HC Deb 16 February 1926 vol 191 cc1829-65

I beg to move, That, in the opinion of this House, it is Vic duty of the Government in all Government contracts to make provision for the employment to the fullest possible extent of disabled ex-service men, and to this end to confine such contracts, save in exceptional circumstances, to employers enrolled on the King's National Roll. The question to which I wish to invite the attention of the House for a short time concerns a problem which greatly exercises the hearts and minds of Members of all parties. We disagree upon many things, but, thank Heaven! we agree upon this—that it is our duty, as indeed it is our desire, and, as I believe, it is our determination, to do all that in us lies to ameliorate the lot of those who are disabled in consequence of their service on our behalf in the War. They have an overwhelming claim upon us, a claim which is not founded on charity or pity, or generosity in a sense, although all those principles may well be applied in the solving of the problem; but their claim is founded upon our gratitude, upon our consciences, upon honour and our sense of justice. It is, however, no use disguising the fact that the problem is a very serious and a very formidable one. It is one to which all wars lead, and the greater the war the greater the problem. It is a problem which has baffled other nations besides ours, and, indeed, has baffled ours in times gone by. Unless we are careful it will baffle us too.

I think, perhaps, this generation believes that it has a keener perception of its duties to those who are disabled by war, a stronger determination to discharge the obligations that may be imposed on it, and enlarged intelligence as to the ways in which the disabled may best be helped. I hope it is so. It would, indeed, be an unsatisfactory reflection if, after all the advances which have been made in civilisation and enlightenment, we had not experienced some quickening of the feelings of humanity, and appreciated more fully the obligations to those who are maimed in our service. The task after the Great War is greater than any that this country has experienced. But I think we may derive encouragement from the fact that there is a universal feeling among men and women of all parties and all classes to do everything that in them lies and to help in every possible way those who have been maimed. One fundamental idea we are all agreed upon, and that is that we can best promote the happiness and welfare of those who were disabled in the War by helping them to such work as they are capable of doing. Nothing could be worse for the disabled themselves than to encourage them to brood over their disabilities, or to cultivate the idea that by reason of their disabilities they are no longer fit to take part in the life and labour of the community.

The House will remember that in the discussion, almost exactly a year ago, of a cognate subject, a very interesting and very illuminating speech was delivered by the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), and with his ideas upon the subject I venture very respectfully to associate myself, and I think that the House will desire to associate itself with them also. Perhaps we may safely say that, as compared with our forefathers, we have one advantage. That is a realisation of the importance, in connection with this problem, of organisation and co-ordinated effort. This is an age of organisation, and this problem calls specially for organisation, because the casual benevolence of warm-hearted persons towards sufferers in the War will not only never solve the problem, but, apart from the fact that it is not right that the victim should be left to this kind of relief, it very often, I fear, does far more harm than good.

It was a realisation of this consideration which led to the establishment, in August, 1919, of the King's Roll. I do not want to suggest that before the inauguration of the King's Roll, either the Ministry or the country was not alive to the importance of trying to find proper occupation for those who had been disabled in the War. Up to that time the Employment Exchanges had, in fact, devoted special attention to finding work for disabled men. But it was the realisation of the fact that the problem was to be an exceedingly serious one, and that it called for organisation and co-ordinated effort, which led to the establishment of the King's Roll. The essential idea of the King's Roll is that every effort should be made to absorb into employment all disabled ox-service men who are capable of any employment; secondly, to secure as far as possible that there should be an equitable distribution of these men among the several industries.

Employers who come upon the Roll are expected to employ as many disabled men as possible, and not less than an agreed percentage, which is generally 5 per cent. For some time after its inauguration the scheme was administered by the local employment committees, but later on, on the recommendation of a Select Commitee of this House, the King's Roll Council was set up and local King's Roll Committees were established, the council being under the chairmanship of Field-Marshal Earl Haig. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Lieut.-Colonel Henderson), who is to follow me, has done yeoman service to this cause as the Honorary, Secretary of the King's Roll National Council, and I hope that he will be able to give the House some particulars of the work of the council and committees.

The success of the scheme has undoubtedly been hindered to some extent by the great depression in trade through which the country unfortunately has gone. Notwithstanding that fact, the number of ex-service men registered as unemployed has undergone a considerable decrease. In October, 1922, there were 65,000 ex-service men registered as unemployed. By November, 1924, that number had fallen to 36,301, and exactly a year ago there was a slight increase to 37,599. Happily by December last year the number had fallen to 32,350, and I am glad to tell the House that in the latest figures available—those for last month—there is a further reduction to 31,291. Although that is a very substantial reduction the number is still a great deal too large.

The employers at present on the Roll number 28,000 and employ 370,000 disabled ex-service men, but there are a good many employers not on the Roll who ought to be on it. Local authorities have helped by coming on the Roll, complying with the conditions, and giving preference in allotting their contracts to firms who are on the Roll, but, there again, one is convinced that a good many local authorities are not on the Roll as to whom one mast frankly say that they ought to be on it. It is satisfactory to me to be able to say that in the area of which my constituency forms the major part all the local authorities are on the Roll, and all the local authorities give preference in allotting their contracts to firms who are on the Roll. This is a very large and thickly-populated area, and I hope the House will forgive me for taking some pride in the fact that there are only 142 disabled ex-service men in that area who are registered as unemployed. There is the further satisfactory fact that all these disabled ex-service men have been at some time or other since demobilisation employed for various periods. My information is That the men are unemployed at the moment very largely owing to adverse trade conditions, and that as soon as trade improves, it is hoped all will be back in employment. I need not say I sincerely hope it will be so, and in that case it will constitute a very satisfactory record for a very thickly-populated area in which a great deal of self-sacrificing service was given during the War.

9.0 P.M.

I desire to say something about the attitude of successive Governments, because the Resolution which I submit to the House deals with the attitude which the Government ought to adopt in regard to this question. I am bound to say, and I say it very gladly, that ever since the inception of this idea all Governments, regardless of their political views, have been most sympathetic and helpful. It was during the time of the Coalition Government that the King's Roll was inaugurated; and a very definite step was taken in April, 1921, when it was officially announced that the policy of the Government was that, save in very exceptional circumstances all firms tendering for Government contracts to whom the conditions of membership were applicable must be on the Roll. That is a policy which I hope hon. Members will to-night carry a little further by making it the declared policy of the House. It continued to be the policy of successive Governments, that is to say, of Mr. Bonar Law's Government, of the first Government of the present Prime Minister, of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) and of the present Government.

Satisfactory and sympathetic declarations upon this question of giving preference in contracts to firms on the King's Roll were made during the term of office of the Labour Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), then Colonial Secretary, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) on behalf of the War Office, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston as Minister of Labour. Still one has to remember that not all—by no means all—of the local authorities are on the Roll, and not all—very far from all—of the individual employers and companies who ought to be on the Roll are on it. So far, there has been no formal Resolution of this House confirming the policy of successive Governments, though I think one might fairly take it that that policy met with the approval of the successive Parliaments, and it is thought at this juncture when we are getting a little further from the War, and its memories are beginning to fade a little, that the time is opportune for this House to put on record in no equivocal terms its view of the matter, so as to strengthen the hands of the Government Departmental which have to deal with these contracts and also to provide an example to local bodies and employers of labour in general. I hope I may be so fortunate as to get the unanimous assent of this House to this Motion. I believe that in passing it we will set a great example to all public authorities and to all employers of labour, and I would appeal to this House to give a unanimous support to the Motion, so that it may go forth to the world that this Resolution expresses the considered opinion, not of the Ministry only, but of the elected representatives of the nation, and that it may be known that this is the settled policy of all parties and of the whole people.

