§ Sub-section (3) of Section three of the Military Service Act, 1916, as amended by Section six of the Military Service Act 1916 (Session 2), is hereby repealed, and accordingly the Military Service Acts, 1916 and 1917, shall, as respects any man 696 whose certificate of exemption for any reason ceases or has ceased (whether before or after the passing of this Act) to be in force, have effect as though the provisions repealed by this Section were not included in those Acts.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move to leave out the words "or has ceased (whether before or after the passing of this Act)."
I regret that the early hour at which the House adjourned on Friday precluded myself and other hon. Members from putting on the Notice Paper several Amendments, some of them of real importance, and we have handed in some manuscript Amendments. They do not cover many points, and I do not think it will be greatly to the inconvenience of the House if we deal with them as they arise. The object of the Amendment I propose is to do away with the retrospective character of the Clause. I think it is an Amendment which might very well be accepted by the right hon. Gentleman. It is not, however, so important as other Amendments which follow. We should be glad to know at this, the earliest opportunity, whether he is disposed to consider favourably any suggestions we have to make, and especially with regard to the very stringent powers which are being given in this Bill. This Bill in many ways makes the Director of National Service an absolute dictator over the lives and liberties of men, and I hope that he will indicate that he is willing to consider our Amendments in a very reasonable spirit.
§ The MINISTER of NATIONAL SERVICE (Sir Auckland Geddes)
I can assure the Committee that I shall be only too pleased to consider any Amendment which has for its purpose making it more easy to obtain men for the Army within the very limited time during which it is necessary to obtain them. Such an Amendment as that which is now proposed means that we should have the continuation of two months' delay before any benefit is derived under this Clause. There are at the present time a considerable number of men whose continuance in civil life is deemed not to be in the national interests, because of the nature of their occupation, whose certificates of exemption have been cancelled and whose automatic extension of two months is now running. There does not appear to be any hardship on this military class of men that they should be treated in the same way as the overwhelming majority 697 of their fellow citizens, particularly as the leaving certificate, which made a provision for this two months' automatic exemption, has ceased to be. The cause having gone, it does not appear necessary that there should be a consequential safeguard. Therefore, it seems to me most undesirable that this Amendment should be accepted.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the words "but any man whose liability to military service arises under this Section shall have the right to appeal to a tribunal."
I am not quite sure whether this is not actually the intention according to the drafting of the Bill, but I think it ought to be made quite clear. It is quite obvious that cases may arise where a man has had exemption granted to him because he is a munition worker, and on that ground only. The Director of National Service is now entitled to take that exemption away and to send him into the Army, but, in the meantime, the man may have become the sole support of a father and a mother, or orphan children, say, a brother or a sister. The claim for exemption on those grounds may have arisen since he had his exemption granted on the ground of his occupation. His health may have broken down, or he may have had an accident, or he may have developed an internal disease, or other circumstances may have arisen. That man would undoubtedly have got exemption from the tribunal in the first case, apart from his employment. I want to know whether the man in this case will now have the right to appeal to the tribunal? I think these words are necessary, and I am sure that the case I have put forward will appeal to hon. Members as fair and straightforward. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate case.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I had doubts about this Amendment, whether it is in any way necessary, but I thought the hon. Member was entitled to bring it before the Committee on the point of its legal interpretation.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
This Amendment is not in any way necessary. It is already provided by Regulations made by Order in Council that any rights which the hon. Member wishes to secure when a certifi- 698 cate of exemption is cancelled are secured without any Amendment of this nature.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the statement just made does not require to be modified to this extent, that the opportunity of appearing before a tribunal will be limited to such grounds as conscientious objection and financial hardship, and that in respect of occupational grounds no opportunity will be afforded to any person whose certificate of exemption is cancelled to apply to a tribunal afterwards?
§ Mr. MORRELL
As the law now stands. a man has a right of appeal to tribunals. That. the right hon. Gentleman says, is. secured to him by' Order in Council. But it is also secured to him by Statute. What I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's speech is that in future the man will no longer have a right to a legal appeal to a tribunal, but will merely have a right of appeal under an Order in Council, which may be withdrawn at any moment without reference to this House. Is that the position or not? I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how far the individual is secured in his right of appeal to a tribunal when this Bill passes into law?
