47 and 48. Mr. E. HARVEY
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office (1) whether men of the Non-Combatant Corps now at Newhaven have been recently employed in loading munitions, although a formal promise was given to them when on parade that they would not be employed in handling ammunition; and (2) whether his attention has been called to the difficulties that have arisen at Newhaven in consequence of the employment of men from the Non-Combatant Corps, including drafts from other commands, to replace dock labourers who were threatening to strike; and whether he is taking action in the matter?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I will answer at the same time Question No. 48, and I must at the outset express regret that my hon. Friend included in his question military information which, in the national interest, should not appear in a question. It is the case that the N.C.C. companies have been employed at the place mentioned to augment the available civilian labour, which which was insufficient for the work requiring to be done. My hon. Friend will recall that when the N.C.C. was raised it was decided that it should be composed of men whom the tribunals found to have a genuine objection to fighting or taking life, but. who were considered fit for labour work in the Army. I am not aware that any question ever arose, or has arisen, as to what kind of work they should do, provided always that they were not trained with arms or employed anywhere where a man might be called upon to use his arms in self-defence. If, as is suggested by my hon. Friend, any promise inconsistent with what I have just said was made, the officer who gave it exceeded his authority.
Seeing that this question was on the Order Paper ten days ago, and that I called at the War Office about the matter, why was it not suggested privately that it was not in the public interest that the question should be put upon the Order Paper—when it would at once have been withdrawn?