§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
By way of explanation of the need for the Bill I cannot do better than recall the words used by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he announced, on 26th April, its prospective introduction. He said:His Majesty's Government have recently given fresh consideration to the procedure applicable to measures which they might consider necessary to put the country into a complete state of preparedness for defence. The result of their investigation shows that the present procedure for the mobilisation of the forces is antiquated in character and quite unsuited to modern conditions, based as it is upon the hypothesis that war could only come after such a period of warning as would give time to change from a peace to a war footing.Broadly speaking, under present procedure mobilisation, whether complete or partial, can only take place after the issue of a proclamation, which is different in the case of each Service, declaring that a state of emergency exists. The issue of such proclamations was, no doubt, originally contemplated as taking place when the outbreak of war appeared imminent. But in present times war may not appear imminent, and yet the general conditions may be so uncertain that it is desirable to take certain precautions without the publicity and the shock to public confidence which would be caused by the issue of proclamations. Accordingly, the Government have decided at once to introduce a Bill entitled the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Bill which will simplify the procedure and enable His Majesty by Order in Council to authorise the various Service Departments to call up any class or description of Reserve and Auxiliary Forces."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April 1930; cols. 1150–1, Vol. 346.]No, exception, I think, is taken to our proposals in any part of the House, and the Opposition, I understand, like everyone else, regard them as "merely a matter of introducing more effective machinery." The existing law on the subject of calling out the Reserves is contained in the Reserve Forces Act of 1882, and the relevant Sections are 12 and 13. These provide:XII.—(1) In case of imminent national danger or of great emergency, it shall be law- 326 ful for Her Majesty in Council by proclamation, the occasion being first communicated to Parliament, if Parliament be then sitting, or declared in council and notified by the proclamation, if Parliament be not then, sitting, to order that the army reserve… shall be called out on permanent service.(2) It shall be lawful for Her Majesty by any such proclamation to order a Secretary of State from time to time to give, and when given to revoke or vary, such directions as may seem necessary or proper for calling out the forces or force mentioned in the proclamation, or all or any of the men belonging thereto.(3) Every such proclamation and the directions given in pursuance thereof shall be obeyed as if enacted in this Act, and every man for the time being called out by such directions shall attend at the place and time fixed by those directions, and at and after that time shall be deemed to be called out on permanent service.(4) A proclamation under this Section shall for the purposes of the Army Act, 1881, be deemed to be a proclamation requiring soldiers in the reserve to re-enter upon army service.XIII. Whenever Her Majesty orders the army reserve… to be called out on permanent service, if Parliament be then separated by such adjournment or prorogation as will not expire within 10 days, a proclamation shall be issued for the meeting of Parliament within 10 days, and Parliament shall accordingly meet and sit upon the day appointed by such proclamation, and shall continue to sit and act in like manner as if it had stood adjourned or prorogued to the same day.It will be seen that before action can be taken the King in Council must issue a Proclamation, and this declares—if one may cite the words used in 1914—that:… Whereas the present state of public affairs and the extent of the demands on our Military Forces for the protection of the interests of the Empire do in our opinion constitute a case of great emergency within the meaning of the said Act. … Now, therefore, we do … hereby order that our Army Reserve … be called out in permanent service.This Proclamation, by the Crown Office Act of 1877, is not valid in law unless published in the "Gazette," and by custom it must be posted in Whitehall, at Temple Bar, and at various other places. Subsequently posters, drawing attention to the Proclamation and giving the Secretary of State's directions thereunder, are widely exhibited. So formal, so gradual, so stately, so deliberate, so overt and, in certain circumstances, so alarming a ritual was, as the House will agree, more suited to an age in which danger advanced with a tread correspondingly measured, premediated, and precise.
327 There is another aspect of the matter. A "great emergency," as contemplated by the Act, was defined as being an "occasion," which had to be communicated to Parliament, if possible before His Majesty issued his Proclamation in Council. A foreign fleet was assembling, or an army making ready. Such events in former days generally followed upon a period of diplomatic exchanges. They stood out conspicuously from the ordinary current of events. War itself had its recognised preliminaries, determined by age-long international usage. There were notes and warnings, an ultimatum, a declaration. While such conventions were not invariably observed, the character of transport and communications in themselves limited the likelihood of surprise, especially to an island nation. It was natural, therefore, that the Legislature should envisage "an occasion" as the mainspring of mobilization. We live, however, in conditions of enduring tension. Hostilities are undertaken without notice. Forces are brought by speedy and concealed processes to any required degree of strength. Indeed, most of the armies of Europe are now kept at varying stages of mobilisation. We alone are bound by a procedure which assures the maximum publicity for our defensive preparations and which, by its solemn terminology—"imminent national danger," "great emergency"—is calculated to be misunderstood abroad and to arouse disquiet at home.
The Bill removes the disadvantage by which we are restricted. It assumes that a situation has arisen, and may for three years continue, in which His Majesty should be empowered to authorise the Admiralty and the Secretaries of State to call out the Reserves—or any part of them—I shall deal with the Auxiliary Forces later—to ensure our preparedness against external danger. If and when they are called out under this Bill, they shall be treated in all respects as if they had been called out under the Statutes or other instruments under which they can now be called out. The conditions governing the Auxiliary Forces are in some respects peculiar. Under Section 17 of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Air Force cannot be embodied before the issue of a Proclamation order- 328 ing the calling out of the Regular Reserves. Nevertheless, under the voluntary arrangement permitted by Section 13 of the same Act it is possible in advance of general embodiment to call our for purposes of defence those members of the Territorial Army who have undertaken this particular liability. This is the arrangement under which the anti-aircraft defences can at present be manned. The regulations provide for the personnel of these defences to engage to servein case of national emergency when called upon to do so under the authority of the Secretary of State.Under Section 5 (1) of the Auxiliary Air Force Act of 1924 the Auxiliary Air Force can also be called out in whole or in part for the defence of the British Isles in advance of the Regular Reserves, provides His Majesty declares by Order in Council that a state of emergency exists.
The machinery for calling out the various Naval Auxiliary Forces is in general similar to that governing the calling out of the Royal Naval Reserve. A Proclamation is necessary which must be communicated to Parliament if it is sitting. The Bill, while not essentially altering the circumstances in which the personnel of the various Reserve and Auxiliary Forces have undertaken to fulfil their obligations, enables their calling out to be effected without recourse to the more elaborate procedure, which at present obtains. The House will see, then, that in the case of the Auxiliary Forces as in the case of the Regular Reserves, calling out or embodiment involves a general notification in the most public manner of the occasion for measures, which in these times are only precautionary. The announcement of an emergency, however, or the declaration of an occasion to Parliament is liable to aggravate that feeling of uncertainty which prudent action, efficiently and quietly taken, is intended to allay.
The House would now wish to know what steps it is intended to take under the Bill. Reservists in the British Army have not hitherto been called up for the annual period of 12 days' training for which they are liable, and many of them are unversed in the handling of modern weapons. It will be recalled that to remedy this shortcoming, I announced in my speech in introducing the Army Estimates that we would exercise our option in respect of 16,000 other ranks. We had no power to require the attendance of officers, but 329 we proposed to invite 1,000 to take a course of about 14 days. This project will now be replaced by a more comprehensive scheme, made advisable by the greater obligations since undertaken by the Army. It is now proposed to ensure our greater preparedness, call up in batches, and at convenient dates, a large proportion of our Regular Reserves, including officers, who are within the scope of the Bill. They will be required to serve, so far as can be foreseen, for not more than three months. They will enable the Regular Army to train at war strength in formations and put the Regular Army in a position, if necessary, to take the field at short notice. Further, they will make it possible to provide, either directly or indirectly, for the training of the Militia, which, as the House knows, is also being raised to ensure our greater preparedness to meet external danger.
Personnel of the Territorial Army antiaircraft units will be called up this summer in rotation, so that no individual should be on service for more than a month. They will be at war stations. Arrangements will be made for gunnery personnel to train for a fortnight out of the month at practice camps, so that in their case the rotation of units at the selected war stations will be more frequent. The facilities given by Clause 3 for obtaining more rapid possession of land will be mainly used to acquire sites on which we can maintain our permanent defences—subsequently to be manned by the Militiamen who, it is intended will "hold the fort" in an emergency until the Territorials are deployed.
§ Mr. Lawson
Does that period of not less than one month for the Territorials include the fortnight in camp?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Yes. As far as gunners are concerned. They will do a fortnight of that in their ordinary camp at gunnery practice. The searchlights will remain on their sites, because they can be trained on the sites. They do not normally go to practice camps.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
No, one month. Huts will be erected on these sites, and it is hoped that in many cases these will be ready in time for use by the Territorials who will be coming out for their month's spell of duty.
330 The House will wish to know the use which the Admiralty desire to make of the provisions of this Bill. They are anxious to increase the readiness of the Reserve Fleet, including the anti-submarine and minesweeping units. To this end, they propose to call out the Immediate Class—Class D of the Royal Fleet Reserve (some 3,800 men)—in two batches for service not exceeding three months in respect of each batch; together with some 1,500 pensioners, also in two batches of 750 and for a like period of service. The pensioners will be those who have most recently finished their active service engagements. A smaller number—some 300—of the Royal Naval Reserve Patrol Service and also about 100 Royal Naval Volunteer (Wireless) Reserve ratings will also be called up. A number of retired officers will be required for six months' service.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air will be calling up a certain proportion of the Auxiliary Air Force at the same time as the anti-aircraft units of the Territorial Army and in a similar rotation for periods of one month.
Everyone called out under this Bill, whether a member of the Reserve or of the Auxiliary Forces, will receive the protection of Clause 2, which provides for his reinstatement in his former occupation.
§ Colonel Nathan
Before the right hon. Gentleman goes as far as Clause 2, is he able to say when it is anticipated the calling up will begin and for what period it will last? To put the matter in another way, can he say what proportion of the whole will be called up at each calling?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
We have to erect huts for the reception of those who are to live on these sites, and, therefore, anticipate that it will take about a month to make the necessary arrangements. That would bring us to about a month after the passage of this Bill, but the rotation will go on through the autumn to the beginning of October. That is as nearly as I can put the date.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
It will apply to everyone in the anti-aircraft units of the 331 Territorial Army. Each member of such a unit will as long as he is a member of the unit bear his share of this tour of duty. I was saying that protection for the posts vacated by these Territorials is provided by Clause 2, but if experience be a guide, employers will be far more generous than any stipulation in an Act of Parliament could require. Other safeguards for the protection of the individual, should the Government so decide in such matters as his insurance and pension rights can be covered by Order in Council under Clause 4 of the Bill. Under the same Clause the administrative requirements, consequent on the calling out of the personnel, such as billeting and requisitioning of stores can be adapted from the Army Act and the Air Force Act to the present purposes.
Hon. Members on the Opposition benches found themselves in some difficulty last night, with which I sympathise, but which was in fact attributable to a misunderstanding of the occasion on which the details of expenditure which might be incurred as a result of the passing of the Measure might be discussed. As I understand it, the Ruling of the Chair confines debate on the Financial Resolution to expenditure actually to be authorised by the terms of the Bill, such as enabling the Minister to remunerate members of tribunals. The discussion, on the other hand, of expenditure which may result from the passing of the Bill, such as building and pay, would, I apprehend, be relevant in general terms to the Second Reading, or in detail, to the Estimates or Supplementary Estimates of the Department concerned. The same, I take it, would apply to this Bill.
In order to give some indication to hon. Members, in so far as we could, we gave an estimate in the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum on the Military Training Bill, and we have followed this course, as far as we could, in connection with this Bill. If I make these observations, it is because I would not like hon. Members to feel they are debarred—and I am sure the Chair will permit me to say this—from having the appropriate opportunities, as they always have, in connection with Service matters of commenting on the pay, allowances and on the conditions generally of the personnel of the Armed Forces, whether Regular or Auxiliary. My right hon. Friend the 332 Prime Minister stated this afternoon that the Government would endeavour to find some means of accelerating the discussion desired and hon. Members, recognising how limited discussion on the Financial Resolution must of necessity be, will take that assurance from the Government. We shall endeavour to provide them with an opportunity which will allow what they had in mind to be fully debated before any Militiamen are called up under the Bill, or before any of the operations of the Bill mature.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
When will the House have the White Paper or other communication which is to be made on this subject?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
At the earliest moment we can prepare it, it will be laid before the House. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept that assurance, he may depend on it that we will proceed with the greatest attainable expedition.
§ Mr. Ede
Will that be before the House parts with the Military Training Bill? There is a very strong feeling on this side of the House that the discussion of pay and allowances should take place before the House parts with that Measure.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
The hon. Gentleman, I am sure, will understand the spirit in which I speak when I say that we shall make these arrangements with the utmost expedition. I cannot positively guarantee that the details will be ready before the Bill is through the House, but I undertake that they will be ready before the Bill is put into operation and the Militiamen called up, and that no one will be receiving a rate of pay which has not been fully discussed in this House.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
The historic methods of procedure in this House are well known to hon. Members. Paradoxically enough, the way to obtain an increase is to vote for a reduction. That normal procedure, which has been effective through the centuries, will prevail.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
Am I right, then, in saying that the House is not to be given an opportunity of giving a vote on whether the rates of pay should be increased or not?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
No, Sir. That is not right. The House will have an opportunity, and if the hon. Member moves a reduction and carries his point of view, the effect will be an increase.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
There will be no restriction on Debate. If some hon. Members like to make the pay 2s., that point of view will be taken in the Debate.
§ Mr. Johnston
There is a strong feeling about this matter. Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the fact that if we allow the Military Training Bill to go through the House before we have learned the Government's views upon the question of training allowances, we shall be placed in a very difficult position?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I think the House is in possession of the Government's views—I do not think there is any need to make those more plain—and the Government is in possession of the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The rights of Debate, however, will be fully preserved, and we shall listen with attention and respect to any suggestion which is made. I hope that that, at any rate, indicates some improvement upon the position in which hon. Gentlemen found themselves last night, a position of which the Government were fully conscious.
