be treated as well as the Germans are treated?

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Before my hon. Friend replies to that question, I want to ask him a similar question. I am genuinely asking for information—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. It would be only fair to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas), who is addressing the House on the Question, That the clause stand part of the Bill, and giving reasons why he does not think it ought to be supported, not to confuse him. I presume that he knows that he has the right to vote against the motion, That the clause stand part of the Bill. However, he is not a juggler, and if three or four hon. Members start to throw questions and interventions at him he will lose sight of the naval officer and his homosexual act.

Mr. Allaun


Mr. Thomas


The Deputy Chairman

Order. I think we ought to allow the hon. Gentleman to deal with one intervention at a time.

Mr. Thomas

I hope that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) was not trying to make a pro-Market point, because I know what his position is on the Market. My understanding is that the armed forces of six of the member countries of NATO have some form of trade union organisation and a further two provide for representative machinery. The countries are Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, West Germany, Norway and Denmark. Sweden, which is outside NATO, allows trade union organisation and the kind of representative machinery that we are seeking in terms of this clause.

The clause gives commanding officers a considerable increase in power. My own trade union submitted a document to the Committee—

Mr. Thorne

I wonder whether my hon. Friend can tell me the reasons behind the Government's thinking for increasing these detention provisions from 28 days to 60 days?

The Deputy Chairman

Order. I think that we will allow the Minister to tell us himself.

Mr. Thomas

A brief provided by my own trade union—ASTMS—mentioned a reply given in the Official Report on 10th December, which suggests that the provision will allow the number of courts-martial to be reduced. If that is the case it really is something that I and many of my hon. Friends just cannot support. To say to commanding officers "We shall increase your powers simply to cut down the number of courts-martial" is quite outrageous.

We have to bear in mind that, as far as the commanding officer is concerned, there is no representation and no right of appeal, whereas under a court-martial there is. I should make it quite clear that many of us on the Government side of the House can see no justification for giving a commanding officer these increased powers in a situation in which sailors, airmen and soldiers are being punished as part of a procedure over which they have no control. They are not represented in any way, and there is no right of appeal.

The document prepared by my trade union summed it up in a couple of sentences when it stated: It is current good practice in labour relations elsewhere for trade unions to be involved in the drawing up of disciplinary and appeals procedures, and this practice could profitably be extended to the armed forces. A mutually agreed disciplinary procedure would safeguard service persons against possible unfair and arbtirary decisions of commanding officers and would at the same time protect the officers themselves in the exercise of their powers. Unless the Government can give me some convincing reason why they feel it is necessary to give commanding officers these increased powers, I for one will attempt to divide the House and vote against the clause.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)

I support the opposition to the clause expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas). I hope that the Minister will give a detailed explanation of the baffling decision to increase from 28 days to 60 days the punishment which can be awarded by the commanding officer. I cannot believe that the reason was the one which he quoted in Hansard. Of course we are all in favour of reducing the number of courts-martial, but to do so by giving greater arbitrary power to one god-like person is a departure from every principle of British justice. I am sure that in the Armed Forces, as in Civvy Street, the need is to keep the prison population to the minimum. This sort of decision can only make that more difficult.

Many of those who are punished feel that those who impose justice are out of touch with them. This applies to judges and barristers. But that breach is nowhere as great as the breach in the Army between the officer class and the rank and file. Discrimination is at its highest there. One of the greatest barriers to productivity and harmony in industry is discrimination. This is accentuated in the Forces. Too many members of the officer class still come from a public school background. They live in different messes and different conditions. Everything is done to separate them from the rank and file.

It is, therefore, inevitable that the ordinary Service man believes that these people are not aware of his problems. They cannot understand the situation in a barrack room because they do not live there. Ordinary Service men must feel that those who live in officers' quarters, often with servants, live in another world. Even hon. Members probably cannot appreciate the class-ridden structure to which officers belong. The clause should not increase the powers of those people over ordinary mortals like ourselves.

The individual commanding officer may try to impose justice as he sees it, but there is often an educational gap as well. The private feels that he has no one to defend him. I will not follow the trade union argument of my hon. Friend, but if he were represented by a trade union official as happens at industrial tribunals, he would feel that he has some expert assistance. However good the individual officer may be in spite of his class background, he cannot apply justice in this sort of area.

However fallible it is, at least at a court-martial a record is kept and appeal can be made to higher authority. The clause deals with a closed procedure in which justice is dispensed arbitrarily by a god-like figure.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will my hon. Friend tell the House whether in West Germany, where a trade union for Service men exists, such a punishment of 60 days can be inflicted without the Service man being represented?

Mr. Roberts

My hon. Friend is right. We do not all advocate the procedures of NATO on every occasion, but in at least six NATO countries a Service man can have that form of representation.

The main criterion of British justice is that justice should not only be done but be seen to be done. With this closed relationship between the commanding officer and the rank-and-file Service man on trial, the concept of British justice being seen to be done is not fulfilled. I oppose the clause.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol. North-West (Mr. Thomas), I declare an interest as being formerly No. 2738994 LAC Ashton of the RAF. I am sure that we shall have a sympathetic hearing from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, who in 1971 put up a spirited, vigorous and determined fight to prevent the rum ration being taken away from the Navy.

The advertisements shown on television which put forward the idea that the Army is a professional job give rise to concern about discipline in the Armed Forces. The old days of short back and sides, shiny boots, painting the coal black and the stones white are gone. There is a recent report in the Daily Telegraph—the newspaper with a large circulation among members of the Armed Forces, particularly the officer class—with the headline: Lieutenant treated me like a slave, says ship's steward". The report goes on to say: A 30-year old Royal Navy steward told a court martial … that he was the bloody slave of Lieutenant William Henke. He said he was called out late at night to make salads and cook steaks for the Leiutenant's girl friend. 'He told me I was his personal steward on call for all his little whims and what not'"— whatever they may be.