Lieut.-Colonel HENDERSON

I beg to second the Motion.

I very greatly appreciate the opportunity which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir H. Cunliffe) has afforded me of being able to second this Resolution, because I have been very closely associated with this work, from an administrative point of view, for more than three years. I have worked now with four successive Ministers of Labour, and I feel that it is only right that the House should get an opportunity from time to time of some discussion on this question. I feel sure they could not have had the case put to them more ably than it has been put to-night by my hon. and learned Friend, who has pointed out that approval of the Resolution is only the approval of a custom which has been in force, so far as the Cabinet and Government Departments are concerned, since 1921. That is perfectly true, but it has never before had the formal sanction and approval either of this House or of another place, on the lines, for instance, of the Fair Wages Resolution, which did receive the formal sanction of this House.

There may be some people, who are rather critical as to the whole working of this system, who may say that this Resolution savours of a form of compulsion, and, to a certain extent, they are probably correct. The House will remember that, when the Select Committee reported in 1922, they definitely said that, if the scheme did not succeed on voluntary lines, it would be necessary to adopt some form of compulsion. I was a member of that Committee, and I confess that at that time I held rather different views on the whole question of compulsion, so far as it applied to a scheme of this kind, from those that I hold at present, because in the work which I have done in the interval I have very considerably modified my opinion, and I have come to the conclusion that it would be very difficult to justify what you might call a full-blooded and full-bodied scheme of compulsion as applied to a problem of this kind. Compulsion, as we know it, means a State compulsion, which demands, in order that it may be carried out, an army of officials, a mass of forms and documents which require to be filled in, and a considerable amount of State interference, and I do not think the size of the problem, as it faced us three years ago and as it faces us now to a much smaller extent, justifies that interference; nor do I think it would assist trade, and, after all, we have to remember that the condition of trade has a very considerable effect on the success or failure of this scheme.

Therefore, so far as that type of compulsion is concerned, I, personally, think it is unjustified and unnecessary, but I do not consider a proposal of this kind, which has been in practice for about five years and which has proved to be of enormous benefit to the whole working of the scheme, could possibly be objected to on the ground that it was a form of compulsion. It is true that it brings a certain amount of pressure to bear on certain employers to carry out their obligations under the National King's Roll Scheme, but it is their duty. It was considered right, when this scheme was started six years ago, that those employers or local authorities who employed a sufficiently large staff to enable them to do so should, as their share of the national burden, undertake to employ a certain number of these men, and if that was the general opinion of this House and of the country, then I do not think that, if some of these people are not fulfilling their obligations, it is a wrong form of compulsion to say that they should not be allowed to get contracts on an unfair basis as compared with other firms who are competing with them and who are fulfilling their obligations., That is, after all, all that the scheme implies.

I know full well, from the working of the scheme, that this question of the restriction of Government contracts plays a very considerable part in keeping the Roll in an efficient state, because it makes large employers feel that, if they are carrying out their obligations, nobody anyhow will be taking an unfair advantage, and when you are carrying a big burden that is a very considerable satisfaction. I regret that there are still a certain number of large employers—not many—and a certain number of large local authorities and of large public utility companies who have not yet fulfilled their obligations under this scheme. There is another form of compulsion which is in a sense coupled with the Resolution which we are asking the House to approve tonight, and that is the power which is inherent in this House itself to refuse to any local authority or any public utility company any special powers which they may seek under a private Bill from this House. The House will remember that last year, in their wisdom, they decided to throw out a particular private Bill for that reason, because they considered that the company had not fulfilled its obligations under the King's Roll Scheme, and I am glad to say that the action of the House at that time had a very beneficial and far-reaching effect on the whole working of this scheme, because it drew attention to the scheme, it made the public as a whole realise that the House was interested and in earnest with regard to the walking of the scheme, and it perhaps rallied a certain number of rather lukewarm supporters in its cause.

I believe that, so long as I am responsible to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in a small measure, as I am, for a certain amount of the working of this scheme, it would be only right that, if in the future any local authority or public utility company came to this House for special powers and had definitely refused to accept their obligations under this scheme when they had been asked to do so and were in a position to do so, I should inform the House of that position, in order that the House might judge the position for itself, on its merits; and, subject to his approval, I should certainly propose to do that. I do not think the occasion is likely to arise, but it might, and I think it is only fair that it should be clearly understood before it arises and not afterwards. My hon. and learned Friend has outlined very clearly and very ably the general history of this scheme since it came into operation, and it is not for me to repeat what he has said. But I do want to refer to one or two criticisms which have been made of this scheme, in order that I may try to show the House that those criticisms, to a considerable extent, are unjustified, and in order that I may try to show, that if we get the backing of the House for which we ask, the existing scheme, working on its existing lines, is quite capable of solving the problem, insofar as it remains a problem at the present time.

It has been said, in the first place, that the scheme has really done nothing in the last few years, because whereas in 1922, when the Select Committee reported, there were more than 30,000 firms on the Roll, now there are only a little more than 28,000. That argument has often been used. I frequently still see it in the Press, but it is entirely incorrect. There were never 30,000 effective firms on the Roll at any time. What actually happened was that a firm which was put on the Roll was allowed to remain on it, in some cases without being asked to send a formal act of renewal. It is the custom, when a firm first enrols, to ask them to enrol for one year, and after that to ask them to renew for periods of two years at a time. A great many of these firms had been on the Roll without being asked to renew their undertaking, and when the National Council came into existence, one of the first things it did was to revise the under taking of the whole of those 30,000 firms, and, as a result, it was found necessary to remove from the Roll, in the first six months of 1923, some 5,000 firms. A good many of those firms have since renewed their undertaking on a different basis, but it is not correct to say there were 30,000 effective firms on the Roll in 1922. There were never anything like that; otherwise it would not have been necessary to remove 5,000 firms in the first six months of 1923. Therefore, we are perfectly justified in saying, that so far as effective firms are concerned, all the Roll is now effective, and no firm is allowed to remain on the Roll which does not renew its undertaking in a reasonable number of months from the time it expires. I think we can say that the number of effective firms on the Roll now is as large as, if not larger than, it has ever been before.

Another point which has been made is that the increase in the number of disabled men employed in the last 12 months, from 350,000 to 370,000, which was the figure my hon. and learned Friend gave, is entirely due to the enrolment of the large railway companies, and does not really represent any increase in the employment of disabled men at all. That statement is also incorrect, because all the large railway companies were on the Roll before 1925, with the exception of the London and North Eastern, Which enrolled in April, 1928, and they employ about 9,000 disabled men, so that, although those 9,000 are perfectly genuinely included in the increase, it is not true to say that the whole 20,000, by which figure the number of employed has increased in the last 12 months, is due to the enrolment of railway companies, because it is not. The other railway companies, in some cases, have been on the Roll for four or five years, and in one case for longer.