I have now described to the House the anachronistic methods which are imposed on us in taking measures for the greater preparedness of the State. The new machinery will enable us more smoothly and easily to adjust our pace to the speed of modern developments. I have also informed the House to what use we intend to put the powers now sought, and I have shown that we shall protect to the limit of practicability the individual on whom this burden of de fence will fall. It is possible, by viewing together the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Bill and the Military Training Bill, to discern the outlines of a system which will give to our country in the immediate future a more 334 secure protection. If we had had to-day a trained Militia in being, it might not have been necessary to ask Reservists and Auxiliary personnel to give their whole-time services for the periods which are contemplated. They will, however, in full appreciation of the necessity for covering an interval of transition, bear these burdens with the good will and keen devotion which has characterised the spirit in which they have come forward and trained themselves for the security of the country. The nation is not ungrateful to those officers and men who have vindicated the volunteer spirit of this people which we are now to supplement, but not to replace, by more permanent arrangements. A purpose of the more comprehensive measures foreshadowed in the other Bill is to spare them the additional sacrifice, which recurrently stopping the gap might otherwise entail.
§ Major-General Sir Alfred Knox
Is it not intended to give any Territorials extra training, except the anti-aircraft units?
My hon. and gallant Friend must realise that the terms upon which the Territorial Army engage are voluntary, and it is our desire to spare them increased burdens over and above those terms, as far as we can. The antiaircraft units have for long been in a slightly different position because they have volunteered, or agreed, differently from the rest of the Territorial Army, to come up in circumstances such as those contemplated by the Bill. The Field Army as a whole has not yet undertaken to do that. The Government desire to respect the contract which they have made with these men, and, therefore, this; is confined to the anti-aircraft units. That is one of the penalties one pays for a part-time Army. One must respect the particular conditions of those who are engaged in civil life.
§ Mr. Sandys
In view of the inconvenience which is bound to be caused by uncertainty, can the right hon. Gentleman indicate how soon he will be able to tell them which units will be called out, and on what duties?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
As soon as the Bill is through we shall have authority to tell them that. I hope it will be in the course of the next few days. When the Bill 335 goes through it will not be long and, as I have indicated, there will be ample notice.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill was confined to the anti-aircraft units, but I understand that it gives the Government power to call up the Territorial Force for more than a fortnight.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
There would be power, but I have drawn a distinction based upon the existing contracts.
That gap, to which I was referring, Reservists by law and A.A. Territorials by agreement, have undertaken to fill, leaving their civil avocations to this end when an emergency is formally notified or an occasion is formally reported to Parliament. The circumstances of today do not easily permit of isolating such contingencies, for the tension is enduring. Hence the need for this Bill which recognises the prolonged character of the stress under which we, in common with other nations, labour, and the need for more appropriate methods of instituting a state of preparation. This is a time when we must be unrestingly on the alert. We have been up all night discussing these measures of defence. It was a symbolic vigil. This is a time, I feel, when the nation must sleep on its haversack.
§ Mr. McEntee
Will these pensioners whom it is proposed to call up retain their pensions plus their allowances?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Yes, I understand that will be the case. My hon. and gallant Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty will answer any questions in relation to his Service.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
In the Defence Acts, 1842 and 1860, there is a basis of compensation for land acquired for these purposes. Is it that basis which is to operate in this case?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Yes, Sir; exactly the same basis, except that we shall get more speedy possession of the land. The method of assessing compensation is not altered, and it takes place subsequently to our having taken possession.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the statement of the Prime Minister, when he described the procedure which is necessary for calling up the Forces as inadequate and quite unsuited to modern conditions. The House will have noticed that, contrary to his usual practice, the right hon. Gentleman, in describing the change that was taking place, kept very closely to his brief. The constitutional position has been such that it requires a layman, and certainly myself, to walk very warily in dealing with a matter of this kind. I am not sure that the situation is quite so plain from the House of Commons point of view as the right hon. Gentleman would have led us to believe. There was a time when the House would have been crowded for a Bill of this kind. It is intended to give the Government powers of which the House of Commons and the people of this country have been extremely jealous. While we see the need to increase the powers of the Government to meet new conditions, we have to go carefully lest we swing to the other extreme. It is possible that under this new procedure the House will be asked—in fact I think it is almost certain—to hand over old powers to the King and his Ministers without insisting on their taking the necessary steps to consult Parliament about their application.
There is a Clause in the Bill which is very important. Under the Reserve Forces Act, 1882, and the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, it would be necessary, if the Government issued a Proclamation calling up the Territorial and Reserve Forces, to call Parliament together within 10 days. Erskine May has a very important page upon this, and we all know that the position always has been that the House of Commons must be consulted before powers to embody the Forces were handed over to the Government, or immediately after they were called into existence. The Government are asking us to set aside those Sections of the Acts which make it necessary to call Parliament together within 10 days. Unless we can get some satisfaction on this matter, we shall want that aspect further considered at a later stage of the discussion on this Bill.
The need for this Measure is said to arise from the external danger. What is the external danger? We all know, or we 337 think we know, what it is now, but the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister, who, I am glad to see, has stayed for this Bill, must understand that there are other Acts giving emergency powers to the Government for civil purposes, which are not mentioned in this Bill. It would be possible for the Government to call these Forces together at a time of what they might call "civil danger." I know that the 1920 Emergency Act was a separate thing, but it must be understood that we are giving new powers to the Government and handing over powers which would enable any Government to call the Forces together if they thought there was external danger. It would be possible to have a Government who were out of tune with the country, who might use these powers for their own purposes. I do not want to carry this too far, because we want to see facilities provided for meeting any danger from abroad; but we want the Government to make quite clear what they mean by external danger. These powers are rather too wide to be handed over without some definite understanding on that point.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that he is going to call the Reserve Forces and the anti-aircraft sections together in rotation. I was very pleased to hear it made clear that the Bill actually includes the power to call up the whole of the Territorial Forces, including the antiaircraft units. I wonder whether he could give us any clearer description of what method they are going to take in calling up by rotation. Will the men have some proper information; will the Government take counsel with the various territorial associations on this matter; and what notice will be given to men who are Reservists and are likely to be called up? What will be the conditions of pay and allowances? Particularly does this apply to the Reservists, although it applies also to the Territorials. It is bad enough upsetting the conditions of the young recruits, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that there will be even greater difficulties for the Reservists and Territorials, some of whom are married men, with families, and are settled in their posts. Is there to be any compensation for the difficulties of these men? They will have mortgages or very high rents in some cases, and their domestic difficulties will need very careful consideration.
338 There is also the question of their reinstatement. Clause 2 contains a very dangerous Sub-section. Under the Clause a man is entitled to have his job back, unless it is shown that it is not reasonably practicable to have him reinstated. I wonder whether that qualification is necessary. Employers generally have been very well disposed to the men serving in the Territorials; in fact, in many cases, while I would not say that it has been a condition of employment that they should be in the Territorials, a man has been more likely to get a job if he is in the Territorials. Sometimes those men are not trade unionists. I am not going to say that all employers who are not trade union employers are evil men, but some employers can be rather ruthless where their men are not protected by trade unions, and the right hon. Gentleman will need to go much more carefully into the question of reinstatement. I am sure that the House would be very grieved if they thought that it would be possible that a man who met the country's needs in that spirit should, because his calling up caused some dislocation to the business of his employer, or for some other reason, be refused his job or frozen out when he returned to civil life. I am afraid that this particular Sub-section to which I have referred makes it possible, if reason can be shown by the employer that it was not practicable to reinstate the man, for him to refuse that man his job.
There is another point I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman. It has been mentioned to me by my hon. Friend who knows so much about agriculture. New huts are to be built, and I hope that the old practice of building huts on good agricultural land will not be repeated in this case. The Air Ministry and other Services have a record in this matter, and I hope that the land which is to be used for the erection of huts will not be agricultural land that is so necessary for the purposes of the nation. I have put these points in a reasoned way, and I hope that the Government will consider very seriously the possibility of external dangers. They can be dealt with effectively without a lot of feeling on the matter on this side, and if the right hon. Gentleman can assure us of the fact that men will get the return of their posts and not be left in obscurity to suffer in the future, if the right hon. Gentleman can meet the points about the pay, and the other questions of 339 finance as they affect each person, we shall have no objection to the passing of this Bill. But in the future stages we shall give attention to the exact powers that the Bill gives to the Government in order to see that we are not handing over a very precious heritage of this nation, namely, the right of the British House of Commons to control the Army.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
I rise for a few moments to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I wish to make a few observations on the application of the Bill as it affects the Anti-Aircraft units of the Territorial Army. The reasons which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has given for the introduction of the Bill are varied. He gave three main reasons. The first was the need for the simplification of the procedure for calling up Reservists and Territorials in periods of emergency. This Bill will make the whole procedure very much simpler, swifter and more efficient, though when I heard my right hon. Friend narrate to us the procedure, and the picturesque ritual which was required to be followed according to the present Regulations, I almost began to regret that we were going to lose it.
The second point the Minister mentioned was that this Bill will avoid creating the alarm which the issue of a Proclamation would cause. I think that that is the least important aspect of this question. Instead of posting up a Proclamation at Temple Bar, an Order in Council will be issued and presented to this House. It will be fully discussed. It will appear in all the public Press. Every bit as much publicity and attention is going to be drawn to it on all the posters and newspapers throughout the country as in the case of a Proclamation. What is more, in my opinion, it is right; necessary and desirable that the public should know when the Reserve Forces on the Crown are called up. All the country knows that there is a state of international tension and danger. The country should also know what is being done to increase our preparedness to meet that danger. It is greatly reassuring to the public to know that defensive measures are being taken. In that respect I would like to say a word of praise for the efforts which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central 340 Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) is making to bring home to the public what the Defence Services are doing for their protection.
The principal reason for this Bill, however, and the one for which I welcome it, is that it gives us the means to meet the very real danger of a surprise air attack. There can be no doubt at all that that danger exists. It has existed for a considerable time. In the exposed and dangerous position in which we find ourselves it is imperative for us to provide for the permanent manning of our antiaircraft defences. This is one of the very serious gaps in our present defence system which the new Military Training Bill is going to fill. It is going to supply the personnel to carry out these duties. But we cannot wait, in these times of tension, until the new conscripts are registered, called up and trained. My right hon. Friend has announced that in rotation all the anti-aircraft units for a fortnight each will man their war sites. These fortnightly shifts will of course only provide the men for manning a small proportion of our total war sites. Nevertheless it will be a very great advance, and a very important addition to our security.
I am sure that all the anti-aircraft units of the Territorial Army will very gladly undertake these new duties which the Bill will impose upon them. But I take this opportunity to refer to a matter which I raised at Question Time to-day. There will be, though perhaps they will not be very numerous, cases where this extra fortnight's training will involve serious hardships. There will be certain men who have commitments for rent, for the maintenance of dependants, and other matters of that kind, who will find it difficult to carry on their Army pay for the additional fortnight over and above the fortnight in camp which they are already prepared to undertake. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to see that some assistance is extended to those cases in these exceptional circumstances. There is only one other small point to which I want to refer, namely, the Government's powers of billeting. I do not see them in the Bill. I do not know whether they come under the Clause dealing with "consequential matters."
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha indicated assent.
§ Mr. Sandys
Earlier in this Debate my right hon. Friend in reply to an interjection of mine, assured me that the Territorials would be given ample notice before they were called up for this emergency service. It is, obviously, very desirable that they should have as long notice as possible in order that they can adjust their civilian life to the new duties which the Bill imposes upon them. At the same time, I would say to my right hon. Friend that we must not lose sight of the main purpose of this Bill, which is to see that these war sites are manned at the very earliest possible moment. There is grave danger in leaving these sites unmanned for a day longer than is necessary in the present international situation. If there is a possibility of a surprise attack—and if there were not the possibility of a surprise attack we would not be taking these measures at all—from some potential aggressor, that danger is for the moment intensified by the fact that we have proclaimed to any would-be enemy that now or never is his chance to catch us unprepared. After having given warning to the world that we are going to man our anti-aircraft defences it is extremely dangerous to dally or delay. These gun sites and searchlight positions should be manned, not in a few weeks' time, but now, at once.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan
The keynote of this Bill is to be found in its Preamble, "preparedness for the defence of the realm," and the keynote to the speech of the Secretary of State for War is to be found in the phrase "enduring tension." That object and that condition are amply justification for this Bill. It is a Bill, which, I think, the Secretary of State will agree, has a dual purpose. In the first place, it will enable the Auxiliary Forces and the Reservists to be mobilised at the will of the Government, when in the judgment of the Government the occasion arises. In that connection it is eminently desirable, in the situation of the world as it is and is likely to be, that the Government of the day should have that power, but it is equally desirable, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said, and 342 indeed imperative, that Parliament should be able, even if only after the event, to exercise a measure of control. I am not at all sure that this is not indeed contemplated by Sub-section (4) of Clause 1, where it is provided that:Any Order in Council made under this Section shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made.There is always the contingency that Parliament may not be sitting, and there is also the contingency that if the Order is made in imminent apprehension of war and war follows, Parliament may not be able to sit in the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. In such a situation I think we should be prepared to judge by the event. The second object of the Bill is of a more limited character. In its practical application it is to give the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air and the Admiralty, the authority to call out certain forces required as a preliminary measure of precaution during a period of "enduring tension, "to use the phrase of the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me eminently right that this should be within the power of the Government. I share the apprehensions of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), for whose generous reference to myself I am grateful. As an older man I can only do my part rather from the outside, which he as a younger man is doing from within the ranks of an anti-aircraft unit. I share his apprehension lest time should be lost in manning the anti-aircraft defences of London and our great cities.