The steward said: I pleaded not guilty in order to expose Lieutenant Henke for what he is. Had this clause been in operation, the steward would have been dealt with without the benefit of the presence of the Press.

On this ship several stewards had asked for transfers. The steward had been called on to clean the officers' toilet three or four times a day. The steward alleged that the officer urinated on a seat and he was made to clear up. That was at a late night party at which the lieutenant was entertaining girl friends. This case had to be brought before a court-martial to get publicity. Had the clause become the law of the land the case would not have seen the light of day.

We see advertisements in the newspapers about the kind of life which young men can expect to lead in the Forces. The picture that is painted is totally different from the life that conscripts of 20 years ago could expect. The rank and file have a strong desire to have the right to be represented by trade union officials at disciplinary hearings.

During the Labour Party conference soldiers in civilian dress surreptitiously push things into our hands. If they do that outside the Winter Gardens they are taking a great chance. They often make allegations, tell us what is happening, and ask us to take a matter up and protest because they feel themselves to be victims.

A rank-and-file soldier who feels that he has not had a fair trial at a disciplinary hearing can appeal and have what is called a redress of grievance. In the past anyone who was put in jankers first went before the beak and got 14 days or reported to the guard room four times a day. One could appeal, but what was the use of that because one had already done 14 days? If one was wrongly convicted one could not get the 14 days back and there was no form of compensation, although there might be an apology.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Is my hon. Friend aware that many members of the Armed Forces are also our constituents who in many cases are advised not to approach their Member of Parliament. Sometimes action is taken to prohibit them from making approaches to us on the problems they face in the Armed Forces. I have had a recent experience of a member of the Armed Forces who wrote to me asking me to drop his case because of the possible repercussions.

Mr. Ashton

My hon. Friend is correct. It is quite common to find that subtle pressures are put on soldiers, sailors or airmen who report things to newspapers. They often find that their chances of promotion are blocked.

There is a need to look at discipline, and that will not come from the Colonel Blimps of this world. It must come from the House. The heads of the Armed Forces must realise that things have changed. The security guard at Vauxhall who manhandled workers in excess of his duties has been moved to another job because people were not prepared to work with him. A fire brigade chief had to be moved to another department because he insisted on treating his men like a sergeant-major. Things are changing. We no longer live in the days of Earl Haig when his officers could impose No. 1 punishment and tie men to the wheels of a gun. There are many tales of what happens in detention centres and the glasshouse. There is certainly a need for an inquiry into disciplinary procedures and a need for members of the Armed Forces to have proper redress for their grievances.

Complaints against the police are now to be looked at in a different way. If it is good enough for the police, surely it is good enough for the Armed Forces. They should have a right to appeal to an outside body and to an independent judge and jury. They should have someone to assist them. They should not have to go before their superiors, where the chances of appealing are almost nonexistent. I hope that the Minister will propose something different.

Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)

It is a matter of personal regret that I lack the distinguished Army service experienced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who made a compelling case for introducing independent trade union representation for members of the Services.

I was struck that the rear-admiral was the lowest rank serving on the Review Body responsible for assessing increases in Service pay. It was not surprising that that body recommended the highest increases for officers and the lowest increases for the ranks. An independent element should be introduced into both discipline and pay.

I read the report of the Select Committee on the Bill. That was a foolish activity, because it disturbed my peace of mind and affected the tranquillity with which I intended to go into the Lobby with the Government. I was surprised and distressed to discover from the Select Committee that when a man is detained he loses his pay for the number of days he serves detention. A witness said that men preferred to be detained than fined because when detained they still had their comforts whereas when fined they had to go about normal life with no money. When a Service man is detained and loses his pay, what provision is made for his family? [HON. MEMBERS: "Look at the evidence."] I have looked through the evidence for the past hour, and I did not find the answer.

9.45 p.m.

Quite a number of questions were put to witnesses asking what would happen to a person's family when he was fined. It was suggested that the fine would be moderated up to three-fifths of the pay and that in other cases there might be social security payments, but that would not apply where the Service man was abroad.

When we face such a clause, which will double the amount of detention that can be imposed by commanding officers, it is right that the House should ask to be assured that suitable provision is made for the family. My hon. Friend the Minister may reply that, as a number of witnesses said, the commanding officer knows the circumstances of each case, and would probably not detain a man when that would cause hardship. I am doubtful about the wisdom of commanding officers having to know the domestic circumstances of the men under them. In any case, it is not enough for us to rely on that. The Bill applies to all men under the commanding officers' command, and not simply to single men.

I hope that the Minister will give me some reassurance on the matter. If he cannot, it will be with great difficulty that I contemplate doubling the sentence not simply on the Service man but on his wife and children.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) said that there were six armies in NATO which had some degree of trade union representation, a point also made by the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts). The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) is an expert on the activities of the armed forces of the Societ Union. I wonder whether he or any other hon. Member can tell us about trade union activities in the Soviet armed forces.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when I gave my ruling. I shall not allow a general discussion on trade unionism in the Armed Forces.

Mr. Goodhart

The point has been raised, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and you allowed it to pass, that six armies in NATO had some trade union representation. There is no trade union representation in the Warsaw Pact armed forces.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

As the hon. Gentleman does not approve of what goes on in the army of the Soviet Union, as many others do not, why does he seek to have us copy the same practice?

Mr. Goodhart

I merely wondered whether there was such a practice in the Soviet Union and whether anyone there had protested against, for example, the harsh conditions in the Soviet navy that led to a mutiny on a frigate.

Mr. Ashton

The hon. Gentleman is an expert on referendums, and has written a book on them. Would he advocate a referendum in the Armed Forces on this matter?

