§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
The PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Lord PAKENHAM)
My Lords, I rise to 1016 move the Second Reading of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill. With your Lordships' permission I will do so somewhat briefly and then, if the House desires me to speak again, I will attempt to reply to any particular points that are raised. The preamble and Clauses 1 and 2 are in the usual form. The numbers of the land and air Forces in the preamble are the numbers in Votes A of the Army and Air Estimates respectively. They include members of the British Services in India and Burma whose emoluments fall, in the first instance, on British funds.
If I may turn to the specific amendments of the Army and Air Force Acts, I will briefly explain the various clauses. As regards Clause 3, under Section 124 of the Army Act a person tried by court-martial is entitled to obtain a copy of the proceedings if he applies at any time within seven years, in the case of a general court-martial, or within three years in the case of any other court-martial. Under Rule of Procedure 99, the applicant cannot be charged with more than the actual cost of making the copy, but Section 124 imposes an overriding maximum of 2d. for every folio of 72 words. This rate of 2d. per folio has been in the Army Act since 1881 and until fairly recently it was not less than the actual cost. But the cost of obtaining copies has now risen to 4d. per folio, with the result that half of the cost falls on the general public. It was clearly the original intention that, within reason, the applicant should pay the whole cost of the copy obtained for him. As it stands in the Bill at this moment, the clause was intended to remove the necessity for further amendments of the section in future by substituting the words mentioned in the clause, but, in deference to views expressed in another place, I shall have occasion at a later stage to put forward in your Lordships' House an amendment to this clause which will have the effect of simply substituting "4d." for "2d." in Section 124. I hope the new rate will stand for a considerable time, but should it again become necessary to alter it there will, of course, be an opportunity of doing so on the next following Annual Bill.
Clause 4, which I think will be of special interest to your Lordships, makes officers of the Regular Forces subject to the same liabilities as soldiers in regard to the maintenance of wives and children, including illegitimate children. The 1017 difference which has hitherto obtained between the position of the officer and the soldier in this matter has long been a rather sore point, and I suppose that the whole House today will agree to the principle of the amendment. Clause 5 (1) amends the terms of the corresponding section, Section 145, of the Army Act, relating to soldiers. This is no more than a clarification of terms. Subsection (2) makes permanent a provision already contained in the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations, extending Section 145 of the Army Act to Orders of Courts in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. Clause 4 includes a similar provision for officers, and the Navy are providing similarly under the Naval Forces (Enforcement of Maintenance Liabilities) Bill, now before Parliament.
Clause 6 provides for interim orders for deductions from pay towards the maintenance of the wife and children of an officer or soldier of the Regular Forces. The new Section 144A in relation to officers, and the existing Section 145 in relation to other ranks, provide for deductions being made either on production of a Court Order or decree, or when the Army Council or the competent officer are satisfied that there is a case for a deduction. In either event, there is often bound to be appreciable delay in establishing a case, and during the war power was taken by a Defence (Armed Forces) Regulation to make, in relation to other ranks, interim deductions on a prima facie case being made out. I believe this arrangement has worked well and has prevented much avoidable hardship to wives and children. This clause perpetuates the arrangement by a permanent amendment of the Army Act, applying to officers as well as to other ranks. Clause 7 also carries into the Army Act a war-time provision which has been found to work satisfactorily in practice, and which has saved a considerable amount of travelling. It provides that where an officer is being proceeded against on a charge of desertion or absence without leave, documentary evidence of his arrest may be accepted in evidence, instead of the officer to whom the surrender was made actually being called as a witness.
Clause 8 applies to the Air Force Act the amendments made by Clauses 3 to 7 in the Army Act. Clauses 9 and 10 are of considerable interest. They make corresponding amendments to the Army Act 1018 and Air Force Act respectively, to provide for the institution and conduct of a new kind of establishment for military and Air Force offenders, to be known as military corrective establishments. The new scheme is designed to secure that the soldier or airman under sentence shall be progressively rehabilitated, with a view to his return to the Service as a useful soldier or airman. Under the scheme proposed, an offender sentenced to detention will serve the first part of his sentence in a military corrective establishment, Grade A, where the emphasis will be on confinement, strict discipline and individual military training. He will then go for the remainder of his sentence to another military corrective establishment, Grade B, where the emphasis will be on rehabilitation, through three stages of gradually diminishing severity. In the last of these stages—which is in the establishment Grade B—he will be permitted to go outside the establishment unescorted on parole, perhaps once a week. Clause 9 gives the military authorities power to institute the scheme and make the necessary rules. Clause 10 enables the Royal Air Force to take advantage of it, as separate establishments for airmen are not contemplated.
