§ (1) The Director-General of National Service may at any time by Order withdraw any certificate of exemption from military service to which this Section applies as from such date, not being less than fourteen clays after the date of the Order, as may be specified in the Order, and as from that date any certificate to which the Order applies shall cease to be in force.
§ (2) This Section applies to any certificate of exemption from the provisions of the Military Service Acts, 1916 and 1917, whether granted before or after the passing of this Act, and whether granted by a tribunal or by or under the authority of a Government Department, where the certificate was granted on occupational grounds, and also applies to any certificate So granted on such grounds to a man who has voluntarily attested, notwithstanding that the certificate has not Statutory force.
§ (3) An Order under this Section may be made applicable either to individual certificates, or to certificates granted to any class or body of men specified in the Order (whether or not dependent on the obtain- 702 ing by those men of individual certificates) and as respects any class or body of men may be made applicable only to men falling within such limits of age or fulfilling such other conditions as may be specified in the Order, and may contain such exceptions and supplemental provisions as the Director-General thinks fit.
§ An Order under this Section may be revoked, extended, or varied, by a further Order of the Director-General, as occasion requires.
§ (4) Where and so long as an Order under this Section is in force, then
- (a) no application shall be entertained for the grant of a certificate, and no certificate shall be granted, where the certificate, if it had been operative at the time at which the Order was made, would have come within the terms of the Order; and
- (b) no application shall be made by or in respect of a man whose certificate comes within the terms of the Order for the renewal of the certificate except on grounds which are not occupational, or for the grant of any certificate on occupational grounds.
§ (5) For the purposes of this Section a certificate shall be deemed to have been granted on occupational grounds which was granted wholly or partly on any of the grounds specified in paragraph (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section two of the Military Service Act, 1916, or (in the case of voluntarily attested men) on any similar grounds or which in either case was granted by or under the authority of any Government Department; and if any question arises whether a certificate was granted on occupational grounds, the question shall be referred to the Director-General, whose decision thereon shall be final.
§ The. CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for Blackpool has just handed in an Amendment to leave out the words, "Director-General of National Service," in order to insert the words "Government Department." That would seem merely to leave the law as it stands.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
No; the tribunals would come under that revision. If you would just allow me to move it I will make it clear.
§ The CHAIRMAN
All through this Clause we have the Director-General of National Service, who may do certain things.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The Bill suggests the Director-General of National Service. There is an alternative method which would substitute in every case the Government Department, which would deal even with the exemption granted by the tribunals.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Strictly speaking, I ought to have the consequential Amendments to the rest of the Clause. I will ask the hon. Member to move his Amendment.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "Director-General of National Service," and to insert instead thereof the words "Government Department."
I have no wish to obstruct the passing of this Bill. The very last thing which I would wish to do is to prevent men being brought into our Army in this very grave national crisis. But I object strongly to giving one super-Government Department power to override all other Government Departments who may reasonably be expected to know much more about their own affairs than any newly-created institution such as that which has just migrated to a hotel in Victoria Street. We have seen the evil effects of allowing the Food Controller to override the Board of Agriculture in the matter of food. The food conditions in the country at the present moment are in a most unsatisfactory state. You have only got to open the newspapers to glean but a tithe of what is going on. As a matter of fact we know that very much more is going on than what appears in the newspapers. A most illuminating sentence appeared in an article in the "Times," with regard to the overriding of one Government Department by another, and the powers conferred upon the Food Controller. This is the sentence:The blame, it is only fair to say, does not entirely lie with the Food Controller, for the Government are responsible for conferring upon him powers that enable him to deal as he chooses with the Department charged with the encouragement and direction of production. The initial error, therefore, has to be laid at the door of the Government in that they undervalued the importance of providing the articles that were to he controlled.What I object to is the raising of another Government Department, whose business will be entirely the get' ting of men, over the Board of Agriculture or the Ministry of Munitions, or other Government Departments. The very essence of the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of 704 National Service presides is to get men. That is his job, and I do not blame him for getting every man lie can. That is what he is there for. But we have to take a broad view of this matter. We must not think only of the getting of men, though that is a great and important matter, bat we must also equally think of other essential matters, the food of the people, the provision of munitions, and so forth. I should like a plain statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to whether some modification will be made in this respect, whereby there shall be some protection given to the man engaged in National Service, whether it be food production, coal production, or munitions production. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman, through his regional officers, should have power to take anybody at any time just as he wishes. According to the proposal now before the Committee, what protection has the ordinary man who is now engaged in a mine, or in agriculture, against error'? Suppose, through an error, he is, called up under this Act by the National Service Department, what has he got to protect him? Previously, he possibly had a tribunal or the agricultural committee to which he could go for protection, but under this proposal he has absolutely no. protection at all.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of NATIONAL SERVICE (Mr. Beck)
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the present arrangements under the agricultural committee are satisfactory?
§ Colonel ASHLEY
No; but in connection with recruiting we have heard of very numerous mistakes made by the recruiting officer, and I submit that the present proposal is worse still, because any little protection which is given at the present moment might be swept away. The hon. Gentleman's interruption therefore is really not to the point, my point being that I object absolutely to handing over the liberties of men to the uncontrolled activities of a single Government Department which is not concerned with any particular branch of industry in which those men are doing National Service. After all, in the case of agriculture, there is a Board of Agriculture. 705 whose business it is to see after the men who are engaged in food production, and if an error is made a man can at any rate try to get to the particular Government Department which deals with his particular industry in which he is engaged. Under this Bill, unless a man gets into communication with his local Member of Parliament, there is not the slightest hope that he will have any redress of any injustice which may, even by inadvertence, be done to him. Perhaps through ignorance the wrong man might be called up, and yet there would be no possibility of redress. Supposing the recruiting officer came to my county of Hampshire and said that he must have 1,000 men from agriculture. Though it might be necessary that he should have that number of men, yet I most absolutely object to a single Government Department, that has no knowledge of agriculture and its needs, coming down and overriding the Board of Agriculture, who might say that the retention of the men was necessary. I do not say that the Amendment which I propose is the best solution which could be offered, but I have put it on the Paper to give effect to my very strong protest against handing over to a body of men, well-meaning and probably able, uncontrolled power to call up 450,000 men, and not allow the other Government Departments, or anybody else, to say with regard to food production, munitions, shipbuilding, or other industries the men proposed to be taken were necessary to carry those industries on. I ask the House of Commons to bring its mind to the point of whether there is not some other and better solution of what, I agree, is a difficult problem, than allowing the right hon. Gentleman to have this uncontrolled power.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Minister would grant the certificates, but that would not be the effect of this Amendment. However, we will see about it.
§ Brigadier-General HICKMAN
I should like to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, I believe, does not want to 706 obstruct the passage of this Bill, that his Amendment goes right to the root of the Bill. I have not had a talk with hint in regard to it, but I would point out that the object of the Bill is to avoid Government Departments being able to hide men. This measure gives power to the Minister of National Service to get the men, and I think the Amendment ought not to be considered by the Committee, because there is no doubt that it actually knocks out the whole principle of the Bill. I do hope my right hon. Friend will stick to his guns.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I think my hon. Friend (Colonel Ashley) perhaps does not quite understand what this Bill is for. We have had countless cases of men being exempted by Government Departments and in other ways, and this has led to enormous difficulty. It is quite impossible that any Government Department, whose interest lies in some sort of production, food, munitions, or whatever it may be, should have the power to investigate cases for exemption, for the result would be that if any of these Government Departments had the power to exempt, the work of exemption would be delegated. to quite subordinate officials. The whole object of the Cabinet in creating the National Service Department, and the whole object of this Bill, is to get the opinion of a body of men who have nothing else to do than study the manpower position. It is quite wrong of any hon. Member to think that the Ministry of National Service sits in its hotel in Victoria Street and that it has no consultation with any other Government Department. We are in the closest touch at all times with all Government Departments, and there is no Department of the Government which is in closer touch with other Government Departments than the Department over which I preside. The power which is proposed to be given to the Director-General of National Service will only be exercised after full consultation as to any step which is to be taken. But it is necessary that there should be some official in whose name the Order can be made for cancellation of exemption. It can only be issued by the Ministry of National Service, and it is a power in connection with recruiting that has been transferred from the Army Council to the Director-General of National Service and it therefore follows that the Director-General of National Service should be 707 solely responsible for the issue of these orders. You cannot have half-a-dozen authorities issuing orders. The strings of control over man-power must be brought into one Department, which is that of the Ministry of National Service, working in close touch with other Government Departments. It is quite impossible to accept the Amendment put forward.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
What step is a man to take who is called up? Is he to get no redress at all, no security?
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I think the Amendment of my hon. Friend goes a little too far. So far as I remember, when we discussed the original Bill there was considerable objection taken by some of us to the power then granted to Departments of exempting certain people, and this Amendment rather looks as if we were going to take a retrograde step and go back to that part of the Bill which was certainly not right. On the other hand. I think something ought to be done, though perhaps not in this particular direction. My recollection of the original Bill is that some of us, certainly I, myself, proposed that the exemption should be settled by this House; that everybody should be taken except certain people that it was not then possible to settle by this House. I myself am a great believer in Parliament, and with all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman I do not care that anybody should sit in an hotel, or wherever it is, and act as dictator over the whole country, without any appeal, and to do just whatever he likes, and nobody dare say a word. I do not call that democracy, or at any rate it is not the right kind of democracy. I would suggest that there are one or two claims which ought to be considered by taking away some of the power of the right hon. Gentleman to get men. That of Agriculture is one, but I do not discuss that now, as I have an Amendment upon the Paper, and if I discussed it now I might be prevented from doing so later. I think the direction in which we should go is to make exemption in the case of one or two trades, and that Parliament should particularise those trades of which I am sure agriculture is one.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I sympathise with the hon. Member for Blackpool (Colonel Ashley) in his desire to limit the power 708 conferred on the Minister of National Service by this Bill. As it stands we are giving a blank cheque to that Minister to do as he pleases with the man-power of this country irrespective of the wishes of any Department or of the wishes of the tribunals, which in many cases have acted quite fairly in the national interests in this matter. We have no knowledge of the principles on which he is going to act. I doubt whether the present Amendment can be accepted. I agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury), whom we welcome as a champion of democracy, that the original Bill was probably faulty on this matter, and that some of the Members who opposed the attitude of the Government at that time were well advised. At the same time I think we should have some provision safeguarding our rights over the principles on which these powers are to be exercised. I have handed in an Amendment in which I suggest that the Regulations should be laid before Parliament.
I think that the Amendment proposed is one which the Committee could not consider for a moment. We must realise that, after all,. the War Cabinet are governing the country, and the House of Commons interferes with the War Cabinet very little. If there is any section of the community, such as agricultural workers, who are really more important at their work than in the Army, then the War Cabinet under pressure from this House would exempt. those men. To shipbuilders exactly the same thing applies. If those men are more necessary, in order to win the War, engaged in the building of ships, then the War Cabinet would exempt them, and the Minister of National Service is merely acting as the mouthpiece of the War Cabinet in calling up all men whether for shipbuilding or agriculture or for the Army. He has got to distribute the whole man-power. In my short experience in the National Service Department I thought that what that Department wanted was exactly what this Bill gives it, a little more strength, a little more power, a little more possibility of being able to dictate, subject to the War Cabinet's ruling on general principles, as to whether the men were required. I do hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn. I am sure my hon. and gallont Friend who proposed it is as keen as I am to see that the whole matter is put on a sound business basis as it can be. This Bill gives to one 709 Government Department the authority to say to other Government Departments, after studying the whole aspect of affairs, "We think you have got men who could be better employed elsewhere, and we propose to take them away from you." If the Ministry said that to the War Office, in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is specially interested, I have no doubt the War Office would be able to approach the War Cabinet and to say, "We cannot spare these men whom the National Service Department are trying to take away from us," and the War Cabinet would then give a ruling. It is the tribunal in large sections of that sort.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
I do not agree with the Amendment that has been moved, although I think I understand what the hon. and gallant Gentleman desires to arrive at. Personally I sympathise with the view already expressed that the one thing we do not desire in this Bill is to give the Departments power of exemption. Those who have had experience during the past few years of some Departments, have never left them without feeling that the comb should be rather thoroughly put through them. What I take it that the hon. Member desires is that there should be some power between the arbitrary dictum of the Director of National Service and the general public in exceptional cases. I have had knowledge of a very exceptional case from a technical institute, and I do not know at present how those concerned would be able to put their case before anybody. It is the case of a man who has been engaged in instructing munition workers. Despite several advertisements, they have been unable to get anyone to fill his place with the necessary technical knowledge and skill. You would lose more than you would gain by taking that one man into the Army. I fully agree with the spirit of this Bill in getting in the men that ought to be got into the Army. We are all making sacrifices amongst our own relatives, and we are all aware of the young men who have been shielded from being put into the Army, as they ought to have been put. I would ask the Government seriously to consider whether they could not give us some means whereby in exceptional cases where it could be demonstrated that for the good of the community it would be ill advised to take exceptional men, some opportunity would be given of putting the case before the Director-General of National Service.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I do not wish to stop the progress of the Bill, but this shows the disadvantage of not having Amendments on the Paper. I would ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, so that the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) may be able to move his.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "may" ["may at any time"], to insert the words, "in accordance with Regulations previously laid before Parliament."
The effect of this would be to place a small and limited restriction upon the arbitrary powers which this Clause confers on the Director of National Service. I think that the hon. Member for Blackpool (Colonel Ashley) made out a strong case against constituting the head of any Department as dictator in any sphere of administration or in any sphere of national life. The illustration which he has given from the extraordinary situation which we have now reached in regard to food, should put the House on its guard against allowing similar dictatorial powers to be used by the head of any other Department. It may be true that Government Departments in the past have abused their powers and that subordinate officials in those Departments have been enabled to obtain exemption for people in whom they were interested, but that is no sound reason for conferring similar power and giving a monopoly of it to another Department, where you may equally find subordinate officials exercising their powers by the same methods of favouritism. I quite agree that this Amendment does not cover the v hole ground, but I believe it is of great importance that the Regulations should be laid before Parliament, so that Parliament will be informed of the principles on which the Minister acts. I disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite who said that this was really a matter fur the War Cabinet. I think our experience of the working of the War Cabinet, more particularly in relation to the taking of decisions on this subject, ought to prevent us from giving any such power to that body. We know already that the greater part of the muddle on man-power has been due to the incapacity of the War Cabinet to take decisions. Why did the old Department of National Service fall? It 711 failed because the War Cabinet was unable to take decisions to give that Department power.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says, "Let us refer the matter still to the War Cabinet," which blundered so badly in the past. It is perfectly true that this Bill in terms gives it to the Director of National Service, but if a Department feels aggrieved it will send the question to the War Cabinet, a body which has not been too prompt in its decisions in the past. Everybody knows the history of the working of the War Cabinet in regard to shipbuilding. Shipbuilders have made demands for more men six months ago, but no definite answer has yet been given. I say that it is time that Parliament should deal with this matter, and I do not believe that this proposal in the Bill is a sufficient assertion of the power of Parliament. I believe that if the House of Commons sets its mind to these matters it is in a better position to lay down principles for the Minister of National Service than any Government Department or any War Cabinet. The present War Cabinet is not a good body to decide matters of this kind. The old Cabinet was, because on the old Cabinet were the representatives of the various Departments, and Ministers were in a position to state their point of view and to argue it. The system under the present War Cabinet is that heads of Departments come up like clerks before them and make reports to them, and then this body of supermen come to a decision without proper argument or statement of the case. That is a bad system, and has been proved to be so in working. Therefore, I think that the new Director of National Service should be called upon to lay down the principles on which he proposes to act in Regulations to be laid before Parliament.