The right hon. Gentleman's programme, as I understand it, is to call out or embody immediately upon the passing of the Bill the units of the Territorial force which are anti-aircraft units, and for the Secretary of State for Air to call out certain Auxiliary Air Force elements. I should like to ask whether this relates to the Auxiliary Air Force, to the balloon barrage or to both? I do not ask for an answer now but it has some bearing on a point which I wish to put to the House. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what extra powers he contemplates getting under the Bill, so far as the antiaircraft units are concerned, which he has not already got under Section 13 of the Territorial Force Act, 1907. On a reading of that Section it seems to me that he may already have such powers as he 343 requires for the purpose of calling out the anti-aircraft units, and I should be glad to hear what in the right hon. Gentleman's judgment makes it necessary that he should have any additional powers given under the Bill. Under Section 13 of the Territorial Force Act, 1907, units which have undertaken certain obligations may be called out in priority to the main body of the Territorial Army, and in effect that is repeated under the present Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman used the term "call out and embody," as if they were synonymous terms. In ordinary parlance they are, but I should like him to look into this point. I do not think that "calling out" entitles the soldier who is called out to his £5 gratuity, but "embody" does, so that the terms are not quite synonymous in the strict sense. I assume, however, that those who are called out or embodied under the Bill will be entitled to the gratuity. It is a matter of some little moment. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of huts. I assume that troops of the anti-aircraft units will be lodged partly in hutments and partly in tents, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not quite abandoned billets. Huts are not extraordinarily comfortable; they have their inconveniences, and those soldiers who are taken from their homes for the period of a month during a season of the year stretching from the early summer to the autumn will, I think, find a more comfortable atmosphere in billets than in hutments or under canvas. The battalion with which I have the honour to be associated was embodied last September with other antiaircraft units, and I went round myself to a large number of billets. I had previously been in camp with the battalion a few weeks earlier, and I have no hesitation in saying, from my own war experience as well, that a good billet is infinitely preferable, to a soldier, to hutments or tents. I hope that attention will be given to this point, quite apart from the fact that it tends to create good feeling between the general population and the troops.
I want to point out some of the difficulties and hardships which the operation of this Bill may involve. I know the right hon. Gentleman will believe that I am not doing so by way of criticism, still less in a spirit of opposition to the Bill. Indeed, I support the Bill. The numbers 344 affected by the Bill, theoretically, may be very much larger than the numbers affected by the Bill which was under consideration yesterday and to which so much discussion was devoted. It will affect the whole Territorial Army as well as the Reserves. So far as the age groups are concerned, it affects practically every age group available for the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Air Force. If I am right in thinking that the Bill is to apply to the Auxiliary Air Force, we shall have youngsters coming in at the low end of the scale, so far as age is concerned, and older men coming in at the other end, from the anti-aircraft units, because the anti-aircraft units are pre-eminently for older men over the age of 25.
It will be common ground I think that for a man to be taken from his ordinary occupation for a month, at a period in the year not chosen by himself, to undergo this military training—however patriotically and willingly the obligation may be accepted—the hardship which will fall upon the older man is very much greater than the hardship which will fall upon the younger man. His habits are more settled and his responsibilities are in all likelihood greater. There is also this point, that he has made arrangements both as regards his own family and his employers, so far as he is an employé, to take his camp during what I would call the ordinary summer holiday season. It has been well understood that the camp should be for a fortnight at the most convenient period of the year, that is the latter end of July until the middle of August. He is now to be called upon, without any choice left to him, to go when he is called and to go not for a period of a fortnight, which was the maximum contemplated before, but for a period of a month.
I agree with the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street that the question of pay and allowances will have to be considered. I apprehend that "pay and allowances" normally speaking will be the pay and allowances to which he is entitled for a fortnight's camp or if he is embodied for the purposes of war. If he is embodied for the purposes of war it must be assumed that liability for rent and mortgage payments was taken into account when accepting the obligations in the Territorial Army, but an extra fortnight's camp in peace at a period of the year unexpected to him and not selected by him 345 might impose financial penalties greater than he has any reason to contemplate, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the question of making some allowance, if need be, in special cases of hardship. It must be borne in mind that a great number of those who will be called up in the anti-aircraft units will either be employers or persons in independent work or businesses; they will not all be employés at all.
May I refer to the unit with which I am associated and to actual cases which have been brought to my notice. There are in that unit a number of solicitors and a number of barristers serving as private soldiers. A young barrister, a junior at the Bar, striving to make a precarious living in a difficult profession, has relied upon being able to take his fortnight's training during the Long Vacation. He may now find himself bound to leave his chambers, throw up his briefs, and take his month's training compulsorily during the legal term. He is going to suffer very great hardship not merely in an immediate loss of income but also the chance of possible clients at the Bar.
§ Colonel Nathan
The hon. Member who graces another profession will realise that I was only referring to members of the Bar as a practical instance which comes within my own experience, and I will add this further. The hon. Gentleman's son, who is an architect, serves in the same battalion, with great usefulness, if I may say so, in a position of responsibility, to which he has devoted himself. Similarly, he will run the risk of losing largely as an architect by being called up in the ordinary working months of the year. The point I wish to make is that if it is hard on employés, it is also hard on those who are what I may call independent contractors—who are their own employers—that they should be called up, not at the convenient season of the year that was first contemplated and not for the 14 days that have always been understood to be the term, but at any time of the year at which it may be the will of the Government that they should be called up and for a period double that which was at first contemplated.
I mention these points not by way of criticism of or in opposition to the Bill, but as casual points to indicate the hard- 346 ships and difficulties that may be inflicted, which are paralleled by the public spirit, and are instances of the public spirit, of the Territorials and the men in the Auxiliary Air Force, who have given voluntarily so much of their time and energy to being of public service and to being ready, if need be, in advance of their fellow citizens. I hope—indeed I am sure, for I think I understand the mind of the Secretary of State in these matters—that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that those who have taken the initiative of making themselves ready should receive in such matters as this, treatment which will ameliorate their difficulties and hardships as far as may be.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
I do not intend to follow the excellent speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan), with which I sympathise very largely, but there are one or two practical points with which I want to deal briefly. First of all, as far as the men are concerned—and as I am associated with a battalion, I can speak with a certain amount of knowledge in this respect—they want to be called up, and if there could be a vote, it would be 90 per cent. to that effect. They want also to be called up for a longer time than the usual training, and a great many of them think that in the country's interest they ought to have been called up a long time ago.
There is one point that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth developed with which I agree. It is intended, under this Bill, to keep a job for a man wherever it is possible, and I think the Minister has produced provisions that are most capable of carrying out that purpose; but undoubtedly there is a certain number of unpatriotic employers, and one of the problems that my right hon. Friend will have to consider is not so much how to keep a job open for a man, but how to ensure that the patriotic employer who employs men who are soldiers is not abused. At the present time, there may be some employers who will not take on a man who happens to be a Territorial soldier or under 20 and, therefore, liable to be called up for six months. My right hon. Friend will have to consider that very grave problem. During the last 12 months, all sorts of suggestions have been made for dealing with that matter. There 347 have been, for instance, suggestions that the patriotic employer should be given a rebate on taxation, that an additional tax should be inflicted upon employers who refuse to take on a Territorial soldier, that the privilege of tendering for Government contracts—which is a very valuable one—should be given to patriotic employers, or that they should be allowed to join a roll, such as the King's Roll, and stamp their notepaper in the same way as firms who now employ ex-service men or men wounded in the War. All these suggestions are valuable ones which have not been given the weight that they ought to have been given in the past. I hope the Minister will consider them, because I have no doubt that if he does so, he will be able to devise some means by which he will not only ensure that the men are employed, but also that, "wherever possible, their jobs are kept open for them when they return.
The next point to which I wish to refer concerns training. There has been a great deal of criticism of the training of the Territorial Army, and much of it has been very largely undeserved. The standard of training is a great deal higher than many hon. Members seem to imagine, and in saying that I am not seeking to pay a compliment to the Territorial Army, but merely stating a fact. The compulsory number of drills bears no relation to the work the men have to do. Last night I checked the number of drills the men have done in my battalion. They have an average of about 100 a year, four or five weekends, and Easter training in addition to annual training. Those men are giving about one-third of their time to the job, and they do it very well. They have enthusiasm and keenness, and they will welcome the opportunity that is being given to them.
I am very pleased to have had one assurance from my right hon. Friend this evening. It has been whispered about, by people who are perhaps not of a helpful kind of disposition, that this Bill was being introduced not to widen the scope under which the Territorial Army could be called up, but to avoid the payment of the £5 embodiment grant, the 10s. for the man who turns up with a tooth-brush and a shaving-brush, and the £7 10s. for officers who have not had camp equipment before. I gather from my right hon. Friend that that is not true, and it 348 is a very good thing that it is so, for if the men are treated generously, you will not get the same amount back, but ten times the amount in service.
I should like my right hon. Friend to consider another problem which is raised as a result of the increased training that is likely to take place. Under the increased training, the younger non-commissioned officers in the Territorial Army, men who have served for a year or two and have been promoted to the rank of corporal before they were 20 years of age, men who are proud of their stripes, will be called up under the Military Training Bill, their stripes will be removed, and they will be put into the rear ranks. In this distinguished assembly, the rank of corporal may not seem a very important one, but the men are very proud of it, and if these men have earned that rank by their ability, merit, keenness and efficiency—all these being points which my right hon. Friend says are so important—then they ought not, when called up, to have their stripes removed and to be put into the rear ranks of the conscripts. If this is done, it will cause a very great deal of harm and there will be a great loss of good will. I suggest that when these non-commissioned officers are called up, they should be put into specialised classes where their ability could be made use of, and that during their six months' training there should be an opportunity for further advancement, so that when they go back to the Territorial Army, they will have benefited to the fullest possible extent.
In conclusion, I should like to say that, in my opinion, my right hon. Friend, during the last few years, has introduced some of the most beneficial reforms that the Territorial Army has ever seen. He has followed in the footsteps of Haldane, and his efforts and battles have been more than rewarded by the keenness and efficiency of the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Forces. I hope that he will consider the points that I have made tonight, and do his utmost to meet them. We all want to see the great voluntary movement continued, linked arm-in-arm with the compulsory system, which is foreign to this country and in my opinion is adopted only because of the grave national danger, and which I hope will be wiped out as soon as that danger is 349 over. I do not want to see the voluntary system hurt during this difficult time. Let the voluntary system and the compulsory system go arm-in-arm, and then when the country has come through its difficulties, let us return to the old system which has served us very well in the past.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Evans
Every hon. Member who has spoken so far has been in favour of the Bill, and I do not want to oppose it, but at the same time, it seems to me to be a Bill that calls for comments, not only in regard to its form, but its scope. I should like to say a word or two about its form, in the first place. I assume that the Bill imposes no fresh obligations on those who come within it, but at the same time it proposes to vest in the Government powers which they do not now possess. It is equally clear that the powers which the Government now require are powers which are designed to increase the authority of the Government and to curtail the rights of individual citizens. That may be right or wrong, but let us face the fact. The Government are now inviting the House to give them powers of which they are not at present in possession. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, has said that it is very largely a matter of procedure. That is so. Questions of procedure may be of very small importance, but in certain circumstances they may be of great significance and of very great usefulness to those in authority—it all depends upon the use that is going to be made of the powers of procedure that are vested in the Government. I venture to say that there are very few hon. Members who until this afternoon were better informed than I was as to the contents of the Bill. Like the majority of hon. Members, I was in very great uncertainty as to what it was that the Government were asking us to entrust to them, and I looked forward to the speech of the Minister to enlighten us as to what was wanted.
When the Government come to the House and ask for increased authority, as they constantly do, let them be frank. What is the position in regard to this Bill? The Government simply ask us to give them power, by one procedure or another, to do certain things which they have power to do under various Acts of Parliament of 1840, 1850, 1860, and so on 350 —whatever the dates may be. How many hon. Members know what is contained in the provisions of the various Acts involved? When did the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, first know what was contained in them? Not until he introduced the Bill, or prepared it. When the Government ask the House, which is the custodian of public opinion and the public conscience, to entrust them with further powers, let them not do it by this silly system of simply referring to old Acts of Parliament, of which they themselves had never heard until they became Ministers of the Crown. Let them tell the House what it is they want. They should tell the House what they want, because in telling the House they are telling the country. If I may venture to add a word of advice to this Government in particular, it is that if they want to proceed satisfactorily with their programme they should go out of their way to allay natural suspicions and to create a greater sense of confidence in the House and the country. It is important that we in the House of Commons should know what the Government want.
If it is important to us, it is still more important to those persons who are affected by the Bill. It may be answered that they know already in the obligations that they have undertaken. They know in a general way, but they do not know in a particular way, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are hundreds and thousands of people affected by this Bill who are anxious to know what it means to them. It is no good presenting them with a Bill which refers to Acts of Parliament of 1842 and 1853. They want to know what the Government are going to do with them. What are the Government going to do with them? We expected the right hon. Gentleman to tell us, but he has not told us. The only thing he has told us is, "Pass this Bill and then we will tell you what we are going to do." Is that quite frank? The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but what has he told us this afternoon? He did not tell us how, or why, or when, or at what cost he will use the powers for which he is asking in this Bill. Will he tell us? Will he tell me now? Will he tell us at any time? Will anybody else among the Members of the Government tell us? They will not, because they do not know. That is why it is so unfair to bring in a Bill like this under 351 the stress and the tension which exists and in the conditions of anxiety which are oppressing everybody.