I have visited one of these new establishments of the Grade A type at Colchester, and I would be very pleased to facilitate visits by members of your Lordships' House to the establishment in question. The proposed Grade B establishment has not yet been brought into operation, and therefore cannot be visited at the moment, but there again I would be pleased to arrange a visit in due course. I do not think that anybody who visited one of these new establishments could possibly feel that the Army were erring on the side of inhumanity. The only real difference between a Grade A establishment of the new kind and an ordinary training establishment is that the men are not allowed to leave the premises when off duty, and their life is slightly harder. I believe they get only two cigarettes a day, but those seem to be highly valued, and generally the men seem to be reasonably content with their lot. I feel that your Lordships will approve the humanitarian ideal behind these new establishments, and I hope that in regard to this clause and the other clauses I have mentioned you will be well satisfied. As I said earlier, I will attempt to answer 1019 any questions that may be raised, and I hope when that is done your Lordships' House will be ready to give the Bill a Second reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Viscount BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I think no noble Lord on these Benches will wish to offer any opposition to the first part of the Bill, to continue the Army and the Royal Air Force for another twelve months, but I should like to say a word or two about the amendments to the Army Act which the noble Lord opposite has explained—as he always does—with such great clearness. There are, this year, three fairly important points, or perhaps I should say two fairly important points and one very important point, in which the Army Act has been amended. We on these Benches agree, rather regretfully, that the time has come when maintenance orders have to be enforced against officers. For a very long time this has not been the case, and I do not know what is the reason for the change. There are, I think, two possible reasons. One is that it was not necessary for maintenance orders to be made against officers, and the other is that, even if it was, perhaps it was of no social consequence. But the fact of the matter is quite plainly that, since all officers these days gain their commissions through the ranks, it would be quite wrong if an officer's wife who married him when he was in the ranks lost certain rights to maintenance orders after he had received the King's Commission. For that reason we support that clause in the Bill. Clause 6 also seems to me to be a good clause. It is based on experience gained with the Defence (Armed Forces) Regulations during the war, when, in order to save time, trouble and hardship, it was made possible to make an interim deduction. I am glad to see that use is being made of the experience gained under these Regulations, and we are glad to see this clause in the Bill.
I now come to the most important of all the clauses, Clause 9. As I think most of your Lordships know, a great deal was done during the war behind the scenes to study and improve the system of punishment in detention barracks. Quite apart from high-lights in the Press like the Fort 1020 Darland incident, this matter was under continual study and observation for some years. There was the Dempsey Committee which reported in 1941, as a result of which there were established special training units which had nothing to do with military corrective establishments. To these units were sent only young soldiers who had done one term of detention and who, in the Commanding Officer's view, were likely to do more unless sent there. Then there was another type of training unit for more serious offenders. Following the report of the Dempsey Committee came the Fort Darland incident, and then Mr. Justice Oliver's Committee, in their recommendations, confirmed what the Dempsey Committee had also said in regard to all these reforms. As your Lordships' know, that Committee worked in close consultation with the Home Office, which deals with Borstal institutions and approved schools. We are glad to see that the experience gained during the war is not being thrown away but is being brought permanently into the Army Act, as I am sure it should be.
But it is not so easy as that to make the scheme work. The two parties concerned, the people at the War Office and the man in detention, have to take their part in it. I am quite satisfied that the scheme as drawn up by the War Office, with one or two reservations, will work very well. We shall all want to observe it closely to see if the men in detention play their part. If they do, all will go well. But it is not going to be easy. One point I want to make is the very great importance of having high-class types of officers and N.C.Os. in the Military Provost Staff Corps. Their responsibility will be great. Their training will have to be equal to the training required by the Home Office for its approved schools. A great deal has to be done to attract people to this work by good terms of service. The Dempsey Committee recommended that in order to give permanency to the business of running corrective establishments they should be given married quarters. I do not know whether that recommendation has been carried out but I certainly hope it will be. The point I want to make is that this reform depends in a very great degree on the quality of the officers and N.C.Os. of the Military Provost Staff Corps.