There is a third criticism, and that is that the fact that the numbers of disabled men unemployed are steadily decreasing, as my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, is solely due to the fact that the number of pensioners is also decreasing through processes of time. I quite appreciate the fact, that this problem, like the problem which faces the Ministry of Pensions, is one which, in process of time, will naturally disappear, but it is absolutely untrue to say that the King's Roll scheme depends for its success on waiting sufficiently long until there are no more pensioners remaining unemployed.

During the past six months the Ministry of Pensions figures of men in receipt of pensions have, roughly speaking, remained stationary, and yet during that six months the numbers of disabled ex-service men unemployed has been reduced by a figure of between 3,000 and 4,000 men. That, in itself, proves there is not the exact relation between the one figure and the other as some people try to establish. It is also disproved by another fact, and that is that month by month there is a steady number of disabled men re-registered or registered afresh for employment as disabled men. Most hon. Members who are interested in this question know perfectly well that at every Employment Exchange there is a special register kept known as B and C, and that register is continually turning over, like the ordinary Employment Exchange register, and if the disabled men, who are the best judges in the matter, really believed the King's Roll was a farce from beginning to end, they would not take the trouble to register under the special register as disabled men, because, if the thing were a farce, they would know they would only be handicapping themselves by acknowledging the fact that they had disability. The fact that every month we still get anything from about 7,000 to 9,000 re-registers or fresh registers of disabled men at the other end re-absorbed by fresh firms of employers found for them, or found by themselves, proves that the men themselves believe that the scheme is a good scheme, and it is for their benefit, and is working reasonably satisfactorily. I think that is the best proof we could possibly have.

There is another object in this Resolution, and that is that I hope it will induce more local authorities to follow the example of the Government contracting Departments so far as Government contracts are concerned. It is quite true a good many local authorities are so small, and the value of their contracts is so infinitesimal, that it is really not of very much importance whether they pass a resolution of that kind or not, but, on the other hand, some of the larger local authorities can very genuinely assist the scheme by adopting the Government practice, and there is still a considerable number of the larger ones which have not followed this practice, and have made no attempt to do so. There are about 544 local authorities which either give preference in their contracts or restrict them, and those include a considerable number of larger ones, particularly the ones in London, but there is ample room for improvement, and I hope one of the effects of this Resolution, if passed to-night, will be to stir up some of those larger authorities in that respect. There is also another point, and that is that in another place to-day, a Resolution similar to this has been moved and carried, and, therefore, if this Resolution be approved by this House to-day, it will go out with the joint power of both Houses.

I do not think there is anything else which I need really say to commend this Resolution to the judgment of the House. We all realise that, as time goes on and as the date of the conclusion of the War gets further away, this problem is apt to be forgotten. It is natural that people should forget it. But as long as the problem remains a problem we cannot as a House of Commons in decency or justice forget that it entails an obligation so far as we are concerned, and as long as that obligation exists it is our duty to do our best to put forward any solution which will be of assistance and help in solving it. I am perfectly convinced that if the people of this country realise that we as a Parliament are in earnest, that we have not forgotten these men, and that as long as they remain we will not forget them, then our action in passing a Resolution like this to-night will be of assistance to those men and to ourselves and to the country as a whole. It is because I believe that the House agrees with my hon. and learned Friend in that point of view that I have very much pleasure in seconding the Resolution.


I have very much pleasure in supporting the Resolution. I am sorry that it is not a watertight Resolution. At the end of the Resolution there are the words save in exceptional circumstances, to employers enrolled on the King's National Roll. I should have liked this Resolution to have been stronger, and to make it obligatory on every one who has a Government contract to be on the King's Roll. Personally I would rather see the Government responsible for employing disabled ex-service men than place the obligation on any private firm or individual. I am not blind to the fact that the employers of this country very many cases have acted most generously and most nobly towards their disabled employés. Passing my door in the last two or three years there has been a man employed by the Ebbw Vale Colliery Company who is without both arms. The company had a leather bag made for him and employed him in carrying messages from one office to another. I know for a fact that that company employed every ex-service man who was disabled, and I have great pleasure of testifying to that on the Floor of the House.

The position of the ex-service man is very deplorable indeed in the present state of unemployment. An ex-service man with 20, 30 or 40 per cent. disability is outside the labour market altogether when he goes into competition for remunerative employment. The condition of these men is deporable in the extreme. One of the ex-service men wrote to me in the latter part of last week. He had had a gun-shot wound in the fore-arm but he was unable now to find employment. I know from personal experience because I am a member myself of the British Legion and an ex-service man myself that very many of these men are suffering most severely under the present circumstances. A man to-day with a 50 per cent. disability has £1 a week pension. That is entirely inadequate to maintain him, consequently in many cases men have to go to the guardians for relief. It is deplorable in a country like ours that any ex-service man should be dependent upon the parish for his existence, and it is very discreditable to this country.

I support the Resolution because it is the best thing before the House at the present time. At the same time I do feel that it is an obligation really on the Government, as representing the entire nation, to see that these disabled ex-service men are found employment or found an adequate pension that will take them away from parish relief. I feel certain that this House, at any rate, will not oppose this Motion, and that; it will be passed without the slightest opposition. I hope the Ministry of Pensions and the Ministry of Labour will look on this Motion with the greatest favour possible, and that in the-future they will do the best they can to find these 31,000 men either employment or adequate maintenance.


It is a very great pleasure to support this Resolution, because I do so in the hope that something real will come out of the discussion. I remember only a year ago to-morrow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwich (Captain Fairfax) moved this Resolution: That this House desires to leave no avenue unexplored which may lead to a proper and satisfactory solution of the question of employment of disabled ex-service men. That Resolution was unanimously carried in this House. It is true, I believe, that one Member spoke against it. I want to ask what has really been done to leave no stone unturned during those 12 months? How many Members of this House have gone down into their constituencies and appealed to those firms who are not on the King's Roll to become members of it? It is only by practical support from Members of this House that we shall be able to accomplish what we desire. I might be permitted to say a word of praise in reference to the work that has been accomplished by the King's Roll. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Lieut. - Colonel Henderson) seconded this Resolution in the most able manner. He is in a unique position of having all the facts and figures at his finger ends. He, together with the Vice-Chairman the hon. and gallant Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson), have undoubtedly done good work in connection with the King's Roll. Those firms who have been patriotic and supported the King's Roll are to be thanked, as well as the local committees throughout the country. But the King's Roll was set up in 1919, and to-day we are informed that we have over 31,000 disabled men unemployed. I personally am not going to accept that figure. In my opinion it is greater than that, but whether there be 31,000 or 20,000 or 60,000, the fact remains that the work of the King's Roll Grand Council has not accomplished what we would have liked it to have done.