In those circumstances it is unfair to come to the House and say, "We think we must have this power and we will tell you, not what we tell you in the Bill, but what we tell you in the Memorandum." That is that in existing circumstances—those are the circumstances which have been brought about by the policy of the Government—it may be necessary at any time to take the steps authorised by this Bill. Is that quite good enough? If this Bill is put into operation it will affect thousands of people who are now pursuing their ordinary avocations. Is it unfair for them to ask the Government to give them some idea when they will be called up and under what conditions?
§ Mr. Evans
I am willing to give way to a Minister of the Crown, but I am not prepared to give way to anybody else. I do not think I am unfair in saying that those people who are affected by this Bill do not know anything more than that the Government say, "When we feel it necessary to call them up we will call them up." Is that an unfair interpretation of the policy of the Government as it has been declared up to the present? I have said we do not know at what cost this Bill will be put into force. The right hon. Gentleman said that he could not give the cost because he did not know when the Government would need the powers.
§ Mr. Evans
Will the right hon. Gentleman correct me now? Is he now in a 352 position to say what it will cost? We do not know, and I agree that it is impossible to give an estimate. Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked for an estimate of what this Bill is likely to cost? We are told that the expenditure on armaments is adding to the difficulties of the Chancellor and I would like to know whether there has been any consultation with the Treasury in regard to the cost of this Bill. Has there been any consultation with other Departments about what the Bill will involve in strain upon the industrial life of the country, upon the armaments industry, and upon Civil Defence? All these are matters of the greatest importance on which we are entitled to ask for information. It is not right to leave the country in a state of confusion. I do not think the Government have any idea of the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty which prevail among the citizens of this country in regard to their policy, and I would ask them to give clear guidance to the country.
§ Major Procter
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether he or his party are for or against this Bill, or are they both for and against?
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
When the Prime Minister told us that this Bill was to be brought forward it appeared to be a very small thing that he was asking the House. He pointed out the effect of the cumbersome machinery of the Proclamation and said that in these days it was necessary to avoid the difficulties arising from it in calling up the forces. When we got the Bill and when I heard the right hon. Gentleman to-day I found that it was much more than it seemed to me when we had the information about the changes that were to take place. We were told that it was just a little thing. It reminded me of the baby in Uncle Tom's Cabin about which the mother said, in defence of what she had done, "It is only a little one." We had somewhat the same sort of assurance with regard to this Bill. All that was said by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) was fully justified, for there are big issues involved in this Measure. I agree with him in his protest about the way in which the Government are handling this matter. It is not right for them simply to take 353 advantage of old Acts and then make it impossible for the House to discuss the conditions which will affect so many hundreds of thousands of men in the new circumstances which have arisen, and without giving the House full opportunity to say what those conditions are to be. The Government would have been better advised if they had given the House a fuller opportunity than is being given by the procedure which they are adopting of applying old Acts of Parliament to the men who will be affected to make fresh statutory provisions for them in the new circumstances which have arisen.
The hon. Gentleman who spoke first drew attention to some of the fears and misgivings which he had about the Measure. As I listened to him I felt it would not be necessary to say anything because he was expressing what I felt. He pointed out that this Measure might be used effectively by a Government during an industrial dispute. There are all these men being put under new conditions by this Bill, and in the event of an industrial dispute the Government can call them up. When that is done the opportunity will be presented in the House to challenge the Government and to refer them to the assurance that has been given that no such thing would be done. The Government's answer would be obvious. They would only have to say that military exigencies were directing their action and that it was only an unfortunate coincidence that it occurred during a time of industrial dispute. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to accept an Amendment that will lay down in black and white in statutory form that in an industrial dispute the men engaged in it will not be called up under this Bill? If he will give us a statutory guarantee it will be worth while, for I have no faith in the pledges and assurances that Prime Ministers and other Ministers give us when they say that we can rest assured that this will not happen.
I have a certain amount of admiration for the technique of the Government in the way they are working this Bill and getting it across to the public. Little by little they are militarising the nation by taking powers and giving assurances that those powers will not be used in a certain way, and then afterwards saying, "When we gave those assurances we did not intend they should be used in this way, but look at what has happened in certain 354 parts of Europe and at the position in which we find ourselves to-day." I see in this Bill one other step in the direction of industrial conscription in this country. I am convinced that it is part of the technique which is being applied by the ruling class to rivet industrial conscription on the workers.
In dealing with other sections of the community involved the Minister takes up a very different attitude from that which he adopts in regard to the working classes. There are provisions in the Bill for the taking over of land and for simplifying the procedure under which it is done. I notice that the Government are not taking additional powers to deal with the exorbitant demands of landlords, of which we have had experience in the past; powers to facilitate the procedure for taking over the land but none to protect the public from being bled, as they have been in the past. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary working class people have been pledging themselves to undertake certain military service to protect the interests of the country. They are being put under so many disadvantages in order to protect these lands, but nothing is done to see that the landowners are not allowed to exploit the situation in their own interests. Could not the Secretary of State give us a pledge to accept an Amendment which would give power to the Government to fix the price of the land at a fair price, not leaving the price-fixing to the existing machinery, which acts only too strongly in favour of the private landowner?
Clause 2 puts the employer under an obligation to take back his workmen when they return from doing their service, but there is no real force in that Clause as it stands. It is pure eyewash. The Government are taking all these people away from their jobs and knew that there would be a tremendous public outcry unless there was a promise of something being done to prevent them from losing jobs after they had finished their training, but this Clause is only eyewash and gives no real protection. I ask specifically for an assurance that the Minister is prepared to go much further and will provide compensation for the man whose employer does not give him back his job, because, in the words of the Bill, it is reasonably impracticable for the employer to do so. There will be thousands of men who will not be able to get back their jobs, but 355 if an appeal is made to the provisions of Clause 2 the employer will bring forward good reasons, or alleged good reasons, for not being able to take the men back, and those reasons will be accepted. Then the men will be unemployed, but why should men who have given service in the armed forces be at a disadvantage when they return to civil life? If a man cannot get his job back, is it not the duty of the Government to provide him with employment or with adequate compensation? When the legislation dealing with the electricity industry was being put upon the Statute Book provision was made that where there was a merger of undertakings people who lost their employment should be granted financial compensation. Why are the Government not prepared to put into this Bill a provision for financial compensation to these men, so that they will not be in a worse position because, through no fault of their own, but because of new circumstances which have affected their employers, it is impossible for them to be re-employed? Is not that reasonable?
Then, I do not think the House realises how hundreds of thousands of people who will be called up for a much longer period than was contemplated will be affected. It is true that at present the Minister does not contemplate calling up the Territorials generally for the period of four weeks. That is to apply at present, I understand, only to the anti-aircraft service, but he has powers to call up the whole lot. It was a contract to go to camp for a fortnight into which they entered, but under this Bill it is possible if things get a little worse in Europe that it will be considered necessary to call up so many more thousands of these Territorials, and there is no provision in the Bill for dealing with the obligations which they have to meet in civil life, such as their rent. Those who have volunteered to give four weeks in connection with antiaircraft service will expect, obviously, that their civil liabilities in the matter of rent and the like will be dealt with by the Government, so that they will not be in a worse position by reason of giving this voluntary service, but there is no statutory provision to deal with the matter, and I think that is a formidable objection to this House agreeing to this Measure.
356 We want something more than an assurance that everything will be all right. The overwhelming majority of the people concerned are in comparatively humble circumstances and do not realise the position in which they will be left by reason of their patriotic efforts to serve the country. If there were a bigger percentage of well-to-do people involved much greater care would be taken to see that they were not penalised. I am very much disappointed that the Government are not dealing with this problem de novo with a Measure which would provide for the difficulties that will result and which would give this House an opportunity of seeing that provision is made to ensure that those who give this voluntary service will not be put in a worse position than the other members of the community who are not prepared to give such service.
There is a further point, and that is, what will happen to the man who is called up for this four weeks' service and becomes ill as a result of it? He may get wet and may have uncomfortable surroundings and may develop tuberculosis. I have had experience of many cases in which men who have been for some years in the Army have developed tuberculosis and afterwards the War Office has said that they must have been weak constitutionally and has refused to give them any pension. The present system, under which the War Office require the most meticulous proof that the disability was attributable to the man's service, acts most unjustly in the case of men in the Regular Army, and I can see that there will be thousands of cases in which men who give this voluntary service will become disability subjects as a result of harsh weather conditions and insufficient shelter, yet there is no adequate provision to ensure that they will not suffer because of their patriotic service.
I myself never claim to be a patriotic individual in the ordinary sense. A great deal is said about patriotism, but I always remember the saying of Dr. Johnson, in which he described patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrelism, and while I certainly believe that the great aim of everybody should be to seek to give to the community all the service possible, in order to make life richer and fuller for all, I hope that in regard to the patriotism which is expected to-day of the poor people the Government will deal much more justly than have Governments in the 357 past with those who have acted patriotically. I fear very much the powers which the Government are taking under this Measure. Their proposals should be made statutory provisions. I believe that the Bill as it stands may be one step on the way to industrial conscription, that it may be used in the most unjust fashion in days to come against people who are taking part in an industrial dispute, and I hope the Minister will agree to provide statutory safeguards before the Bill receives its Third Reading.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Member who has just spoken asked the Minister to provide some statutory undertaking that the Bill will not be used in industrial disputes. I cannot feel that the danger of that occurring is real, but I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that it would possibly be worth while looking into the point in order, not so much that the country should be reassured—[Interruption.] I am glad to hear from my right hon. Friend that the point is adequately met in the Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"] I hope that it will not only be in the Bill but that it will be made clear that the suspicion is quite unfounded, and that persons who wish to work up suspicion where no ground for suspicion lies should not have that opportunity.
At the beginning of his speech the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) complained that the Bill went much further than he first thought. I would not make that complaint. I welcome the scope of the Bill, and I think I am right in saying that the great majority of those who are affected by it will welcome its provisions too. The point upon which I should like to say a word concerns the ex-Regular soldiers. The ex-Territorials have been spoken of from first-hand knowledge by a number of other Members. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend should see fit to call up more than the 16,000 Regular reservists who are at present being called up. I am pleased that he should consider calling them up for a longer time than a fortnight, because it always struck me as asking too much of reservists who have left the Colours, even for quite a short time, to pick up within a fortnight knowledge of new equipment and how to use it, especially in view of the present pace of mechanising the Army 358 and the introduction of new weapons. A period up to three months would be much more useful.
In opening the Debate for the Opposition the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) laid great stress on the necessity for reinstatement. I would assure him that hon. Members on this side of the House are equally anxious that the provisions for reinstatement in employment after service are as watertight as they can possibly be, but we must face realities. Although I do not want to go into Committee points I must remind those hon. Members who complain about a provision that men should be given re-employment where reasonably practicable, that they must face the very simple position. Suppose an employer had died; it would not be reasonably practicable for him to give his old employés their jobs again. That position can be magnified a hundred times. One must face realities.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Although an employer has died there is still the business, and it is an asset. Is it not possible for the employés to be compensated out of the business and the assets?
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
I understand from the Secretary of State for War that that is covered by the Bill.
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
If my point does not satisfy the hon. Gentleman I will put another. Suppose a business goes bankrupt, and the assets are nil at the end of six months?
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. Member seems to be standing up there finding every excuse for not paying the men. Surely an insurance policy could be taken out on this matter, the premium paid and the men compensated out of the money. If the hon. Member wants excuses I will give them to him. I will give him far more excuses why the men should be paid.
§ Mr. Anstruther-Gray
I do not want excuses at all. I welcome the suggestions of the hon. Member. If he has any plan 359 how employers can be prevented from avoiding their obligations to take back reservists who have returned to civil life I am sure that the House will be on his side. There may be differences on detail, but we all agree that it would be intolerable that men should be penalised when they return from serving their country.
I would take up the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) about employing in the first instance men who are Territorials. It has been suggested that some employers might hesitate to employ Territorials fearing that the men will be taken away from employment when they were wanted particularly. That point may apply equally to people who are considering employing ex-Regulars, as alternatives to ordinary employés who were not under those obligations. I do not think that employers on the whole are so black as hon. Members opposite paint them, but it is our duty to make every possible provision to prevent employers being tempted to differentiate unfavourably against the Service man whether he is an ex-Regular or an ex-Territorial. The hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth mentioned a method by which the good employer who seeks to employ an ex-Service man or a Service Territorial in preference to another man should be rewarded. I know that the Minister has looked into the question of enlarging the "King's Roll. That suggestion was examined by his predecessor, but hitherto it has been found impracticable.
This is a time when one should reiterate the request that the question should be looked into again. It cannot be said too often that the scope of the King's Roll system can be enlarged without hurting the disabled ex-service men who should benefit by it. The scheme as it stands confers a preference for Government orders on those who undertake to employ disabled ex-service men as 5 per cent. of "their staff. I see no insuperable difficulty to saying that in future, in addition to 5 per cent. being disabled ex-service men, a further 5 per cent. should be employed consisting of serving Territorials or ex-Regular soldiers. I commend that point once again to the consideration of my right hon. Friend.
360 I would comment upon the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) relating to the method in which we make our announcements, such as that in future we shall have our anti-aircraft guns permanently manned. I commend to the House the suggestion that we might be well advised to remember the analogy of the Budget and the provision that is made to prevent anybody from forestalling the Budget. When the Chancellor intends to impose a duty it is not usual for him to announce his intention, because persons in whose interest it was to do so might seize the opportunity by acting quickly to take advantage of the position before the duty could take effect. I would much rather that we discussed such things as the manning of the anti-aircraft guns when we were prepared to say, "From six o'clock to-night this shall be done," instead of looking some way ahead into the future.
