HC Deb 29 February 1928 vol 214 cc422-4

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make the employment of disabled ex-service men compulsory. This is the same Measure, with few modifications, as that first introduced in May, 1924, by our late colleague, the then hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Pielou), and which I brought before the House last April. On each of those two occasions the House gave a Second Reading without a Division, which shows at least that the principle embodied in the Bill has the support of all parties, but it failed to reach the Statute Book through pressure of other business. As time goes on, and we get further away from the Great War, there is a natural tendency to forget those who were disabled in fighting for their country, but the need for finding work for these men is, if anything, more urgent. There are patriotic employers all over the country who have responded to the call and are employing the disabled, but there are, unfortunately, many firms and local authorities who are not bearing their share of the burden, and it is those who have so far neglected a common duty who will be "roped in" under the Bill. If the burden was shared equally among all employers it would be but a very small quota that each firm or local authority would have to employ. It has been said there is a danger that if this Bill becomes law it will nullify the work of the King's Roll Committee, but I can assure the House there is no ground for fear in this respect.

This Bill will supplement the excellent work which the King's Roll Committee has accomplished. It will merely bring pressure to bear on those who have hitherto failed in their duty, while it will not affect adversely the patriotic employer. In the Division I represent there are a large number of the disabled who are still unemployed. I know them and meet them regularly and do what I can for them, knowing their conditions, and while it may be said that they are receiving pensions for their disabilities, and that the country shows its gratitude to the ex-service men who need help in no uncertain manner by the wonderful response on Poppy Day, it must be remembered that, after all, what these men want is occupation, which is the only thing that brings happiness and contentment, for time hangs heavily on those who have nothing to do. The recent loss the country has sustained by the untimely death of the honoured president of the British Legion, Earl Haig, is an added argument in favour of the Bill, for it is well known that during the last eight years of his life he was continually advocating the cause of the ex-service men who fought under him and constantly appealing to employers to find work for them. The House could not pay a more fitting tribute to his memory than by giving this Bill their unanimous support.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Smedley Crooke, Lieut.-Colonel AclandTroyte, Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan, Mr. Ernest Brown, Mr. Dixey, Colonel England, Mr. Womersley, Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy, and Lieut.-Colonel Gadie.