There is no doubt that something like over 20,000 firms in this country are not on the King's Roll to-day. To my mind the only solution of this great problem is a compulsory Measure. Hon. Members who were in this House in 1923–24 will probably remember that I was fortunate enough to draw a place in the ballot for a Private Members' Bill. I introduced what was known as the Compulsory Employment of Disabled Service Men's Bill. It obtained a unanimous Second Reading. Unfortunately, before it had got further we were faced with a General Election, and the Bill died a natural death. It was reintroduced in the following year—that is last year—by the hon. Member for North Islington (Sir H. Cowan), but he, unfortunately, selected a date—not knowing at the time that the Government were going to give us an extra week's holiday—which included that date—with the result that, again, the Bill was never reached. In this Session we who are interested in this question have not been successful in the ballot, and others who might have re-introduced the Bill had, perhaps, other interests or other Bills, with the result that there is no compulsory Measure now before us.

Therefore, I am glad to support this Resolution. It is a step in the right direction. I do want to see something accomplished as a result of our discussion this evening. As I said before, it is no good passing pious resolutions and nothing more being accomplished. What we want to see is these men actually placed in work. It is a stain upon the fair name of this country that we have such a large number of disabled ex-service men unemployed in our midst. I would like to see this Resolution even go a little further. There are men who have sub-contracts for Government work. I hope the Minister will see that those who fix or let out the sub-contracts see to it that they are let to firms on the King's Roll. In regard to the public utility companies, corporations, and local authorities, if we could get them to adopt the same Measure that I hope the Government is going to adopt this evening, and insist that the goods they require shall be made by firms on the King's Roll whenever possible, that would help us considerably is absorbing a large number of disabled unemployed.

Every disabled man has a drawback. It does not matter what pension he is receiving. It cannot make up for the loss he has sustained. But when it comes to try to obtain a position, he suffers as a result of that disability. I remember quite well, after my discharge from the Army, that I was anxious to do what little I could for the interest of my country, and I offered my services to one of the Government Departments. I was accepted. After I had been there some time I was anxious to obtain another position not one that would benefit me financially but one in which I should probably he more interested. I was turned down by a, little whipper-snapper he had no military service, and who, no doubt had got into the "funk holes" of Whitehall to escape it. I was turned down, not because I lacked ability but because of my disability. The same thing applies to many men who are to-day seeking employment, and hide, or try to hide, their disability, or wear their discharge badges, at the back because they know that if they tell the prospective employer of labour that they are disabled ex-service men that their chance is not so great of getting that job as it would be if they were not disabled.

There must be over 20,000 firms that are not on the King's Roll. There are many ways in which a badly disabled ex-service man may be utilised. As one goes along and keeps ones eyes open, you see in the great concerns and establishments, that the jobs of lift-men and commissionaires are very often done by people who are not ex-service men, who, even if they have lost an eye or an arm, can quite easily do the work. It should be the duty of the King's Roll Grand Council to impress more than it has done the need for these firms realising their responsibilities to those who suffered for the country. The policy of the party to which I belong is one of "Peace in our time." The object, I believe of our leader is to make this country a better place to live in than now. I do not believe that we shall be able to accomplish these things until we have repaid the debt we owe to those men who have been broken as the result of their sacrifices for their country in the Great War. I support this Resolution. I hope that some good result will come from it, and that before we again have this hardy annual in the House of Commons we shall see to it that these figures are considerably reduced, and that the majority of these disabled men who are employable have been employed.


We all appreciate the very kindly speeches which have been made by hon. Members on the opposite side who have spoken to this Resolution. I am afraid, however, that the Resolution, if carried, is likely to be a pious hope. I feel that, generally speaking, Government contractors and public authorities have already done all that it is possible for them to do in this direction. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, we shall have to leave that a moot point. There may be some who have not signed the Roll—railway companies have been mentioned—but I do not know of a single railway company which has not only taken back its own employés who returned disabled and found them jobs suitable to their capacity, but has not also taken others who had no; previously served with it, and found them employment, although the company may not have signed the Roll. In most industries I have found that employers of labour have been prepared to take back their own employés who were disabled, but what they have not been prepared to do is to find, or to make, situations for those who had not previously worked for them, and that is necessary if all the ex-service men capable of performing any kind of labour are to be ultimately absorbed into industry and to become self-respecting citizens, and feel they are free from any taint of patronage or of charity.

Personally I do not see anything very baffling about the problem. If all the big firms would put some good will into the matter there is not one in any industry that could not make a, job for one of these men. I am quite satisfied that it would not be an uneconomic proposition for employers in the long run. In cases where a job has been made for a man it is my experience that he has proved ultimately that while he may be lame in his legs or his arms, he is not lame in his head; these men have qualified for other situations which the employer never dreamed they would be capable of filling. I know one man who had a job found for him, and as a result of the contentment he enjoyed by reason of the fact that he was employed he made such progress that he was able to take up his own trade again, with some little assistance.

In the north, however, I do not find that such concerns as colliery companies are taking the sympathetic attitude as was described by my colleague on my right. Very largely through bad trade, probably, we are finding that there are a great many disabled miners for whom the mining companies seem to have very little sympathy. It is quite obvious that a man who has lost a leg cannot go down a mine to hew coal, but he should be found another situation, and given training if necessary to fit him for such situation. If it is to be a case of compulsion, I would not hesitate about it at all. I should have no hesitation about compulsion, but I think it is unfair to compel Government contractors and local authorities and not to compel some very big firms who have taken up a totally irreconcilable attitude to this question.


If my hon. Friend will allow me, I would like to add a word on the point with which he has just dealt. Many hard things are said about colliery owners in this House, most of which they deserve, but I happened to be a member of a committee which, immediately after the War, had to deal with this problem of taking men back, and, speaking for West Yorkshire, I can say that every man was taken back into employment—every man, including two conscientious objectors, whom we finished up with. So far as our own district is concerned, those are the facts.


I do not think my hon. Friend was quite justified in interrupting my speech, because I said nothing with regard to West Yorkshire employers at all. I think it is pretty well known that I represent a Newcastle Division, where the type of employer, I regret to say, is not so generous as those described by either of my two hon. Friends on this side who have spoken. Only to-day I have written to the Ministry of Labour calling attention to a miner who has lost his leg, who has been demobilised all this time, and who appeals very pathetically either for employment or training to fit him for some job where he can get his living independent of charity. I feel all ought to be compelled, and then there would be no need to "boost" those who have done what was a plain, straight duty to their fellows.

Whether they have been disabled in war or in industry, they ought not to be thrown on the scrap heap when they have rendered service to the community, and I feel we might make the Motion a little wider and set forth that it is the bounden duty of all employers to find employment for ex-service men who can render service. An employer has no right to expect he can make profit out of the labour of one of these men right away, particularly if the man has not been in the industry before. But I am satisfied that with patience and good feeling they can ultimately become of such value that, possibly, their patriotism may find a reward in some other direction. In every case where an ex-service man is found begging it ought to be the duty of every citizen to make inquiries and see that he is provided for in some other way. It is a disgrace to see men without arms or legs, or otherwise disabled, begging in our streets. Nothing we can say is too strong for those who have avoided their responsibilities in this connection. No doubt many of them would not now have had their businesses but for the sacrifices and the disabilities of these men. I support the Resolution, and think it hardly goes far enough to secure the result which the hon. Members who submit it desire.