1021 One point about which I am not clear is the position of the dependants of a man who is going through the second or third stages of a military corrective establishment. At present when a man goes into detention his allowances are stopped. It may or may not be part of the right treatment to bring him back to the footing of an ordinary man on duty when he has progressed so far as to get into second or third stage. There again, I think, either now or later we shall welcome some information on that subject. I was also glad to notice—at least, I thought I noticed—that the rules for the military corrective establishments will be like the present rules for detention barracks, and that statutory rules and orders made will be laid before the House. I would like to finish these few remarks by saying that noble Lords on these Benches will support the Second Reading of the Bill, and we shall look forward with great interest and the greatest sympathy to the obtaining of good results from this experiment in military corrective establishments.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Lord CALVERLEY
My Lords, I have listened for many years to debates on this Army Bill, though I agree it was in another place. I shall speak for only a few minutes but, at the outset, I should like to congratulate the Under-Secretary upon some of these innovations. It is a good reform to put the officer in the same position as the soldier with regard to allotments to his wife and dependants. Speaking as an Army Welfare Officer of seven and a quarter years' standing—and I am still doing the work in a small way—I want to say frankly that most of the officers were officers and gentlemen; but there have been a few cases when an officer who was paid £2 a week to hand over to his wife misappropriated the money. That is the proper phrase. The only way wives could act was through the cumbersome method of taking the matter to the Army Welfare Officer and the Magistrates' Court, and when a man was serving abroad the position was all the worse. Again, I congratulate my noble friend on this most excellent innovation.
I am glad His Majesty's Government resisted the new clause proposed in another place to allow the formation of a soldiers' committee—a sort of glorified little society of shop stewards. Welfare 1022 in a unit, as noble Lords know better than I do, should rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the C.O., and if he is not up to the job then he should be sacked. That is the best way to deal with the matter. I have found out, in my own small way, that the majority during the war did try to carry out their duties conscientiously. It was not the C.O., however, but the young lad with one "pip" who did the job and was most enthusiastic about it. So I welcome the belated remarks with regard to welfare which were uttered in another place.
I am also especially grateful for the new clause, Clause 9, which relates to these military corrective establishments. Undoubtedly there was a revolution during the war when we transformed detention barracks, as they were then euphemistically called, in some cases, I suppose, in spite of the War Office. I sometimes wonder if the War Office has a soul at all—though I do not stress that matter. One detention barracks was situated in what was my constituency when I was a member of another place. It was the detention barracks for the nine northern counties. It was a prison, and I visited it without notice, as I could do in another capacity. In view of limitations due to the environment and the lack of opportunity for physical exercise, the men in charge of that prison at Hull did a fine job of work. I remember the day when the place was bombed almost to bits. There were 500 men in the prison at the time, and they marched out like a unit of Royal Marines—I am told that the Royal Marines are the finest men on parade; they are even better, it is said, than Guardsmen. Those men marched out of that prison as though they were on parade, and they mustered outside. There was only one casualty and that was a sergeant-major who went back to the prison to see if any of his charges were left behind. It was necessary to; improvise quarters, and a disused cotton mill was utilized for the Northern Command. The discipline which was maintained was strict, but there was room for exercise. There was positive treatment for the inmates, and, without the aid of a lot of talking, gate-crashing psychiatrists, the officers and N.C.Os. at the detention barracks really transformed the detention system by dealing with it from a positive angle in every respect.
1023 One of the finest functions of its kind that I have attended was a sale of work at which a sum of £30 was raised, not for the men themselves but for the Red Cross, by the sale of articles which the men had made. That is a small point, of course, and I mention it only by the way. Another reform which was brought about, but which the War Office allowed to fall into disuse, was the development of the young soldiers' camps, for the treatment of young men between the ages of nineteen and twenty-one. I might say, in passing, that my noble friend, Lord Croft, when he was at the War Office was associated with this development, and he gave his moral support to the establishment of three such camps. The graduates, in many cases, came from our Borstal establishments. Instead of being sent to detention barracks they were sent to these young soldiers' camps. Some of us watched the inception of this great experiment, and we were delighted with the success which attended it.
It is a pity that the War Office, with a certain lack of imagination, allowed these places very largely to be done away with, and I am pleased that the Army Council are reinstituting these first degree corrective establishments. I hope they will prove a great success, and I think they will, especially if there is more discipline applied in them than there was in the original young soldiers' camps. Many of us here, I am sure, will watch with great interest this experiment as it progresses. Earl Winterton, in another place, commenting on this proposal, compared it with the Wakefield experiment under the Home Office, and referred particularly to the letting out of men on parole. When I was in there a short time ago there were 700 inmates, and only about 7½ per cent. of them were on parole at the camp. Some of those men were serving long sentences. There has been only one escape during the thirteen years hat I have known the camp of which I have spoken. The system can be usefully expanded, to give these soldiers, especially the younger ones, a chance to produce something. In this case they are rearing poultry and pigs, and growing vegetables. As I have said, there has been but one escape. That arose as the result of a young fellow looking over a hedge (there are no iron bars at this place) and "falling for" a girl whom he saw outside. I 1024 realize of course that no noble Lord in this House understands what that means! This girl wanted the young man to go out with her. He went out with her, and the result was that he had to go back to Wakefield prison.