Mr. Goodhart

I think that I should be prepared to see that. The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) referred to conditions in the German army. The army in NATO with the greatest experience of this question is Holland's, which has had associations going back for about 90 years. One trade union there, which is Left Wing, is in conflict with the Minister of Defence, a man so Left Wing that he could not hope to be a member of a Labour Government in this country. He would certainly be sitting below the Gangway if he were a Member of this House. He is in direct conflict with that association, and is trying to get it suppressed. There are 10 other associations in the Dutch armed forces that have a form of trade union—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not paying attention to the ruling I gave. I said that I would allow only fleeting reference to this matter. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to extend his argument.

Mr. Goodhart

I was just about to complete my remarks, Sir Myer. Labour Members must bear in mind that 10 associations in Holland protested at the defence cuts which the Dutch Government were trying to impose.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. James Wellbeloved)

It is right that in debating Service discipline the House should turn its attention to the many points that have been raised, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas). I, too, have had the pleasure of serving in the Royal Navy and I know from first-hand experience the problems that confront Service men.

Everybody will acknowledge that Service men today have certain rights and privileges that are not enjoyed by the private sector of British industry or by the nationalised industries and their employees. Any Service man who feels aggrieved about any matter affecting his Service life is at liberty to write to his Member of Parliament—[Interruption.] My hon. Friends may laugh, but they have not had the benefit of even the brief experience that I have now enjoyed as one of the defence ministerial team. In those few weeks I have received letters from Service men; indeed, I had similar letters before I became a Minister. No Service man is debarred from writing to his Member of Parliament.

Mr. Mikardo

My hon. Friend said that members of the Armed Forces have rights that are not available to workers in the private or public sectors—namely, that they are able to write to their Member of Parliament. Why is it that workers in the public and private sector are not allowed to get in touch with their parliamentary representatives?

Mr. Wellbeloved

The impatience of many of my hon. Friends is leading them to intervene before I have had a chance to conclude my argument on a particular point. I was about to say that Service men had the right to communicate with their Members of Parliament so that their parliamentary representative can demand, by Parliamentary Question or in the form of a debate, that the Minister concerned should account to Parliament for complaints made. That is not open to workers employed in the private sector, nor is it open to those who are employed in the nationalised industries.

Mr. Frank Allaun


Mr. Wellbeloved

I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment, but I hope that I shall be allowed to develop one argument at a time. That is a right possessed by Service men, and it gives them an advantage over employees in industry.

Mr. Frank Allaun

It is true, as the Minister says, that a Service man can approach his Member of Parliament, but does my hon. Friend not admit that the Service man is at a tremendous disadvantage compared with workers in industry, in that if a worker is unjustly treated he or she can leave the job, whereas a Service man or woman cannot?

Mr. Wellbeloved

That is not absolutely correct, because Service men can buy themselves out. I shall not go into that argument now. The other advantage possessed by Service men and not by industrial workers is that they have a right to appeal to the Defence Council, which is the supreme body in the Armed Forces. That is available to Service men if they go through the procedures.

Many of my hon. Friends obviously have strong reservations about the general thrust of the proposals to increase the powers of summary punishment by commanding officers. Their views deserve to be treated with respect and seriousness, and I shall try to deal with them.

I first reassure the House that both the Ministry of Defence and the Select Committee which has considered the Bill have taken very great care indeed to try to protect the position of Service men The extension of the powers now proposed should produce a quicker, less cumbersome and less expensive form of trial for disciplinary offences.

If those who doubt that view were to avail themselves of the many opportunities which arise for hon. Members to take part in parliamentary visits to the Armed Forces, they too would be reassured. They would be able to discuss with Service men in the messes their attitudes towards summary powers.

I ought to be careful, because I was about to say I was only once nearly subject to a court-martial, but let me say that whenever I was up before the commanding officer for any minor indiscretion I was asked "Do you wish to take my award, my punishment?" Every commanding officer is obliged to say that. Those who realise the higher penalties which can be imposed by a court-martial usually reply "Yes, I accept your judgment". From the Service man's point of view it is invariably a judgment which is based on a much more intimate knowledge of him, and is invariably a punishment carried out within his present environment.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Wellbeloved

I repeat my invitation to my hon. Friends who have doubts about this matter to take advantage of the many opportunities available to them for visits to the Armed Forces.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my hon. Friend explain to me the significance of 28 days in relation to summary procedures before the commanding officer or a court-martial? If it is the case that an offence which would warrant over 28 days is serious enough to go to court-martial, why should a serious offence now be laid with the commanding officer?

Mr. Wellbeloved

This is a very serious point and I shall deal with it specifically in a few moments, if my hon. Friend will wait.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

My hon. Friend said that in the past the procedure has been useful in cutting down the number of courts-martial, in that a smaller sentence was awarded by the commanding officer. My hon. Friend is now proposing to increase the number of days. Therefore, surely Service men will automatically refuse the commanding officer's punishment.

Mr. Wellbeloved

That is very similar to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I shall deal with both points when I come to the appropriate part of my speech, to the convenience of everybody.

Mr. Ashton

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the opportunities to visit defence establishments. Does he remember that when we were together on a visit to Cyprus in 1971 we found that there was great discontent because the other peace-keeping forces from different NATO countries had very different methods of discipline from ours?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I remember that visit very clearly, but my recollection is not entirely consistent with that of my hon. Friend.

If I may press on, it is my contention to the House that the proposals are in line with the tendency in civil courts for cases to be taken, in the interests of speed—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That, at this day's Sitting, the Armed Forces Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Snape.]

Question again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I hope that the motion that the House has just passed will not encourage too many of my hon. Friends to intervene in the remaining hour or two of my remarks.