I would like very briefly to support this Motion, because if it be carried I think it will give a great stimulus to the employment of ex-service men throughout the country. By passing it the House will not merely lend its authority to an existing practice which has achieved considerable result, but it will also be setting the best of all examples to local authorities and to public utility companies. I do not think it is an unfair request that we should give to the King's Roll the assistance of which it stands in need. As a member of the National Council it is not for me to sing its praises and thanks to the efforts of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Lieut.-Colonel Henderson) they have achieved a lot. As one who on general grounds has always been opposed to the principle of compulsion in this matter, I can say that the council has done all it could to help these men.

Nevertheless there are still 21,000 disabled men out of employment, and I think that is a standing reproach, which cannot be ignored. If the National Council is to maintain the voluntary principle, and I think we all agree that that is desirable, it must use every reasonable inducement to carry out its aims. I think the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir H. Cunliffe) has done a real public service by raising this question to-night. I do not agree that this Resolution may prove to be merely a pious opinion. Where there has been laxity on the part of employers in giving employment to these sufferers, I believe it has been more due to carelessness on their part than to any want of sympathy for these men. Therefore, I hope that this timely reminder that the hon. and learned Member for Bolton has moved will not only receive the support of this House but will also be supported all over the country as it deserves.


I want to say to those Labour Members who are supporting this Motion that it seems peculiar that, if they are committed to a peace policy—and most of them have advocated that men ought not to take part in war—it is somewhat strange that we are now to be told that those who took part in the War are to get preferential treatment, and this in face of the fact that many of us advocated that we ought not to go to war, and now many people are being penalised for taking their advice. The period of the War is now ended, so far as war service is concerned, and from that time every man is entitled, whether he was wounded or not, to fair and impartial treatment. Whether the undertaking of the War was right or wrong, if men were injured in it, it is the solemn duty of the nation to compensate every man for the injuries he has received. These men, having come back into civil life and having received their pensions for the War period, the matter is ended, and those men should only afterwards have equal rights with other men.

10.0 P.M.

I am told that these disabled ex-service men should have a preference, but I wonder why. I went to the Glasgow Carporation, which is on the King's Roll, in regard to one of my constituents. His father served four years in the War, but he is now dead. The man I applied to the Glasgow Corporation about lost his leg in saving the life of a child in a street accident, but he his got no compensation, and when I appealed to the Glasgow Corporation on his behalf for employment they refused to give him work which he was quite fitted to do simply because he was not an ex-service man. Am I to be told now that a man who saves a life in this way is not to be treated as well as a man who receives an injury in the War. This man was told by the corporation that he was not an ex-service man, and as the corporation desired to be honest to the King's Roll people, they could not employ him, and they gave the job to an ex-service man, although the man who got the job had a pension. An hon. Member told us that on looking into scone of the great stores in London he had observed men doing work which could very well be done by ex-service men who suffered from some disability. I quite agree with that contention, but it is not the function of the House of Commons to displace other men in order to employ ex-service men, and our function is to find work for everybody without displacing others. This House ought to apply itself to the problem not of placing some men in work and displacing others, but it is our duty to get these men work without displacing those already in employment in my own native city of Glasgow the corporation is a large employer of labour, and they frequently have to employ night watchmen and other similar employés, and these are jobs suitable for a man who is disabled in some way or other. A man may be minus an arm or a leg, but nevertheless he is quite able to carry out the duties connected with jobs of that kind.

I go to the Glasgow Corporation and I find applying for such jobs perhaps a young man who has been in the Army and lost a leg or an arm, and who is in receipt of a pension. Another applicant for the same job may be a man of 60 years of age, too old in most cases, according to the regulations of the Minister of Labour, to get unemployment benefit, and after he has drawn his standard benefit he is not always considered fit for his ordinary work, and he cannot get benefit. Besides this he is too young for an old age pension. This man of 60 makes an application because being beyond the usual age he cannot do his former work. He makes an application to the Glasgow Corporation and proves that he has been 40 years a ratepayer. And yet a young man probably 30 years his junior comes forward who has a pension and he gets the job and the King's Roll Committee say to the older applicant, "You have never been in the Army, your sons may have been in the Army and been killed but we must refuse you employment.

From the point of view of a Socialist, I object to praising up men merely because of their military service. I also say that some of the men who were employed during the War in the City of Glasgow were much more useful performing their daily function at home. Many of these skilled workers were employed at home at the request of the Government. I had myself a brother-in-law who was brought back home after joining the Army on four occasions, and he was put back to his work and told not to join again, and these cases are very common. Why should these men have to take second place to ex-service men totally object to it and I will fight with all my might against the principle of separating the population into ex-service men and non-service men. Each man during that time performed what he thought was a useful contribution towards the nation's needs. Having passed that period, think it is the duty of this nation to compensate those who were injured in the War extremely well, but it is not the purpose of the Government to carry it beyond that.

I have always felt that if you are going to do it compulsion will be the only method. Take, for instance, what happened when I knew this Motion was coming on. I made some local inquiries. The local King's Roll is almost a farce. The method is that they have got to see that employers are maintaining the 5 per cent. You have no officials. The Glasgow King's Roll Committee do not employ one official to go and see that the numbers are maintained. Take the jute company. I do not want here in the House to attack a company, but if hon. Members question it I will give the name. They put in as having the full number. Nobody knows, and suddenly one day a man puts in for a job but does not get it, and then, not because they are right or wrong, but because of spite he informs the committee and they find they have never had the number required. You have no finances in order to inquire, and all that happens is that firms say what they are doing and you have got to accept their word practically, because you have not any means in Glasgow of employing people in any way to check the figures.

Let me put this final point. I think this is going to affect the working people already employed very seriously. If you compel a firm to employ its 5 per cent., say in the case of a firm with 20 men, then below 20 men it does not need to employ a disabled man, but when it becomes 21 then it ought to employ a man. What does a firm do? It does not want to employ this man, or else it would have done it when it numbered 19. What happens is that, instead of starting two or three men to get a job through, it starts to work the men already employed overtime in order to get the output raised. Apart from the King's Roll Committee making no efforts to solve the problem of unemployment, the Committee will tend possibly to make the problem even more extreme than it is To give an illustration, I worked right up until I came into this House. In the place where I worked the employer was not a bad man at all. He had a staff of 35 and 36 men, and was on the Roll. Work came in which made the firm extremely busy. About 20 men had to be started, and if he had increased his staff, it would have meant increasing his number of disabled ex-service men. What he did was to work us a considerable amount of overtime in order to keep the number down, and so not to start the ex-service men.

