§ 35. Mr. WARDLE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the railway companies undertaking to reinstate in their employ those members of their staffs who have enlisted applies to men who have come within the scope of the Military Service Act, 1916; whether the arrangement whereby the railway companies can themselves decide which of their men they may keep as indispensable carries with it the right to retain in their employ without appeal to the tribunals men who have conscientious objections to military service, or whether all conscientious objectors in the railway industry must appeal for exemption from the Act; what is the position of a conscientious objector employed on a railway who, after being exempted by a tribunal on condition that he continues to be engaged on work of national importance, is told by his railway company that they consider he is dispensable and must regard himself at the disposal of the military authorities; and whether, having regard to the shortage of labour on the railways, he will consider the advisability of all railway men who are conscientious objectors being kept on this work of national importance?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Pretyman)
I understand that the railway companies generally have decided to make no distinctions between their men who have been enlisted under the Military Service Act and those who previously enlisted with the consent of their company. The arrangement by which railway companies may retain without appeal the services of indispensable men would cover the case of an objector to military service on conscientious grounds, if indispensable, but if a man who is not indispensable desires an exemption on conscientious grounds he must make his own application to the tribunal. Men in some occupations on the railways can scarcely be regarded as indispensable, and I do not see my way to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion.