HC Deb 10 July 1919 vol 117 cc2139-42

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move That the Bill be now read a second time." This is a Bill to extend the provisions of Section 1 of the Solicitors (Articled Clerks) Act of 1918, which allows an articled clerk to count towards the period of his service in articles any time he served with the forces or on an approved public service connected with the War, or as a prisoner or an interned person in an enemy or neutral country. The Act imposes no limit on the amount of time which may be reckoned. The normal period for articles is five years, but that is reduced to four years in the case of men who have matriculated at a university, and to three years in cases of men who have taken a university degree. That Bill does not give any advantage to a person who, by reason of his service in the War, has come to be an articled clerk at a later date to the date he would otherwise have become a clerk. It is felt that that is an unfair position, and that something ought to be done for those men whoso entrance into the profession has been delayed by their military service. This Bill has been framed to extend the Act of 1918. It does not take away or diminish the advantages of that Act, but it does provide that persons articled at any time before the expiration of one year after the termination of the War may count his service subject to the limitations that any such person cannot reckon more of his military service than will leave him with two years to serve, and I think that proposal will do justice all round.


The War has made conditions which make it impossible for us to refuse to pass legislation of this kind. The only thing I have to say about it is that it is not satisfactory legislation in theory, but the conditions of the War have made it absolutely necessary that these young men shall not be prejudiced by having willingly served their country in some cases under great domestic difficulties. Many of them have had to wait in the ranks until the Military Service Acts allowed them to go. This Bill brings into line those who have not been able to begin their article, and they should be treated in the same way. I think two years is a fair margin in the case of men who are only liable to serve three, and that will leave them with only one year. Of course that is only in cases where they are qualified men. This is one of the circumstances of the War, and we are doing justice to a very considerable class who ought to have this justice done to them.


I entirely agree that no one will regard this as a proper or right course to take. and in ordinary conditions no one would suggest it. What is being proposed is entirely due to war conditions, and the object is to do justice to those young men who have been prejudiced by the War. I am very grateful to the Government for having brought this measure forward.


I would like to ask the Attorney-General whether some attempt could not be made to rectify the same grievance which applies to apprenticeship in general trades and the handicrafts? When we take into consideration the fact that many parents have made great sacrifices to give their boys a very good training in some handicraft or trade, and they have suffered during the War just in the same circumstances as the Attorney-General has very properly described, I think justice should be done to them as well, and to all classes of the community. I was wondering whether something could not be done to put that matter right, and to reassure parents that their sons who have served so gallantly in the War should be provided for by Statute in sonic way or other to make them more satisfied than they are, because they are labouring under the deep feeling of dissatisfaction because of the fact that they are now handicapped so seriously in consequence of this circumstance. I wish the Attorney-General could give us some kind of assurance on this point.


My hon. Friend is well aware that, although the topic which he has referred to now is suggested by this Bill, the cases he has mentioned do not arise upon it. I quite see the grievance he has mentioned, and which this Bill seeks to remedy in relation to articled clerks. I quite agree that the subject which lie mentions is worthy of consideration, and I shall be happy to consider it. If my hon. Friend will furnish me with any information he has upon the matter, showing especially the nature and extent of the difficulties to which ho refers, I can promise that I shall give it my best and earnest consideration.

Bill accordingly read a second time.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[Sir G. Hewart.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee.

[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]

  1. CLAUSE 1.—(Extension of Section 1 of 8 and 9 Geo. 5 c. 16.) 490 words