HC Deb 10 August 1916 vol 85 cc1220-1

asked the President of the Local Government Board if he is receiving letters from one-man business men who complain about the way in which the tribunals are treating them; if he is aware that numbers of men of fairly advanced age who have worked up a business are being required to leave it; that in most cases this means that the business must be closed down and the owner financially ruined; that in some cases this decision is made by the man's competitors on the tribunals; and, in view of the fact that the promise given in Parliament that the one-man business should be sympathetically considered by the tribunals, he will again call the special attention of the tribunals to the instructions upon this matter, and also send copies of his promises on this subject in Parliament during the Debates on the Military Service Bill?


I receive, not unnaturally, many letters from men who consider that, in their opinion, their claim for exemption has not been adequately met, letters from, among others, "one-man business men." I have no reason to think that on the whole the cases of these men do not receive proper consideration, and I do not propose at present to issue any further directions in the matter. I would remind the hon. Member that there is an unrestricted right of appeal from the decision of a local tribunal.


When an appeal tribunal reverses the decision of the local tribunal, does that alter the fact that a great many businesses have to be closed down, and the owners involved in financial ruin, and is that consistent with the pledges which the right hon. Gentleman gave when the Military Service Bill was before the House?


I do not know what pledges the hon. Member refers to; my experience is that I have to be very cautious in accepting any statement from the hon. Gentleman about my pledges. I made a definite statement, and so far as I know that has been accurately followed by the tribunals.


Is it not a fact that the decisions of the tribunals are operating very unequally in the case of one-man businesses?


I do not know if it is the fact, but I think it is almost inevitable that it should be so.


Does it not depend to some extent on the fact that competitors of applicants are on the tribunal?