This has been a very fine experiment, and I am sure that through it the War Office can learn something. I wish the War Office would take a goodly number of the 3,000 young fellows who are now in our Borstal institutions, and another 3,000 out of the 17,000 who are in our prisons to-day (they did it when war broke out) and apply strict discipline to them, for many are in prison because of irresponsibility. I do not want a penal corps established, but I see no reason why the military authorities should not collaborate and co-operate with the Home Office by taking off the hands of the Prison Commissioners at least 5,000 or 6,000 men and allowing them to act as batmen for the soldiers.
§ Viscount BRIDGEMAN
Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him? Does he also suggest that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force should share these men with the Army?
§ Lord CALVERLEY
I should be out of order in that, though there is nobody except the noble Viscount to call me to order. I am trying to stick to the Army and the Royal Air Force. I know that there would be criticism if my suggestion were followed, but we did something of that sort during the war. I remember a time before the war when a man was not allowed in the Army without a clean record, but when war broke out we had to take even those with spots on their characters and try to reform them. And the young soldiers' camp did reform 6o per cent. of the men who passed through them, even though the War Office court-martialled a Commanding Officer and dismissed him. That was a disgrace, and I say it as one who attended the court-martial.
I ask my noble friend Lord Pakenham to watch this experiment very carefully. These young fellows do not need coddling; they want discipline, and a chance to express their personalities. That is how to achieve rehabilitation. My noble friend has not mentioned anything about welfare work. Nearly all through the war the War Office have taken this work for 1025 granted. When every village in the country was covered by Army welfare officers, the War Office paid tardy tribute. Now, in this new financial year (I believe it started on April Fool's Day, or it may be that it starts to-day), I believe they are again cutting down expenses in this direction. But I can assure my noble friend that the Army welfare officers are going to try to carry on. There is one other matter, and upon this I will close. On August 31, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, wrote to the War Office asking if it were possible for welfare officers—the great unpaid, as I call them—who had been on service from 1939 to 1945, and especially those who were full-time workers, to have a war medal. The War Office, because it was a welfare matter, condescended to reply on February 14 of this year. I do not think that is a good way to treat Army welfare officers, especially when our ease was put for us by the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command. If an A.T.S. girl without foreign service can be given a war medal, I think a war medal could be given to these welfare officers who were serving full time, and they should not be disqualified because they did not accept any salary. I wish to thank my noble friend for the innovations that have been put into this Act. I do not know whether he is responsible for them, but, at any rate, I am prepared to present him with the bouquet. They are innovations which I wholeheartedly support.
§ 3.11 p.m.
My Lords, I would like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, one question in connexion with the proposed amendment to Section 137 of the Army Act. It is a small point, but I think one of importance, and I should be glad of some clarification. I was a little nervous when the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, mentioned compulsory allotments in the case of an officer. I am entirely in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, that powers should exist to compel an officer to make provision for his wife and children and dependants, if he fails to carry out his obligations. But I also feel that the officer should be free to make that provision in any way that seems to him most convenient. It may be that an officer serving overseas, whilst drawing his full pay in 1026 the country where he is living, might wish to make an income from certain investments in this country available to his wife. The question I would like to ask is: Providing an officer in some way makes adequate provision for the maintenance of his wife and family, can he do so in the way that he thinks best (either from his own bank or in another way) without being necessarily compelled to allot part of his pay?
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Lord KERSHAW
My Lords, I have no qualification for speaking on the merits of this Bill, as my experience comes in, as it were, at the other end. I noticed that the noble Lord who introduced this Bill was particularly careful to avoid one word, and that word is "bastard". Some years ago I asked one of my friends in another place to inquire whether this word could not be deleted from all legislation referring to that subject. It is only recently that I joined your Lordships' House, and therefore my memory of what happens in the outer world is perhaps sharper than it otherwise would be. I know, and I have no doubt that other noble Lords know, that a man may be called any other name, but "bastard" is the one word that he will not have. During the war I was chairman of an appeal board under the Essential Works Order, and I have no hesitation in saying that nearly every case of violence in the workshop was the result of that word being used.