Far from helping the problem, all that did was to make worse the problem not only of the ex-service disabled man but also the problem of the ex-service man who was not disabled at all. There is the problem. Why should we start to dismiss men. Some of them have brothers and fathers, and it is awful here in this world to state exactly who and which person makes the greatest sacrifice. I am against this principle, and I say it is bad and unsound. If the Minister a Labour is serious, he can start in his Department better than anybody. I inquired not later than Friday last week if the Minister of Labour in his unemployment Regulations gives the disabled ex-service men much preference in regard to unemployment benefit. He does not give them very much. He does not give the ex-service men who are not disabled any preference. In those cases they are treated on all fours like every other person. If he is serious and in favour of this Resolution let him start with his own Regulations regarding unemployment benefit. To me it is wrong in this way to get cheap popularity. This King's Roll has never functioned. It is a cheap way of getting popularity on a subject which I do not think ought to be the means of getting it and for my part I will always be opposed to any separation of the population in this way.


I am very glad to have the opportunity to speak again on a subject which I think has been described as a hardy annual, but which has a personal interest for me because by good fortune I had the opportunity of introducing a Resolution last year calling attention to the position of disabled ex-service men and the King's Roll. The Resoluticn I moved on that occasion had a much wider application than the Resolution now before the House, but I think it was a wise plan that the Resolution this evening should have been narrowed down to deal with this specific proposition. I do not think it is necessary to enter into the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), which might also be described as a hardy annual, because I had a very clear recollection of the same somewhat rambling and irrelevant ideas being detailed at great length to the House on a previous occasion.


Try to be as offensive as possible.


I am trying to be as little offensive as possible. Last year, the House unanimously passed the Resolution which was before it then and, I think, in spite of these arguments, it will carry the Resolution unanimously to-night. In the last Debate the King's Rod played a prominent part and, if I might turn to what the Minister of Labour said on that occasion, I should like to quote one passage. He said: The preference that is given in contracts to those who are on the King's Roll is a very real preference, as everybody knows who is a tenderer for any contract for the Government. It means that where there is equality in price and in the quality of she product, without question the contract goes to the firm that is on the King's Roll, and in cases where things are much of a muchness the fact that a firm is on the King's Roll is taken into a-count and weight is given to it. That rule is absolutely applied to all contracts for the Government, with the exception of the few in Which a perfectly special subject matter is involved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1925; col. 1041, Vol. 180.] I think the last phrase, about "perfectly special subject-matter," answers the objection that was made by an hon. Member in the course of this Debate. I shoeld like to state the position in my own constituency with regard to this matter. Firms on the Roll in Norwich number 139, and employ 1,535 disabled ex-service men. Firms not on the Roll who have more than 25 employés number 40, so that, roughly speaking, 140 are on the Roll out of 180, which gives what I think the House will consider to be the fairly high proportion of 77 per cent. on the Roll. I should be interested to hear how other areas compare, with that, and one would like, if possible, to stimulate some form of competition between different areas in seeing how quickly they can wipe off what is practically a debit standing against them of 31,000 disabled ex-service men. The firms on the Roll in my constituency include the tramway company, the gas company, the corporation electricity works, the county council, and the engineer's department of Norwich Corporation. Unfortunately, however, none of these have found it practicable to restrict their contracts to firms on the Roll.

In the Debate last year, my right hon. Friend urged Members of the House to go back to their constituencies and do what they could to bring this matter home to the firms in their own areas, and not very long ago my right hon. Friend himself issued in the public Press an eloquent appeal to retail traders. Endeavouring to follow in his footsteps, I made an appeal in my local Press not long afterwards but, if I may be allowed to give the House the benefit of my brief experience in the matter, I found that I had not timed my appeal very happily, for it was just about the period in the New Year when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is accustomed to issue his more peremptory demands, so that the seed I sowed fell upon land that was not so much barren of sympathy as denuded of cash. Really, the bulk of the work of the King's Roll has been done, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Lieut.-Colonel Henderson) explained, we have a very powerful weapon in the method that was exhibited last Session of dealing with public utility corn-panics and corporations that come before this House asking for special powers. If those companies are not on the Roll, or decline to go on the Roll, this House has the very great power of being able to throw out their Bills. It exercised that right last Session, and is, I believe, prepared to exercise it again. In conclusion, I would express the hope that this Resolution will be carried with the same unanimous enthusiasm with which the House carried the previous Resolution, and that this time we shall get an effective solution and clear off this outstanding debt against us of 31,000 disabled ex-service men.


I understood the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) to say that no good could come out of the efforts of the King's Roll Committees. So far as my experience is concerned, speaking as a member of the Westminster King's Roll Committee, I think the exact reverse is the case. That committee was set up at the suggestion of the then Minister of Labour in 1923, and few firms or companies were then on the King's Roll. Thanks to the efforts of the committee—a committee composed of representatives of the City Council, of the local war pensions committee, of the employment committee, of the Ministry of Labour, and of leading firms in the City of Westminster—a large number of firms in the City enrolled, and I know that the efforts that have been made-by the Westminster Committee have undoubtedly borne fruit.

That committee has made a special point of endeavouring to get enrolments from among the Royal Warrant holders in particular, the leading West End clubs, and the hotels in the City. So far as the Warrant Holders are concerned, I think that on the whole the result has been satisfactory, but still there are a considerable number of Warrant Holders who are not on the Roll, and some of them might, I think, see their way to put down their names. I know there is a little difficulty in the case of these Warrant Holders, for a number of them carry on special trades, such as those of picture dealers and dealers in antique furniture and china, and it is difficult to see how those particular traders could find employment for disabled ex-service men. But still there is yet a number of them who, I think, ought to be on the Roll and I shall hope that the publicity of this Debate will have the desired result and that we shall see an augmentation of the number. After all they are a privileged class. They have a great advantage over the other traders in the West End as they are distinguished by the fact that they hold the Royal Warrant, and I suggest that such of them as have not acceded to the appeal of the local committee ought to bear in mind the fact that they are a privileged class and do their duty and become members of the Roll.

As regards the clubs, I cannot say the Committee has been altogether successful, and when it comes to the hotels, I am bound to confess that, to all intents and purposes, the Committee has been unsuccessful: For some reason or another the proprietors and the large companies controlling hotels have not done their duty to the ex-service men Personal visits have been made by members of the Westmister King's Roll Committee to various hotels, and, as a rule, the answer given to the appeals has been that the hotels require physically fit men. But that is not altogether correct. We know that a lift-man is not necessarily a fit man. A man who has lost an arm or an eye is capable of working an electric lift, and I should hope to-night's publicity will result in the hotels seeing their way to come in and enrol. There are unfortunately in the West End a number of hotels employing a considerable number of foreigners. I am not going to say that is altogether wrong. I am not going to say there is any obligation on a hotel proprietor or a company running a hotel to have his staff wholly and solely composed of English employés, but I think there should be a reasonable proportion of Englishmen on the staff. It is not enough for the proprietors to say they derive custom from foreigners who come to London, because after all those who use the London hotels arc, to a considerable extent, English people, and English people are entitled to have an English staff to wait upon them. I should hope that, with the publicity we have had to-night, those people who have held back because they do not wish to get rid of some of the foreigners in their employ will do their duty and come upon the Roll, and so give employment to these ex-service, men.