My hon. Friends, being concerned, as they are, that these new proposals should not result in any injustice to Service men, will be relieved to know that I share their concern, as do my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence. One fact needs to be borne in mind, namely, that a good 90 per cent. of those accused at courts-martial in fact already plead guilty, and at least that proportion will be reflected in the cases that can now fall to be dealt with by commanding officers.

We believe that there will be real advantages from the point of view of the accused Service man himself, and the Select Committee that considered these proposals most carefully was also persuaded that there was a real preference in the Services—[Interruption.] My hon. Friends may laugh. Before they take that attitude, they should try to acquaint themselves more thoroughly with the views of men who serve.

I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), who takes a genuine interest in defence affairs, to avail himself of the next opportunity on the All-Party Whip announcing a visit to an Armed Forces establishment, to take it up, to meet the men and to talk to them informally in their messes. He will find that he has no cause to laugh when I make the claim that the majority of the men in the Armed Forces will welcome these proposals which provide that, for swifter justice, summary procedures are to be used in a number of cases where courts-martial are now the rule and where this relatively slower and more cumbersome procedure is seen to be unnecessarily heavy-handed and unnecessarily long-drawn out from the point of view of the Service men. The Government would not have put forward these proposals for increased powers to be given to commanding officers if they had not been satisfied about the protection that will be given to the accused Service man.

I come now to a point that may have escaped the notice of many of my hon. Friends, which is the basic right of an accused Service man coming before his commanding officer subject to these new powers. He still has the right to opt for a court-martial. The soldier, airman or naval rating need not accept his commanding officer's exercise of these new summary powers if he believes that the old system, with the more limited powers, is better. The accused Service man can still avail himself of the old system and exercise his right to opt for a court-martial.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Under the old system, if the maximum punishment was 28 days, the feeling of the accused man was that if he took a court-martial he would be entering the 28 days-plus league as a possible punishment. Now, if he takes a court-martial, he will believe that he is entering the 60 days-plus league.

Mr. Wellbeloved

That does not necessarily follow, because there are other safeguards that I now wish to put to my hon. Friends, which have been considered by both the Department and the Select Committee.

Legal advice on the case also can be obtained by the commanding officer through the exercise of these powers. This is not necessarily required at the moment. Higher authority must have been granted to the individual commanding officer to give permission to use these powers. They do not automatically become the right of every commanding officer. The extended powers are to be used only where the case is not disputed, the material facts alleged are true or the facts constitute the charge brought. The proposals for these safeguards are written into them.

The Select Committee in its consideration shared our view. It took the view that the powers and safeguards were right, and it mentioned particularly that it was satisfied that these changes should be made. If a Select Committee has gone into great detail, considered the matter and taken evidence, we are entitled to take some cognizance of that view.

On the question of trade unions, I will refer to this very briefly, but I must make the point that Service men are already entitled to join a civilian union or association appropriate to their trades or specialisations. There is no bar in military law or in Queen's Regulations which denies the Service man the right to belong to a trade union. Indeed, Service men are encouraged to join trade unions as a preparation for their return to civilian life. The Services have negotiated with a wide range of civilian trade unions and professional bodies to obtain their recognition that prescribed levels of Service training and experience should qualify Service men for membership. My hon. Friends have started with a slight misconception if they believe that a Service man is barred from trade union membership because of military law.

Mr. George Rodgers (Chorley)

Is the Minister suggesting that Service men can actually take advantage of trade union membership and officials if they are involved in any dispute?

Mr. Wellbeloved

At a stage where a man is being prepared for leaving the Services and returning to civilian life, I doubt very much if we in Government would object to trade union officials meeting that man to assist him into a full understanding of trade union rules.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)


Mr. Wellbeloved

I will give way in a moment.

I come to the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West when he referred to the memorandum submitted to the Select Committee by a trade union. I deeply regret that this memorandum was submitted on almost the last day of the Select Committee's deliberations, and, therefore, it was not possible to give it the close attention which no doubt it deserved. However, it would be right and proper that if a trade union, or any other body, wishes to make representation to the next Select Committee on military discipline it should send in its memorandum so that the Select Committee can consider it carefully, sensibly, and fairly. If the Select Committee is satisfied with the points raised in the memorandum it will make recommendations to the House.

Mr. Heffer

A little earlier my hon. Friend referred to the witnesses who were brought before the Select Committee. How many of them were even below the rank of sergeant or equivalent in one of the other services? Looking through the list I can see rear-admirals, a major-general, a brigadier, a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel and so on. How can my hon. Friend say that the rank and file of the Army are enthusiastic with these changes when no witnesses were called to express their opinon?

Mr. Wellbeloved

That is a very good point. I am sure that the Whips will have noted my hon. Friend's desire on this matter that the Select Committee should hear the view of ordinary rankers. No doubt when the opportunity presents itself they will invite him to allow his name to go forward to serve on the Select Committee, as did I and my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) on previous occasions. Those Select Committees certainly had the benefit of an ordinary seaman and a private soldier to give their views.

This Select Committee visited naval detention quarters and the Military Corrective Training Centre at Colchester to meet and talk to people who are under detention.

Mr. Rob Cryer (Keighley)

My hon. Friend said that the Government encouraged Service men to join trade unions when they were being discharged. But it is not true, is it, that trade union representatives can be involved in any disciplinary proceedings brought against a soldier?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I do not think it is true that a trade union representative as such can appear before the courts on behalf of one of his members. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about industrial tribunals?"] I accept the point about industrial tribunals, but I am talking about a court the equivalent of a court-martial. Just as a trade union can provide legal advice and representation, I have no doubt that a Service man who is a member of a trade union can possibly seek the assistance of his union in providing legal representation under the various Service Acts if that is what he wants.

Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)

I had hoped to be selected as a member of the Select Committee because the nursing services of the WRNS are now included within the full scope of the Naval Discipline Act. I am sure that the Minister will want to ensure that a woman representative is included in the next Select Committee on such a Bill and that representatives of the women's Services should be asked to give evidence and should be encouraged to do so.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I have no objection to that. I share my hon. Friend's desire to see the elimination of sexual discrimination, and it is highly commendable that the WRNS is now being brought into line with the two other women's Services and will now enjoy the benefits which it has been denied for so long.

I have tried to deal with the genuine and serious points that my hon. Friends have raised. I can only repeat that we in the Department have given the most careful consideration to this matter. I know that many of my hon. Friends disagree with me on many issues, but I speak as someone with experience in the Armed Forces on the lower deck and as someone with many years' experience in industry as a shop steward. It would not be my desire to bring before the Committee any measure which I thought detrimental or unjust in any way to Service men, and I do not do so on this occasion.

I commend the clause to the Committee in the certain knowledge that on the examination that I have given it, on the examination that the Select Committee has given it and on the examination that has been given to it throughout the Ministry of Defence and elsewhere, the proposals that it contains are based on a sincere and genuine desire to extend justice and fairness to Service men.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I rise only briefly to give the Minister some help. I am sure that the whole Committee will be grateful to the many Labour Members below the Gangway who have shown this evening an unaccustomed interest in defence matters and have given the Minister an opportunity to set the record straight and, I hope, to enlighten some of them on matters about which they seem to be strangely out of date.

I welcome what the Minister said about visits to Service establishments. Such a visit is taking place tomorrow. I believe that nearly 20 Members of this place and another place are taking part. I am sure that the Minister regrets as much as I do that only three Members from the ranks of the Labour Party will be going.

Mr. Wellbeloved


Mr. Onslow

There is another defence visit taking place next week. The imbalance between the parties will be practically the same. I can assure Labour Members that the Services resent very much the lack of interest which Government supporters show in the affairs of the Services of the Crown. It is not a matter—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to address himself to Clause 5. The clause has nothing to do with visits.

Mr. Onslow

It would not be resented deeply, Sir Myer, if you were to give me as much leeway to cover this point as you were kind enough to give to the Minister.

The Chairman

The occupant of the Chair for the time being is a servant of the House, and the House has laid down certain Standing Orders. Therefore, I ask the hon. Gentleman to observe them.

Mr. Onslow

I shall always be anxious to abide by your rulings, Sir Myer. I was merely seeking to follow the remarks made by the Minister, which you regarded as totally in order. Indeed, I think that the whole Committee took that view. In referring to visits, there is no question of any hon. Member having to ingratiate himself with the Whips. Visits are invitations extended to Conservative and Labour Members quite impartially.

A close study of the clause reveals that it makes no mention of the Navy. It expressly does not apply to the Navy. With great deference, Sir Myer, I think that much of what was said about the Navy was out of order. However, I make no further comment about that as I am happy to abide by your ruling, Sir Myer.

I thank the Minister for what he said about the trouble that the Select Committee took to try to cover all the points which have been sketched in this evening by hon. Members who have had so little time to read the Committee's report. I understand that they are busy people. I understand that it is a terrible business to table amendments in time for a debate. I appreciate the dreadful difficulties in which the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) must have found himself. I feel sorry about his union. However, it is a fact that the Committee was sitting in December last year. We deliberated for nearly three months. The Richmond and Barnes constituency Labour Party managed to get a memorandum to us on this subject in good time for it to be considered. I make no corn plaint, because I am sure that the ASTMS had other things on its mind.

I suggest that hon. Gentlemen opposite should maintain their new-found interest in this matter until the next Select Committee. I am sure that the Select Committee will find Members from the Opposition Benches, which is where hon. Gentlemen opposite will then be sitting, welcome additions to its debates. They will learn a great deal. To judge by what they said tonight, there is no limit to the amount that they could learn if they served on the Select Committee.

I shall gladly offer my support to the Minister if there is a Division. I have no hesitation in saying that the maintenance of discipline in the Armed Forces of the Crown is a matter about which all who serve in them care deeply. What has been said by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway tonight will do the Labour Party no good. I hope that there will be a substantial majority in favour of the retention of this necessary reform in the Bill.

Mr. Mikardo

The one thing of which we can be sure is that whenever the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) intervenes in a debate he will lower the tone of it. Until he rose to make his contribution we were having a serious discussion. The fact that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force gave way so many times, and with such courtesy, shows that he was taking seriously the very serious arguments which had been put forward. The hon. Member for Woking would succeed in making petty party points in the middle of a requiem mass. There is no subject under the sun which he is capable of treating on its merits.

When I came into the Chamber this evening, the last thing in my mind was to intervene in the debate. I confess at once that I have little knowledge of the Armed Services. Unlike some of my hon. Friends who have had direct experience, the only time in my life that I wore a uniform—it was a long time ago—was, believe it or not, in the Home Guard. In that very worthy, if not altogether serious, establishment, as a result of three years of blind devotion to duty and unquestioning obedience to my officers, I rose to the rank of private.

I was induced to get to my feet by the speech made by the Under-Secretary, because I should like to comment shortly, but seriously, on four points that he made.

The first point was that, as the Select Committee had looked into this matter very carefully and had come to a conclusion, we should not seriously query it. That is a new theory in this place. I was for three years chairman of one of the most important Select Committees of the House. In that period we produced a number of important reports. I am very proud of the fact that those reports were unanimous, although there was all-party representation on the Committee. Not one of those reports was discussed in the House and the Government did not do a blind thing about any single one of them. Therefore, I find it hard to be convinced that a thing is right because a Select Committee says so.

Mr. Wellbeloved

This Select Committee was considering a Bill which had received a Second Reading in the House. Therefore, it was undertaking a slightly different function from that to which my hon. Friend referred.

