§ 5 and 14. Mr. DICKINSON
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War (1) whether he is aware of an Order issued on or about the 18th December, 1918, that certain men employed in munition works should be debadged; what was the number of men debadged in consequence of that Order; how many of these men have been called up for military service; whether the military authorities intend to call up discharged soldiers working in these factories before they have called up the men so debadged; and (2) the Minister of Munitions, whether his attention has been called to the fact that on or about 18th December, 1916, an Order was issued to munitions factories to debadge certain men employed therein; how many of these men were unskilled or semiskilled; how many men were debadged under this Order; how many of the men so debadged have been called up for military service; and what is the reason why those now remaining in the factories have not yet been called up?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The answer to the first part of each question is in the affirmative. The direction given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions on the 18th December, 1916, as to the withdrawal of war service badges and certificates applied to about 420,000 men of all ages, classified on firm's registers as semi-skilled or unskilled, engaged on Admiralty, War Office, Munitions, and other war work. The badges and badge certificates of all these men ceased to be valid on that date.
Approximately 17,000 of these have now been called up for service. They have not yet all reported nor are they all fit for general service. By order of the War Cabinet the military authorities do not select the individuals to be called up. This is done by the officers of the Ministry of Munitions, who select those who can best be spared without endangering the output of essential munitions of war.
The release of men affected by the order was only to take place if they were found fit for general service and if efficient substitutes were provided where substitutes were necessary.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a protest was raised in East London at a meeting last Sunday, and 1656 will be renewed next Sunday at a similar meeting, on the ground that these men are left in the munitions factories whilst discharged soldiers have been called up?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
So far as the War Office is concerned, we are entirely dependent upon the suggestions made by the Ministry of Munitions.