The Director of National Service has had many interviews with trade unions and labour organisations; he has told those organisations the principles on which he is going to act, and facts and figures have been given to those deputations which have been denied afterwards to Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) endeavoured on the Second Reading to obtain from the Prime Minister the facts which were given to the trade unions, but 712 the Prime Minister rode off with a piece of camouflage which delighted an after-dinner audience here. The House of Commons should insist that it is not going to be treated in that way. What I ask now is not those figures, but a statement of the principles on which the Minister is going to act, similar to what he has given to the trade unions, because, after all, the responsibility for this measure does not rest on the trade unions. The responsibility for this measure rests upon the House of Commons—upon the two Houses of Parliament. If the House of Commons is to be worse informed than the trade unions, and if the House of Commons is going to submit to that, then the sooner it gives up its job the better. The object of this Amendment is to secure that whenever the Director of National Service puts into operation the powers conferred by this Clause he shall lay the Regulations on which he is going to act on the Table of both Houses of Parliament, so that Parliament will be able to examine those principles.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
The point very properly raised by my hon. and learned Friend is one of great importance. I think we are entitled to have from the Government, now and in this Committee stage, clearly and distinctly their intentions as to the methods they propose to adopt in carrying out the provisions of this Bill. As has been pointed out, Parliament itself gives them absolute power to deal with any exemptions granted, either by tribunals or by Government Departments, on occupational grounds, and I should like to point out to hon. Members that if they read through this Bill they will find that under its terms the Director-General of National Service is to exercise his power with the most absolute discretion. For example, after fourteen days, the Order, whatever form it may take, will have effect without any possibility of appeal. It will affect individual certificates as well as class certificates, and any provisions that may be inserted with regard to the body to be called up. The conditions upon which the Order is to take effect may be revoked, extended, or varied, and such further Orders may be issued by the Director-General as may be required. He is made the authority even to construe the Act of Parliament in regard to occupational grounds. I hope the Lord Advocate will note that, and that he will agree that that matter would be more properly dealt 713 with by a Court than by the Director-General, as it might raise very important questions of construction.
My object is not to delay or defeat the purposes of this Bill, as I think it is a thoroughly necessary Bill under the circumstances, but I should like very much indeed, in supporting this Amendment, to ask the right hon. Gentleman to take the House of Commons into his confidence in exactly the same way as the Prime Minister has taken the trade unions and the labour organisations into his confidence. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech on the First Reading of the Bill, informed this House that conferences would be held with and explanations given in considerable detail to the trade unions as to the precise way in which the Government. proposals will affect each industry, and lie added that he had received from the representatives of the trade unions material assistance on many points of detail. I can assure him he will also receive assistance from Members of the House of Commons, who represent large industrial constituencies, if he will extend to them the same frankness. Speaking as I do as the representative of a large industrial constituency, which has selected me to watch its interests here, I am quite as much entitled to know what are the conditions under which industrial workers are to be combed out from the various industries as are the representatives of the trades unions. It is not fair to the House and to the Committee not to give us the fullest information now as to what the intentions of the Government are. Let me suggest one or two points which really do concern us. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that he is going to deal with the essential industries under this Bill. But I gather from speeches he has made elsewhere that his personal idea has always been to deal with the non-essential industries until the last man has been obtained. If I remember rightly, at the Aldwych Club the right hon. Gentleman said it seemed to him that his first duty was thus to deal with the non-essential industries.
§ Mr. MILLAR
We are handing over to the Director-General of National Service absolute power to deal with all trades, including the essential trades, and we want to know definitely what are the non-essential trades he has been talking about.
§ The. CHAIRMAN
I am afraid we must not enter into a discussion on administrative points. The object of the Amendments is to lay it down that the proposed powers shall only be exercised under a scheme previously laid before Parliament. The point raised by the hon. Member is one for the Second Reading or Third Reading stage, but it is not proper in Committee.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Am I not entitled, under the Amendment, to ask that the Director-General of National Service shall indicate the methods to be adopted? Am I not entitled to ask him whether the methods to be adopted and the Regulations to be issued are to refer to particular trades, and, if so, which trades?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Not to which trades. Surely that would be an administrative question. The hon. Member is entitled to ask whether these powers will be in accordance with any scheme or design, or whether they will be exercised by haphazard, and that I take it is the object of the present Amendment. That object is to ensure that the powers shall be exercised in accordance with some scheme within the knowledge of Parliament.
§ Mr. MILLAR
May I point out that in Sub-section (3) Section 2 reference is made to Orders which may be granted with respect to any class or body of men occupied in particular industries. If that be so may Regulations not be required to apply to particular industries? There is the typical instance of a Government Department which may have granted a number of exemptions to men engaged in mining or some other essential industry, and therefore these Regulations would be required for that particular industry or class.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That would not arise out of the particular Regulations. The hon. Member's point it appears to me is a purely administrative one. He is dealing now simply with executive power.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I will endeavour to keep my remarks to the point you have indicated, but I should like to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give us now a full and frank statement as to the industries he has in his mind, and as to the proportion which he desires to obtain from them so that we each and all of us in this House who represent industrial districts may be in a position to understand what 715 the situation is in our own constituencies from which we have many appeals and communications in regard to this particular Bill. We hold that we should not be left in the dark as to the intentions of the Government. There is another point of equal importance and that is the position of the tribunals under this Bill. As it stands the Bill gives absolute power to the Director-General and to his officials to withdraw certificates of exemption granted by tribunals on occupational grounds. It is provided that—
"No application shall be entertained for the grant of a certificate and no certificate shall be granted where the certificate, if it had been operative at the time at which the Order was made. would have come within the terms of the order."
And later on it is further provided that—
"No application shall be made by or in respect of a man whose certificate comes within the terms of the Order for the renewal of the certificate except on grounds which are not occupational or for the grant of any certificate on occupational grounds."
§ The CHAIRMAN
These are, I think, all of them subject matters of subsequent Amendments. The hon. Member really must not try to review the whole Clause on the present Amendment.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I have no desire whatever to prolong the Debate on this particular Amendment. I take it that such Regulations as may be issued will certainly have reference to the position of the tribunals; otherwise I do not see how it can be made perfectly clear what the position of the tribunals will be at a later period. The intention of my hon. and learned Friend in moving his Amendment was to draw attention to the position of the tribunals as well as to the position of the Government Departments under the Regulations which may be issued—
§ Mr. MILLAR
I do not want to prolong the Debate on this point, but I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the view which has been submitted to him, and to state to the Committee on the present Amendment in perfectly clear terms what his intentions are. Otherwise it may be necessary for the House to limit the Bill 716 in many particulars for the future. Personally, I shall feel it necessary to support the Amendment unless we do get some statement from the right hon. Gentleman now which will indicate the extent to which the powers which he proposes to take are to be exercised, and the extent to which he is going to override both the tribunals and the other Government Departments.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend proposes that the absolute power which this Bill intends to entrust to the Director of National Service should be in some degree limited, and that that power shall be exercised subject to obligations and regulations to be laid before Parliament. I submit to you, Sir, that in a sense this does raise the whole question of the powers proposed to be conferred under this Clause, and it is rather difficult to discuss it except from that point of view. While, of course, avoiding any detailed consideration of particular points, or asking for any statement of administrative detail, I venture to submit it will be necessary for the Committee, if it is to decide whether or not Regulations shall be required to be laid on the Table of the House as to the method of exercising these powers, to examine what is the nature of the power itself, and whether it is safe in the interests, say, of a single individual or of a class to pass this Clause, which would vest unqualified authority in the Director-General of National Service, sitting without any advisory council and enabling him, on his own fiat, to declare precisely what men are to be called up from the various trades and occupations of the country. The tribunals are no longer to have a voice in the matter so far as occupational exemptions are concerned. Take the case of a great industry such as the mining industry.
When I had the honour to be at the Home Office we had to deal with the exemption of miners, and we set up Colliery Courts all over the country to decide whether exemptions should be allowed to this man or that. These Colliery Courts were composed of representative mine-owners and of the men and were presided over by inspectors under the Home Office. As I understand it, they are now to be put on one side from the occupational aspect of the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman, sitting in a room, is to have sole despotic authority over all these men. I doubt 717 whether any Legislature in any country at any time has ever placed in the hands of one man such unlimited authority over the lives and fortunes of millions of his fellow subjects. The Bill deals with two classes of exemptions which are now granted on grounds of occupation—those granted by Government Departments and those by tribunals. With regard to the Department, there, indeed, we are really replacing, so far as the ultimate authority is concerned, one Minister by another. But with respect to the tribunals, a question of principle arises. I had a part in the conduct of the first Military Service Bill through this House. We then set up all over the country a system of tribunals which we hoped—and I think our hopes have been verified—would really represent in these matters the common sense of the whole nation.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Well, I think they do. No doubt mistakes have been made here and there, but the tribunals have immensely simplified and eased the working of the system of compulsory military service. If from the beginning we had attempted to centralise all this machinery in the hands of the Executive of the day, or if we had left it really to the military authorities, I feel quite certain you would not have had the comparatively smooth working of this great new experiment in this country which you have had as a result of the work of administration being largely in the hands of men appointed in the localities and well known to the people of those localities in which they are operating. I think the Committee would desire to know what is to be the relation of the new system to the tribunal system. I do not think that either on the First Reading or on the Second Reading, so far as I remember, anything was said in criticism or in deprecation of the work of the tribunals, but the whole decision, as I gather, of questions of occupational exemption are now to be taken out of the hands of tribunals and vested in the hands of the National Service Department. That may be right or wrong, but if that is what is really intended I think we should have some reasons given to us for it. I should like further to ask whether it is intended that the National Service Department shall deal with the principle of large classes of case? I will put it in this way: 718 Is it intended that it shall deal with the case of any class, or are there to be appeals or references to the National Service Department also of individual cases? The wording of the Bill would, as I take it, allow either. Is it intended, for example, that the National Service Department should simply make Regulations and say that in such-and-such a trade all men under the age of twenty-three or twenty-four shall no longer be exempted; that all certificates of exemption shall be cancelled; or is it intended to go further and say, "We, the National Service Department, will consider on their merits cases of particular individuals in particular trades"? For example, with regard to the luxury trades, is it intended that there shall come up, case by case, to the National Service Department particular instances for their decision? If a tribunal in a town says, "We have here four men engaged in the trade of butcher. It is necessary to have soma butchers in the town, and we must have two. We will release two," and they give exemption to two men of military age and refuse exemption to the other two men of military age—that kind of case is coming up thousands of times over in all towns throughout the country—is it intended under this Bill that these exemptions should still stand, and that individual discrimination should still remain vested in the tribunal, or that an appeal should lie not only from the local tribunal to the Appeal Tribunal, but afterwards from the Appeal Tribunal to the Ministry of National Service?
That is rather an important point, because under the Bill it is within the power of the Ministry to cancel any exemption or to overrule any tribunal on any individual case of the kind. If there is an appeal to lie for the first time to the National Service Department, is the appeal to lie on both sides? That is to say, are the military authorities alone to be allowed to make the appeal, or is the person also to be allowed to make an appeal for exemption to the National Service Department? Further, I think the Committee will be glad to have such information as the Government can give as to the general conception they have of the Working of this Act. To what sorts of trades in general—I do not ask for detailed particulars, because that, of course, is a matter for administration—do they intend to apply it? Do they intend to fix age limits in particular trades? Are those age 719 limits to vary with the various trades? I think either we ought to have a statement, as full as the Rules of Order will allow to be made, to-day, or some opportunity on some occasion of considering the whole matter with fuller particulars than we have certainly yet had laid before us. I would also venture to throw out this last suggestion for the consideration of the Government—I do not press it, but simply suggest it for their deliberation: Whatever powers are exercised, are they not too large to be vested in any individual, and would it not be to the advantage both of the National Service Department and also to the advantage of the country as a whole if something in the nature of an Advisory Council were established to co-operate with the Minister, consisting wholly or partly of Members of this House, who should consider one by one the proposals the Minister intends to put into operation, and to bring additional minds to bear on this large and profoundly important question, representing so large a proportion of His Majesty's subjects?