Mr. Mikardo

That is right. There is a difference of function. Nevertheless, the basic argument remains that the House does not normally accept something because a Select Committee says so.

The second of the four points of my hon. Friend on which I want to comment is that he says that the proposal to double the penalty that can be inflicted upon a Service man without his having any right of representation or appeal, which can be inflicted unilaterally by deus ex machina, will be an advantage to the Service men themselves. I find that a bit hard to take. Hon. Members should think about it from first principles. I would not consider it to be advantageous to me if an on-the-spot fine which could be inflicted by a policeman were doubled. I would think that the chances were that that would represent a considerable disadvantage.

The third point of my hon. Friend on which I want to comment is this. I took down his words. He said "The majority of the men in the Armed Forces will welcome the change." How does he know? I will make a deal with my hon. Friend. Perhaps he will take steps to find out about this. I am not talking about a referendum or anything like that, but there are these days methods of scientific opinion polling, getting a balanced sample and so on. My hon. Friend could do it on a 4 per cent., a 5 per cent. or a 6 per cent. sample. If he will entrust one of the organisations that are skilled in the operation of collecting opinions by means of a balanced, statistically significant sample, and if the men in the Armed Forces say that they welcome this, I beg him to believe that I will trot into the Lobby behind him without any arrière pensée at all.

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The Question, That the clause stand part of the Bill, will be put this evening.

Mr. Mikardo

If I may put it to you with the utmost respect, Sir Myer, you are not alone in your desire to get home before midnight. We all share that desire. However, with the utmost respect, the Under-Secretary used it as his major argument in this debate, and it was manifestly in order because otherwise you, Sir Myer, would not have allowed it—

Mr. Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is misunderstanding my intervention. I am not objecting to his making reference to what he has just mentioned. I am only pointing out to him the practicability of carrying it out.

Mr. Mikardo

I am not making a reference at all, but doing something much simpler. I am replying to a point that was in order because you allowed it to be made, Sir Myer, and, therefore, the reply must be in order.

What I am saying to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is that if he can establish as a fact what he said, that the majority of the men in the Armed Services will welcome the change, I shall go along with him. I ask only one thing in return. That is that if such a test finds that they do not, he, too, will go by their judgment, as it is on their judgment that he rests.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

My hon. Friend is deploying an argument about ascertaining the genuine will of ordinary ratings. Perhaps I may support his case by pointing out that merchant seamen—I was one for 10 years—suffered under this kind of attitude under the Merchant Shipping Acts until 1970. Recently they have used the Tavistock Institute to find out from seamen themselves whether those who seek to say that they represent them, captains and leaders of industry, really want the fines that have been put in the Bill. The Tavistock report, which has been published for about six months now, has found that there is no necessity or justification for it, and it is certainly not desired by the men.

Mr. Mikardo

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. Now the Under-Secretary knows where to go to get the research done, because my hon. Friend has told him.

Mr. Wellbeloved

My hon. Friend is making a most interesting point, with which I have considerable sympathy. I have a difficulty in this respect. The constraints and, indeed, the pressure put upon me to curtail defence expenditure really would not justify me in accepting this extra expenditure on public funds. However, hon. Members, without any undue cost to public funds, can themselves seek to make their own reasonable judgment of Service opinion by visiting the Services.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Mikardo

My hon. Friend must not tempt me too far. If he does, I shall have to put it as an opinion that the cost of the sort of survey which has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) would be a good deal less than all the junketing of MPs which goes on around the Services. The Minister ought not be too worried about cost. He said it would cost too much to find out what Service men think about the clause, but he should not say that without finding out what they actually think.

The Minister said that the procedures of the commanding officer taking action are quicker, less expensive and less cumbersome than a judicial process. Goodness me! What sort of argument is that for a democrat to use? If we applied such a system to the civilian scene and allowed policemen to impose not merely on-the-spot fines but on-the-spot prison sentences we could save a lot of money by getting rid of the courts. That is what he is saying.

Mr. Wellbeloved

If the law, as far as civilians are concerned, allowed on-the spot lines with the absolute right for the person involved to opt to go before a civil court, that might be something which would commend itself to the general public. However, the Armed Forces can opt not to accept these judgments and revert to their previous right to go to court-martial.

Mr. Mikardo

My hon. Friend might be right in saying that this might well commend itself to the public, but we have not adopted such a system except for marginal things like parking offences. I cannot conceive any circumstances in which the British public would stand for on-the-spot detention sentences—no circumstances whatever.

If the object is to be quicker, less expensive and less cumbersome, we could achieve that object not only in the Armed Forces but also in civilian life by abrogating all civil liberties.

There was once a gentleman named Attila who had a system of judgments which were very quick and inexpensive and not at all cumbersome. There was once a gentleman named Barbarossa who had a system of imposing sentences which was very quick, not at all cumbersome and did not cost any money at all. But this is not something which we are seeking to elucidate.

I think the Minister made the best of a pretty rotten brief. When he reads it tomorrow he will not be very happy with it.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The Minister did not make a distinction between a volunteer force and a conscript force. I believe there must be some relevant distinction so far as disciplinary proceedings and the representation and non-representation of trade unions are concerned.

Surely, when we have a volunteer force people choose to serve under certain conditions. If people are attracted to service in the present volunteer forces, presumably they are attracted to a disciplined and, possibly, an authoritarian way of life.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that we are at the present time changing these conditions from the conditions under which they volunteered? Would we accept that in any other job?

Mr. Budgen

With respect to the hon. Gentleman I think his case would have been stronger when conscription was imposed by law. We now have a volunteer force; that is to say, those who serve in the Forces do so in the knowledge that they are joining as professionals.

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

They have conditions already.

