Empire and Emergency: Reverberations of the British Empire in the Authorisation of Internment under the Defence of the Realm Acts
Regulation 14B of the Defence of the Realm Acts, which was issued in June 1915, empowered the Secretary of State to intern individuals, including British subjects, he deemed to be “of hostile origin or association” for the purpose of “securing public safety or the defence of the Realm”. The Defence of the Realm Acts, the primary legislation enacted for British home security during the war, bestowed very broad powers, but made no mention of internment. Accordingly, Regulation 14B authorised internment which had not been expressly authorised by Parliament. However, since the seventeenth century it had been a matter of great constitutional importance that detention without trial could only be authorised expressly by Parliament. Thus the introduction of Regulation 14B in terms of broad empowering legislation, but without express empowerment to authorise detention, is a striking moment in British constitutional history. This thesis seeks to contextualise and understand the origins of Regulation 14B. In particular, it investigates the relationship between the manner in which Britain governed its Empire and Regulation 14B. Two questions are addressed. The first relates to the relationship between experiences in Empire and the passage of the Defence of the Realm Acts, without which Regulation 14B could not have been issued. Key here is the Government decision to rely on legislation as opposed to martial law for the purposes of home security during the War. The second question relates to the relationship between experiences in Empire and Regulation 14B itself. A number of instances of authorisation of detention without trial in the British Empire are considered. This thesis concludes that there is evidence that the use of martial law in the colonies directly influenced the decision to enact the Defence of the Realm Acts. However, the available historical evidence is less clear as to the influence detention powers in the Empire had on Regulation 14B.