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Clyde)
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Samuel) must not expect me to answer by any manner of means all the questions which he has very properly addressed to this side of the House. The reason is that some of them go far beyond questions with which anybody could deal except the Minister in charge of the Bill. I was myself about to rise with regard to the Amendment before us, and, although I have not much to say about it, I shall try in saying what I have to say to answer those of the questions the right hon. Gentleman has addressed to us which seem to fall properly within my own sphere or my own Department. The Committee will remember that the present proposal is founded upon the conferring on the Director-General of the power to revoke certificates of exemption. What is proposed is not to take that power away. What is proposed is to say that that power should be exercised in accordance with Regulations previously laid before Parliament. Will the Committee be so good as to apply their attention for a few moments to the question of whether that is really a practicable proposal. Frankly, I do not myself think it is. I quite understand the purpose which inspires the proposal. It really is the same, I think, as that which underlay at least a part of the 720 remarks of the right hon. Gentleman a few moments ago—it is a feeling of much alarm at the concentration in the hands of one Director of powers so extensive as those of the revision of all certificates of exemption granted by Departments or by tribunals on occupational grounds. I quite follow the feeling as regards that, that it is a very large power to concentrate in the hands of one man, but the only question we can determine on this Amendment is whether this power should be qualified by some attempt or other to define beforehand by Regulation how it is to be used. I doubt very much if that is at all possible. The right hon. Gentleman has asked a number of questions bearing to some extent on the problem. He asked, "How would you exercise it?" He asked, "Is it intended to give power to deal with the individual circumstances of a particular individual, or is it only meant to deal with the more general considerations of occupation?" which, of course, may directly affect a particular individual or a number of individuals, but still the purview of which does not look to the particular circumstances of the individual, but to the general circumstances of the occupation which procured him exemption. I think I may at once and without any hesitation return to that general question this general answer. The power is intended to be exercised in the purview only of occupational considerations. It is not intended to be a power to deal with the peculiar position of a particular individual. The order is intended to be an order to deal with wider circumstances than those altogether, namely, those affecting particular occupations. You do not require Regulations on that, for that is what the Bill says. The Bill says that this is to apply to certificates of exemption where the certificate was granted on occupational grounds, and also applies to a certificate so granted on such grounds. It is quite clear, therefore, that the purpose is to deal with what I might call occupational considerations.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I think not. I think the point is that the considerations must be peculiar to the occupation, but I agree that the considerations might, of course, be such, and the circumstances of the occupation might be such, that the Order could not apply to all persons occupied in the same way, in the same place, and at all times. In that sense, no doubt, it affects the individual as well as the class of persons engaged in the occupation. I am afraid that is inevitable, but I believe I have stated correctly—at any rate, I have done my best to do so—what the Bill does. The right hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me when I frankly make him the concession that if you deal with the question of man-power within the purview of what is to be done with regard to the various occupations it is true that the Orders cannot always apply to all those who come under the same occupation, in all places, and at any one time. It is quite clear, therefore, that what is called the right to revise any individual certificate is, of course, to be in the Bill. Again, may I deal with another matter put to me by the right hon. Gentleman? He asked, "Is it the intention that there should be an appeal from the Central Tribunal to the Director-General of National Service?" I do not see any trace of that in the Bill, and, so far as I am aware, there is no idea of an appeal at all. There could hardly be one, when the question is not one dependent on the particular circumstances of the individual, but on the particular circumstances of his occupation. In short, the Director-General can only deal with the occupation as a whole, although it is quite true that he must be able to deal with the occupation as a whole everywhere and may have to consider local circumstances as well. With this explanation made, I do not want to detain the Committee much longer, but may I not very fairly ask what kind of Regulations could we imagine to be framed? How could any form of Regulation provide rules for the exercise of this administrative power? How could we foresee circumstances, and how could we foretell the sort of conditions in which the power might have to be exercised? The truth is that the power is a very large power, but I am afraid it is a power which would be useless if one were to attempt to say beforehand that it could only be exercised in such-and-such a way with 722 regard to these various occupations. In short, if any proposal were to be made to limit the exercise of this discretion, I think it would require to be done in some other way—because I do not think this is a practical way—than by a power to define beforehand by Regulation how or exactly what the Minister was to do. While one fully appreciates, therefore, the reflection which leads to proposals of this kind, I do not think that the one before the Committee would be practicable or would be one which we could adopt.
§ Mr. CLYDE
That is quite a fair question to put across the Table, and I think I ought to say at once that in my view a power of this kind, for the reasons I have giver, could not be exercised except by the responsible Minister and his Department. I do not see any other plan. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the grant of these certificates so far by Departments has only been done with the advice of the Army Council. In fact, the Army Council was supreme. The way in which it worked was this: If a Department wished to exempt certain people, it asked the Army Council to do so. The Army Council were absolutely the masters of whether it should be done or not. I do not think anyone has complained of that. The problem now is to entrust to someone the power of withdrawing those exemptions I suppose if you had not a Minister of National Service, probably the Army Council who granted these exemptions would have the power to withdraw them. Now that the Minister of National Service has come in, I think that the Minister of National Service must in like manner exercise the power of the Army Council now that he takes the place of the Army Council. The only question, therefore, the Committee has to consider now is, Is it a practical proposal to attach to the power to be exercised that this shall be somehow or other conditional or limited by a set of Regulations to be approved by Parliament? For the reasons I have given,. I do not think that could be accepted by the Committee as a practical proposal.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
As I understand, the military authorities call up a man. That man, being engaged in some occupation of national importance, then appeals to the tribunal. If the tribunal exempts him, the military authorities have no power over him.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
So far as I read the Bill, I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Service will have absolute power to abrogate exemptions given by all the tribunals in the country?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
But the Bill is very clear.
"This Section applies to any certificate of exemption from the provisions of the Military Service Acts, 1916 and 1917, whether granted before or after the passing of this Act."
That means everyone.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
There is another difficulty which interests the Committee. As the Committee knows very well, I have been extremely anxious that agriculture should not be depleted of labour. May I put this to the right hon. Gentleman? Supposing the Minister of National Service wishes to withdraw exemptions from men who are engaged in agriculture, has he the power to do it?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
May I interrupt, in order to make the point plain? It is within the knowledge of this Committee that there are at the present time many forms of exemption on occupational grounds. We have the tribunal form of exemption on occupational grounds, and we have the Government Departmental form of exemption under the Act of 1916. We have, in addition to that, various forms of protection. Protection is given to men in munition factories who possess no certificate under the Acts at all; they are simply not called up. There are today no less than 1,200,000 such exemptions. Then there are the agricultural 724 protections, which exist in very large numbers, which are given by the War Agricultural Executive Committee, which have no legal existence at all, and can be cancelled at any moment by the Director - General of National Service. [An HON. MEMBER: "How is that?"] Because they are simply protections from recruiting which rest upon his understanding with the Department concerned. It is done with a pen. All these so-called exemptions and protections granted by the War Agricultural Executive Committee rest only upon the fiat of the Director-General. Therefore it is hardly necessary to-day to proceed with the case of agriculture, which we all recognise as being one of the really vital industries, such as shipbuilding, and so on, where we have already in large measure the state of affairs which will exist all over the country if this Bill becomes law. It already exists, and the reasons for it are that the tribunal exemptions were so erratic that there was no certainty you would get the protection required in order to make safe the food supply of the country. One tribunal would say, "That is a young man; away with him to the Army." The next one would say, "That also is a young man; away with him to the Army." We stepped in and said, "No, this is not in the national interest." We must have some means of protecting these men, and we use the Agricultural Executive Committee as the agent for the issue of these certificates. Now in law at the moment those certificates could be cancelled within five minutes from now. It is not proposed to do it, but there is no legal -basis for their existence. The position with regard to agriculture is not affected.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what other industries are in the same position in these respects?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
There are a very large number of industries in the same position at the present moment, because tribunal exemptions were so hopelessly erratic. Shipbuilding and repairing is in the same position. Mining and quarrying, other than coal-mining, is in the same position. and certain manufactures in connection with the metal industry. Aeroplane manufacture is in the same position, and so on. At the present moment those industries. being most vital industries, are all under the administrative powers which it is suggested by this Bill to entrust to the 725 Director-General of National Service. So that if at the moment the Director-General of National Service is not ruining the country with the powers he already possesses in connection with the vital industries, it is not likely he will proceed to ruin the country if he gets the same powers in connection with less vital and luxury industries.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My right hon. Friend's explanation has considerably relieved my mind, but lie seems to be in a position to be able to control all the industries of the country, and by a stroke of the pen he can stop any industry from going on. Of course, I do not think he will do it with regard to agriculture, in which I am most interested, because there would be a revolution very soon, and the same state of affairs as in Russia. I am not talking so very wildly when I talk about the position of things in this country being very serious. But may I ask this further question, that before my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Service takes, or permits to be taken, any further men from agriculture, he will consult, at any rate, the President of the Board of Agriculture?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
Certainly. In all these things it is invariably my custom, and would necessarily be the custom of anyone who was in the position of Director-General of National Service, that he should consult with the heads of the Departments concerned; otherwise the whole thing would be chaos in two or three days. It is very desirable that the Committee should realise that the Minister of National Service has no special interest in raising men for the Army. I know my past association with the Army lays me open to a suspicion that I have a specially soft corner in my heart for the Army, but it is not so. The Ministry of National Service is an executive Department with regard to man-power, working under the War Cabinet, and after the most full consideration with all Government Departments. We have agreements with all Departments of State. There is never an Order issued affecting the interests of any Department without the Order being referred to that Department and agreed to, and, in the event of disagreement, it is carried to the War Cabinet for overruling The appearance of the name of the Director-General of National Service is merely to get some one Department for the purpose of signing Orders. It is an administrative power, and not a great 726 despotic power. This House controls the whole Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and if the National Service Department began rushing off doing things without co-ordination it would not be many days or hours before the matter was known.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am very glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, and to be assured that he will consult the Government Departments concerned. That will be an improvement on the present procedure. If you take the Food Controller, I am perfectly certain he does not consult the Board of Agriculture with regard to many of his Orders. Having had the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that he will consult the Board of Agriculture, I shall rest satisfied; but I do wish to press upon the Committee that I do not rise on any trivial ground, because the agricultural situation to-day is serious. Another matter raised is that of cases in which men are being taken for aerodromes, and things of that description. Men of sixty or sixty-five are paid 45s. a week and fetched by motor lorry, the whole agricultural districts being skinned for the purpose. Those are matters to which the right hon. Gentleman might give some attention, but I do assure him the conditions with regard to agricultural labour are very serious, and the tractors are not proving the success that was anticipated.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I think right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not appreciate the fact that the power has already been in the hands of one Department which is best known under the name of the Reserved Occupations Committee. A list of certified occupations has from time to time been revised by them. There is very little difference between that Committee sitting, as it used -to do at Whitehall, and the Minister of National Service, who is responsible directly to this House. That Committee had only to advance the ages in the various certified trades to cause those men to be no longer certified, and therefore no longer to be protected. That has been going on all the way through. Surely there is very little difference, and far less security, in a Committee like this than there would he with the Ministry itself But what I want to call attention to is the confusion of thought that exists here as to different classes. There is the pure and simple Government protection 727 certificate of the men who have never been anywhere near a tribunal. There is the certificate of the men who have been to a tribunal, and, having been heard on various grounds, and turned down in order to join up, have promptly entered munition factories or aeroplane works, or something of that sort, and so have got back. At once you have two classes of men who are protected by a form of certificate that the Minister of National Service now wants to control. You have the man who goes in under some kind of certificate, and has taken his chance before the tribunal and has failed. You have the man who has come before the tribunal and made good his case, whatever his medical classification has been, and, of course, the lower that classification is the greater the possibility of getting exemption on that ground.
Therefore you have that type of than who has got a certificate of exemption from the tribunal, either because they were bound to grant it, because he has brought himself within a certified occupation, or because, in the exercise of their discretion, they have considered that he is entitled to be exempted "on the ground of National Service"—that is the phrase generally used in the first paragraph relating to exemptions as set forth in the Military Service Acts. The tribunals have endeavoured to use the statutory words in making out their certificate. Therefore such a man would get his certificate on the ground of National Service. Over and over again he has brought himself within the certified list or has shown the Committee that although not in the certified list he is entitled to exemption. That is one of the Regulations. There is a distinct statement as to the certified occupations list, that if that man is within a certified occupation and is graded 3—that was the lowest in those days, C3, I think—he is to be treated as though he were an older man and therefore exempt, although not so entitled had it not been for his health. I think I may say that the relative number of these certificates is small in comparison with those large numbers which have been issued from time to time by Government Departments. I cannot myself see, inasmuch as the power, so far as the tribunal occupation certificates in the ordinary case of certified trades is concerned, has been exercised by the Reserved Occupations Committee without any substantial objection, the Committee are now giving 728 away very much in authorising the Director-General as the Bill proposes to do.
In regard to Government Departments the objection might be urged, but surely those of us who have been intimately cons netted with these matters know this, that in the old days, with the War Office on the one side and the Departments on the other, there was a good deal of friction and pulling in opposite directions. Now that you have a Department the sole purpose of which is the regulation of the man-power of the whole country, you have a totally different thing, because we have not mere creatures of the War Office standing between the Government Departments on the one hand, and the demands of the military on the other. They are judging independently, I venture to think, too, in a very different way from the old time, when there was a good deal of prejudice and feeling against the action of the War Office. That being so, I do think that the proposal is a mistake to suspend the operation, pending the laying on the Table of Regulations, the difficulty of which, I quite agree with the Lord Advocate, would depend entirely upon the particular trade or service. It might be that the men in a certified trade only require to be called up between certain ages—it would depend upon the particular nature of the trade or service. So that it seems almost impossible that any Regulation should be framed which would adequately give what is hoped for in the proposal made. On these grounds, having regard to the fact that the tribunals are powerless, directly the age is altered and the men removed from the category which gives him protection by reason of the shifting of the age by the Committee, I think we are really straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel not to give the power for which the Ministry now specifically asks, which is no greater than in the past, and is to be exercised with greater advantage, because it is to be exercised in the way suggested by the Bill.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I quite agree that there are considerable difficulties in framing satisfactory Regulations in connection with the Amendment now suggested, but I cannot understand why any Member of this House should willingly trust a single individual with the enormous powers which are asked for under this Bill. I listened with great interest to the speech which was made by the right hon. 729 Gentleman which we have just heard, the Minister for National Service, chiefly on this ground—I was interested to see how quickly any lion. Gentleman can acquire the approved Ministerial tone. Every Minister who has ever introduced or carried through Committee any Bill has always said, "Of course, we have no intention of doing anything whatever that is unreasonable. We shall be very careful to protect this or that interest, and we shall be very careful about exercising the power for which we now ask." In every case, however, at the same time, they have made every objection to any limitation of the power to be given; therefore, as I say, this suggestion of no unreasonableness and so on, was in the true Ministerial manner. What, however, we have to consider is whether the House of Commons is entitled to give any man, however excellent his intentions, the powers which are demanded in this Bill. The Minister might under this Bill go down to any trade in the country and withdraw any number of men without appeal and without any consideration of the interests of the people concerned. He may do so up to any number he requires, and this House will have no further say in the matter whatever. It is quite true at the moment there is only the question of 500,000 men, which, in these days, is a comparatively small number. Even so, everyone knows that as this War goes on the difficulty of withdrawing further men from the industries of this country becomes ever so much greater.
Suppose you cannot get the 500,000 men out of the luxury trades or any trade particularly, I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to do in this matter Are we, then, sure that lie will not go to agriculture and take the men engaged in that, and to shipbuilding and take the men engaged in that? He will will have great pressure brought to bear on him by the War Office. He will have great pressure brought to bear upon him by the War Cabinet. What is the security we have that he will exercise his enormous powers with discretion? If this Bill passes as it is the Ministry may not only bring hardship and trouble on individuals, but they may bring absolute disaster to the country. The right hon. Gentleman told us to consider how careful he had been of agriculture. That was the effect of his speech. Has agriculture to-day got all the men it wants? [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Consider the meat shortage! 730 Consider what is now going on in the towns in the North! Consider the discontent there is in all parts of the country! Consider not only the meat shortage, but the butter shortage The way agriculture has been treated up to the present does not give us great confidence in entrusting to any Minister, who has nothing to do with agriculture, the powers asked for in this Bill. Why has agriculture been treated in this way! It has not been done by the Board of Agriculture. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackpool has pointed out that it has been treated in this way because the Cabinet, or the Government, gave the Food Control Department the power of controlling agriculture—a Department which knows nothing about it Lord Rhondda and his advisers have the power to interfere with agriculture—and they have done it! In the same way the right hon. Gentleman is asking for full powers to withdraw any men lie pleases. In saying that he is misleading the House, because he knows perfectly well already that he cannot withdraw men who have obtained, on occupational grounds, certificates of exemption from the tribunals. There are a large number of men engaged in agriculture who have certificates of exemption on occupational grounds; therefore he has no right to say that he can do what he likes with the men engaged in agriculture.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I did not say that I had tie power over the certificates granted by the tribunals. What I said was that so far as men engaged in agriculture at the present time are concerned, I had power over the certificates of exemption given by the agricultural committees.
