HC Deb 13 February 1934 vol 285 cc1811-3

5.55 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 23, line 16, after "officers," to insert on the retired or emergency lists of the Royal Navy or Royal Marines, to officers. This Amendment and the other Amendments to this Clause standing in my name are all purely drafting Amendments, and do not in any way alter the substance of the Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

Motion made, and Question proposed, 'That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

5.57 p.m.


I wish to raise one point with the Minister. First, I take it that the ordinary serving soldier of five years' standing will get the extra benefit. The second point is one that has attracted considerable attention. I did not put down an Amendment, because I could not see how to introduce it here, but the point is one of substance. Ordinarily a soldier gets his benefit on discharge, but if he is discharged for bad conduct he is treated differently from any other man who is discharged for bad conduct. A civilian discharged from employment for bad conduct certainly has a definite penalty placed on him, but a soldier discharged, for any reason which the Army deems sufficient, cannot qualify for benefit until he qualifies anew as a contributor, and I submit that that is far too harsh a penalty. There ought to be some way of limiting the penalty which is imposed upon the soldier. He is discharged for some reason which the Army thinks sufficient, and he has no right of appeal. I think every man ought to have some court of appeal open to him; I regard that as elementary justice.

Take the case of a man who served for 10 years in the Army, and was then discharged for what appeared to the Army authorities to be good and sufficient reasons; although his misconduct might have appeared serious to those authorities, I do not think it sufficient to disqualify him for benefit and to take away all the rights that he built up during his service. While he might be liable to punishment, some of the punishment inflicted upon him is altogether too severe. I ask the Minister to consider, between now and the Report stage, whether a board might not be set up to which the soldier could appeal, in order that his punishment in regard to insurance benefit might be limited. The position at the present moment is that, although a man may have 10 year' service as a soldier to his credit, before he can get benefit he has to start in unemployment insurance as though he had no service at all, and to qualify anew. That is most unfair. It is not what is done in the case of a criminal in civil life; such a person retains his right to benefit as an insured contributor, and I do not think that a soldier who may have committed some criminal act during his service should be treated differently from a man who has committed an offence in civil life.


The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has made his point very clear. I will consult the Service Departments about it. Quite clearly I cannot give an answer now, because the question is a technical one, and affects the Service Departments rather than myself.


Will the Minister take into consideration the other case in which a man qualified for benefit before he joined the Army and has committed an offence? Will he be debarred from benefit if he is discharged from the Army for some very serious offence?


I really could not answer that question now, but I will consider it when I am dealing with the other point in the question of the hon. Member for Gorbals. I could not give an answer now.

Clause 26 (Extension of principal Act to short service constables of the Metropolitan Police Force) ordered to stand part of the Bill.