HC Deb 09 March 1916 vol 80 cc1689-94

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the claim at Oxford City tribunal, on the 3rd instant, of one Joseph Kaye for exemption; whether this man's real name was Kaufmann; whether his father is a German; whether he himself was in Germany a month before the War; and, if so, whether, as he is an obvious enemy of this country, he will consider the desirability of interning him?


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the case of Joseph Kaye, or Kaufmann, an undergraduate of St. John's College, Oxford, who applied before the Oxford City tribunal for exemption from military service on the ground of conscientious objections to assisting in the organised murder of fellow Socialists; if he is aware that it was given in evidence that Kaye, or Kaufmann, is the son of a German father, born in Bavaria, and of a mother born in England of German parents, and that the conscientious objector was in Germany a month before the outbreak of war and is a notorious pro-German in sympathy; whether the tribunal decided that they had no jurisdiction to hear the application for exemption; whether this decision was on the ground that the applicant was an alien enemy; and, if so, will he say why Kaye, or Kaufmann, has not long ago been interned?


I have made inquiry and am informed that Joseph Kaye or Kaufmann is a natural-born British subject born in Liverpool, that his father who was born in Bavaria came to this country in 1871 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1879, and that the family changed their name to Kaye in September, 1914. I am not aware of the grounds on which the tribunal decided that they had no jurisdiction—that is a question for the military authorities—but I may say that so far as regards nationality, he clearly comes within the provisions of the Military Service Act. I am informed that Kaye is at present under arrest on a charge under the Defence of the Realm Regulations.


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to a case in which the Battersea tribunal refused exemption on 29th February to an only son who was the sole support of a widowed mother, and to another case on the same day in which the Brentford tribunal granted total exemption to a brewer on the application of a brewery company on the ground that it was impossible for a brewery to supply beer without its brewer; and whether these tribunals were respectively giving effect to the intentions of the Government when they passed the Military Service Act, 1916?


The Prime Minister has asked me to reply to this question. My attention has not been previously called to these cases. I cannot undertake to deal with individual cases of this kind, but an aggrieved person can appeal from the decision of the local tribunal.


Are we to understand then, that a brewer is more a matter of concern to the Government than the only son of a widow?


No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that his suggestion has no foundation whatever. The action of the tribunals is subject to revision by the Court of Appeal and we have provided not only an Appeal Court, but we have put in exact words to make it clear what the functions of the tribunals are.


Would it not be better to give clear instructions in the first instance to the local tribunals?


asked the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been called to the case of Albert E. Pearce, 27, Windsor Terrace, Penarth, near Cardiff, who has owned a dentistry business for two years and has still to meet a loan of £30; whether he is aware that this man, who has been refused exemption by the tribunal, is the support of a mother and two sisters, one of them being an invalid, and that his only brother has been on foreign service and is now in hospital; and whether, in view of the undertakings of the Prime Minister and himself, he will say what action, if any, it is proposed to take?


My attention has not been called to this case. I must refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to his question on Tuesday last.

73. Mr. C. DUNCAN

asked the President of the Local Government Board whether he is aware that the local tribunal appointed under the Military Service Act, 1916, at Salisbury have failed to appoint representatives of organised labour on the committee; and whether he will make inquiry into the matter with a view to its rectification, as such action on the part of the local authority creates instead of allaying friction?


I understand that the town council have decided to appoint a representative from the National Union of Railwaymen on the local tribunal.


asked the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that members of tribunals are seeking to hold up to contempt and ridicule applicants for exemption from military service who base their claims on certain scriptural injunctions; and will he take steps to prohibit this practice, in view of the fact that the clergy have secured exemption from the Act as professional exponents of these precepts?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; the second point, therefore, does not arise.


May I bring the cases referred to in the question before the right hon. Gentleman, and will he take steps to draw the attention of the local tribunals to the matter?


If information is brought before me which proves to be trustworthy I will take any steps on it I think right.


Will the right hon. Gentleman refrain from doing anything to deter the exposure of contemptible travesties of moral conscience?


asked the President of the Local Government Beard whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Westminster tribunal, on the 7th instant, granted three months' postponement to a director of Drummond's Bank on the ground that there was only one partner left to carry on the business, and on the same day allowed only one month's postponement to a man who is supporting his invalid mother, a widow whose other son is serving, the applicant being told to get his mother into a room; and will he take steps to secure greater equality of treatment than was shown in the matter of these two cases?


I cannot undertake to discuss individual decisions of the local tribunals. I may refer to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division on Tuesday.


asked the President of the Local Government Board whether, in view of his instructions to local tribunals that they should confine their inquiries to ascertaining facts, he will discourage the putting of hypothetic questions to the conscientious objector, such as those as to what he would do in the case of his mother being attacked by a German, such questions having no relation to fact, in view of the recent statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty that enlistment is for a cause which does not involve invasion or even the serious danger of invasion of our hearths and homes?


I cannot undertake to issue such instructions as are suggested.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that owing to the action of local tribunals thousands of appeal cases are going to the Appeal Court which need not do so if the local tribunal does its work properly?


I am not aware of the fact. I do not admit that to be a correct statement of fact. No announcement here is going to affect the action of the tribunals. They have the Act and the Regulations, and there are countless questions answered here If they make a mistake the Appeal Courts must revise their decision.


In the case of tribunals constantly flouting the Act and the Regulations and compelling appeals will the right hon. Gentleman compel the tribunal to follow the law?


I have no power to do anything of the kind.

Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT

Will the right hon. Gentleman hasten the setting up of the Appeal Tribunal in order to get these questions settled?


As far as I know the great majority of the local appeal tribunals have been established already. Where there has been delay it has not been the fault of the Government. But the delay has been on the part of the local authority in providing us with the names.


Does the right hon. Gentleman approve of the bullying of witnesses by solicitors?


asked the President of the Local Government Board whether his attention has been directed to the refusal of a number of local tribunals to consider the granting of certificates of exemption to conscientious objectors except from combatant service only; and whether, in view of the provisions of the Military Service Act, 1916, he will take steps to see that the letter and spirit of the Act are more faithfully observed by such tribunals?


It has been stated in some instances that local tribunals have been under the impression that no exemption? could be given to an applicant for exemption on conscientious grounds other than a certificate of exemption from combatant service. Where this has been alleged I have communicated with the tribunal. I do not think the misconception is at all prevalent.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the case of two members of the British Socialist party who applied for exemption before the Huddersfield Tribunal on 4th March; whether Captain Bradbury, the military representative, said that such men were a great evil and would hinder recruiting if they were left; and, since no evidence was forthcoming that the men had done anything whatever to hinder recruiting, and since men who do hinder recruiting can be dealt with by law, whether steps will be taken to impress upon military representatives that it is desirable to avoid creating the impression that men are to be conscripted for their political opinions?


I have not heard of the circumstances to which my hon. Friend calls my attention. It would be quite wrong for any military representative to attempt to prejudice any man before a local tribunal on account of his political opinion, and if a statement, such as is mentioned by my hon. Friend, was made, it was improper and should not have been made. I have no reason to suppose that military representatives drag in the question of men's political opinions in conducting cases before local tribunals. A local tribunal is not only a judicial but a representative body, and, as such, the members would naturally resent and check any improper procedure of this kind.


I will send my right hon. Friend full particulars of both cases.