§ Mr. MORRELL
If this Bill passes it will very seriously affect agriculture. That is the only point I was trying to make. I think the right hon. Gentleman did not point that out in his earlier observations. Take the trade in which I am very much interested—the cotton trade. I am advised by my Constituents, and those who know the cotton trade, that it has now come to the point when it has given all the men it can, and cannot spare another without danger to the whole trade breaking down, and Lancashire being thrown into a state of absolute starvation. The trade is very much disorganised at the present time. Supposing an ignorant Government Department goes down to this very delicately balanced trade and takes away men from the spinning mills, men who are 731 vitally necessary to the trade? You may very well have the whole weaving industry, the cotton trade, and the spinning, in a state of complete disorganisation in Lancashire, with riots and disturbances. It, is, therefore, very dangerous to give the powers asked for in the present state of the industry.
I want to make a proposal to the right hon. Gentleman. If he will not accept this Amendment, I want to know whether he will limit his powers in any way or whether he demands unlimited powers? He has said again and again that he is not going to exercise these powers without consultation with the Department concerned. Will he put that in the Bill? Will he say that in every case the Department concerned shall be consulted, whatever the Department may be, before the powers of this Bill are exercised? That, at any rate, will give us something, even if this Amendment is rejected. It seems to me the House of Commons will not be doing its duty to the country, nor we to our constituents, if we give to a single man or Department, as it is now, the powers asked for in this Bill. If the present Amendment, which appears to me to be not unreasonable, cannot be accepted, will the Government say what limitation they will suggest, or do they really suggest that this Bill is to be passed as it stands, to give these absolutely autocratic powers to a single untried Ministry?
§ Colonel ASHLEY
The Minister of National Service made us a very satisfactory speech and promised us things which I am sure he will personally carry out to the very letter, but what I would point out is that, after all, the right hon. Gentleman is ephemeral, and he may leave to-morrow morning, and his post may be filled by somebody else. A promise made by a Minister in this House has no effect in law, and the only thing that is effective is what is put into the Act of Parliament. That is why my lion. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire wishes to see some limitation placed upon the Director-General of National Service. Although the right hon. Gentleman himself may be full of the most excellent intentions, and he may he really desirous of carrying this Bill into effect without any friction at all, can he guarantee the same common sense and tactfulness on the part of his subordinates? If 732 they carry out these powers in the same way that they did in connection with the recruiting campaign, I am afraid we have no such guarantee.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech is largely discounted by the fact that he may not be in his present office in a week's time, and although he may be anxious to carry out his own policy, his subordinates may not carry out that policy in the same way. One or two hon. Members have hinted that we are unpatriotic in supporting this Amendment, because the need for men is so very urgent. That is invariably the plea which is put forward by a Minister when any proposal is brought forward to limit the control of his Department. The Department concerned should bring in its proposals earlier, so that the House of Commons may have time to consider them and at leisure put in any control which seems to be necessary. The right hon. Gentleman made the point that up to now when they wanted to take any men from agriculture they consulted the Minister for Agriculture, and if they could not agree then the matter went before the War Cabinet to be decided. Under this Bill that will not be so. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt consult the Minister of Munitions and the Minister for Agriculture and come to some agreement, but if they do not agree it will not be the War Cabinet that will decide, but the right hon. Gentleman himself.
A great point was made that at the present moment those exempted on occupational grounds could he taken for the Army, and therefore this Bill makes no change. I may be wrong, but my impression is that a man at the present moment who is protected on occupational grounds and whose certificate is taken away by the Ministry fur National Service can appeal to the tribunal on other grounds and get exemption. Under this Bill all that is swept away. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will point out what protection a man exempted on occupational grounds has who is called up by the Minister for National Service. Supposing John Hodge, an agricultural labourer in Hampshire, is called up and his age is twenty-three. Is there any appeal against that calling up? Supposing the right hon. Gentleman issued a ukase calling up every agricultural labourer between twenty and twenty-five in the 733 United Kingdom. Is there any appeal against that decision? I would like that simple question answered by the right hon. Gentleman. Unless there is some form of protection it is impossible for the House of Commons to grant such powers to any Minister or any Department, however well-intentioned they may be. It is our duty to see that these questions are answered satisfactorily before this Bill passes into law. Up to the present we have only had vague generalities. The Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire may not be an ideal one, but it places some limitation on the powers of the Minister of National Service.
The inquiries which have been made have only been partially answered, and although the Minister of National Service has shown us much courtesy in communicating the method by which his Department is administered, and has given us an enlightening account of the proceedings, I do not think that meets the point which has been put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland. There is some doubt in the minds of hon. Members, not even excepting the hon. and learned Member for Ealing, as to whether the Minister of National Service is to have the right to override the decisions of the tribunal. This is a most important matter. Individual exemptions have been granted by the tribunals in an enormous number of cases on different grounds. They have made selections in the various localities. Are those decisions to be swept aside or has the Minister power to settle them? Are the decisions of the tribunals to come under his review?
My right hon. Friend put a very simple question. People want to know whether or not it is within the power of the Minister of National Service to wipe out the exemptions given, say, to the butcher in a small market town. Take a case, for instance, where it has been decided that two butchers are to be kept out of four. Is that to be the decision of the tribunal or the Minister of National Service? Here you have a concrete inquiry to which we have received no answer. I submit that in so far as we have heard a description of the powers of the Minister, they appear to go a good deal further than those which were exercised by any Government Department in the past. I can well remember the work of the 734 McLeod Committee. The Reserved Occupations Committee did most useful work at the beginning of the recruiting campaign, and by raising the age or cutting certain categories out of the list they did a great deal to facilitate the work of the military authorities in getting men from the industries from which they could be best spared. We have no guarantee that that Committee will be continued. The alternative now before the Committee which has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland is. that there should be something in the nature of an advisory council. If it were only composed of men similar to those who sat on the McLeod Committee it would, at any rate, be a safeguard against the power of the Minister. Some body of that kind should be set up to advise the Ministry, or to share the responsibility. If that be objected to, at least there should be an advisory body to deal with these extremely difficult cases.
I have in mind two industries in which decisions taken by the Minister may be of vital importance. When the First Reading of this Bill was taken the right hon. Gentleman made an admirable statement with regard to our sea Services, with every word of which I was in full agreement. Such a. full acknowledgment of our dependence upon the sea had not been made even by his right hon. relative when he addressed this House. So long as the right hon. Gentleman is there I feel sure the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries are not likely to be diminished in their man-power, but the right hon. Gentleman may find an occupation where his services are more urgently required. The Government of the day may decide that they will put someone else in the right hon. Gentleman's place, and he may be put into a position of greater responsibility, and then we should be dependent on the personal opinion, enthusiasm, and insight of the Minister himself. In a matter of such supreme importance to the country I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not feel that we are jealous of his personal power when we say that no power of this kind should be left in the hands of one single man, and that is our contention.
I take another instance. The right hon. Gentleman has had negotiations with the railway men, and the result has not been communicated to the House. It is most desirable that the House, being 735 the supreme authority, should have the fullest information given to it. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he can safely get from the railway service 4,000, 6,000 or 10,000 men. That is a matter of opinion and negotiation, but why is he not negotiating with the representatives of the community as a whole. So far his negotiations have been purely with the representatives of the railway men. Why should the result not be communicated to the House? I can promise the right hon. Gentleman that if he is as frank and candid with us over his negotiations with the trade unions as he has been in regard to the working of one section of his Department, he will not find us unsympathetic. We are a bit jealous of matters of this kind being discussed with only one section of the community, and more especially matters of such vital importance.
Everybody knows that the port of Liverpool is badly congested, very largely because of what some of us think was a premature administrative decision by which vessels were diverted from London to Liverpool in large numbers. It is a matter of very great importance. There are about a score of vessels in Liverpool unable to obtain a berth, and I have been informed by those who know a great deal about the administration of the port of Liverpool that the trouble is not so much that of the vessels getting a berth as in clearing the railway communications. If distribution is going to be doubly difficult because of the lack of railway communication, if at such a time the right hon. Gentleman is going to take large numbers out of the railway service, surely the House of Commons ought to be told. I think such information should be communicated to the representatives of the nation as a whole. I think the right hon. Gentleman would have got rid of a great deal of the feeling and apprehension, I will not say suspicion, as to the powers which will be given to him under this Bill if it is unamended, if he had been able to make the same sort of declaration to us as he made to the trade unions as a whole or separately. That is one of the reasons why a good many of us sympathise with the proposal made by the hon. Member for Lanark, although I fully realise the difficulties of his proposal. It might not be, I think, the best possible way of the House of Commons sharing the responsibilities of the 736 right hon. Gentleman, but it is the only suggestion which has been made this afternoon that apparently meets the position.
I hope my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland at a later stage will make some other proposal if this Amendment is not carried. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised not only in the national interest, but in his own interest, if he would share his responsibilities in this matter as widely as possible with the representatives of the people. I am not exaggerating, I am sure, when I say that on his decision may depend the whole extent of our endurance during the War. A wrong decision, taking men from a vital industry, or in regard to the administration of food or raw materials, might bring us almost to a standstill. I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should either accept the suggestion that there should be an advisory council to assist him or that he should call upon Parliament itself to share to some extent his responsibilities. I know that the right hon. Gentleman, having undertaken the duties of his office, may feel that he is quite prepared to go through with it at whatever cost. I admire his courage. In taking on the Department at the stage that he did he did a very courageous act, but that does not exonerate us as representing the industries and constituencies from seeing that too vast powers are not placed in one pair of hands. The very decisions which have been taken by the various Departments have been to some extent a safeguard. I know that there has been friction as between some of the Departments, but some of these Departments from their very constitution have been charged with safeguarding great national industries. The Board of Agriculture, for instance, has as its main business the safeguarding of the production of foods and the protecting of the agricultural population from over-recruiting. The Board of Trade, or, I presume, the Ministry of Shipping now, is charged with safeguarding the interests of those engaged in the mercantile marine. The Controller of the Navy is specially charged with safeguarding the interests of shipbuilding and ship repairing. All these Departments were specialists and knew what they wanted and realised the responsibility of their decisions. This arrangement covering the whole thing by one Department may simplify Depart- 737 mental procedure, but it places upon one pair of shoulders a responsibility that no one pair of shoulders can bear. I suggest, when these safeguards are taken away, apart altogether from the individual questions which can be raised in individual trades, that the right hon. Gentleman should consider, if not at the present moment at all events before he goes further with the Bill, whether he would not be well advised to take Parliament more fully into his confidence and to share more fully with Parliament this responsibility. I would, therefore, ask that he should himself on that one specific point assure the Committee that he will be prepared, after the discussion that we have had here and of which he can have no complaint—it has been. very well-intentioned and most sympathetic towards him—to take into further consideration this or other alternative proposals for carrying out the object which he has in view, and secondly, that he should not refrain from giving the information to this House as to what he intends with regard to various industries which he has already given to the trade unions and which ought to be given to those of us who represent even wider interests than the trade unions themselves.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
I do not think anybody would refuse the right hon. Gentleman the possession of larger powers under this Bill if past or recent experience warranted them. Fear has been expressed to-day on all sides that agriculture is not sufficiently regarded by the persons who have the carrying out of the enrolment of people at present engaged in that industry. The. lion. Member for North Northampton (Major Brassey) asked a question to-day as to whether it was within the power of contractors erecting an aerodrome in a certain district to take away men engaged as agricultural labourers on the surrounding farms, and the Minister met the question by practically saying that he could do nothing, the whole of that bench sitting perfectly silent. I listened most carefully to the question and answer, and, as far as T could gather, nothing is to be done. If contractors like to avail themselves of the cheaper labour of agricultural districts, then, no matter what agriculture may suffer, there is no friend of the food industry to be found to defend agriculture from those attacks on its labourers. That is to-day's experience. and it is extremely significant, because it shows that this 738 great question is not gripped by the whole of the Government as one solid question to which all others are related. This War is going to be either won or lost on this question of food.
