HC Deb 01 July 1915 vol 72 cc2088-90

(1) The Minister of Munitions may make rules authorising the wearing of badges or other distinctive marks by persons engaged on munitions work or other work for war purposes and as to the issue and return of any such badges or marks, and may by those rules prohibit the use, wearing or issue of any such badges or of any badges or marks indicating or suggesting that any person is engaged on munitions work or work for war purposes except as authorised by those rules.

(2) If any person acts in contravention of, or fails to comply with, any such rules, he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move "That the Clause be read a second time."


We ought to have some little explanation why this Clause is moved, because this is going to upset a great number of people. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knows it, but some time past, in fact, after the outbreak of the War, a clamour was raised that badges should be issued by the War Office to workmen who are engaged on War Office work, and a great many employers brought pressure to bear on the War Office to issue badges to the men. Then the point was raised in this House on several occasions as to what classes of men were to be entitled to the badges, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in reply to a question which I put to him, described the main classes of material comprised in the term "munitions of war" as "guns, small arms and their respective natures of ammunition, swords, lances, aeroplanes and military motors." The badges were limited to firms supplying this equipment. That did not meet with the approval of many employers in the country and their workmen, who were engaged on other materials equally munitions of war. They made repeated applications to the War Office for badges. The War Office refused to grant badges, and therefore, to save any further trouble and difficulty, they manufactured their own badges and supplied them to their workmen. There was no harm in that, and there are thousands of workmen at present in the country who are wearing badges that have been supplied by private employers which bear the inscription that the men are engaged on War Office work and the name of the firm. If this new Clause is passed, then you will have those men very much up in arms, and a great feeling of resentment, which is wholly unnecessary, will be caused. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to realise that if he presses this Clause he will find that he is starting his new Ministry with a great feeling of prejudice against it, because a man who has worn a badge—worn it legally and lawfully—will very bitterly resent having to give it up. Under these circumstances, unless the right hon. Gentleman is at once prepared to enlarge the definition of the class entitled to wear badges, he had better, in the interests of peace, withdraw the Clause. He has not attempted to explain the Clause, but I am sure it will cause a great deal of trouble if he insists on its passing into law.


I consider this a very important Clause and certainly will not withdraw it. A great many men have been withdrawn from the engineering works of this country, and the production of munitions has been considerably crippled. The absence of some systematic method of giving badges to men is largely responsible for that. In addition to that a good many badges have been given by people on their own authority to persons who ought never to have received them. In some cases the badges have been discredited. These things ought to be not merely systematised, but placed on a perfectly regular official basis. There are workmen at the present moment engaged in war munitions works who are only receiving badges from their employers, and the sooner that is remedied the better. The sooner the power of issuing badges is taken away from everybody but the State the better. No doubt time will be given to arrange that men who have badges only from private firms shall have proper State badges substituted for them, but I venture to say that unless the badges are confined to persons who are authorised and have a real claim to wear them—unless that is done in a short time—there will be disorganisation which will result in harm both to recruiting and to munition work.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a firm at the present moment which is offering for sale war badges inscribed in the centre with the name of a firm?


I hope time will be given before the Clause is put into operation, and some wider view adopted of the class of persons entitled to wear these badges than was given in answer to a question in this House. It seems only reasonable that these badges should be given to all men genuinely engaged on War Office work.


Yes, we intend to do so.


If that is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman I accept the Clause.

Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.