§ 11. Mr. SNOWDEN
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that in the Statistical Office of His Majesty's Customs and Excise certain experienced assistant clerks of many years' service who have a conscientious objection to military service, but whose claims for exemption have been refused by the local tribunals, have since applied to the Board of Customs and Excise for certificates stating that they are engaged upon work of national importance and on that ground are entitled to exemption according to the terms of the Military Service Act, 1916, and that their application for such certificates has been refused, although comparatively junior clerks and officers of other grades in the Customs and Excise service, some of only a few months' experience, have been declared indispensable by their Department and are withheld from Army service; and whether he will make inquiries into the facts and will endeavour to secure uniform treatment for all officers in the employ of the Commissioners of His Majesty's Customs and Excise?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
It is the fact that men of equal service have been retained in some branches of the Customs and Excise Department and released for military service in others, and, in view of the great variety in the work, this seems to me not only inevitable, but perfectly right. In some grades it is extremely difficult to find substitutes, exceptionally so in the case of the outdoor Customs and Excise service, of whose organisation and duties my hon. Friend has special knowledge. 276 In other grades it is comparatively easy, notably so in the case of the Statistical Office. In that Department it has been possible, since the War began, gradually to entrust the bulk of the work to temporary women clerks in order to release assistant clerks for military duties, and the Board are unable to certify that it is expedient in the national interests that the assistant clerks mentioned in this question should be retained in their present employment.