HC Deb 22 January 1918 vol 101 cc788-91
14 and 15. Sir J. D. REES

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War (1) for what reason Mr. P. M'Dougall was exempted from military service; whether the reason was that his services were urgently required on his farm; if so, since he has subsequently been given a Government appointment as commissioner for live-stock in Scotland at £1,000 a year, and is therefore not required for his farm, his exemption will be cancelled; whether the War Office was a party at any stage to the grant of such exemption; (2) if he is aware that five out of the six sub-commissioners for live-stock in Scotland, who are paid £500 a year, are of military age; will he say why such as are of that age have been exempted; whether other persons not of military age and capable of performing their duties cannot be found in Scotland; whether such live-stock sub-commissioners as are of military Age will be forthwith drafted into the Army; and whether the War Office was A party at any stage to the exemptions granted?


The appointments apparently referred to by the hon. Member are proposed by the Ministry of Food in connection with the Live-stock Scheme, and, as they affect men of military age, they have been referred for the concurrence of the Ministry of National Service, which has not yet been given. I understand that the men selected already hold tribunal exemptions as farmers, and that these are still current. I have suggested to the Ministry of Food that, before the appointments are confirmed, further inquiries should be made and, in particular, that the local agricultural committees should be consulted, if this has not already been done, in order to ascertain whether suitable men over military age cannot be found to fill these appointments.

Sir J. D. REES

Am I to understand that the exemptions of these gentlemen are at present under suspense, and that the Ministry of Food, so far as it is concerned, will not ask that they shall be confirmed?


I do not think the hon. Member quite understands the position. These men have been exempted as individuals by the tribunals, and those exemptions are still current. It is now proposed to employ them by the Ministry of Food in an official capacity, and such applications must come to the Ministry of National Service, and they are being considered.


Were these men not exempted because they had some agricultural value, and as soon as that value ceases should not these exemptions be cancelled?

Sir J. D. REES

Does the hon. Member not see that a man who cannot leave his farm to go and fight, but can leave it to draw £1,000 a year is a man whose exemption should be at once cancelled?


If my hon. Friend will read my answer he will see that those facts are being fully borne in mind, and at the present moment the Minister of National Service has not given the necessary authority to employ these men as Government officials.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a farmer with £15,000 capital has had all his labourers taken away, the sole man left having got up to colour-sergeant after serving seven years, while other men have been refused exemption after years of service?


Has not the gentleman mentioned in the question already been employed for very many months?


He is certainly not employed by the Ministry of National Service, and we have written asking if he cannot be replaced by a man who is not of military age.


Does the Ministry of Food not advise in these matters?


Has the Minister of National Service to ask for permission or does he order a man from another Department?


The hon. Member cannot really have been listening to what I have said. I said that no man could be employed in the Government service of military age without the consent of the Ministry of National Service.

38. Sir J. D. REES

asked the Secretary for Scotland Whether he was consulted at any stage regarding the exemptions granted to Mr. P. M'Dougall, Commissioner of Live-stock for Scotland, and to his six sub-commissioners, of whom five are believed to be, like himself, of military age; and whether he was a party in any way to the appointment of these gentlemen of military age to the offices they now hold it salaries of £1,000 and £500 a year respectively?


The answer to both parts of the question is in the negative. For the facts as to Mr. M'Dougall's exemption I beg to refer my hon. Friend to the answers given him by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on the 16th instant, and also. by the Minister of National Service of to-day.

Sir J. D. REES

Does it not fall within the right hon. Gentleman's duties as Secretary for Scotland to terminate what is practically a scandal and a rock of offence in and out of Scotland?


I have informed my hon. Friend that my Department has no responsibility in this matter.


Was it not stated in a previous answer given by the Ministry of Food that the Board of Agriculture in Scotland was consulted about these appointments before they were made; and, if so, is the right hon. Gentleman's answer to-day consistent with that fact?


I think my hon. and learned Friend is mistaken. I made special inquiry, and the Board of Agriculture, according to my information, were not consulted.


Is it correct, then, to say that they were not consulted in any way before the appointments were made?


The question put to me was whether I was consulted regarding -the exemptions, and the answer to that question is in the negative. The answer with regard to the Board of Agriculture on that point is also in the negative.


Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the second part of the -question relating to the appointments and not to the exemptions—that is the part to which I am referring?


According to my information, the Board of Agriculture was not consulted, and certainly I was not consulted.