Then in Westminster we have done more than make a personal appeal to the various utility companies, firms and clubs, because we have set up a King's Roll Clerks Association for the purpose of giving work to a number of men so physically disabled that they find it impossible to obtain any work in the ordinary sense. That association was formed in the shape of a small private limited liability company on Armistice day last year. It was formed, thanks to assistance from the Minister of Labour, who gave a grant of £250, and to a grant of £100 from the British Legion. With the aid of that money—a small sum, unfortunately, only £350—a small business has been started in the basement of Abbey House, Victoria Street, and there to-day will be found engaged 16 men who are doing clerical work in addressing envelopes and circulars. This is a business which if publicity could be obtained could be materially increased, but, unfortunately the funds at the disposal of the association are too small to allow of any publicity in the form of advertisement. I hope the Minister of Labour will see his way, even though to-day we hear talk of necessary economies, to find a further small sum for the benefit of that Association. I hope further that throughout the country the example of Westminster in forming that Association will be followed, and that there will be other small companies formed for the express purpose of enabling disabled men who are unable to obtain physical work, to carry out clerical work and so obtain a reasonable living by way of augmentation of the small pensions they receive.


It is a great pleasure to me to have this opportunity of supporting the Resolution. The very first duty of our country is to these men who have been disabled in the War. We should look forward to giving them the fullest opportunity of useful life and happiness for the rest of their days. I look on this matter as one largely of a national character, and for that reason I think the Government and local authorities and all public bodies should give a very strong lead in supporting the King's Roll. I am not speaking alone of the five per cent. proportion which the King's Roll prescribes.

I hope the Government and the local authorities will set a particularly good axample, not only for the sake of encouraging others but also because it is only in that way, through the instrumentality of these bodies, that the general public can be given the privilege of participating in any burden which this may happen to entail. The Resolution is of a very moderate character. We are only asking that the Government should be put in the same position as any other customer when it has business to give out. Any other customer going into the market with a contract to place, particularly if it is in a big public undertaking, is in a position to name its own term; to a very large extent. The Government would be asking nothing unreasonable in asking for themselves the same privilege.

There is one further point to which I will draw attention, and that is the qualification for enrolment. It has been stated that the general principle was a 5 per cent. qualification. That is to say, that each firm above a certain size should employ five disabled men for every 100 in its employment. That is a qualification of a purely mathematical kind and, like all mathematical calculations, it does not quite fit in with real practical life. A more true test would be to vary the proportion according to the capacity of the works for employing disabled people and according to the quality of the burden that would be placed upon the industry when it employs these disabled men. There are a large number of industries, for instance, shipbuilding and collieries, where there are only a limited number, a small proportion, of jobs that are suitable for disabled men. Indeed, to introduce disabled men into many of the jobs in such industries would only be to cause accidents. They are unsuited for the work. We have to remember, too, that these jobs are still further reduced in number by the fact that in these industries the number of aceidente in the normal course is rather high, and that the particular jobs which are suitable for disabled men are, by the practice of the trade, very largely reserved, and I think quite reasonably reserved, for men who have grown old in the service of the company or men who have already suffered injury in its service. It, therefore, seems to follow that in certain industries there is a very small proportion of places available for disabled men.

Another thing that we have to consider is the burden upon industry, a burden which, be it great or small, is not entirely negligible. Here, again, we can very well urge that the percentage to qualify for the King's Roll may be varied in various industries. In recent times we have often heard of the distinction drawn between sheltered and unsheltered trades. It is a very important and well-founded distinction. It is applicable in these cases. If we look around some of our bigger industries, for instance, iron and steel—coal, after all, depends entirely upon the prosperity or otherwise of the iron and steel industry—and the allied trades, shipbuilding and heavy engineering, and so on, and if we take a batch of trades like those, exposed to the full blast of foreign competition, burdened with a great struggle to compete in the world's markets, and burdened additionally by an ever-growing pressure of rates, the application of the argument is apparent.

I would remind hon. Members opposite that when they succeed in the ballot they bring forward Motions on necessitous areas, and they, at any rate, will agree with me that it is in those districts, the iron and steel and coal districts, where the necessitous areas have arisen, and that it has arisen because those trades are depressed and, consequently, rating values are down and rating quotas are up. Unemployment, too, puts an extra strain on local authorities. Then, of course, those very same industries suffer the chief brunt of such additional burdens upon industry as widows' pensions and the new scheme of old age pensions. These fall with the greatest force upon that class of industries, because it is the class which, on the whole, employs the greatest number of people.

I suggest to those who are in charge of the King's Roll that they should revise their schedules of requirements according to industries, relieving those that are necessarily in great difficulty in approaching the 5 per cent. basis, and, if necessary, increasing the percentage and the burden upon the sheltered industries, which are not so subject to the competition and the conditions which I have suggested. I am well aware that in practice some little concessions have been made, but possibly those concessions are not fully known, and I feel that along the lines of my suggestion—more or less of a sliding scale—some help might be given in bringing new recruits to the King's Roll, and stopping also a certain number of the disqualifications which are due to the difficulties which certain trades have in maintaining their position. I throw out that suggestion in a friendly spirit, my intention and wish being to give every support to the King's Roll.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)

There are very few words that need be said on behalf of the Government with regard to this Motion. The chief thing I would ask the House to do is heartily to endorse it, and to give their decision, if they will, unanimously in favour of it. I quite agree it is not a revolutionary Motion by any manner of means. It expresses what is in fact the existing practice of the Government, but it also does two things. It gives that practice the quite deliberate endorsement of the House—if it is carries I—and not: only so, but states that policy in a clear and definite and easily imitable form so that it may be made, a standard for local authorities and other bodies to follow. That is the great virtue of it, and that is one of the reasons why I commend it to the House. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) befriended the Motion as I knew he would. Anyone who knows the hon. Member's own record in the past might be quite sure that he would do so, and indeed for him the Motion was not enough. He wanted something more drastic, or as he put it, more watertight. He objected to the phrase "save in exceptional circumstances" I can tell him that if only it were possible, I would be glad to omit that phrase am with him in wishing to make the Motion as watertight as it can be made, but there are some reasons which make it necessary to give some power of exception. You may have a business which is too small, or a business which is making a patent article which you cannot do without, or to take another case, it is just conceivable that other businesses which were making the same article, if the number were few, might try to hold up the Government or the local authority which followed our example, in the matter of price. For those reasons it is wise to have a carefully guarded power of exception, though speaking for the Government, I can say it will be used in the strictest possible way, and I hope it will be used in the strictest possible way by any local authority which may follow the Government's example.

