HC Deb 27 November 1928 vol 223 cc238-40

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 third time that I have asked the leave of the House to bring in this Measure, and may I also remind the House that this Bill obtained a Second Reading after full discussion, without a Division, as far back as May, 1921? In effect, the provisions of the Bill are not drastic. They merely compel employers of labour, whether manual or otherwise, to take their quota of disabled ex-service men the same as those who are registered on the King's National Roll. If every employer in the country took his share, the quota would be very small indeed. I hesitated to put down this Motion on the Order Paper to see if the result of this year's Poppy Day collection indicated whether the country's interest in the work of the British Legion on behalf of the ex-service men was on the wane or otherwise. The result, as far as can be ascertained, shows that the nation is determined, as it always has been, to fulfil its obligations to those who served their country in its hour of danger. While the enormous sum of money collected on Poppy Day is of great value, what is also needed is employment to be found for the disabled ex-service men. There is nothing like work to bring happiness, as time hangs heavily on those who have nothing to do. I realise that this House is not carried away by sentiment, or it would be easy to refer to the unspoken vow made by most of us when standing before the war memorials on Armistice Day—"To honour the dead, by caring for the living"—but I would suggest that we can show our practical interest in the ex-service men by supporting this Measure, which will benefit the disabled.

I have appreciated the objections which have been raised hitherto by those hon. Members who are on the King's National Roll Committee, and I have endeavoured to meet them by inserting a new Clause in the Bill which exempts from the provisions of the Bill all employers who are on the King's Roll and who are taking their quota of disabled ex-service men. I hope, therefore, that I shall have support from the members of the King's Roll Committee this time, and that they will join with other hon. Members in passing the Bill into law. It may interest the House to know that since our last Session the French nation has passed a Bill on similar lines, and that the Minister of Labour in the French Government has issued a warning in these words: The Minister of Labour reminds employers of the obligations which they will have to meet. I have received an enormous number of letters from disabled men all over the country, urging me to make another attempt with this Bill. With the permission of the House I will read one sentence from one of these letters: There are many of us here who can be seen daily at factory gates and the Employment Exchange, and nothing has yet been done to force those to whom the results of the War meant most, to employ us. At the various conferences of the British Legion throughout the country, resolutions in support of this Bill have been passed. Quite recently, at the annual conference of the British Legion in Scotland, a resolution was passed—a copy of which I believe has been sent to every Member—in these words: This Conference welcomes the introduction into Parliament of a Bill to provide for the compulsory employment of disabled ex-service men, and respectfully requests all Members of Parliament to give it their cordial support. I think this Bill might quite fairly he classed as non-controversial, and should, therefore, come within the ambit of the Prime Minister's promise, which he made when he announced the Government's intention of taking up private Members' time. As the Bill is backed by Members of all parties, I sincerely hope that facilities may be given by the Government to enable us to get the Bill through this Session.

Question put, and agreed to.

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