We are now faced with a new Department which is to have control of this question of National Service. Have we any ground for believing that it is going to be more fully carried out? Are we not entitled to ask that something on the lines of the Amendment should be laid upon this House and should be understood to be, and in fact be, indicative of the guiding principles that the Government propose to adopt in this matter? The other day a case was brought to my notice. There was a farm in a county with which I am fairly familiar, a very successful and highly cultivated farm, which was carried on by a farmer and three sons. One son died of pneumonia, and another who had been enrolled was killed in France. The third son a year previously had gone to Canada, and had there bought a farm. When his father and his two brothers died he came to England, and from his knowledge and skill he laid down the whole operations of the farm in order that his mother and sisters, with one or two helpers of a very indifferent character, might carry out his instructions. He then went back to his farm in Canada. Later he wrote and said he would come over again, but he could not get any guarantee that he would not be interfered with. He was advised that if he came he would be liable to be enrolled as a soldier as his brother had been, and he said in that case he should not come over. His mother replied that the farm would become derelict. He said it would become so if he came over and were enrolled. Meanwhile, he was passed in Canada in a low category and was given exemption. He again proposed. to come over, but he asked what guarantee he had that when he did so there would not be a different award from that which had been given in Canada. His case went before the Agricultural Committee, but they could give him no information or guarantee. These cases are occurring all round the district. In that same district there are two firms supplying food over an area of fifteen to twenty miles. No rules are laid down with regard to the methods of distribution. All the men except two, one of whom is over military age and the other barely within it, have been taken.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Donald Maclean)
The hon. Member seems to me to be going beyond the scope of the Amendment. There is another Amendment which has been handed in—it is one of the disadvantages of the Amendments not being on the Paper—which raises more specifically the question of agriculture, and I must ask the hon. Member to confine himself more particularly to the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ Colonel GREIG
The example which the hon. Member has given would not come within the Military Service Act at all. The man he mentioned is domiciled in Canada and would not come under the Act. The last two speeches have struck me as being Second Reading speeches. I may be wrong, but, as I understand it, the whole essence of this Bill is that, instead of this Departmental power of exemption which has been exercised in a way totally unrestricted, except by the discretion and the reasonable action of the heads of the Departments, the power should be concentrated in one Minister who should be responsible to Parliament. That gets rid of all these Regulations. You have the control of Parliament, and, if the Minister does anything wrong or unreasonable, the matter can be thrashed out here on the floor of the House before two days are over. An hon. Member opposite was horrified at the powers going to be conferred on one Minister. Has he been horrified at the powers exercised not under an Act of Parliament but entirely by the stroke of the pen of heads of administrative Departments in exempting men? The country has been roused by the probability that in those Departments and elsewhere there may he men who have escaped. We do not say that in a great many cases it has not been properly done, but the feeling is that there are men there who ought to go out, and Parliament by passing the Second Reading of the Bill has assented to the principle that the responsibility should be placed not on the heads of the various Departments but on the head of one Department who can consult with the heads of the other Departments whose subordinates he is going to comb out. At the same time he will be held responsible to this House. Surely that is sufficient guarantee for the proper, reasonable, and wise exercise of the powers that Parliament is about to confer upon him.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I hope that I may be allowed a little latitude as so much of the discussion has ranged outside the exact Amendment before the Committee. I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) for the way in which he spoke about the points that have been raised. I would like to assure him and the whole Committee that the procedure under which the Department for which I am responsible works in connection with these exemptions is a procedure for instituting which I think he himself was responsible. The Reserved Occupations Committee, better known as the McLeod Committee, still exists. Its functions have been extended and it has itself been expanded and now forms the Trade Exemptions Department of the Ministry of National Service. That is the section of the Department which will be responsible for dealing with all questions which are outside the Government Departments exemptions and yet which come under the Bill as a whole. We have, therefore, at present a Committee now expanded into a Department with long experience of this very class of case, having worked since the very first days and even before the first days of the Military Service Acts at this problem and at this question. It is in connection with the proper exercise of its knowledge and its experience that the powers of this Bill are asked for by the Ministry of National Service. The powers must stand in the name of the head of the Department, but it is not the intention or the desire in any way whatever that these powers shall be exercised by one individual sitting in a room arbitrarily saying that men must come in. The same right hon. Gentleman made a considerable point that the trade unions had received information which was not given to this House. It is quite true that they have. The reason is partly the rather peculiar course which was followed on the Second Reading of this Bill. It would have been impossible for a much longer statement to have been made on the introduction of the Bill than was made. It was intended that there should have been further information given on the Second Reading, but as the result of the course which the Debate pursued the opportunity for giving that information did not arise.
I am afraid I should be out of order if, at the present moment, I suddenly branched off from this particular Bill into a general discussion of what we propose 741 outside the Bill altogether. The information which has been given to all those great and important trade unions which we have been meeting day by day since the 3rd of this month, has dealt with administrative arrangements under the schedule of protected occupations, which arrangements are not affected or modified in any way whatever by the Bill at present before the Committee. Therefore I should be going far afield if I were to enter into a description of those arrangements, but on a suitable opportunity I quite agree that it is right, proper and necessary that this House should be placed in the fullest possession of all the information that has been given to the trade unions. It is unfortunate that the opportunity has not arisen so far. I do not think it can be seriously argued that it is possible in the administrative work that is required in connection with a proposal of this nature that a general description of principles can be laid before the Committee, because that would certainly fail to meet half the cases that arise from day to day. What I fear that certain members of the Committee fail to regard fully is that the proposals in Clause 2 of this Bill as a whole aim at unifying the procedure and bringing similarity into a field that is at present chaotic. We have at the present time men in such an important industry as shipbuilding, protected under a scheme of protection in which the Director-General of National Service appears possessing the powers that it is proposed to confer upon lam by this Clause. Again, in such an important industry as aeroplane construction he appears with the same powers. In such an important industry as agriculture again, over a large part of the field, not the whole field, he appears with the same powers. Similarly, in connection with certain of the vital metal processes the Director-General of National Service appears with the same powers that it is proposed to confer by this Clause. That point has been rather overlooked.
Already we have this machinery of consultation and examination in existence. The whole of one of the big Departments of the Ministry of National Service is designed to do nothing else but sift the evidence in favour of granting or of withholding exemptions for certain classes of men. Already we have in existence the whole machinery of consultation between Government Departments. We have a series of definite agreements existing between the Ministry of National Service 742 and the various Departments with regard to the procedure to be adopted in connection with the issue of Orders affecting men who have been exempted. What we are trying to do is to get under these powers the whole man-power question brought into, if I may use the word, a condition of discipline. We have had in the past one, two, three, four, perhaps as many as ten Departments, each going its own way. We still have examples of that happening. We have had the example quoted, not in connection with recruiting, but in connection with aerodrome work. There we have had a bad breakdown, which has just occurred, and the matter is now being dealt with. What we are labouring to do is to prevent these break-downs, occurring, and to get the Departmental work, both with regard to their exemptions of men, with regard to their release of men for service, and with regard to their work and labour, co-ordinated.
I would urge upon this Committee the importance of recognising that this important big principle, as it looks here, is really just the keystone that is required to complete the arch which will give us a definite, disciplined control over the question of exemptions by Government Departments, and also on occupational grounds where those occupational grounds are alleged to be in the national interest. I ask the Committee to notice that these tribunal exemptions, which will be dealt with under this Bill if it becomes law, are all granted on occupational grounds for the alleged reason that it is in the national interest that the man is employed or continues to be employed in that work. It is not a question of the employer's opinion. These exemptions are recommended to the tribunal on the ground of national importance, and are granted by the tribunal on the grounds of national importance. It is not possible for any tribunal to view the whole field of national interest in the same way as it is possible for a Department which is receiving information from all the Departments of State from day to day about their man-power position; it is not possible for any tribunal, appeal or local, however great its knowledge of its own locality, to have the same complete information that comes into a Department which is fed with daily and almost hourly information from every source from which information can be obtained. Therefore, I would ask the Committee to recognise that, although 743 the words "Director-General of National Service" appear here, it is really a Department which is built to deal with this problem that is going to deal with it, and is going to act and take the decisions, those decisions, of course, being given in the name of the Director-General of National Service, but in reality being decisions of this Department which has grown out of the McLeod Committee, and those decisions which have been arrived at after consultation with all the Government Departments concerned. Therefore it is not, I can assure the Committee, in the power of a single individual really in fact to take these decisions. It is simply getting one channel constituted through which those decisions may be announced, and one machine being recognised into which all information must be passed before decision be taken. I am sure that if it is looked at in that way the Committee will not think, as certainly some hon. Members have thought, that this is overburdening one individual. Naturally, some such responsibility for decisions must fall upon an individual, but this is a machinery which is existing, which has existed for years, and which has worked satisfactorily.
§ Mr. KILEY
If this were simply a question of consultation or co-ordinating the work between one Department and another I could understand the position, but the matter goes far beyond that. It concerns not only the bulk of the Departments, but the bulk of the tribunals. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of the speech lie has just made, I doubt whether his Department is best qualified to go into sectional cases. I have a case in my mind with which I, as chairman of a tribunal, had to deal to-day. It concerned a large firm, employing 300 girls and a few engineers. The tribunal granted exemption to those men as long as they remained in their occupation because they were necessary to carry on the factory. I understand that that power is now to be taken away, and that these men can be ordered to join the Army, after fourteen days' notice, at the will of the National Service Department and some other Department, without any particular knowledge of the locality. Such cases could be multiplied by thousands or tens of thousands. If it were limited to Government Departments, I could understand it. What can be the objection to what is now 744 desired by this Amendment, namely, that when the Minister makes up his mind that he is going to comb out any industry the Order or Regulation should be placed on the Table of the House for ten or twenty days, to enable it to express its opinion if it so desires. The men have had exemptions granted to them with the clear knowledge that they will not be taken away without two months' notice. The men have incurred obligations, many of them having removed from one part of the country to another. Suppose they are called up for military service 'and want to take their wives and families back to the district from which they came, on the clear understanding that they were to have two months' notice of any change of locality. In justice to these men they are entitled to some consideration. They have done what the country wanted them to do. We are asking for something which is not at all unreasonable, namely, that we shall be given information to which we are entitled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) dealt solely with railway congestion. At the present moment my own Constituency and many others in London are vastly concerned over a most serious problem that has recently arisen in which railway transit will play a very large part. If the Minister of National Service presented to this House a notice that he was going to comb out a large number of railwaymen, I should be the first to call the attention of the House to the impracticability of that step being taken, and the right hon. Gentleman would be one of the first to agree that we should have notice of it. There are many reasons in favour of this Amendment being carried. The only disadvantage I can see in it is that it might mean a delay of from ten to twenty days at the outside. I therefore urge the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I had hoped that after the Debate to which we have listened we should have had some concession from the Government. I do not suggest that the proposal contained in the Amendment is the best method of meeting the points which have been raised in the course of the Debate, but most members of the Committee will agree that a case has been made against surrendering all the powers which are being given by this Clause to the head of a single Department, without any check at all. The Amendment suggests one form of check with which this House is familiar. Although in the past 745 it has in many cases proved altogether illusory, still it is a check. If the Government are not prepared to accept that check they ought to be willing to suggest something else, but no such suggestion has been made. One proposal was put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel), namely, an advisory council, which should have separate authority, but both the Lord Advocate and the Minister of National Service have refused to listen to that suggestion. The Lord Advocate suggested that the method of regulation is altogether impracticable. In many other cases it has been adopted where the urgency was as great as in regard to the raising of men under this Bill. For example, it was adopted under the first Munitions of War Act, which was one of the most urgent measures we ever had to deal with in this House, and Rules and Regulations under that Act were all to be laid before Parliament and to lie on the Table for twenty-one days. Why should not the same proposal be accepted now? I think "Regulation" is rather an unhappy word to describe what is meant here. I should have preferred to have the actual Orders laid before Parliament. Unfortunately there is a Clause in the Bill which indicates that Orders may deal with individual certificates, and it would be hopeless to expect the Government to lay such Orders on the Table. If, however, they were all shown in their character referring to special trades and classes, it would be quite possible to lay the Orders, so that the House would know the industries which were affected and the men who are going to be taken from those industries. It is very important that the House should know these things.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the consultation which takes place between heads of Departments, but I am afraid, under the existing system, such consultation is not anything like what prevails under normal Cabinet conditions. We want to know also what may be in the mind of the Minister from time to time. We know that since he has taken office lie has changed his mind about schemes which he was going to put into operation. [Interruption.] One can only judge from his speeches. He made a speech at the Aldwych Club, in which he indicated that he was going to proceed on quite different lines from those proposed in the Bill, and that he was going to take men from the luxury trades, but certainly not from 746 essential industries. In the course of two short months he has changed his mind altogether. We know his mind as it was when he introduced this Bill, but he may change it in another two months, and the House will have no authority whatever to change his action. He may take a decision, and even persuade the War Cabinet, over whom he seems to have great powers, of the wisdom of his new view. But if so, these changes will be made by administrative Order, without any power of the House to intervene. It is true that we shall be able to call the Minister to book on the floor of the House of Commons, but it is much more difficult to call a Minister to book after the Order is issued and in actual operation. If the Order lie on the Table before it was put into operation anyone who was interested would have an opportunity, by Address, to call the attention of Parliament to the matter and to prevent the action being taken, That is the important thing. Action of a very serious kind may be taken which may have disastrous effects on the national interest, and it may not be until after it is taken that the House will be able to intervene, when criticism is too late. It is important that a check should exist before anything is done, and it is in order to establish a check before anything is done that I proposed this Amendment. As the Government has not seen fit to offer any alternative, I propose to take it to a Division.
§ Colonel HAMERSLEY
I trust this Amendment will not be accepted and that the Committee will do nothing which will cause delay in any way. The necessity has arisen to get men out of these trades. If this Amendment were carried out, an Order would have to lie on the Table for twenty days, and it might be a few months before these cases were decided. I have seen drafts from England coming out to France, some of the men only having had seven weeks between leaving civilian life and arriving in the front trenches. In another case I saw 200 men combed out from the Expeditionary Force canteens and put into the front trenches a fortnight after they began to receive their training. That is almost a criminal thing to do, and by anything we do to cause delay we are helping to send men into the trenches with insufficient training. Do not, for heaven's sake, do anything which will curtail the time of training of men. All these Amendments tend to do that. Our experience 747 hitherto of recruiting for the Army through the machinery we already have has been delay after delay. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman to-day that he is not taking to himself the absolute arbitrary power which some members of the Committee think, but he is only getting the machinery together with the object of hastenng things up to give a better opportunity for our men to fight than they hitherto had. For these reasons I ask the Committee most earnestly not to pass any Amendment which will create one hour of delay in getting these men into the Army. Let us get them in as quickly as we can, give them all the training we can, and give them the chance they ought to have of being able to fight for their country.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman before a decision is come to on the Amendment, to say definitely whether he is or is not going to accept any Amendment of any sort in regard to the uncontrolled power which he seeks to have under this Bill. We have discussed this for two hours, and that is really the only point that has emerged from this discussion. If he would say he will consult right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench opposite with a view possibly to getting some advisory committee to help him, it would very much modify the attitude of myself and others in regard to this Amendment. No one wishes to tie the Government down and no one wishes, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Hamersley) seems to think, to prevent these men joining the Colours. All we want is that the supremacy of the House of Commons should be maintained and that some control over Government Departments should be devised. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to say exactly what he is going to do. If lie would say that he will accept some Amendment, it would shorten our deliberations and prevent my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) moving his Amendment in regard to agriculture.
May I press the appeal which has just been made? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will go so far as to say he will between now and the consideration of a later Clause in the Bill consider the points which have been put to him. If he says it is absolutely impossible for him to amend a single letter of his Bill, I am quite sure he will find him- 748 self in conflict with the fairly general feeling of the Committee. It is not confined to one side only. I urge him to say, at all events, that he will be prepared to consider the representations which have been made to him. If it is impossible for him to make any modifications, he can say so as frankly as he has made other statements. I hope he will treat the Committee with more respect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I notice that one or two hon. Members rather dislike that expression, but they have not been here during the discussion. It has been of a most friendly and helpful character, and I am sure Ministers do not object to that. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should follow a practice which is not unknown in this House of saying that the points which have been put to him are worthy of consideration, and that he will not now bar and bolt the door against any and every modification which may be suggested. If he will let us know that at a later stage he will be prepared, if necessary, to make a further statement on Amendments which are bound to be put down, lie will ease the feeling of a good many Members who do not like his non-possumus attitude.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I am sorry that I should have appeared to any Member of the Committee to be treating it with disrespect. I have spoken with all the frankness I can. I have no desire about this Bill except to get it made just as good as it can be for the purpose which it has in view. If any Amendment is brought forward which will help and strengthen that purpose, I shall welcome it in every way. I am not taking up a non-possumus attitude. Far from it. But I have considered this Amendment and I frankly cannot see how it would work, and it would be administratively impossible to accept it. I would urge hon. Members to notice exactly what this Clause says. Fourteen days' notice has to be given before an Order becomes operative, and any Order of occupation must be published, and thereafter there will be a further seven or fourteen days before men can be called to the Colours. So that as the Bill stands now there is plenty of time for second thoughts. If this were a suggestion that the Director of National Service should issue an Order and the men should join the Colours the next morning, I could understand the points which have been raised. But there is a definite provision in the Bill that there should be fourteen days, and in the case of any Order affect- 749 ing classes of men publication of the Order before it becomes operative, and then comes the time taken by the men's own individual appeals; and it seems to me to be straining words to suggest that a procedure which already involves all that delay and all that publicity is rushing things and trying to get men into the Army without giving time for consultation.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words, "A notice of any Order made under this Section shall be forthwith sent by the Director-General to every man to whom the Order applies."
I think in justice that the men who have presumably been living in a certain amount of security under their exemption orders ought to have individual notice. It is not fair to expect a man to be always engaged in minute search of the notice-board in a factory or the post office or other public place where the Director-General may think proper to post his notice. If this is going to apply to a class of a certain age, in a certain trade, it will be still more confusing, and inasmuch as the local officer of the Ministry knows precisely who are the men and where they are, it will be perfectly easy for him to give a notice individually. In every case where a tribunal exemption is challenged now and it is desired that it should be reviewed, specific application has to be made by the Military Service representative asking for a review of that exemption, and a day is appointed by the tribunal. If it can be done in that case, it can be done equally well in the case of a man who is called up and who is known perfectly well to the officer of the Ministry as being the person wanted, and it can be done in the case of a group of persons wanted in certain factories. Many instances of harshness have come before me during the last two years when the tribunals have been sitting, where men have not had a notice and have lost rights to which they would otherwise have been entitled. I wish to make it perfectly clear 750 by a subsequent Amendment that a man who is called up under this shall have certain rights in respect of other matters as well as occupation. If a man does riot have a reasonably specific personal notice, he probably will miss his opportunity of going to the tribunal, because there is a limited. time. Inasmuch as it is a matter more or less of administration, I think it could be done perfectly easily, and we owe it to a man to take care that he shall have individual personal notice when the exemption is cancelled, and he is expected to go to the Colours.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the Committee what is the nature of the publication which is intended apart from the question of notice? He indicated that it was his intention in every case to publish the Order. Does that apply to individual Orders as well as Orders affecting classes? It appears to me that the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend is very sound so far as individual Orders are concerned, because one could hardly imagine that it was the intention of the Ministry to publish every individual Order. I assume that there may he quite a number of such individual Orders issued. I hope, therefore, that if there is no intention to publish all individual Orders, an Amendment of this kind will be accepted. With regard to the period of time which may arise on the question of notice and publication, the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that there would be an ample period elapsing, because after fourteen days the man would have all his rights in regard to appeal, and so forth; but surely that would not apply to cases of occupation, because in that case the Bild provides that no further application can be made to the tribunal.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member that it is very necessary from a broad point of view to see that adequate information is available in connection with any Order which is made under this Bill when it becomes an Act. I cannot, however, quite bring myself to agree that it is necessary to insert the exact words which he proposes, or perhaps any words. What is proposed is this. Let me take, for example, without any special reference of probability, the cancellation of the exemption of miners of Grade 1, under twenty-three years of age. It would appear to me that that fact broadly published would be quite adequate 751 information. By "broad publication" I do not mean simply the printing of the Order and possibly its insertion in the "Gazette." I mean broad publication in the sense of its definite insertion in the Press, and if there be any locality specially affected special reference in that Press, and also, if necessary, by poster. Where a single exemption has been cancelled that would be quite a different matter. Very often it would pillory a man to publish the fact that his exemption has been cancelled. In connection with single exemptions, and with exemptions which cannot be described in the same broad, general way, such as I have suggested in my purely hypothetical case in connection with the miners, I would absolutely agree to send individual notice to the individuals concerned as to the cancellation of certificates. Where we have a broad case which is easily defined, I think it would be unnecessary to send individual notice, because in any case these men would receive, if not an individual notice of cancellation of exemption, an individual calling-up notice, which would be issued to them in the ordinary course. I seems to me that we might meet the point in the way I have suggested without making it absolutely necessary that every individual should receive a notice.
§ Sir H. NIELD
Inasmuch as the time may have gone by when the man might have had an opportunity of appealing to the tribunal on other grounds than occupational, difficulty would arise, I expect that the right hon. Gentleman will do as he has done before and give an under-taking to consider words which shall limit them to individual cases, such as individual tribunal cases, and if he does that I am content to leave out a whole class of persons, such as he has instanced in the case of miners under twenty-three or twenty-five, in grade 1, to be dealt with by a common notice. If he will give me an assurance that between now and the Report stage he will consider a form of words which will give effect to that, I am perfectly willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.752
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words "Provided that this Section shall not apply to persons engaged in agriculture."
The reason why I move this Amendment is that agriculture has been very hardly treated, and treated in a very arbitrary manner, since the various National Service Bills became law. At the commencement a large number of people were taken indiscriminately from agriculture, including many skilled men. In addition many blacksmiths and threshing machinists were taken. I remember that in some of the daily papers there were complaints that blacksmiths were being allowed to remain in the villages, and it was said that this was a very wrong action on the part of the tribunals. They did not appear to realise that you cannot plough land or work a farm unless your horses are shod. Unless you have blacksmiths you cannot shoe your horses, and at the present moment—I do not in any way blame the blacksmiths—many farmers in my neighbourhood have their work delayed two, three, or six days because it is impossible to get their horses shod. It is absolutely essential that this Bill shall not be applied to agriculture in the way in which many tribunals, and sometimes war agricultural committees, have dealt with agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman has said that if this Bill becomes law he will be in the same position in regard to agriculture as he is now. He afterwards corrected that statement, and stated that to a large extent he will be in that position. I cannot tell how many men have been exempted by tribunals, or how many have been exempted by war agricultural committees, but my impression is that probably more men have been exempted by tribunals, or, at any rate, quite as many, as by war agricultural committees, and the position when this Bill becomes law will be that all these men who have been exempted by tribunals, and who are engaged in agriculture, can be called up by the right hon. Gentleman practically without any appeal.
Everyone knows that the various Government Departments are making appeals to farmers to plough more land. What is the actual position in agriculture at the present moment? The position, I believe, in the greater part of the country is that the farmers have not enough men to keep the arable land which they have got in cultivation, and it is practically impossible 753 to plough more land unless they get more assistance. It is impossible, so far as I know, to get further assistance. We are told we can get soldiers, but they are by no means satisfactory. Sometimes they are satisfactory and sometimes they are not. We are also told that we can get women. That is an extremely difficult thing to do. I have been trying to get women for. some months, and I got so far as having an inspection, but beyond that I have got no further. Even if you do get women it is not possible for them to do more than the lighter work about the farm. Therefore, on every ground, it is absolutely essential that no more men should be taken from agriculture, especially skilled men. In addition—I admit I have not got it in my Amendment, because I drew the Amendment hurriedly—there should also be some sort of exemption for men such as blacksmiths and men who repair agricultural machinery and go about with threshers. I hope that the Government will not only accept my Amendment, but, later on, will consider words which will bring in those classes. The right hon. Gentleman has already said, as I understood him, with regard to those men who have been already exempted by war agricultural Committees, that at present he has power to take them away, and therefore the Committee may trust him that when the power is extended, as it is under this Bill, to include men who have been exempted by tribunals, he will act in the same way and not take them away. My answer, if I have not misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman, is that that is no reason why he should not accept my Amendment. The Amendment only proposes to do that which he tells us he is going to do.
But there is a very strong reason why the Amendment should be in the Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Blackpool told us that it was quite possible that the right hon. Gentleman may not be here in a short time, indeed in a few months. Ministers come and go. We have a good many examples of the changes that are constantly taking place. We might have an election, we might have a totally different set of Ministers on that bench, and men whose views did not agree with those of the right hon. Gentleman. In addition, it is possible, though I do not say that it is likely, that the right hon. Gentleman himself might change his mind, and then all these assurances would go for 754 nothing. As I have said over and over again, and as all Members of this House who have been hero for any length of time will agree with me in saying, there is no use in taking the assurance of the Minister in charge of a Bill as to how lie is going to carry it out. I do not say that the Minister is not actuated by the most honourable feeling and that he will not carry out his undertaking if it is possible to do so, but that is not sufficient. Circumstances arise either by a change of Minister or a change of opinion of the particular Minister who gave the assurance, and I have noticed, over and over again in this House, that it has been said, "Possibly something of that sort may have been said, but it is quite impossible now to carry it out." Therefore, the only safeguard we have is to insert an Amendment in the Bill. Possibly there was some idea that this Bill should go through without any Amendment, in which case a Report stage will be avoided. But I understood the right hon. Gentleman just now to say that he was prepared to accept any Amendment which would not interfere with his power to get the men who are requisite for the Army. I should be the last man to suggest anything of the sort; I would desire to assist the Bill in its progress through the House, but no one can deny that, at the present moment, agriculture is just as important as the Army. I am not at all sure that the War will not be decided by the question of food, and not by the question of men. However that may be, it cannot be denied that it is the most vital question of the moment and that we cannot afford to play with it in this House. Therefore, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will accept my Amendment.
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I desire to support the Amendment. It is absolutely essential that not a single man more shall be taken from agriculture. The President of the Board of Agriculture has told us, and it is the case, that the whole of the arable land of this country is full of weeds for want of proper tilling, and the actual yield of agricultural land is considerably less than it should be, owing to this want of cultivation. That is clearly due to want of men and the want of men only. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture now says, "Although your land is so badly cultivated, although you are suffering from want of labour, we call upon you to put under the plough another one-ninth part of the best land of the 755 country. We call upon you to supply another 2,000,000 acres for growing corn." The farming industry are responding to that and responding well, but I would ask any hon. Member to consider how possibly can that be done when we have this great shortage of men. The thing is quite impossible. We must continue to have every man who is now engaged in agriculture and kindred pursuits. I agree with what the right hon. Member for the City of London has said. We do not accept the assurances from Ministers who happen to be in charge of a Bill. On behalf of agriculture, so far as I can speak for it, I take a most serious view of the procedure of placing agriculture and its needs under one single individual, whoever he may be. I have very little knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Bill, and of what his experience may be, but I understand that he has no knowledge at all of agriculture, and I dread the prospect of having this great industry put under the arbitrary will of a gentleman who is totally unacquainted with its needs or its facts. I speak with some experience. We as farmers have had some experience of our industry being put under the charge of a coal-owner. We have seen what has been done by the present Food Controller. He has had the absolutely unlimited powers of a dictator in the orders which he issues. He consults whom he pleases, and no sooner does he make an order than the article whose price he is controlling disappears from the market. Even when he came to control rabbits the other day, within twenty-four hours after the Order was made—
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
I am not going to discuss the merits of the Food Controller, but I suggest that I was in order in this way in showing that the way in which he has exercised his uncontrolled power enables us to form a judgment as to how similar autocratic powers will be exercised if they are put at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill, or of any other Minister. Members who are engaged in agriculture as farmers themselves, or who are connected with the land, view with great disquietude the prospect of putting such unlimited powers into the hands of one man, so far as agricultural industry is concerned. As has 756 been pointed out, when there is this great shortage of men, what need is there of the Bill in its application to agriculture? But if there was this shortage even before this recent Order as to the two million extra acres which are now to be ploughed was issued it is ineffective. If you exclude agriculture from the Bill it shows that the House is determined that those engaged in agriculture shall be encouraged, and that the production of corn shall not be hindered. If every farming hand employed in agriculture is liable to be called up it will cause great disquietude and great loss of time to the individuals, and to the farmers concerned, and it will not succeed in getting any men into the Army except by a much more counterbalancing loss of the men engaged in the production of food. For these reasons, so far as I can speak for agriculture in my Constituency, of which I have a considerable knowledge, I desire to support the Amendment.
§ Major BRASSEY
I desire to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. More than one allusion has been made this afternoon to a question which I put to the Prime Minister to-day and to the very unsatisfactory reply which was given to me by the hon. Gentleman representing the Air Board. The question to the Prime Mininster was whether he was aware that contractors engaged in the construction of aerodromes in rural districts were taking men from the land, and whether he would take steps to prevent that in view of the great importance of the increased production of food at the present moment. Allusion has been made in two previous speeches to the fact that in the earlier part of the War agriculture was drawn on very freely for soldiers. The War Cabinet then put a stop to more men being taken from the land. But it is poor consolation to farmers, for whom I speak, and who have been carrying on for the past two or three years under great difficulties, that they are now having their men taken from them for this work. The aerodromes to which I allude are in the. district of which I have knowledge. Two aerodromes are now being erected there, and the contractors who have charge of the work draw as freely as they possibly can upon agricultural labour in that district. The men are tempted to leave the land by the offer of a very high rate of wages. In one particular case motor lorries are sent to the villages for the men, 757 who live some miles distant from the aerodrome, and they are taken back in motor lorries at night. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury) alluded to the fact that the farmers can apply for soldiers or for female labour. I have had some personal experience during the last few years of both, and I can say that the soldiers I have had have done most useful work, and I have been more fortunate than the right hon. Gentleman opposite in having been in a position to employ several ladies, who have also done excellent work for me. But anyone with experience of the subject knows that however willingly these soldiers and ladies work, and however obliging they are, they do not take the place of men over military age with lifelong experience of farm work. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the urgency of this question, and I can assure him that in my district, which is largely an arable district, the farmers have, I believe, done their duty, as well as anyone in the country, by ploughing up the grass lands. They are very shorthanded now, and any men taken now for military service from the purposes of agriculture would be a, most serious matter in regard to the food production of the country.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
May I venture to commend the principle of this Amendment to the attention of the Director of National Service? I do so from no sectional interest at all, nor with any idea of benefiting the farmer, or those who have to live upon the land, or to increase the profiteering of any section of the community. I commend the Amendment solely because of the need which exists in regard to the question of food production, which, in my judgment, is the most vital matter that concerns us to-day. I had an opportunity this morning of going over the Army and Navy Stores, and I took occasion to look through the food departments there. The Army and Navy Stores supply a fairly wealthy clientèle, but in the departments through which I went I found notices up, "No meat," "No butter," "No tea," "No margarine." These are four essential commodities, which are ticketed in this way at the stores, and these articles of food could not be obtained this morning. As I stated, the stores supply fairly wealthy customers. But what must be the conditions in the poorer districts We want to urge this question on the Minister of National Service, and I do not bring this matter forward simply that the farmers should make profits, but solely on 758 the ground of the supply of food to the people of this country—a question which looks to me to be getting more serious every day. Honestly; I do not know what is going to be the position, but I hope the Government have some plan or, if I may so put it, something up their sleeve, to deal with this vital question. I am afraid that we are drifting into a somewhat dangerous position in regard to food. I do not know what the Government have in their minds, but I would point out that if the position is anything like what it has been in the last two weeks it may become a menace and a danger. This is not a new topic with me; I have been at it for a year and a-half, and when my hon. Friends say that I do not want to get men into the Army I would like them to read the chapter of Carlyle's "Revolution," which begins with the bakers' shops, and which shows what the effect of the food question was in Paris at that time.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he cannot accept the Amendment of the Member for the City wholly, whether he will in some degree meet it? What the right hon. Gentleman should do is to afford the farmers some assurance that will give them confidence that they will be able to carry on their industry at a profit. They have had profits within the last two or three years, no doubt, but the cost of production has gone up to such an extent,. and the difficulties of production are so great, that I assure the Minister of National Service that, now this question has been raised, it will be necessary to give the farmers confidence, especially when they are called upon to increase the acreage under cultivation. In reference to that I am somewhat sceptical—indeed, I am certain that it will not be done; there will not be 3,000,000 new acres of land brought under cultivation in Great Britain this year; that is as certain as I stand at this box now. I presume that the Minister of National Service knows that in so far as agriculture is concerned, it has already been drained. There were, before the War, about 1,000,000 men engaged agriculture. We all knew there were too few men in agriculture then. There has been taken from the agricultural industry, or there has been lost to that industry, between 300,000 and 350,000 men. Yet you expect the agriculturists to produce 50 per cent. more food with 30 per cent. less labour. It cannot be done. Therefore I put this point quite impartially to my right hon. Friend opposite, having no sectional 759 interest whatever to serve—I simply say to him, "Will you reassure agriculturists of the country with regard to their labour?