Sir· HERBERT NIELD
It is unfortunate that the House should have arisen. at such a time on Friday as to prevent us patting down a series of Amendments which might have a considerable effect. One of the evil results of what has happened is that the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Somerset, which he has put in at the conclusion of Clause 1, seems to me to be better made in Clause 2, and I have got an Amendment down for the purpose of safeguarding: this very point. I have considered very carefully what would, be the effect, unless we are careful to preserve the men who are now having their certificates taken away, and are losing the protection which they have hitherto enjoyed, in relation to other heads of claim under which they might have had a right of appeal if no change had been made. In most of the cases the protection was afforded by Government Department certificates. A relatively small proportion will be those of occupational certificates of exemption from a tribunal. I do not know what the proportion will be, but 699 I have no doubt that a very great preponderance of men will be got under this Bill, when it becomes an Act—many more than can possibly be the case by the cancellation of tribunal certificates granted on the grounds of occupation. That means that the men who have been so protected have still the right of appeal to the tribunal. The Order in Council to which my right hon. Friend referred is in general terms, and it prescribes that the application should be made in a definite time. Are we to regard that as the time from the withdrawal of the certificate? It might have been withdrawn, and they would have had two months. As I understand, the operation of this first Section is that this two months is reduced to fourteen days. Whether it is right that an Amendment should come in here, or in the first paragraph of Clause 2, it is necessary to avoid all misgivings and difficulties, which have arisen all over the country, owing to promises made in this House and outside by members of the Government and by indecisive action in this House, and a totally contrary interpretation by officials.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that we had better clear up this point. The hon. and learned Member has submitted an Amendment to Clause 2. I should tell the Committee that it is in order, and that I shall call it when we reach it. The purpose of the Amendment is to make clear on the face of the Bill that the cancelling of exemptions on occupational grounds does not take away from the person so affected his claim on other grounds. The question here is merely whether there is under Clause 1 any additional disability which requires a provision of that kind to be inserted now, and I think that if the point is cleared up perhaps the hon. Member for North Somerset would not press his Amendment, and that the matter would come up in its effective place on Clause 2.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Before this Amendment is withdrawn I want to be quite clear. Is it the intention to allow to the individual a right of appeal on other grounds? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to secure this by Statute, or does he intend 700 that we shall rely entirely upon the Order in Council, which may be revoked at any moment? If he intends to do it, why riot do it by Statute? Are the Government going to do this by legislation or leave it entirely to the Executive Government to do what they like under Order in Council?
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
It would facilitate matters if the Minister for National Service would make clear what is the position of the tribunals. It is not made clear in the Bill what is the position of the employer who wants to apply for some of his men. There might be a small employer, some of whose men are being removed, and he may think it necessary to retain these men in order properly to conduct his business. If he employs a man who had not any special certificate, he can go to the tribunal. It ought to be made clear, not only to the House, but to the whole country, if that right is still to continue.
§ Mr. KILEY
As chairman of a local tribunal, I would like to put this point: A man has come before us on two grounds—one occupational and one personal. We have considered the two, and decided that the personal ground was not a strong one, but that the occupational ground was one on which we should give exemption. Therefore we refused on the personal ground. That man has no right to come before us again on that ground, but possibly circumstances have changed in the two years since we have refused him, and he can only come before us again on a new matter; but if he receives a calling-up paper from the recruiting officer, that debars us from hearing his case.
§ Mr. MORRELL
The right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, would explain what he meant by saying that the individual would be protected by an Order in Council?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I think that the point is quite clear. Clause 1 is dealing with the automatic extension of exemptions which was introduced to cover conditions in force in connection with the certificates. The result of Clause 1 is to cancel that automatic extension without modifying in any way the rights of the individual which are conferred by Statute, Section 3 of the Military Service Acts, 1916, where the rights are conferred upon the individual who is affected by such cancellation, and 701 the matter of exercising those rights is at present defined by statutory Regulations made under the Act by Order in Council. That is the point about this particular Clause which we are considering at present, that there is no change whatever in the individual's rights at the end of his exemption. There is merely a change in the date on which that exemption ends. So there is no subtraction from the protection which the individual has on the:grounds of personal hardship, domestic reasons, conscientious objections, or anything of that sort. No right which he has on those grounds is subtracted from. It is merely in the automatic extension in the exemption which was afforded in order that we might have the period of six weeks which existed in connection with the leaving certificate. Therefore I cannot see that the point which has been raised really should come up in connection with this particular Clause, because there is no change whatever with regard to those points with which I understand the hon. Member for North Somerset is dealing.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.