Mr. Budgen

They have conditions certainly, and we in Parliament must be scrupulous in seeing that those conditions are fair. Conscript forces must take into account the vast variety of characters in our society. There will always be an element in society of natural barrack-room lawyers. As one who is now a lawyer by profession, I must confess to having been a natural barrack-room lawyer when I was one of the last conscripted soldiers.

I understand perfectly the attitudes of those who dislike an authoritarian regime, but those who enter the Services today voluntarily choose a disciplined and authoritarian regime. There is no reason to take into account our natural prejudices on the side of the rebel and the barrack-room lawyer and not take into account the fact that those who join today's specialist, professional and elite Forces do so with a particular cast of mind. They may have a more authoritarian cast of mind than that of the generality of people who were conscripted before 1957.

Mr. Heffer

When I was in the Royal Air Force, I always avoided barrack-room lawyers. I always found that people who took their advice were put on a charge much more quickly than those who avoided them. Having listened to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who is a self-confessed barrack-room lawyer, I believe that that is sound advice. I hope that it was also the experience of other hon. Members.

I should like to draw attention to the memorandum submitted by the Richmond and Barnes constituency Labour Party, objecting to the proposals in Clause 5. It effectively answers the case made by the Minister. This important constituency party saw the lessons to be learned much more quickly than anyone else. It says: This memorandum argues that the powers of punishment of Commanding Officers of the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force should not be increased as proposed in Clause 5 of the 1975 Armed Forces Bill, and it further contends that the proposed powers of punishment, if implemented:

  1. (a) will remove important legal safeguards from the individual serviceman;
  2. (b) cannot be justified by administrative savings and will further complicate the disciplinary process;
  3. (c) will produce no benefit for the individual serviceman, or his family, by loosening 'stigma";
  4. (d) will be contrary to principles of natural justice."
The whole case is summed up in those four basic points.

The memorandum develops one other point which is directly relevant to what the Minister said. I listened carefully to him, because I believed that there might be a good case for these provisions. Indeed, I had a slight exchange of opinion earlier with my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). He also said that there might be a good case, but I said that I had not heard it yet. He may feel, as I do, that no good case has been put forward. I listened for it, but it did not come.

The argument is that this procedure would be quicker and less expensive. To suggest that the power given to a commanding officer should be increased to allow him to award a period of detention of 60 days instead of 28 days because it would be quicker and less expensive is not a good argument.

The Richmond and Barnes constituency Labour Party has something to say about that: We feel, however, that the relative complexity of the courts martial procedure exists for sound reasons, whereas the plea of 'administrative savings' has all too often been advanced to justify an erosion of individual liberty.

Mr. Onslow

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for rehearsing this argument. It serves to remind us that the Select Committee had all that evidence before it when it considered the matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we questioned the witnesses who came before us from various walks of civilian and Service life along the lines of the statements he quoted. If the hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to read the evidence, he will see that we did not dismiss the matter without examination. We went into it thoroughly and were unanimously of the opinion that the Government's proposals should be supported in this case, although not in others. We have changed the Bill considerably.

Mr. Heffer

I am not suggesting that the evidence was not examined. I am saying that it is unfortunate that the sound and serious arguments advanced by the constituency party were not accepted. The list of witnesses in the Select Committee's report does not include any rank-and-file members of the Armed Forces. The witnesses were all officers or civilians. No private, lance-corporal, LAC or able seaman is listed.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

Does my hon. Friend realise how difficult it would have been for the Select Committee to have heard evidence from privates, LACs and able seamen when there is no trade union or organisation to supply a spokesman and to represent these men at that level? The Select Committee had to listen to rear-admirals and assume that they could speak for the other ranks.

Mr. Heffer

But it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for the Select Committee to visit a Navy base, an Army centre or a Royal Air Force station. Service men read the unit orders every day. They could have been asked in the orders to volunteer to see the Select Committee. Even without a trade union, there are ways and means of doing this.

I ask the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) not to believe that because hon. Members do not always want to go on trips to various places they are not interested in the Armed Forces or other matters with which the House of Commons is concerned. Some of us live in the same streets as do members of the Armed Forces. We know them personally, we speak to them when they come home on leave and well understand their problems. I ask the hon. Gentleman to be more humble in his approach.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

Long before I heard the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) speak on defence in the House, many hon. Members on this side of the House visited our Armed Forces overseas and at home without the hon. Gentleman knowing anything about it. He should be more careful about making global statements about other hon. Members. He has shown his usual ignorance on the subject, as he has on so many others in the past. [Interruption.]

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. We are discussing whether Clause 5 should stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Mendelson

The hon. Member for Woking can shout as much as he likes but he had better be more careful in future before making global statements about hon. Members. I know that hon. Members may not like what I say but they will be told just the same and they will learn to listen to the truth.

The debate is important to those who care about civil liberties—and that involves the Armed Forces. Those in charge of the Forces have, by their record, proved that they care as much for civil liberties as we do. Therefore, there is nothing between us on purpose and principle. It comes down to judgment.

I came to the debate with an open mind knowing that there is room for reform and modernisation in the Armed Forces. It would be silly to have a closed mind. As my hon. Friend for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, a stronger and more convincing case could have been made by the Government which might have led us to agree with them. But that case has not been made, and I urge the Minister to reconsider the Government's attitude to the clause.

When we faced the problem of advising someone who was to be court-martialed in the army the officer who accepted the task of defending the accused would always examine whether the court-martial was inevitable in the first place. Obviously, some cases had to come before a court-martial but in other cases one could gain valuable experience by asking the man concerned why he had not accepted the punishment of his commanding officer. Men do not take such decisions in a lighthearted manner. A number of considerations were usually involved which needed careful examination, as anyone with experience of Service life will understand. Strong reasons must be established for abandoning that procedure, which has served as a safeguard to many in their Service careers. Trust in a particular commanding officer often made a man say "I will leave it to the commanding officer to make the decision." Individual circumstances alter cases. Therefore, we cannot say generally "We can abolish it because that leads to a simplification of the whole process."

