§ Paragraph (d) of Sub-section (1) of Section two of the principal Act shall cease to have effect and the following paragraph shall be substituted—
§ (d) on the ground that the applicant was, before the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and fifteen, a member of a recognised religious or other society one of whose tenets is opposition to combatant military service.
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Major NEWMAN
I wish to move, "That the Clause be read a second time," and for one reason only. The Clause is the result of a round table conference yesterday afternoon between myself and some twenty conscientious objectors. After a good deal of discussion we agreed on this formula, and I promised to put it down by way of a new Clause, and if 1079 possible try to induce the President of the Local Government Board to accept it. Earlier in the evening, dealing with the case of the conscientious objectors, the right hon. Gentleman told us that what he wanted, we wanted, and the country wanted, was a formula that would distinguish between the genuine conscientious objector and the fraudulent conscientious objector. I suggest that this particular Clause of mine meets that difficulty. If the objector belonged to a recognised religious or other society, one of whose tenets is opposition to combatant service, and if he came before the tribunal and it was vouched for him that he was before this particular date—the 15th of August of last year, when the Registration Act came into force—a member of that particular society, then the tribunal would grant exemption. This particular Clause of mine would give the tribunal something to go on, somewhere where they could draw the dividing line. As it has been put down by me on behalf of genuine conscientious objectors, though some of them are over military age, I beg now to move it, and I should like to hear from the President of the Local Government Board whether he will accept it or not.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not think this Clause would help us out of our difficulties very much. I do not think it would be found that it really supplies the formula for which I have asked, and so far as I am able to ascertain it really would not meet the wishes of any large proportion of those who are at present doing their best to get some kind of solution of this question.
§ Mr. RENDALL
I hope the Clause will not be accepted. It will only give the right of exemption to those who belong to religious societies, while a number of the best men of the country do not belong to any religious society. You are going to exclude them from their rights, and that is altogether outrageous. I have no sympathy with the conscientious objectors, but as Parliament has decided that they have rights, to limit those rights to men who join special societies is absurd.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
As the right hon. Gentleman appeals for information on this point as to how far it is accepted, I wish to say that to discuss this as the basis of a settlement of the difficulty is sheer waste of time.
§ Question put, and negatived.