A further point is that when the Reservists return to service they should be properly treated as regards their issues of dress and equipment. It was the practice when some men were called up for a couple of weeks to lay it down that they should only be issued with suits of canvas and not with service dress. It is unreasonable to expect a man to come back from civil life to be a soldier, even for so short a time as a fortnight, and to be content with a suit of canvas. Before the introduction of the Bill it was impossible for many Reservists who wanted to rejoin and to train in case of trouble, to get vacancies for their reserve training. Surely now, when there is a clamour for everybody to do his job, it was most unreasonable that ex-Regular soldiers, even those who were most anxious to be given a course of training, should be denied the opportunity of that service. This Bill will remedy that. I have raised certain points of detail, but I am sure that the country will welcome the Bill in general, not as a mere gesture, but as another indication and a proof, with a great deal of weight behind it, that we are undertaking our Defence measures with resolution.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
I have listened very attentively to the Debate. Many speakers who have taken part have been officers, some officers of experience and others younger officers. I was very in- 361 terested in the speech made by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans). He thrilled me by the way he talked. I had in my pocket a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT and I looked to see where he was last night. I cannot find his name anywhere. He sat on the fence in the moonlight with his party. A week before, one part of them went with us, another part went into the other Lobby and another part went to sleep upstairs. Last night, on this vital issue, we did not have one wee little Liberal lamb with us. Then the hon. and learned Member comes here, and he is not half angry with the Minister of War. He told the right hon. Gentleman that he did not say anything; as a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman has been saying a lot. He can talk better grammar than myself. I left school when I was 11J years of age, and I started school in the pit. His grammar is very fascinating until you come to dissect it.
I am going to take an attitude on this Bill different from that which has been taken by any other speaker except the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). I say that Clause 2 is nothing but eyewash and camouflage. I am speaking from experience, not from what I have read in a book, and I say that Clause 2 is not worth a threepenny bit. An employer can do almost anything he likes to prevent a man from getting his work back, and, unless drastic Amendments are promised, and something much more definite, I shall go into the Lobby against the Bill to-night. To begin with, the Clause is not clear or definite enough, and it also gives the employer a good chance of getting rid of my people—trade unionists. The employer can makeH3most any excuse under the Clause. He has sufficient rope to starve to death a good trade unionist before he is called up. An employer can get rid of a man simply by giving him four weeks' wages. That is all the compensation a reservist can get, and the Minister is expecting to call up the reservists for not less than three months. The employer can say that there has been a change of circumstances in the interval of three months before the reservist comes back.
The employer whom I served—the managing director himself—said to me, "George, if you go to New Zealand I will pay every penny of your passage and be glad to get rid of you." Why did 362 he say that? Because I and a couple of other chaps were preventing the managing director from wringing hundreds of thousands of pounds out of the men by means of the price list. Some employers would pay anything to get rid of certain men who are looking after the interests of their comrades. We in the mining industry understand victimisation far better than the Minister of War. He has not had any victimisation; he has never had held over his head the industrial sword that, if he loses his job, his security is gone. In Clause 2 I can see the disappearance of a man's security by excuses.
There is an old adage that the Devil will never die for want of excuses, and Clause 2 has any amount of excuses. The Minister is going to call up the reservists for not less than three months, and in the mining industry, for which I am speaking at the moment, the management can make a change in the workings in a day. They can say to a man who is a good sound trade unionist, and who has gone out for three months, "Your place is finished, George; we have stopped that district, and we have no more work for you"; and the next day they can get another fellow from another pit, or even another district, and put him on to work similar to that which George has been doing. That is being done in scores of cases in the mining industry, and no doubt the same applies to other industries. Then the Clause has a provision about applying within a reasonable time. What is a reasonable time? One employer might say, "You have been out of the Army for three days; why did you not come here before—the day you came out? You have been skulking about; you have had two days' rest at Blackpool or somewhere else; I do not want you—clear out." We do not want a provision like that, because it is possible to twist round on it.
The Clause also speaks of a change of circumstances. An employer who wants to get rid of a man can change anything he likes. Another condition is that it must be reasonably practicable to employ the man; and then it says that he must be given a job that is not less favourable than before. This is all in Clause 2—reasonable time; change of circumstances; reasonably practicable; not less favourable. What is "not less favourable"? Does it mean not less favourable as far 363 as the pay ticket is concerned, or not less favourable in regard to the work? A man in the pit can have a job that is not less favourable than his previous job, but he can go home with £1 a week less than he got before. The job would be not less favourable as far as the work was concerned, but less favourable as regards the pay ticket. The Government do not understand humanity at all.
I have spoken about a man being starved. He gets four weeks' wages; he is out of a job; and when he is out of a job at the pit there is no chance of his getting a job at another pit, because he has been a good trade unionist and is marked down—branded like Cain. We have had men in the mining industry who have been out of work for years because they were victimised in this way. The man has his four weeks' wages, and when he is finished with he is passed over to the Employment Exchange; and when he gets there, I say he is on the point of starvation. He has joined the Army; he has been called up as a reservist; and a lot of reservists to-day have a good deal of iron in their soul against the Army, because, when they were on unemployment assistance and drew their 65s. at the end of the quarter, it was taken into account, and 33s. of it was deducted at the Employment Exchange. They were stopped altogether for three weeks, and had only 7s. at the fourth week-end. They have said to me at the pit, "I have done with it, George. If this is the way they are treating me after I have served in the Army, I am finished with the Army altogether." But the Minister says, "No; I have got you now; with this Bill I am calling you up, and you have got to come." And when the man comes and loses his job, he goes back again to unemployment.
The Minister is looking at me as though I were not telling the truth, but what I am saying is the naked truth; it is too true; and, unless Clause 2 is altered, hundreds of men will have that feeling when they come back. If these men are brought out of industry, their employers must be told that they are to go back to their jobs without any clauses as to reasonable time, change of circumstances, not reasonably practicable, or not less favourable, which give the employer the opportunity of cold-shouldering a man after he has served his country. We ask 364 the Minister, or whoever is going to reply, at least to tell the employers definitely that, when a man has been taken, so to speak, by the scruff of the neck, he is to go back to his job when the Army has finished with him.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I hope the Secretary of State for War will pay very serious attention to the speech to which we have just listened. I want to tell him, as representing a mining community in another part of the country, that, from conversations I have had with young men who will come under the other Bill, which has a Clause word for word like this, I gather that they have the very gravest apprehension about the ability of the Clause to safeguard the man's position. The very human way in which my hon. Friend has put this point before the Minister will, I hope, indicate to him the feeling that I know exists very largely in the mining community. I do not know whether it is due to the degeneracy of this Parliament, or to the general deterioration of world affairs, that we are discussing this Measure in the calm way that we are. It is really astonishing that this Parliament, which has always been so jealous of allowing the Executive the power to raise easily, without the consent of Parliament, armed forces, should be giving the Executive these powers in the easy way in which they are being given. If Parliament is not sitting, Parliament is to be told as soon as possible, but I was rather alarmed, if my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) will allow me to say so, when I heard him state that of course Parliament may not be able to meet owing to the circumstances of the time.
I sincerely hope that we are not going to assume beforehand that the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will very easily allow any circumstances, external or internal, to lead it to abandon its functions in time of emergency. It may be that Parliament will have to meet in circumstances of great danger. It might perhaps not be thought wise that it should meet at Westminster. It would not be the first time that Parliament has me elsewhere than at Westminster, and I have thought for some years that, if we were a rather peripatetic Parliament, which occasionally met in the distressed areas, and enabled Members who repre- 365 sent prosperous and comfortable divisions in the South of England to see what the conditions are really like in "Durham, South Wales or on the Clyde, it might be a very good thing for the public administration of the country. I hope that nothing that has been said to-day on any side of the House will be taken as indicating that Parliament might be considering abrogating its functions if either external or internal affairs become too difficult, because the more we arm the Government with these huge military forces which they are now asking us to put under their control, the more essential it is that the old British tradition of the civil control of the armed forces should be enforced.
I am not too sure that this phrase in the Preamble about external dangers is really of any great value to us in the fear which some of us have that the Measure might be used in time of civil disturbance. Let us assume that some power such as this had existed when the Liberal Government had difficulties at the Curragh. We know, from memoirs and histories which have been published since, that the existence of trouble at the Curragh was one of the things that encouraged the Germans in 1914 to think that they would find the country divided and an easy prey to what in these days we call aggression. I think, that, although that Liberal Government would not have done it, a suitably courageous Government armed with these powers might have said, "In view of the fact that this internal trouble is encouraging the King's enemies and creating external danger we will call out the Reserves and the Territorials." I could imagine a Conservative Government, masquerading perhaps as a National Government because it had a few people in it who had got good jobs for deserting their Liberalism, seeing that in the event of difficulty in the coalfields or in some other industrial sphere there might be an encouragement of aggression abroad and using this Bill on that ground as a reason for calling out the Reserves and the Territorials. I think there ought to be a quite explicit statement in the Bill—although in view of the effect on my mind of the desertion of pledges by the Government it would probably be a broken reed to rely on—that these forces shall not be called out, embodied or used in time of 366 civil commotion. That is the least that the Government could do.
I want to speak as an ex-Territorial when I say that I believe the hon. Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) was speaking the mind of the Territorial rank and file when he spoke about their attitude towards this Measure, viewing it now as a purely military Measure. I am sure that a good many of them would be just as alarmed as I and my friends are with regard to some of the implications of this Measure. But, regarding it purely as a military Measure, I am sure that the Territorials desire to be treated as what they are—soldiers. I have been very perturbed at the language that has been used during the past month by people who have been pressing for compulsory military service about the valour and the efficiency of the Territorials. I believe that the British civilian soldier has a way of tackling military problems which the professional soldier has never understood. I believe that during the last War he was not properly used because the General Staff never understood him and his attitude towards their problems. It was civilian soldiers who won the liberties of this country, and I can well imagine Lord Manchester and Lord Essex, the brass hats of the seventeenth century, when they heard that a certain Colonel Cromwell was going to be given an army, saying, "A very good leader of irregular horse, a nice fellow in a little scrap in guerilla warfare, but God help him if he ever meets Prince Rupert." He met Prince Rupert. Cromwell prayed before the battle. Rupert prayed after it.
A House which has itself produced so wonderful a civilian army as the army of the seventeenth century ought not to allow speeches to be made in it without reproof like those which have been made in the last month by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and others who have in their endeavour to get compulsory service been belittling the value of the Territorial Army. I believe that the Territorials will meet any reasonable demand that the House and the country like to make upon them, but I believe they want to have the very strictest attention paid to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths) dealing with those men who come out of industry.
367 I should like to bring a few other points to the notice of the Secretary of State with regard to men who serve in clerical and professional occupations. I hope that, when he makes his Orders under Clause 4, the Clause under which he proposes to safeguard the existence of those men, he will take particular care to see that such things as contributory and recognised service towards superannuation funds will be safeguarded, that any service with the Colours will be treated as fully recognised and contributory service for that sort of thing, that where men are on incremental scales of salary, with an increment due at the end of a certain period of satisfactory service to the firm or corporation, he will see that their rights to have this service regarded as recognised service for incremental purposes will also be safeguarded and that where promotion schemes exist—a man's professional future very often depends upon length of service—he will take steps to see that it is made obligatory that this service rendered with the Colours shall be regarded as qualifying service for this purpose just as if the man had been at his job all the time. It is astonishing how sometimes it is possible to find excuses, after patriotic service has been rendered, for belittling the work that has been done.
We know now, when there were posts going and men were asked what they were doing in the last War, it was said they were passed as not medically fit, and you say "Of course you can hardly expect us to take you on now," but, curiously, after nth November, 1918, a steady recovery took place, which has been continued and they became perfectly all right. I have seen men with a tale such as that getting jobs in preference to ex-service men in the service of an authority which had undertaken to give ex-service men prior consideration. Unless these things are made very definite and statutory, the very best of intentions on the part of the Secretary of State may quite well prove to be a great illusion.
At a quarter past five this afternoon, just 12 hours after the House rose this morning, the right hon. Gentleman was expressing his sympathy with us in the difficulty that we had found ourselves in last night. I rather felt that his sym- 368 pathy would have had a greater ring of sincerity if we had had a little help from him last night when I appealed on behalf of these men. They have a right not merely to sympathy but to a very sound Clause to secure the utmost possible safeguards. In the other Bill the penalties to be imposed on an employer who is proved to have wrongfully got rid of a man are actually less than the penalties to be imposed on a person who makes a false statement under the Bill. I suggest that the penalties should be at least equal, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take steps to see that the protective Clauses in both Bills are reworded so as to give these men as great security as the laws of the country can provide.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
There is no doubt that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) has shown us the great harm that might be done by employers, of whom we hope there are not very many. These ought to be provided against. There is no doubt about that. You may have a man in charge, with the power of dismissal, a man who himself ought to have served, and if there is one thing that came out at the conclusion of the last War it is that the men who ought to have been serving bore a grudge against the men who had served. I found it very often. It was some kind of feeling at the back of their consciences that the other fellow was a better man than they were, and they were anxious to take it out of him. I should like to suggest a simple measure which might put it right. If the onus of proof were put on the employer, who would have to justify his action in not taking a man back when he came before some tribunal, that would be a stumbling block in his way and we would not hear very much of the evils that the hon. Member for Hemsworth so graphically described. The employer would have to explain and justify what he has done. He would have to do that if the burden were put upon him. I am told that that provision is in the Bill, but I cannot find it. If we put the burden of proof upon him, it will stop him, but if we allow him to operate the Clause in his own way and the man is to have the onus of proof put upon him, we shall make it very difficult for the man. The employer should be the one who has to justify himself.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I regard the introduction of this Bill with a great deal of suspicion. I cannot help thinking that it is one further step in the restriction of our liberties in this country. It is placing increased power in the reactionary and incompetent hands of a number of well-intentioned gentlemen who happen to be His Majesty's Government. We ought to look with the greatest care on any proposal brought forward by them for placing the people more securely and strictly under their charge than is the case at the present time. It may be perfectly true that it is necessary and desirable that the Government should have certain powers to call up troops without going though the procedure of Proclamation, but I cannot help wondering whether there is something else behind it. The Government have seemed to be most anxious in many things they have done in the last few years that nothing should be done to which any exception could be taken by either of the Fascist States. It is considered bad form to do anything openly to which Hitler might object, and I cannot help thinking that there may be some feeling of that kind in this matter.