The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Pielou) wanted to know whether the example could be followed up and what would happen in the matter of sub-contracts in connection with Government contracts. As regards the last point, I can reassure him at once. No Government contractor has the power to subcontract without the leave of the Government, and in such cases the Government will take care to see that in sub-contracts as in main contracts the same principle is observed. I agree with him as to his other point. The real question is not merely how far we shall be clear and deliberate as to the Government practice. It is a question of how far we shall follow up that policy in order to get direct results from it. In this House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) whose views I know quite well, there hai been nothing but general agreement on the principle. It remains to be seen what we do as individual Members in this House afterwards by our action and our example, and also what the local authorities may do. I have listened to the speeches that have been made, and I only hope that we may enlist the help of those who made the speeches and all the others who may agree with the Motion in seeing that the example of this Resolution, if passed, is imitated by others. There is one Member of this House, if he will permit me to refer to him, who really has been constant in this work, day in and day out, week in and week out, on behalf of the disabled ex-service men, and that is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Lieut.-Colonel Henderson). He has levoted his time and his trouble consistently for their welfare, and I say quite definitely that that has been the case with the majority of the King's Roll committees with which I personally have been familiar, and I know of some work that has been done in Glasgow which I think, if the hon. Member for Gorbals was aware of it would have perhaps caused him to revise the opinion I understood him to give.


I did not want to cast any reflections, but I meant that, apart from the energy of the Committee, the Committee had no way of officially inquiring to see whether employers did right or wrong.


I will deal with that later. May I say here publicly, what I have said to individual King's Roll Committees when I have met them, and amongst others to that of which the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Palin) was chairman, and that is that I would like to express, on behalf of the Government, our obligations for the work that they have done and are doing. It is easy for us on one evening in the year to get up and express approval of work done on behalf of ex-service men, but it is a different thing for the men who have continued to do that work without any searchlight being thrown on their endeavours, month in and month out, for several years past. But that does mean—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Stourbridge—that if we, as Members of this House, are really in earnest in support, of this Resolution, we have to use our endeavours with local authorities and other bodies in every case that we can to see that they act similarly. In so far as they have either not joined the King's Roll themselves when they naturally could have been expected to do so, or are unwilling to adopt a similar policy with regard to the contracts that they issue, we should see what influence we can use individually in order to persuade them to follow the same practice.

Perhaps it would be wise for one moment to bring back the problem to its real perspective. It is not a great one in size, in reality. The numbers are much less now than they have been, not merely because, as my hon. and gallant Friend behind me said, in process of time the number of men to be dealt with grows less, but because actually in the past year there has been a real improvement in the Dumber of disabled ex-service men taken into employment. It is not a big number—31,000; 18,000 of those are really fitted for their own trade, and it is the balance, the "B" men, 11,000 in number, and a very small number, under 1,000, of "C" men, who are the real difficulty. It is not, as I say, a big problem. In its nature, I quite agree, it is different, because insofar as men remain unemployed, it is an aspersion on the national honour. But even if the size of the problem is not, great, it is not right that some firms only should bear the burden, leaving the rest of it either not shouldered at all, or leaving the good firms an undue proportion amongst themselves. My own belief is that a very large number of the firms who are not on the King's Roll at this moment are so more from ignorance in many cases than from want of good-will.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle and I did a certain amount of campaigning last year, in order to bring the need to the notice of certain trade associations, and I really believe that, once the need is brought home, it will find a response with a great many, at any rate, of those who are not at present qualified to be on the Roll. I have a feeling that in the City of London there is quite a large number of firms who, if it were brought home to them, would do their duty in this respect, who simply have not thought of it properly up to the present time. Moreover, the burden is not so great as it appears at first sight. I can well imagine that a firm, if it were hard put to it in days of depression and severe competition, might be inclined to say, "You are asking us to shoulder yet another addition to our costs when we can hardly meet our expenses as it is." As a matter of fact, the addition to costs is largely overstated, and the apprehension is greater than it ought to be.

I was extraordinarily struck by the fact that a 50 per cent. disability, as judged in the matter of War pensions, might have a very different effect according to the kind of industry in which the man who suffered that disability was engaged. In going through the Lord Roberts workshops, I would not have noticed, had I not been aware of the fact beforehand, that the men were disabled to the extent they were. You would hardly have imagined that, except for some 18 or 20 able-bodied men as instructors and helpers, the whole of the rest, about 170 or 180, were disabled to the extent they were. It is true that here and there a man would not be able to do a great deal of useful work, but in very many cases a man who had got a 50 per cent. disability, judged on the basis of the War pension, would be 100 per cent. disabled for one job, but perfectly fit for another. I remember seeing a man, by trade an electrician, who was likely to make a first-class worker in lacquer work. I remember, again, seeing a man with only one arm and an iron adaptation on the other, doing woodworking with machinery as well as many fit men would do it. Just for that reason I do not think the burden on costs is as great as many people really think it is. That, I think, is one of the answers to the contention of the hon. Member for Abertillery that a pension ought to be judged, not as a War pension but as an industrial pension. I do not think it could be done fairly, and, what is more, I would only ask him to remember that when that proposal was made—I think in 1918—it was opposed and I think rightly opposed, in their own interests by the disabled ex-service men themselves.

There is I think no reason to take up time further except to reply in one brief word to the objection on general, principles of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). If there are two duties which are incubent on men, to emphasise one duty does not mean that the other should be neglected. It may quite well be that the community may have a duty towards men injured in civil employment. It does not detract from any obligations in that respect to recognise that it has a special obligation to the class with which we are dealing to-night. I can only say regarding the hon. Member's other arguments that, if he wishes to detract from any authority I might have speaking as Minister of Labour, we employ 60 per cent. of our staff as ex-service men, and as to disabled men we make a, special exception in their case in the Regulations. We ask members of the King's Roll Committee to go on Rota Committees to see that special consideration is given to the fact of their disablement. I will trouble the House no longer except to say that I commend this Resolution to their attention. I hope they will pass it. I would impress upon them this, To pass it to-night is one thing, but the help of all of them individually to have it followed up so as to have a substantial effect, is the proof of real intention to help which should lie behind our assent to the Resolution.


I hope with the Minister that the House will not only pass the Resolution but that every Member will do his level best to see it carried out in the letter and spirit. There is nothing worse than a man severely injured being left to brood on his injuries, and work that could be provided for him is not only a great relief to him financially but it is a greater relief to him morally and from that standpoint alone I hope the House will be not only willing but enthusiastic in seeing that the Resolution is carried out. Is it too much to ask employers, whose property after all was saved very largely by these men, to do their level best to see that the men get really sympathetic treatment, not as a charity but as an absolute right; and is it too much to ask that in the giving out of Government contracts those employers who are trying their best should be helped and assisted in their work by favour being shown to them, if the case demands that favour? There may be cases that may arise in which it is absolutely impossible to carry out the Resolution but those cases would be very few and far between. I add my opinion to the opinion of the Minister of Labour not only that the House should pass the Resolution but that all of us individually and collectively should do our level best to see it carried out in the letter and in the spirit.


To the credit of the mineowners this can be said that at least they took back after the War all their former employés. There has been some suggestion made, with which I agree, that there might be a relaxation of boards of guardians rules in some instances; in the case of men who have been severely injured. I also want to say, in respect to the co-operative movement, that they have received back men who were injured in the War. We are glad of what has been done, and I can assure the Minister of Labour that whatever we on these benches can do we will be glad to do to bring about the purpose of the Resolution.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government in all Government contracts to make provision for the employment to the fullest possible extent of disabled ex-service men, and to this end to confine such contracts, save in exceptional circumstances, to employers enrolled on the King's National Roll.