The Government Departments are acting, I think, very rashly and without sufficient thought in regard to agriculture. I saw in one of the newspapers this morning that something like 230 Orders respecting agriculture have been issued. [An HON. MEMBER: "One hundred and thirty!"] The paper I read said 230. At all events, these Orders have a very depressing effect; they are annoying, they are irritating. I am perfectly certain that the Minister of National Service, who, I am convinced, has the instincts of a real statesman, would not exercise these powers, where our food production is concerned, without consulting the President of the Board of Agriculture and his colleagues. The Food Controller must have acted in this matter without consulting the President of the Board of Agriculture, and it is, therefore, that we desire some assurance that the steps which are contemplated will not be taken where food production is concerned without consultation with, and the concurrence of, she President of the Board of Agriculture. If the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to accept this Amendment in its present form he might consider the insertion of some words to meet the point whereby men will not be taken from agriculture without the consent of the Board of Agriculture. That, at any rate, would leave power in the hands of the Government. I throw that suggestion out, while again assuring the right hon. Gentleman that it is not a question of private profit, but it is the question that unless agricultural production is stimulated there will be very great danger within a measurable distance of time of a very large number of people in this country being without food altogether.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
It is hardly necessary for me to assure the Committee of my very great sympathy with the position of man-power in agriculture. I know how difficult the position is, and I do not think, from the point of view of the Army, it would make any difference if we were to accept the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for the City; but it would introduce very considerable difficulties, and I would be much more prepared to meet the point raised on a general basis, which would perhaps go a good way to meeting the various points which we have had raised this afternoon. 760 I imagine that those who are interested in agriculture would feel perfectly safe if we were to insert a proposal that any Order under this Bill shall be laid on the Table of the House, and in that way I think it is possible, perhaps, to meet practically all the difficulties which have been raised in the course of the Debate. I shall read the form of words which I suggest to be inserted in Clause 2 as a new Sub-section:
"(6) An Order under this Section (other than an Order applicable to an individual certificate) shall be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if either of these Houses within fourteen days after the Order has been so laid; presents an Address to His Majesty praying that the Order, or any part thereof, shall be annulled. His Majesty in Council may annul the Order, or such part thereof, and it shall thenceforth be void, without prejudice to the validity of anything done in pursuance thereof: Provided that Section 1 of the Rules of the Publication Act, 1893, shall not apply to an Order made under this Section."
§ Sir A. GEDDES
The experience during the War has been that there have not been very long intervals during which the House has not been sitting. I realise the interest, of the speeches which have been made with reference to agriculture, but this provision would apply to every occupation, and therefore would include agriculture.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am rather inclined to agree with the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has made, but I do not know whether hon. Members interested in agriculture feel that the offer is one which should be accepted.
§ Mr. J. MASON
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has been wise to accept the recommendation made. So far from thinking that there will be any difficulty with the right hon. Gentleman, I have always looked upon his appointment for recruiting, both for the Army and for the trenches and industry, as a safeguard on which we are justified in relying. I do hope that in administering this Bill the right hon. Gentleman will go further and will protect agriculture against other Government Departments which are doing their best to create difficulties such as have been described by my hon. and 761 gallant Friend. At the beginning of the War the difficulties were between agriculture and the Army. I do net think that is the case now; the difficulty now is between agriculture and other Departments which are carrying on works at aerodromes, cutting of timber, and so forth. I hope he will try and protect us against those.
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
I am very glad that the Director-General has made this effort to meet a widespread feeling. I quite agree there would be some difficulty in selecting one industry of vital importance, though it is such as agriculture, and putting it into a separate category in this Act. For example, an Amendment might be moved to include merchant shipping, and another might be moved to include ironstone mining, and there might be other cases. I think the Minister in charge of the Bill is well advised to deal with this matter in general terms, and that the Amendment he now forecasts will go far to satisfy the feeling that was expressed in the Committee on an Amendment moved earlier by the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle). This Amendment will at all events bring these Orders within the cognisance of Parliament, and will leave the ultimate control with this House or with the other House. Any Address which this House might choose to present against such Regulations would have the effect of annulling the Order of the Minister. I should have preferred either in substitution or, preferably in addition, that there should have been constituted an Advisory Council, representative of Parliament and of industries, to act with the Minister in framing these Regulations, because they have to be considered from day to day and from week to week, and it is more probable that effective control would be exercised if the Orders were plastic before they were actually made and published. However that may be, I think the whole Committee will thank the right hon. Gentleman for the conciliatory spirit he has shown and for recognising the force of the objection to the conferment on any Minister of despotic and uncontrolled power. The exercise of despotic powers conferred on other Departments has not been so completely successful hitherto as to lead the Rouse very readily to repeat the experiment. I have no doubt my right lion. Friend will be ready to withdraw the Amendment, arid I am sure that the con- 762 cession made by the Minister will greatly facilitate the remaining stages of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words "Provided that this Section shall not apply to any man who has attained the age of forty-one years before the passing of this Act."
The right hon. Gentleman will at once see that there is something to be gained and very little to lose by the acceptance of this Amendment. Admittedly you want men for the Line and for the trenches, and for those purposes you do not want men of the mature age of forty and upwards. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he intends to proceed by the calling up of classes by certain ages, beginning with the younger years. I imagine that there must be quite a large number of men of forty who have been exempted on occupational employment, and I think it would be not only disturbing to them, but to industry generally, if those men were called up, or if they were to be left in doubt as to their position as to whether the exemption would be taken away. I, therefore, hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
In view of the modification of the original proposals, it seems to me unnecessary that there should be any limitation of this sort inserted actually in the Bill itself. It would appear to me to be simply introducing unnecessarily a complication of wording without having any effect in protecting men of that age from military service.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether he intends to call up men of that age? The right hon. Gentleman makes short speeches rejecting Amendments which are quite reasonable, and think it would make a good deal of difference as to our attitude towards the Bill if he would tell us what are the intentions of his Department as to such cases. Does he really intend to call up men or forty-one or not? If he does not, then it is no: necessary to have an Amendment.
§ Sir H. NIELD
In practice T am assured that if a man is forty-one before being called up, although he was not forty-one on the appointed day under the Act, although he has not the right, he is not in fact called up. If a conscript does not receive his calling-up notice before he is 763 forty-one, then he cannot be called up. If my hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted it would make it statutory for everybody, and I think that would be far the better way. I am not in favour of allowing the man who has been, say, for two years in a protected trade, and who has been able to get to the age of forty-two because of that protection, to be placed in a better position than the man who has had to go into the Line because he was within the age on the appointed day.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I am afraid there must be some misunderstanding on the part of my hon. Friend, for which I have no doubt I am responsible. In conversation with him to-day I made a remark which has evidently been misunderstood. The position of the attested men and of the unattested men, so far as age limitation and liability for service, is precisely similar; there is no difference between the two. At the present time any unattested man who is forty-two, and whose exemption lapses, is called up for service. The attested man is dealt with precisely on the same basis as the unattested man.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
But the statutory right of the unattested man is not to remain in civil life if he has managed to cross his forty-first birthday without being called up. The attested man is treated as if he were an unattested man so far as dates are concerned.
§ Sir H. NIELD
Suppose the case of a man who has never got exemption and who was near the limit of age, and that they neglect to give him a calling-up notice, it may be by accident, and that the man gets over forty-one. I understand that the unattested man obtains a charter by that neglect which gives him the right to exemption for which he does not go to a tribunal to ask. He has got a perfect statutory answer that he is not liable while the attested man has not.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
That does not come under this Bill. The man who passes the age of forty-one remains liable to be called up so far as the Military Service Acts are concerned. Even if he were now approaching forty-three, as a single unattested man, he might be called upon to serve, and he would still, so far as the law is concerned, 764 be liable to serve. The military age is not limited to forty-one, but is moving forward.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Are we to understand that it is proposed to call up men of forty-one or forty-two? It is important, particularly for these men, to know that, and I would advise my hon. Friend, unless he gets an assurance that the Government do not propose to do so, to go to a Division. It seems to me to do so would be merely creating trouble, disturbing industry, and would not add any military valour to the forces. No one will suggest that that is of any real use to the winning of the War to call up men of forty-one and forty-two. [An HON. MEMBER "Why?"] Because they are far too old to be any good. They would have been called up long ago if they were of any use. This applies to an extremely small number of men and a tiny little class all of whom are now occupied at home. Everyone knows that men above forty are of very little use in the trenches.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I do not want to put my experience against that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I have endeavoured to make myself acquainted with the opinion of others who have engaged in warlike operations, and I am told by a good many people that men of forty-one and forty-two are comparatively useless for modern warfare. It is the young men who are wanted. The House originally intended to call up men up to the age of forty and now these men of forty-one and forty-two are going to be called up or are liable for service. I should have thought it was a very small matter, and I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman does not see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the word "whether" ["whether granted by a tribunal"]
There will be a consequential Amendment, and if my proposal is carried the Clause will read:
"This Section applies to any certificate of exemption from the provisions of the Military Service Acts, 1916 and 1917, whether granted before or after the passing of this Act and granted by or under the authority of a Government Department."
765 The Amendment would exclude from this Section the withdrawal of exemptions where granted by tribunals. It is quite obvious that the exemptions which the Ministry of National Service has in view and which it is proposed sooner or later to withdraw are, the great bulk of them, those issued by Government Departments for rather large classes of munition workers, and it is for the purpose of dealing with these large classes that this Bill is introduced. There are, of course, individual cases of similar workers where the exemption has been granted by a tribunal, and if these words are included these individual eases of tribunal exemptions will be exempted. First of all let me point out that every case should be judged on its individual merits. The cases I am referring to are cases where the local circumstances are peculiar. It is not desirable, I think, to sweep away these individual cases of exemption granted by tribunals. If you do so you will certainly not be doing justice in these cases, and you will also cause a great deal of injustice and inconvenience in the locality. I suppose each one of us in our own localities, especially in rural districts, must know of individual men the retention of whose service is of the greatest importance. They may be machinists or fitters looking after agricultural machines. I myself have had two cases of this nature under my attention, and I suggest that they need to be individually considered. If they are so considered they should be considered in connection with the tribunal and the machinery which the tribunal has. I do, therefore, very earnestly hope that the Minister of National Service will accept this Amendment. I do not believe he is going to gain a very great number of men by keeping in these words, but on the other hand, if he attempts to carry out the provision as it stands it will involve a great deal of work, it will necessitate individual inquiries all over the country, and consequently I am in no way preventing the Bill being made as efficient as possible, but am making it easier to work by depriving it of these grounds for suspicion, difficulty, and discontent. I trust the Amendment will, therefore, have sympathetic and favourable consideration.
§ Mr. MILLAR
The Amendment of the hon. Member appears one of substance, but I think he has put it in too wide a 766 form. I quite conceive it may be necessary to review cases of individual exemption granted by the tribunals, and I think this Committee ought to be in a position to know at this stage what the attitude of the Government is towards the future of the tribunals which may have to deal with these things. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this point? After this Bill is passed, wherever a case is made for exemption on occupational grounds before the tribunal, the representative of the Ministry of National Service will be present to urge his case; and if the tribunal decides it is a case for exemption on occupational grounds, it may happen that on the following day the Director-General of National Service may see fit to withdraw the exemption. It appears possible, therefore, that the functions of the tribunals will, to a very large extent, be taken over by the Director-General of National Service. That really raises the question of whether there is to be any limit at all upon the cancellation of certificates of exemption granted by the tribunals. Is it contemplated that these cases are still to be allowed to go to the Appeal Tribunal, and if necessary to the Central Tribunal before the Minister of National Service will decide on the cancellation of a particular exemption, or is he going to consider each case on its merits as it arises on the representations of his representative before the tribunal? I feel quite sure, unless some explanation is afforded upon this point, the tribunals will have the feeling that their functions will be so cut down to dealing with minor cases of exemption that come before them that it has become a duty which ought no longer to be thrown upon them. In that respect there may be an element of misunderstanding throughout the country which it is desirable to remove at the earliest possible moment. For that reason I desire to press the right hon. Gentleman to say what is to be the future position with regard to these local tribunals and whether it is intended by him to exercise his power in every individual case that may come before. the tribunals after the passing of this Bill.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I agree it is undesirable that there should be any misconception on this matter. With regard to the substance of the Amendment I think the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King) will agree that after all, if the power of 767 recalling these exemptions on occupational grounds is to be used at all, that power must apply to exemptions given on occupational grounds by tribunals just as it must apply to other exemptions on occupational grounds. After all, the tribunals themselves have acted, or ought to have acted, with regard to occupational exemptions on the guidance which was provided for them by the published list of exempted occupations. Many hundreds—I suppose many thousands of exemptions—on occupational grounds were given by the tribunals just as I have no doubt a great many other exemptions on occupational grounds were given through Departments or otherwise. I am afraid if we are going to deal with the matter from an occupational purview of the situation then it is quite impossible to consider whether the agency that acted in the matter was the tribunal on the one hand or the Department on the other. I am afraid the Director-General could not very well do without the words which it is suggested should be omitted. Now I come to the point put by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Millar). I think he had in his mind the effect of Sub-section (4).