Secondly, when a limited power is given to the commanding officer, that power in itself is a considerable safeguard in the cause of justice. We heard very little from my hon. Friend the Minister about this factor of limitation. It was the Government's duty to say something about it when asking for such a fundamental change. It is much easier for someone facing a possible trial to say "I will leave the decision to you" when he knows that the limitation is there by law and regulation.

Thirdly, if it is a part of modernisation that more power should be given, because the process will be speeded up, I cannot understand why the process should take such a long time when the total number of people in our Armed Forces has been so seriously reduced. After all, we are not now dealing with an Army of 5 million people.

Here I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who made a wholly unrealistic point about the changed nature of the Armed Forces. He must remember that a volunteer Army does not sell its right to natural justice because those in it volunteer to serve, nor are the duties of the House of Commons to see to it that the people serving in the Armed Forces have the same consideration as if it were a conscript Army in any way reduced.

Mr. Budgen

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the point I made. I concede immediately that it is the duty of the House of Commons to make sure that all the rules of natural justice are applied to any victim of military law. We must make sure that in a wider sense than just natural justice the rules are fair. The only point I was making was that in today's volunteer Forces we are dealing with a more specialist type of person than in the wider context of a conscript Force.

Mr. Mendelson

We understand only too well. There is no wider sense than natural justice. There is natural justice or there is an absence of it.

The case is clearly understood. The best way in which we can service the general cause that everybody has at heart tonight is simple and straightforward. That way is by indicating that there is a strong body of opinion which, whilst in favour of modernisation, is also very much concerned that the essential safeguards should be maintained. The Government have failed to persuade considerable numbers of us that the reform is justified or that they have made a case for it, and we therefore accept the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) to vote against the clause.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The committee divided: Ayes 197, Noes 54.

Division No. 186 AYES 10.54 p.m.
Adley, Robert Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Archer, Peter Golding, John Oakes, Gordon
Armstrong, Ernest Goodhart, Philip O'Halloran, Michael
Arnold, Tom Goodhew, Victor Onslow, Cranley
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gourlay, Harry Owen, Dr David
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Graham, Ted Page, John (Harrow West)
Bates, Alf Grant, George (Morpeth) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bean, R. E. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Palmer, Arthur
Beith, A. J. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Park, George
Bishop, E. S. Hardy, Peter Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Blenkinsop, Arthur Harper, Joseph Pendry, Tom
Boardman, H. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Penhaligon, David
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hicks, Robert Price, William (Rugby)
Braine, Sir Bernard Hooson, Emlyn Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Howell, Rt Hon Denis Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Robinson, Geoffrey
Buchanan, Richard Huckfield, Les Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Budgen, Nick Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Roper, John
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Mark (Durham) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Carter, Ray Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cartwright, John Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rowlands, Ted
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Sandelson, Neville
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) John, Brynmor Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Johnson, James (Hull West) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Barry (East Flint) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Concannon, J. D. Kaufman, Gerald Skeet, T. H. H.
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kimball, Marcus Small, William
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Leadbitter, Ted Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Cronin, John Le Merchant, Spencer Stainton, Keith
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Stallard, A. W.
Crouch, David Luard, Evan Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Luce, Richard Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Davidson, Arthur Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Stoddart, David
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Stradling Thomas, J.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) McAdden, Sir Stephen Strang, Gavin
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) McCartney, Hugh Strauss, Rt Hn G. R.
Deakins, Eric McElhone, Frank Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Macfarlane, Neil Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) MacFarquhar, Roderick Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund McGuire, Michael (Ince) Tinn, James
Dempsey, James Mackenzie, Gregor Tomlinson, John
Doig, Peter Maclennan, Robert Urwin, T. W.
Dormand, J. D. Magee, Bryan Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Douglas-Hamilton., Lord James Mahon, Simon Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Duffy, A. E. P. Mallalieu, J. P. W. Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Dunn, James A. Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dykes, Hugh Marquand, David Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Eadie, Alex Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Watkinson, John
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Weatherill, Bernard
English, Michael Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wellbeloved, James
Ewing Harry (Stirling) Mather, Carol White, Frank R. (Bury)
Eyre, Reginald Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin White, James (Pollok)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mayhew, Patrick Whitlock, William
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Meacher, Michael Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Millan, Bruce Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Monro, Hector Winterton, Nicholas
Ford, Ben Moonman, Eric Woodall, Alec
Forrester, John Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Woof, Robert
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Freeson, Reginald Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Freud, Clement Morris, Michael (Northampton S) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mudd, David Mr. John Ellis and
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Mr. Peter Snape
Allaun, Frank Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Ash ton, Joe Corbett, Robin George, Bruce
Atkinson, Norman Cryer, Bob Grocott, Bruce
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hart, Rt Hon Judith
Bidwell, Sydney Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Heffer, Eric S.
Buchan, Norman Evans, John (Newton) Hooley, Frank
Canavan, Dennis Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Clemitson, Ivor Flannery, Martin Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Kinnock, Neil Noble, Mike Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Lamond, James Ovenden, John Ward, Michael
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Parry, Robert Watkins, David
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Pavitt, Laurie Whitehead, Phillip
Litterick, Tom Prescott, John Wigley, Dafydd
Loyden, Eddie Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wise, Mrs Audrey
McNamara, Kevin Roderick, Caerwyn Young, David (Bolton E)
Madden, Max Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Maynard, Miss Joan Rooker, J. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mendelson, John Sedgemore, Brian Miss Jo Richardson and
Mikardo, Ian Skinner, Dennis Mr. Stan Thorne
Newens, Stanley

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 to 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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