One remembers the uproar that was caused when the First Lord of the Admiralty made what seemed to me a perfectly proper and useful statement to the effect that the Fleet were ready for any enemies that might be thinking of coming forward, but the Government were so shocked that they immediately attempted to silence the Press in a most ineffective and incompetent way. They showed a state of mind of unwillingness to do anything to which exception could be taken by the two totalitarian States. I seriously think that there may be some objection of that kind behind this Bill. It may be thought that it is more effective and less offensive from the Government's point of view to do things quietly and stealthily, without making it clear what is being done, whereas the best thing that we could do would be to state in the most open and clear way precisely what action we are taking in order to protect ourselves. The more our intention is stated openly, the better for the safety of this country.
§ Mr. Mander
I should have thought that it was a very much quieter way of doing things than by the machinery that has been adopted up to the present time. I should like to say a few words on the question of industrial disputes, because I agree with hon. Members above the Gangway that we cannot be certain that the words in the Bill are satisfactory. It may be argued by the Government that to allow an industrial dispute on a large scale, such as a coal mines dispute or a railway dispute, to develop, might so weaken the prestige of this country as to increase the danger of external attack and that, therefore, troops might have to be used. They say that nothing is further from their minds. I am glad to hear that, but I want to see it in the Bill, because we have come to a stage when one cannot believe the spoken word of the head of this Government. We are told when pledges are made that they can be overridden by the majority sitting on the other side of the House, because it is said that circumstances have altered. A solemn pledge repeated time and time again can be treated as if it were of no importance. In these circumstances we must have precise language in the Act, and I have no doubt that Amendments will be put down to secure that anyone called up under this Measure cannot be used in any industrial or political dispute. If that can be done the Government will be giving a great deal of reassurance to many of those who have considerable anxiety on this point. One cannot but remember the way in which a certain strike was dealt with in France. The men were mobilised in a way that was probably never contemplated when the Act was originally passed, and the strike was broken by means of calling up the men and turning them from civilians into soldiers.
With regard to the question of employers, the position is extremely difficult. It is so easy for an employer to say that something is not reasonably practicable. We know that is so, and the Clause ought to be very much strengthened. It is wrong to put the responsibility of reinstatement on the employer himself alone. It ought to be the employer or his successor. The employer may go out of business, or he may died and be succeeded by his son. Under the Bill there would be no obligation for his successor to take back the 371 man. I think further that the offence of not taking on the man again should not be met by the payment of a fine but that it should be a continuing offence, and the employer should go on being fined until he does take the man on again. On Clause 3 it may be necessary to consider putting in certain safeguards.
From the amenity point of view, we know that the defence Services only look at these problems in order to get the land at the earliest possible moment. It ought to be borne in mind that sometimes a very beautiful site is destroyed because the amenities point of view has not been adequately considered. I feel also that the Act ought definitely to come to an end in three years time and should only be extended by the introduction of entirely fresh legislation. As a result of the catastrophic foreign policy of the Government in the last few years the people of this country have been brought into such a state of fatalism and despair that they are driven to accept one thing after another in a way that they would never have accepted a few years ago. That makes it all the more necessary that we should watch very closely legislation of this kind.
I attach the greatest importance to Parliament meeting whenever any grave situation arises. No doubt the Government attach great importance to Parliament not meeting, because it enables them to do things which would not be permitted if the House was sitting. I should be glad if the Minister who is to reply would be good enough to say to what extent Parliament will not have to be called together to deal with callings up contemplated under this Measure, as compared with the extent that they would have had to meet under the old procedure. It is of the greatest importance to our keeping strict control of the situation that we should have a definite assurance on this point, and I am confident that that would be the desire of every hon. Member.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I think this Debate has shown how useful a wide and general discussion can be, because the result of this examination of the Bill has undoubtedly brought to light certain defects and dangers which were not apparent by just reading the text of the Bill by itself. There 372 have been two main features of the Bill to which further attention must be devoted. There was the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), pointing out how many loopholes there are in regard to reinstatement in civil employment. Clause 2 of this Bill is identical with Clause 6 of the Military Training Bill. Last night we handed in on Clause 6 between 12 and 20 Amendments? covering particular features to which the hon. Member for Hemsworth called attention, and those Amendments will all be put down again on Clause 2 of this Bill. Therefore, I would call the attention of the Government to the necessity of considering very carefully what their policy will be, because this subject creates immense feeling in the country. Owing to the very nature of the procedure there is opportunity for a double discussion on every point that we raise.
The other point was the constitutional point to which attention was called by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). Here the Government are making a departure for which no justification was given in the speech of the Secretary of State. The Government propose to call up the Territorials and the Reserves, when necessary, by Order in Council, but in the previous Act of Parliament when an Order in Council of that sort was issued it was necessary that Parliament should meet within 10 days so that it might give its verdict upon the subject. Even in the Emergency Powers Act, which deals only with civil disturbances, when an Order is issued under it Parliament, has to meet within five days. Under this Bill no provision is made for the meeting of Parliament and when Parliament does meet there is no provision by which the Order in Council is to receive the sanction of Parliament. It is merely to be laid before Parliament, and there is an end of the matter. I hope that some statement will be made by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, for we shall require far better safeguards than that.
I share a good deal of the general apprehension which has been expressed by the hon. Member for East Wolver-hampton (Mr. Mander). I feel that we are in a situation of considerable danger. It has been said in these debates that other countries, like France, are as democratic as ourselves and that we should accept Bills like this because they are 373 accepted in France, but I have always thought that there is a considerable distinction between the kind of democracy that we have in this country and the kind they have on the Continent of Europe. We in this country have a way of looking at things which makes our democracy of a very different character, and this House is an example. There is no other Parliament in Europe which has the same temperament, outlook, and way of dealing with each other as we have in this House. Therefore it is really a fallacy to say that the democracies on the Continent of Europe and in this country are identical.
What I would call our heritage, our way of looking at things, has depended on two great institutions, namely, this House and our system of military service. In one week we have destroyed the one, and when I realise how rapidly it can be done, and when I realise some of the very sophistical arguments which can be used by the Secretary of State for War, I realise that we might equally rapidly be faced with the other. That is why I attach more importance to a Clause like this than on the face of it appears to be necessary, because if the Government propose 10 take these extraordinary powers into their hands, we must insist that Parliament shall consent, in order that never at any moment shall we allow the Executive of this country to get out of the control of the House of Commons. The greater part of this discussion has been, quite rightly, upon the military aspects and results of this proposal, and there is one such point with which I would like to deal. The Secretary of State said that so far as that great body of Territorials outside the anti-aircraft units was concerned, there was no intention at any rate of calling them up for more than the two weeks which they had expected.
§ The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Colonel Llewellin)
The ordinary training.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
He said that, although this Bill gave them the power to call them up, that power would not be exercised. That is an important statement which I should like to have repeated on consideration, because there is a considerable movement afoot that the whole body of the Territorials should be embodied now for at least two months. The "Times," in its leading article yesterday, put forward 374 that proposal. Therefore I hope I may take the Secretary of State's statement as the considered reply to those suggestions, because we do not want a situation repeated in which there is a sudden change of policy and in which we find that we have allowed this Bill to pass without dealing with that point because we have been under a misunderstanding as to what the intentions of the Government are. I therefore take it that unless there is a denial, we have the assertion by the Secretary of State on the Second Reading that outside the anti-aircraft force the Territorials will not be called up for more than their ordinary two weeks' training.
I come now to that part of the Bill which enables the anti-aircraft units to be called up for a month instead of the two weeks' camp. The Secretary of State explained that that was part of the general scheme by which, at the end of, say, September, these new recruits under the Military Training Bill would come in and take their place, so that it is a part of one scheme. Therefore, I wish to discuss the scheme as a whole and to explain what are the views which I and a number of my hon. Friends who have considered the subject hold as to the proper way of dealing with it. The anti-aircraft force is a force for older men. The work could be done equally well by men of over 25 or 30 in the Territorial Army, and it is work which is popular and interesting. Further, if war should break out, the men in that force would be in an almost privileged position as against the field force, because they would have all the comforts of living in this country and they would be directly defending their own homes. Therefore I have always thought that there will never be any difficulty in getting sufficient recruits for the anti-aircraft force.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
There are two qualities, as I understand it, that we must have in the anti-aircraft units. We must be prepared to do without our night's sleep, and we must be prepared to handle-heavy weights.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
A fairly elderly man can carry heavy weights, and as to doing without sleep, the older you become the easier you find it to do without sleep. For the reasons that I have given, I do not think there will be great difficulty in 375 obtaining sufficient recruits for the antiaircraft force from within the fairly close vicinity of each of the battalions and brigades. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that this would have been a better way of dealing with this problem, that you should have used the ex-Service men, retired Regulars, men of our coastguard type, as a nucleus for the antiaircraft defence, and then depended for the rest upon Territorials living in the immediate vicinity, who, in return for the great privileges which they enjoy as against the field force, would accept the obligation of coming up quickly, like the observer corps in the Air Force already does, or like the lifeboat men do all round our shores. I notice that some time ago the War Office took some steps towards meeting that suggestion and appointed 1,000 men of the type that I am describing to form the key men of the anti-aircraft force, and I am told that as a result of that it is already the case that in a considerable number of key positions you can get your volunteers within less than two hours. That is the kind of scheme that we should like to see developed.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that these conscripts will be ready by September. They will come in in June and will get about three months' training, and then they will take over the anti-aircraft defence work. Under that scheme you will have these young men being trained for the work, and doing the work, and then going out, and another batch taking their places. Where is the training of these 88,000 men for anything but antiaircraft defence? They will have no training for the work of the field force, and I cannot believe that you want 88,000 men trained every year for the work of anti-aircraft defence. What will the position be two or three years hence? If those men are to be wanted for the field force, they will have to be trained anew, and the very difficulty because of which this scheme is evolved will apply again to nearly half the men. If you say they will be used for anti-aircraft work, I say that in times of emergency it is not right that men of that age should be so used and that you will be using them for inappropriate duties. I hope there is some explanation of the matter, and I put that question—I do not expect the 376 Civil Lord to answer it—to the Secretary of State, who will have many opportunities of dealing with it in future Debates.
I will conclude by making a reference to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Lieut.-Colonel Dower). We, on these benches, appreciated the spirit of that speech, and one of my hon. Friends behind me said that he thought it was the spirit of the Territorial Army. I notice that the hon. and gallant Member said he believed that the voluntary system and the compulsory system could be worked in together, but that he hoped that at the end of this period of emergency the compulsory system would go and that the voluntary system by itself would be depended upon. That was wise, because I believe that after a few years it will be impossible for the two systems to live side by side. Let us be quite clear about that. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour was quite specious when he answered my argument on that point by saying, "Look how many men we are recruiting to-day, just after the Bill is introduced." But I began by saying, "I know that you will have for some years all the men whom you are recruiting to-day"; yet the fact remains that in the years to come the Territorial Army will die out, must die out, unless you can get the young men of 18. What will the position of these young men be? Every one of them will know that at 20 he is to be a conscript, and that for four years after that he will be a Territorial. Then, why volunteer? It is clear that the only volunteers who will be left will be non-commissioned officers and others who stay on for the four years. I repeat that unless the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion is carried out and this conscript system is brought to an end rapidly, this Bill signs the death warrant of the Territorial Army as we have known it hitherto.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Colonel Llewellin
No doubt the House will think it right that on a Bill which concerns the Royal Navy Reserves equally with those of the Army a representative of the Admiralty should join in the discussion, and I hope that in the course of my reply I shall be able to deal with the great majority of the points raised by hon. and right hon. Members. With regard to the last point put by the 377 right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), that this Bill is the death of the Territorial Army, I think he must have been referring to the Military Training Bill and not to the Bill that we are discussing. The sole object of this Bill is to simplify the procedure of calling up the Reserves and make it quicker than it is under the old Statutes. One hon. Member said that Ministers themselves had not known until they read the Bill, of these complications. Whether we had all learned of them before last September or not I will not say, but certainly during last September we all realised that each one of the Reserves was called up under a different Act and a different form of procedure, and what we are trying to do in this Bill is to simplify and accelerate that procedure.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who put such clear and concise questions in such a moderate manner, realised, I think, that we were right to try to accelerate the procedure. He said, however, that Parliament was handing over all its powers. I do not think that is so. When we deal with this matter, as we shall, by Order in Council, it will be necessary, as I think the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wands-worth (Colonel Nathan) was the first to point out, to lay that Order before Parliament as soon as may be after it has been made. True, there is no provision in the Bill that Parliament must assent to the Order, but no one with any knowledge of the procedure of this House could conceive the Government of the day "getting away with it," if that expression is permissible, if they issued an Order in Council in unwarrantable circumstances. There is always the procedure by which the Opposition can put down a Vote of Censure. The Government by long practice always find time for such a Vote, and as soon as an Order has been laid before Parliament, if Parliament disapproves of it, then Parliament will soon find a way of showing its disapproval of the Government's action.
The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and other hon. Members raised the point of whether this Measure could be used in connection with internal disputes. It is not intended to do anything of the sort, and in my belief it could not be so used. The opening words of the Bill are that the Government have to be satisfied that the service is urgently re- 378 quired for "ensuring preparedness for the defence of the Realm against any external danger." Those words were put in to show that there was no intention of using the Measure for internal purposes, and it is not intended so to use it.