§ Mr. MILLAR
My point is this. Where you have a certificate granted which applies to a class it will be perfectly plain it would cover all men who might fall within that class. But in the case of the individual exemption you are dealing under a Sub-section which defines the occupational ground. There may be a great variety of circumstances affecting the individuals. You may have circumstances peculiar to the health of the individual, and you may have decisions given by tribunals with respect to particular individuals, who may be put to work of national importance in some other direction than the Army. I want to know what is to be the position of the tribunal with regard to these particular individual cases?
§ Mr. CLYDE
It is occupational, and occupational exemption equally affects the individual as it does the class. The ground of exemption is occupational and is not individual. If the exemption has been given upon grounds which are peculiar to the health of the individual, and not arising out of occupational circumstances, then that case will not fall under this Act at all. This Bill merely deals with exemptions on occupational grounds and with those alone. I have said that more than once.
§ Mr. MILLAR
There are some occupations in which there are very few individuals concerned. There are occupations in which the circumstances are special which would apply to particular cases.
§ Sir H. NIELD
May I suggest the case of a man who would never get an occupational exemption were it not for his health? A.B. conies along and fails to make out a complete case for occupational exemption, but, having regard to the fact that he would be of no use for the Army he is given occupational exemption. Am I to understand that the exemption in that case is to be swept aside?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CLYDE
It would certainly be swept aside so long as the exemption was on occupational grounds. Otherwise it would not fall within this Bill. It may be there are cases which upon investigation would be found to be partly affected by individual considerations which were not solely occupational, and a case of that sort could only be covered by the power of exemption which is given in Sub-section (3) of Section 2. But I think the hon. Member for Lanarkshire will agree, first of all, that where the Order has been made the difficulty he suggests never can occur.
§ Mr. CLYDE
Certainly; always applying to a class in the sense that the Order applies to an occupation. Then, if it is. the other case, there is no Order. In that case, no doubt, an Order might follow any particular application or number of applications. That is a chance that nobody can provide against, and it is possible that it might occur. If it did, then the exemption granted before the Order would be wiped out—
§ Mr. CLYDE
If it happened that the Order came before the appeal that result would follow also, but it comes down to a very simple matter—either there is an Order or there is not, in which case the exemption may be wiped out if the Order is made at a subsequent date. The only case in which it might occur is where you might have an exemption which had been affected by other considerations. That you can only meet by making an exception in the Order.
§ Mr. MILLAR
It is provided for in Sub-section (5), where the definition of occupational grounds is,
"Granted wholly or partly on any of the grounds specified in paragraph (a)."
There it might be partly occupational and partly ill-health.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that I think he has been wandering over Sub-sections (3), (4) and (5), and has not been dealing with this Amendment. I have Amendments before me dealing with each of those points as we come to them, and I think it would be much more convenient to take them as we reach them.
§ Mr. MILLAR
With great deference, Mr. Whitley, I have endeavoured to keep within your ruling, but I submit that it is relevant to raise this question.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I did answer the question, Mr. Whitley, but with the knowledge that in my opinion the question the hon. Gentleman was asking had nothing in the world to do with the Amendment, which is to leave out the reference to the tribunal in Sub-section (2). Without withdrawing anything I have said I shall not carry it any further till the subsequent points are reached.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the words, "and also applies to any certificates so granted on such grounds to a man who has voluntarily attested, notwithstanding that the certificate has not statutory force."
Here we come to the old question of the voluntarily attested man—his ready sacrifice, and how we ought to treat it. I do not think we ought to treat him as a conscript. I think all along the voluntarily 770 attested man ought to be treated differently to a conscript, and I invite the Minister of National Service to treat him differently under this Bill by refusing to rope him in as a conscript in this way. I, therefore, very briefly appeal to the Minister in charge of the Bill to give favourable consideration to this proposal.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
Though I think I may say I share to the full the sympathy with the attested man which the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King) has expressed, I find it quite impossible to agree to this particular Amendment because it would have the effect of withdrawing from the purview of the Act very nearly three-quarters of the men who will be affected by it, and in that way this Amendment, if adopted, would go far to defeat the purpose with which the Bill has been introduced.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the words, "either to individual certificates, or."
This Amendment raises the same question that we have had before, and would make the Sub-section read:
"An order under this Section may be made applicable to certificates granted to any class or body of men," etc.
It is the question again of the individual case as against the class, and it provides another opportunity, from a slightly different point of view, for the Minister to reconsider this question. I put it to him that he cannot deal with these individual cases without using the machinery of the tribunals, and a certificate of exemption granted by a tribunal can always be withdrawn. His representative at a tribunal could always apply to the tribunal to withdraw or vary the certificate of exemption given, and it is only by the same machinery that he proposes to deal with this that he can deal with it under this Bill. It therefore seems to me that these words "either to individual certificates, or" could very well be left out without really impairing the ability of the Minister of National Service to call up any men that he would want, and who could be spared. It does not deprive him of a single man. It is only a question of machinery, and it is going to do away with that sense of sweeping away wholesale, by a large order, individual exemptions which have 771 been granted on individual merits. As everybody knows, I have not the profound belief that all tribunals everywhere have done right. I think there arc vast differences amongst them. I think there are a great many—especially among the local tribunals; less so among the Appeal Tribunals—local tribunals which have undoubtedly given very unsatisfactory certificates, but in this case I believe the Minister of National Service could very well omit these words, that he would lose nothing, and that he would remove a very possible cause of friction and difficulty if he did so.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I would appeal to the Minister of National Service if he wishes to pass a fair Bill to realise that he might very well accept this Amendment. If you really mean to take occupational grounds in a broad sense there can be no occupational ground of any importance that cannot be brought within a general Order. To have these words in, allowing for the revision of individual certificates of exemption by a Government Department, is going very near to defeating the original object of the Bill, which was to deal only with occupational grounds. I think a Government Department has no right to say, first of all, "We propose to deal with men who are in certain occupations, and by Orders which have been hid on the Table of the House," and then to say, "If there happens to be this or that individual who, we think, ought to be conscripted but whom we cannot bring within the Order, then we are going to deal with him as an individual." These men have been exempted after what purported to be—and what was, I am glad to think, in most cases—a thorough inquiry into their cases—to an extent that can never occur if this is passed—by a body of men who had regard to the merits of their individual cases. As the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Nield) has stated, they very often give their decision on composite grounds. If you leave these words in you will allow a lot of hardship and injustice to prevail, and will give an undue power to a Government Department, which Departments very often act without due consideration of the individual cases concerned. I think these are very dangerous words, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, if he wishes to act fairly, to accept this Amendment, which cannot affect the Bill.
§ Mr. MILLAR
I think this Amendment raises very clearly the distinction I have been trying to bring out in regard to the two classes of cases which are dealt with under the Bill. The Lord Advocate has based his argument throughout on the fact that this Bill is purely one dealing with occupational grounds, and, if that be so, I cannot see what occupation can be taken without including the individual certificates altogether, because, according to his argument, in every case you will grade men according to their occupations, and will therefore be dealing with classes—whether they be small or large—according to occupation. Now we have in the Bill the words "individual certificates," which are now sought to be excluded by the Amendment. I think the Committee is entitled to know what the individual certificates are intended to be which are distinct in character altogether from the occupational certificates granted to classes. I do not want to trespass again on Sub-section (5), but, with all respect, Mr. Whitley, I do submit that I am entitled, in dealing with the question of individual certificates, to bring to your notice the fact that these individual certificates, which must have reference to occupation, must fall within that definition, and that therefore I am entitled to quote the definition to the Committee. With your permission I shall do so. The definition of "occupational grounds" is that contained in Sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the original Military Service Act, namely,
"That it is expedient, in the national interests, that he should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work in which he is habitually engaged or in which he wishes to be engaged, or, if he is being educated or trained for any work, that he should continue to be so educated or trained."
That raises, of course, a very wide variety of possible circumstances in which a man might accept National Service; but then, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. King) pointed out, the certificate which is issued on occupational grounds has to be regarded as composite. It may have reference to ill-health, to hardship, to conscientious objection, and it cannot for a moment be said, therefore, that these can all be treated, as the Lord Advocate stated they might be treated, on the basis of certified occupations pure and simple. You get the 773 personal question arising at every turn, and as you have that personal question arising before the tribunals you may have many cases coming before the tribunals in which they will be debarred from dealing with them if the Minister of National Service is about to issue an Order. We are entitled, at least, to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will be kind enough, in the outspoken manner in which he has sought to bring information to the House, to give us some information as to what cases the individual certificates are intended to cover. Are they numerous, and, if so, what will be the effect upon the tribunals if many of them come before them, subject to the right hon. Gentleman's power to cancel them afterwards?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I feel that there is a very great deal to be said for the question raised by the hon. Member for Somerset in this matter. There is no desire or intention, as has been pointed out on several occasions from this box this afternoon, to deal with this power in a harsh or discriminating manner; and if the hon. Member will be prepared to withdraw his Amendment, I will be prepared to move the insertion, after the words "individual certificates," the following words, "granted by Government Departments," because I think we should retain the right of dealing with individual cases where a certificate has been granted by a Government Department.
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
That Amendment, I think, covers all the points I raised this afternoon, together with the other Amendments the right hon. Gentleman has promised.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment made: In Sub-section (3), after the word "certificates" ["either to individual certificates"], insert the words, "granted by Government Departments." —[Sir A. Geddes.]
§ Mr. BECK
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), after the word "certificates" ["those men of individual certificates"], to insert the words, "or to certificates granted to men of any class or description specified in the Order."
This is a purely drafting Amendment. It has been pointed out that this paragraph 774 might be supposed only to apply to certificates in certified occupations, and these words make it quite certain that that difficulty does not arise.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In Subsection (4, a), after the word "grant" ["for the grant of a certificate"], insert the words, "or renewal."
§ After the word "granted" ["no certificates shall be granted"], insert the words, "or renewal."
§ At the end of paragraph (b), insert the words, "and no such application if already made shall be proceeded with, and no certificates shall be granted on any such application."—[Mr. Beck.]
§ Sir H. NIELD
I beg to move, after the words last inserted, to add the words, "Any man, whether he has or has not attested, whose certificate of exemption is withdrawn by an Order under this Section shall be entitled to make an application to the appropriate tribunal for exemption on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 2 Sub-section (1) of the Military Service Act, 1916, other than occupational grounds, provided the application is lodged with the tribunal within fourteen days of the date of the notice withdrawing his certificate, or within such extended time as the tribunal may allow, and the Regulations or instructions relating to the procedure of tribunals in force for the time being shall, so far as circumstances permit, apply to any such application."
I think there is some substance in this Amendment. We should make it perfectly clear, upon. the face of the Bill, that these men, from whom occupational certificates have been withdrawn on the ground that they are no longer necessary, shall have opportunities of presenting within a definite time their appeal to the tribunal on other grounds. At present in the there is a somewhat cryptic reference in these words (paragraph b)—
"no application shall be made by or in respect of a man whose certificate comes within the terms of the Order for the renewal of the certificate except on grounds which are not occupational."
I much prefer the English way of stating definitely and clearly, as was done in the Review of Exceptions Act, a man's right to be re-examined. I do hope this will be accepted. If it is intended that the words in the Bill, to which I have referred, give this right, by all means let it be definitely 775 stated. There are many men who will have very strong grounds for coming before the tribunals afresh—grounds which were never considered, or were brushed aside, because the best card was put down first, namely, that his occupation was a certified trade, or something of that sort, and he was given exemption on that ground and other grounds were never gone into. It would be manifestly unfair, therefore, if he were not given an opportunity within a definite time of appealing on other grounds.
§ Mr. CLYDE
The hon. and learned Gentleman asks us to do nothing more than to make assurance doubly sure. He says that is the English way of doing it. I rather think that the fairest use of the language is not to say a thing twice if you have stated it clearly once, because then you are apt to find that there is something inconsistent where there is really no inconsistency. As the matter stands at present, the only restriction that there is in the Bill against applying for a certificate of exemption is that you are not to apply again on grounds which are not occupational, or other grounds, in a certificate given on occupational grounds. The result of accepting what is proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman would be merely to repeat what the Bill contains already. There is nothing in the world to prevent a man applying for exemption upon grounds which are not occupational at all; therefore it is very much better to leave what we have said clearly once than to endeavour first affirmatively and then negatively to say what we have already said to amend the Clause, and so leave under unintentional obscurity what we have already declared clearly.
§ Sir H. NIELD
That is not quite the sort of criticism I expected from my right hon. and learned Friend. It is not affirmatively and then negatively put down. My right hon. and learned Friend forgets that under the Regulations which govern the original Appeal Tribunals, limitations of time are imposed. The only grounds upon which a subsequent application may be made are grounds of new circumstances. I am speaking of what you, Sir Donald, are perfectly well aware—no man more so—you must have new circumstances before you can bring a new claim. What is this? It is not a new circumstances; therefore it will be out of time. I am perfectly con- 776 vinced, from the experience of nearly two years now, that unless some such words—I do not ask for the acceptance of my words particularly—
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Subsection (5), to leave out the words, "or partly" ["granted wholly or partly"].
I take it it is obvious that many certificates of exemption lave been granted originally on various grounds. If a man had "other grounds" besides occupational grounds, either the occupational grounds or the other grounds may have been thrown in as more or less unimportant. But they may have been of vital importance. The words or other grounds "may have been sufficient to give him exemption. Therefore, I think that it would be unfair, and not right or appropriate to take away certificates of exemption from those men who have had other grounds of exemption besides that of occupation.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
One appreciates and sympathises with the points of view which have been put forward, but I think perhaps the hon. Member for North Somerset has not quite realised our position, and how this will work out. If those individuals who were affected by the Order were in fact entitled to exemption. on grounds other than those of occupation, it would be still open for them to apply for exemption on those other grounds. Whereas if the words "or partly" were left out we would have no. chance under this Bill for the reconsideration of cases where the real grounds for intention were occupational, but where some minor other possibility may be added by the tribunal. The provision in the Bill, if it should be found on reconsideration to be not sufficiently clear, will, as my bon. and learned Friend has just suggested, be reconsidered.
§ Amendment negatived.777
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the following Sub-section:
"(6) An Order under this Section (other than an order applicable to an individual certificate) shall be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if either of these Houses within fourteen days after the Order has been so laid presents an Address to His Majesty praying that the Order, or any part thereof, shall be annulled, His Majesty in Council may annul the Order or such part thereof, and it shall henceforth be void without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done in pursuance thereof, provided that Section (1) of the Rules of Publication Act, 1893, shall not apply to an Order made under this Section."
§ Amendment agreed to.778
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 3 (Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 123.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 12th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-three minutes before Nine o'clock