But the matter is much more important than that. Not very long ago I heard the clerk in my own Court put to a young woman the question: "Were you delivered of a bastard child on such a date?", and I saw the pain on the face of that young woman. I strongly urge, for the sake of the mothers of these children who have to appear in Courts and who find on every form that is used the words "Bastardy Acts" and the word "bastard", that this word should be altered. I put it to noble Lords that where a woman loves her children—and mothers of illegitimate children do love their children—or where a mother does not love her children, the effect of that word may be equally disastrous. I appreciate that it may be necessary to go much wider in the field of legislation to eliminate that word generally, but, unless there is a good reason why it cannot be 1027 eliminated in this Bill, I urge the noble Lord who introduced this measure to substitute the words he used in introducing the Bill—that is to say, "illegitimate children"—because he felt the term "bastard" was an undesirable one. I hope that in this way we may begin the task of eliminating the word throughout our legislation.
§ Viscount SAMUEL
My Lords, since the question of nomenclature has been raised by the last speaker, may I venture to enter a humble but heartfelt protest against the dreadful new term "military corrective establishments." That is as bad an example of "officialese" as we may well find.
§ 3.14 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for the friendly reception they have accorded this Bill. I cannot claim any personal credit for the Bill—although I happen to have taken a great interest in prison matters and I have been a prison visitor in civilian life for a number of years. But, standing at this Despatch Box, one is occasionally blamed for matters for which one is not always entirely responsible, and therefore I am quite prepared to accept any bouquets, however unmerited they may be on this particular occasion. I cannot give a positive answer to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, but I will enable him to have a firm answer before the Committee stage, and if he is not satisfied I will say something further at that time. Of course, the section deals with compulsory stoppages, and there would be no occasion for a stoppage if the officer made other adequate arrangements. I appreciate that there may be something more in this which the noble Lord wishes to discuss with me, and I shall be only too pleased to do anything of that kind. May I say one thing about the remarks which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, most of which I enjoyed? One remark which I thought uncalled for was when he described the result of a particular court-martial as "a disgrace." I think at least he should have given me notice of it, and I am very sorry he made that remark. It is obviously impossible for me to have information about a particular court-martial at a particular time, and I hope the noble Lord, on reflection, will withdraw those remarks.
§ Lord CALVERLEY
I certainly refuse to withdraw those remarks. I made them in a general sense. I believe what I said and I will stand by it.
The noble Lord must be the best judge of his own reputation in these matters. I do not feel that the Act will be affected by what he has said this afternoon.
I would like next to say how heartily I sympathize with what the noble Lord, Lord Kershaw, said with regard to the word "bastard." I should like very much to see that word eliminated from all these documents, and I will see whether it is possible to do so. But, of course, I cannot give him any kind of firm promise. With regard to what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, I can assure him that I am not particularly happy about the expression in question. Even at this late hour, if he could think of something better I am sure it would be carefully considered. But many suggestions were put forward, and this was the best phrase that we could find. I listened, of course, with particular attention to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said. I am not quite sure, but I am under the impression that he probably was to a considerable extent responsible for the movement that resulted in these changes. The noble Viscount shakes his head, but, at any rate, he was very close to those who were devising this new approach. If I may say a friendly word now, as earlier I said a rather unfriendly one to the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, I felt that he overlooked the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, when he said that the War Office had no soul. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, worked there for a long time, and, although his body has been moved, his soul—
—goes marching on.
I entirely agreed with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, when he stressed the need for high quality officers and N.C.Os. I was particularly interested in the N.C.Os. concerned with education in the establishment which I visited, and I am glad to say that a very high class of 1029 N.C.O. in that field and in other fields was being employed, and the same held true of the officers. I admit now to a certain diffidence, because I may seem to be held to contradict the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, on a point of fact, and he is so exceptionally well-informed in these matters that I hesitate to set my verdict against his. But he informed the House that, when a man enters one of these detention barracks at the present time, his dependants' allowance is stopped. Although I have not had time for full inquiries, I understand that that is not the case, and I hope the noble Viscount will accept it from me that in fact a man's dependants' allowance continues. If I am mistaken in that, I will correct myself at the next stage, but I understand that the dependants' allowance continues under the existing arrangements and, a fortiori, under the new Bill.
The noble Viscount asked whether the existing provisions for the Parliamentary scrutiny of rules in detention barracks would apply under the new arrangements. I have no hesitation in saying that that will be so although I have not verified the point in advance. But if it is not so, I feel quite sure we must attempt to make it so. I have nothing more to say, except once again to thank the House for their very kind reception.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.