§ Mr. Ede
Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman forgotten the Official Secrets Act and the use which was made of it against the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys)?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I do not know anything about what was said in the House when that Act was passed. It was passed before the War, when a Liberal Government was in office, and I do not know whether anything was said about its possible application, but in this case we have clear words in the Bill providing that the Government must be satisfied that a state of preparedness against external danger is necessary. If it is not made clear enough in that form, certainly the intention of putting in these words was to show that this will not be used for any kind of internal trade disputes, and hon. Members can rest assured that it is not and never has been the intention to use the Territorial Army or any army of that sort, in industrial disputes in this country. The hon. Gentleman opposite put several questions as to the method of calling up. He asked first about the period of warning. I am authorised to say that the best part, if not the whole, of a month's warning will be given to each unit. He also asked whether Territorial associations would be taken into consultation. The answer is, "Yes, they will."
§ Mr. Sandys
Does that mean that these anti-aircraft sites are not to be manned for a month at least?
§ Colonel Llewellin
Yes, Sir, that is what it means, unless, of course, they have to be manned in a great hurry. Under the intention which is held at the moment they will not be manned for another month. Of course if it were necessary to man them much quicker, they would be manned in the ordinary way by the whole of the Territorial anti-aircraft units as they were in the September crisis, but under this scheme, it is not intended at the moment to man them in advance of a month at least from now. With regard to the question of pay and allowances, I think the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street had in mind the Army, but perhaps 379 I may be allowed to give some information for all three Services. Class D, Royal Fleet Reserve, Royal Naval Reserve, and Royal Naval Volunteer Wireless Reserve ratings will get the full pay of their ratings and they will also get a £5 bounty when called up under this Measure. The naval pensioners will get the substantive pay of the last rank held by them on the Active List. They will also continue to receive their pensions.
Do I understand that they will get their pensions plus the full substantive rate of their former ranks?
§ Colonel Llewellin
They will get the substantive rate of their last rank on the Active List and their current rate of pension.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Naturally, when they are called up, married men get their allowances if qualified to receive them. With regard to the Army, the position is that they get the full pay and allowances of their rank, and that also applies to those of the Territorial Army who are called up. We all recognise the tremendous interest taken in the Territorial Army by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth and the tremendous amount of work which he has done for it and he will be glad to hear that the Territorial Army is to be—to use that rather odd phrase—"embodied." If I may make a passing reference to myself, I was "embodied" during the War, and at the end of the War I got a curious note from the War Office telling me that on a certain date in 1919 I had been "disembodied." Perhaps I do not look like it to hon. Members now, but at any rate what might seem from its name an unpleasant process, is accompanied by a £5 bounty and the Territorial Army members will get that. The same thing applies to members of the Auxiliary Air Force who, incidentally, are part of the balloon barrage—another point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth. They will get the pay and allowances of their rank while they are doing their duty, and they also are eligible for the £5 bounty.
§ Colonel Nathan
My point with regard to the balloon barrage was merely 380 whether the Auxiliary Air Force meant fighters plus balloon barrage, or one or the other?
§ Colonel Llewellin
The present intention is balloon barrage alone. At the moment there is no intention of calling up anybody else. It is not the intention at the moment to call out any of the flying personnel except the balloon barrage personnel in rotation. The same thing applies to the Royal Navy. Although afterwards we may have to call up more under this Bill, the present intention is to call up only those classes of persons of whom the House was informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. In the same way, the intention at the moment is to call out only the anti-aircraft part of the Territorial Army. That does not mean that if other eventualities arose, it might not be necessary to call out the Territorial Field Army, the coast defences or other persons of that sort under the terms of this Bill.
The next point raised by several hon. and right hon. Gentlemen was with regard to Clause 2, and I think the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) was the most emphatic about it. Let us see what the problem is. I want to show that this Clause is meant to be as watertight as it can be made, but before doing so let me make it clear that employers as a whole have been extremely good both to members of the Reserves of the Regular Army, of the Royal Navy and of all the other Services when they have been called up. Of 27,000 men called up last September for the Royal Navy, you could count on the fingers of both hands the number who did not get back into their own jobs, and I think exactly the same remark applies to the Army.
§ Colonel Llewellin
The period varied. We kept some rather longer than we kept the Territorial Army. As a rule they were away for about a fortnight.
§ Colonel Llewellin
It is three months for Reservists and a month for Territorials. I make that remark only by way of preliminary so that we should realise that employers on the whole have been extremely good. Let us see what we are trying to do in this Clause. First we lay down definitely: 381It shall be the duty of any employer by whom a person called out for service under this Act was employed when he was so called out, to reinstate himNothing could be clearer than that. The Clause proceeds:in his employment at the termination of that service in an occupation and under conditions not less favourable to him than those applicable to him when he was called out.'Nobody could have any objection, so far, to this Clause. It goes on to provide:If he fails to do so the employer shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds; and the court… may order him to pay to the person whom he has failed to reinstate, a sum not exceeding an amount equal to four weeks' remuneration.
§ Mr. Mander
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says no one could have any objection to the Clause so far, but there are objections which can be urged to it. When the man comes back to industry he will be six months older, and may be entitled to a higher wage.
§ Mr. Mander
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that the whole of the Opposition have objections to urge against it.
§ Colonel Llewellin
I am going on to deal with that.It shall be the duty of any employer… by whom a person called out… was employed, to reinstate him.Would the hon. Member have any objection to those words?
§ Colonel Llewellin
And to reinstate himunder conditions not less favourable to him than those applicable to him when he was called out.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Does the hon. Member mean that he ought to be reinstated in every case under more favourable conditions?
§ Colonel Llewellin
That is covered by the phrase. It means that in some cases he might be reinstated under more favourable conditions; in no case, under less favourable conditions.
§ Mr. Mander
I want to make every employer reinstate a man at the rate of wages to which he will be entitled according to his age when he comes back to work.
§ Mr. Hicks
I think the point raised relates to the case of a young man who is indentured, and who, between the time when he is called out and the time when he is released, reaches the age when ordinarily he would complete his indentures. He will then be entitled to the craftsman's or journeyman's wage. The point is whether he should be reinstated on the terms of the apprenticeship or at the journeyman's rate.
§ Colonel Llewellin
The hon. Member must be thinking that last night's sitting is still going on. A large number of people in respect of whom that point can quite properly be made are those between 20 and 21, who would be called up under the Military Training Act, but the majority of the men affected by this Bill would be older men.
§ Mr. Hicks
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his statement, because it is very clear and informative. But take the position of the casual workman working for—I will mention my own trade—a builder. Usually the terms of employment for such a man are the length and size of the job. During the time th man is away, the job may be completed. He may have been working in Cornwall, where he lives, and his employer may have taken on a contract at Aberdeen. Are you proposing to compensate that man or to pay his expenses to Aberdeen?
§ Colonel Llewellin
I do not think I can be led into discussing individual cases, 383 which, obviously, must be considered in the light of general principles.
§ Mr. Kirby
I understood the hon. and gallant Member to say that, under the terms of the Bill, anyone called up in these circumstances will be entitled to conditions not less favourable than they? had when they were called up. There are certain classes of employés, for instance, clerical workers and shop assistants, whose wages increase year by year. Assuming that a man is called up at 22 years of age, and in the meantime his birthday intervenes; when he goes back, would he be given the rate which he had when he left or the rate applicable to his age when he returns?
§ Colonel Llewellin
Take the case of the vast majority in the agricultural industry. There the wages alter as a man gets to a different age. It is quite clear there that he will have to go back at the rate for the age which he has attained. I think we are clear on the point that it is the duty of the employer to employ a man under terms not less favourable than those applicable to him when he was called up. Then we get to the penalties. It may be said that they are too low. That is a very simple point on which to move Amendments. It is always left to the discretion of the local tribunal. We have a provision here which I do not believe appears in any previous Act of Parliament; that a man may get, by order of a court of summary jurisdiction, four weeks' wages.
§ Mr. Leslie
This imposes no penalty on the employer in some cases. A large number in the distributive trades are paid monthly and are entitled to a month's notice according to their agreement; and so they would get this four weeks' wages in any case.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Such a man is no worse off. [Interruption.] I did not say "no worse off" because he loses his job, but because, in the ordinary way, the employer would have been able to give him a month's notice. [An HON. MEMBER: "He would not have given it."] In most industries the usual standard practice is for the employer to give the man, or the man to give the employer, a week's notice. Here we give power to the court to provide for a month's wages.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Let me come to the part of the Clause to which people have taken the greatest exception:Provided that in any proceedings under this Sub-section it shall be an offence for the employer"—My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) has left. He said it would be all right if the employer were made to appear in court. But he has first to come to court before he can make a defence. He is summoned for failure to employ a man who is called up for National Service. Not a great number of employers want to be put in a position of being summoned before a court on that charge. Then he will have the opportunity to prove that the person formerly employed by him did not apply for reinstatement in a reasonable time. The reasonable time is not what the employer thinks is a reasonable time, or what the employé thinks is a reasonable time, but what the magistrate thinks is a reasonable time. I do not think you can let a man go away and get another job, perhaps for a year, after being called up, and then to come and say, "Please take me on, because I left you to go into the Reserve." I do not think that is reasonable, and I do not think that hon. Members would say it was reasonable.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
If a man comes out of the Army and gets another job somewhere else, he has left that employer, according to the law.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Then, perhaps, I put a wrong case. Let us assume that he spent some months doing nothing after coming out of the Reserve. I think it is only right that, within a week or two after leaving the Reserve, he should come to be reinstated in his job. The employer may have kept the place open or have said, "This man is going to be away for one month, or it may be three months; I will take another man on just for that period." I think it is quite right that a man should not be convicted and fined for not reinstating a man who has not applied.
§ Colonel Llewellin
Within what the court think is a reasonable time. We may rely on the magistrates to decide what is a reasonable time.
§ Colonel Llewellin
He will appear before a magistrate, as the ordinary person who sits in a court of summary jurisdiction is a magistrate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I see nothing in this Clause which refers to a court of summary jurisdiction. All it refers to is summary conviction. Nor does it give any indication as to how an action is to be brought before such a court—whether a man requires to come before the court and take out a summons against an employer.
§ Colonel Llewellin
There is nothing mysterious in this. The only court that can convict a man summarily is a court of summary jurisdiction. There is a very easy and well-known way of bringing cases before a court of summary jurisdiction, and that is by summons.
§ Colonel Llewellin
In spite of the remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman, in 99 cases out of 100 it is far better to conduct your case yourself. Another defence for the employer isthat by reason of a change of circumstances (other than the engagement of some other person to replace him)—I believe that here I part company with hon. Members opposite, but it is necessary, when an employer may go bankrupt or close down his business in the meanwhile, to have some Clause of this sort. It is only a defence for the employer. He has to satisfy the magistrate that he could not reasonably reinstate the man, because perhaps he is bankrupt or has gone out of business altogether or because of some reason like that. It can only be set up 386 in defence before the magistrate, and some provision of this sort is necessary to prevent a man being brought before the court and convicted of not employing a man in a business which by that time may have ceased to exist.
- (a) it was not reasonably practicable to reinstate him; or
- (b) his reinstatement in an occupation and under conditions not less favourable to him than those applicable to him when he was called out, was impracticable, and that the employer has offered to reinstate him in the most favourable occupation and under the most favourable conditions reasonably practicable."
I will follow up one other point which the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) made on this Clause. He asked about the undertaking being carried on by somebody else. That is provided for by Sub-section (2):In relation to any person called out for service under this Act, references in this section to an employer shall be construed as including references to any person for the time being carrying on the undertaking or service in which he was employed when called out for service, or carrying on any undertaking or service with which that undertaking or service has been amalgamated or in which it was comprised on the date on which he was called out.I think that even the hon. Member will agree with that, but we have gone further. We have also put in Sub-section (3):If the Minister"—that is the Minister of Labour—is satisfied that it is necessary to do so for the purpose of preventing evasion of the provisions of this section he may make regulations for preventing employers from terminating the employment of their employés by reason of their liability to perform any obligation imposed on them by or under this Act.I will tell the House exactly what that is intended to mean. It is intended to mean that the Minister of Labour, in order effectively to work this Bill and the other Bill, which is its counterpart, to protect the young man of 20 whom the employer might get rid of before the obligation came upon him to re-employ him. It is to deal with the case of the employer, who, before he thinks that a man can be called up in one of the Reserves, gets him out of his employ a little before that service is due. I can assure right hon. and hon. Members opposite that the Government have made a sincere attempt to deal with this matter in the Clause as it now stands, and I hope that after the explanation which I have given some hon. Members opposite at least will give us credit for trying to do our best to do this thing which we all want to see done.
§ Mr. Lawson
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not answered the point which I put as to why the Government have taken the opportunity of abolishing cer- 387 tain Clauses which have hitherto laid down the responsibility of the Government for calling Parliament together. There does not seem any reason at all for this, and I warn the hon. and gallant Gentleman that, unless we get a satisfactory answer on that point safeguarding the rights of Parliament in respect of these powers, we shall deal with the matter in Committee.
§ Colonel Llewellin
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I dealt with it in this way. The hon. Member said that Parliament was giving up all its powers, and I said that there was, after an Order in Council had been made, a provision in Clause 1. I was quite frank and stated that the Order in Council had only to be brought before the notice of Parliament, but that it did not need, as the phrase is, an assenting Resolution of Parliament. I went on to say that Parliament had its own method of dealing with the matter. If we did a thing outrageously a Vote of Censure could be put down, and it is clear that Parliament would be safeguarded in that way.
§ Mr. Lawson
The definite safeguard against that in the past has been contained in sections of the various Acts which have made it imperative on the Government to call Parliament together within a certain time, and the present Order in Council method does not at all meet our objection to the operation of this Clause.
§ Colonel Llewellin
The answer is that the hon. Member does not like the Bill as drafted in that particular case, but I cannot alter the Bill while I am speaking. We are all agreed that we want some measure of acceleration and of getting rid of some of the archaic forms that we have had. It is a point that can, if necessary, be remedied in Committee or on another stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Clause 2 is the only thing about which I am bothered. Suppose, after the employer has been to a court of summary jurisdiction and the man in his employ has been refused his job, that employer, within a fortnight, sets on another man, what are you going to do?
§ Mr. Griffiths
In my industry it is very often the case that a man is stopped because it is said that there is no job for him, and yet within a fortnight another fellow is set on to do the particular job. What do you intend to do in the present case if another man is set on after a court of summary jurisdiction has found that there is no job for the applicant for reinstatement? Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman follow me now?
§ Colonel Llewellin
The court of summary jurisdiction does not make an order that an employer shall take a man back into his works. It has long been the principle of the law of this country not to allow criminal courts to enforce obligations of personal service. I think that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) would bear me out that it is very difficult to ensure that these obligations are performed, and the court does not like to be put into the position of making an order which can be ignored. Therefore, the penalty that the court can impose is a fine, as I have said, and, also in this case, the additional penalty of paying the equivalent of four weeks' wages to the man aggrieved.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
It is not a question of the employer paying £50 and a month's wages; it is a question of getting the man out altogether, because he has been a thorn in the side of the employer. The man is thrown away inside a fortnight and his job is filled. What do you intend to do about that?
§ Colonel Llewellin
The hon. Member is suggesting that if the man has been a thorn in the side of his employer he can get rid of a man with a month's notice.
§ Colonel Llewellin
If he cannot do it when the man is in a strong trade union, I do not see how he will be able to do it if it is a case where the man has given his services to his country. Surely the strong trade union will take back the man.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth raised a question about huts and billets. If it is possible these men will be put in billets, but as a lot of the sites for anti-aircraft guns are in country districts some miles from houses, I fear that there are men who 389 will have to go into huts. I am afraid that I did not quite follow the speech of the hon. Member for the Welsh Universities (Mr. E. Evans). He started by saying that he did not wish to oppose the Bill, but as far as I could understand him everything else he said was opposition to the Bill. At any rate, I hope he will now think that the Bill is not so bad. I can assure him that there have been consultations with the Treasury and that the effect on industrial life has been considered. Some of us believe that our first duty to the country is to see that it is so defended that our industrial life may be able to be carried on; and that is what this Measure is designed to achieve.
He also questioned whether we shall be taking too many men from air-raid precautions to ordinary Civil Defence. I do not think he realises that everybody taken under this Bill is already in the Reserve of the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. They ought not to have Civil Defence responsibilities as well, because if they have undertaken an obligation for anti-aircraft or some other defence in the event of mobilisation, it is absurd to suggest that they should undertake any obligations in the matter of Civil Defence. In regard to the points raised by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I think he will find that Clause 4 deals with them. The hon. Member for East Wolver-hampton also put certain points, and I hope I shall be able to clear away some of the suspicions which seemed to have clouded his mind. It is rather amusing, because he said that these guns which ought to be put up should not interfere in any way with amenities. I am afraid that for a long time since I have been unable to follow the hon. Member. One day he is very pugnacious and the next would deny us any of the powers for which we ask, and which his pugnacity would make even more necessary.
§ Mr. Mander
The hon. and gallant Member is not intentionally misrepresenting me. All I claim is that the question of amenities ought to be taken into consideration in selecting sites.
§ Colonel Llewellin
I think so too, and for once the hon. Member and myself are in agreement. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked me a number of points. He seemed to go back to the old idea of some kind of village green principle of manning anti-aircraft guns. It is 390 not as easy to do as many people think. I have been a student of the methods, at times when I have been employed on my Territorial duties, and not in my ministerial capacity, but, at any rate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War assures me that the training of these 80,000 Militiamen on anti-aircraft defence will not be wasted, but that a very large number of these men will be wanted in any future field force as antiaircraft gunners and that it will also be helpful to give them anti-aircraft training as potential gunners on some other type of gun. It is quite easy to change from manning one type of gun to manning another.
I think I have answered nearly all the points which have been put to me; at any rate, I have done my best. I am glad to speak to-night as a member of the Board of Admiralty on a matter which affects the Royal Navy almost as much as it does the Army, and more than ft affects the Air Force, but I am also glad to be able to speak because I happen to be one of those who will be affected by the Bill. The Secretary of State for War will be able to call me up under its provisions. So diverse are the avocations of those who form the Territorial Army that I am in that position, and I can say that I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth, with the hon. Member for South Shields and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth and others who have praised the spirit of the Territorial Army and our other Reserve Forces, and join with them in saying that I am quite certain that the men in these Reserves will willingly do their duty under this Bill.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
When I first heard of this Bill I thought it was a simple and an innocent Measure. I have sat here for three hours listening to a Debate which has changed my opinion. I now regard it as a dangerous Bill, which can only be linked with the Bill we discussed last night. On the former occasion we were only able to grasp the full meaning of the Bill when we came to debate the Money Resolution. We realised then just what the Bill meant, and in the case of this Bill we have only been able to grasp its 391 meaning by listening to the Debate. I want to recall the answer which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty has given in regard to Clause 2. He has not met the point raised by the hon. Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths). Clause 2 makes it essential that a man shall be reinstated when he returns to industry, but what hon. Members on this side complain of is that while the Bill says that the employer shall reinstate the man, it leaves many loopholes for the employer to escape paying the fine if he does not employ the man. We believe that if the Government had really meant that men should be reinstated on returning to civil life, they would have seen that there were no loopholes in the Bill, and would have left it to the court to decide whether the employer was justified in not reinstating a man. I was not satisfied by what the Civil Lord said with regard to the loophole contained in the provision:It shall be a defence for the employer to prove that the person formerly employed by him did not apply for reinstatement within a reasonable time after the termination of such service.Why need there be that loophole? Why could it not have been left to the court to decide whether a man had applied for his reinstatement within a reasonable period of time?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
That is a matter which is obviously a Committee point. While I cannot allow the hon. Member to debate it at length—[Interruption.]—Order!
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sure the hon. Member has no wish to be guilty of disorder. While I am anxious and willing that, when such a Committee point is put, it should be answered, I cannot allow the hon. Member to make a long speech on it.
§ Mr. Lawson
Further to the point of Order. My hon. Friend's point deals with a very important Clause in the Bill, and the point he is raising is really the heart of the Bill for the bulk of the men who will be called up. May I submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it is an important Second Reading principle rather than a Committee point?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think there is any point of Order. I was merely giving a warning to the hon. Member as to what was going to happen.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must not think that I am ruling him out of order because I rise. What I said was that he must not make a lengthy speech on the matter. I expressly said that since the question was asked, I had no objection to its being answered.
§ Mr. Batey
I will leave this point, especially as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth dealt with these questions so effectively that I had expected a better reply from the Civil Lord. My hon. Friend pointed out that these questions affect an industry in which we are interested. They affect the mining industry perhaps more than they affect any other industry, and it is for that reason that I want to labour them. I want now to draw the Civil Lord's attention to Sub-section (3) of Clause 2, which states:If the Minister is satisfied that it is necessary to do so for the purpose of preventing evasion of the provisions of this Section he may make regulations for preventing employers from terminating the employment of their employés by reason of their liability to perform any obligation imposed on them by or under this Act.'I cannot understand why it should be necessary to make regulations, and why it cannot be stated in the Bill. I am opposed to these regulations being made by the Minister. I think it would be much better to state in the Bill what the Ministr means, and not to leave it to the regulations. With regard to Clause 4 the Civil Lord gave an explanation of Sub-section (1), but it seems to me that Sub-section (2) of this Clause gives to the Secretary of State power to assume the powers of Parliament if Parliament is not sitting. I object to any Clause in any Bill that gives power to the Secretary of State to assume the powers of Parliament.
393 I come now to Clause 1. This Clause means far more than one is inclined to gather on first reading it. It seems to me that by taking power to call out these Reserves for service, the Government are leading the country very rapidly to industrial conscription. I think the Government have taken three steps towards that; first, by the Voluntary Register; secondly, by the Military Training Bill; and thirdly, by this Bill, which gives the Minister power to call out these men for service. The Civil Lord tried to explain that it would be done only when there was any external trouble, but that does not satisfy me. Some of us remember 1926. We believe that under this Clause the Government might, when there is trouble in some country on the Continent, say that they cannot allow a trade union in this country to call a strike because of that external trouble. It was said last night that we had to have the Military Training Bill because France demanded it.
Some of us have recollections of what France has done in calling up reserves in order to break strikes. Some of us remember, too, 1926, when the Navy was called out to man the pumps in the collieries. It was one of the things which gave immense annoyance to the miners. We want it made far clearer than the Civil Lord has made it to-night that this power which is given to the Minister will not be used to break strikes. The present Ministers may be prepared to promise that it will not be so used, but other Ministers who will follow may regard it as within their power to call out the Reserves in order to suppress strikes. It ought to be made clear by being put in the Bill that the Reserves will not be called out for this purpose. It is because of my fears of what may happen under this power that I am strongly opposed to the Bill.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
I want to confine my remarks to Clause 2, and to speak on behalf of a class which will be more affected than any other class by this Bill. I refer to the distributive workers. Knowing what happened in the last War I cannot help being somewhat suspicious as to what will happen under this Bill. Promises were made to reinstate men and they were never fulfilled. Thousands of men were never able to get back into the 394 distributive trades again. I am afraid that employers will be able to drive a coach and four through Clause 2. Take, for instance, the penalty which is to be imposed if an employer fails to reinstate a man. It is to be a sum not exceeding an amount equal to four weeks' remuneration. In the distributive trades, where men are engaged and paid by the month they are entitled to a month's wages in lieu of notice. If a man is not reinstated will he be entitled to receive not only the month's wages in lieu of notice, but the penalty which is imposed by the police court on the employer? If that is not so, there will be no penalty on the employer, for he will be giving only what the employé would be entitled to in any case.
Then an employer need not reinstate a man by reason of changed circumstances. What can be called "changed circumstances?" We were told in the last War that a change of circumstances was a reorganisation in a business. If centralised buying were introduced and departmental buyers displaced, would that be regarded as changed circumstances which would justify an employer in not reinstating an employé? There is the further provision that an employé is to be reinstated under conditions not less favourable to him than those applicable to him when he was called out. In the distributive trades wages are paid according to age. Is the period during which a man is on service to be taken into account so that when he returns he will be entitled to the wage according to his age, or will he be entitled only to the wage of the age when he was called up?
§ 8.52 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
There is an old saying that everything comes to him who waits, and I am glad that even at the end of the Debate I am allowed an opportunity of expressing my views on this Bill. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Government evidently place so much importance on this Measure—a Measure which will call upon men who have already proved that they are willing to make sacrifices to make further sacrifices—that there are on the Front Bench only four Under-Secretaries, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman who has just come in, one supporter behind the Ministerial quartette, and two others well in the back row. 395 Last Sunday, which was generally accepted as the May Sunday of the Labour movement in this country, trade union leaders, Labour leaders, front-benchers and back-benchers, were attacking the Government, were describing the Ministers as men who could not be trusted, were telling the people that the Government were making a mess of the country's affairs and were bringing in legislation that was not good legislation. I trust that after last Sunday our party has been so revived with enthusiasm that it will not pass legislation which is brought forward by those people who were described as lacking in brains and as people who do not legislate for the good of the country but betray the interest of the working class.
Therefore, I trust that, after the speeches we have heard on this Measure and the criticisms that have been directed to it, the Opposition will carry their views to their logical conclusion and will not place themselves in the position of being accused of sham fighting, but will carry their objections to the Division Lobby against the Government which we attacked last Sunday and have attacked ever since we came here in 1935. It looks as though the Financial Secretary to the War Office has again been left with the baby to hold. I do not know whether he is expected to reply to the later criticisms. I trust not, because obviously he was very much responsible, by reason of the sparseness of the information he gave last night to Members on this side, for the all-night Sitting and for raising feeling which could quite well have been avoided.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member has now been speaking for over five minutes, and I do not think that more than half a minute of his speech has been devoted to the Bill. He must apply himself to the Bill instead of engaging in general denunciation of the Government and of individual members of the Government, when that is not the subject of the Debate.
Of course I recognise that general denuciation of the Government is not agreeable in many quarters, but I was pointing out my primary reason for ob jecting to this Bill. I will come to the Bill itself, but I was merely saying in passing that I regretted that one who had previously made such a bad job—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope the hon. Member will not attempt to repeat something which I have already told him is out of order. If he does so I shall have to ask him to resume his seat or else leave the Chamber.
Of course I accept your Ruling. I did not understand at first. I thought you were advising me. I did not know that you had definitely ruled this out of order. Knowing that now I certainly will not again refer to the regrettable circumstances that I did desire to speak of. We have had a discussion on Clause 2, and I listened very carefully to the hon. and gallant Member who replied for the Government and tried to explain how responsibility was definitely placed upon the employer who desired to appeal against a case in which a workman claimed re-employment. I suggest to the Under-Secretaries who are gathered on the opposite benches that if they had wanted the Clause worded correctly instead of saying that the employer is required—To reinstate him in his employment… under conditions not less favourable to him than those applicable to him when he was called out,the Clause should read:to reinstate him under conditions not less favourable than those that would be applicable to him if he had not been called out.That would make the position perfectly clear, and would meet the desires of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, because if during the interval when the man was away he would, in the normal course, have been entitled to a rise in salary, or promotion, or to transfer to some different work, he should be entitled to the advantage on his return. It surprises me that very little comment has been made regarding the clear, concise and definite wording of the Clause which calls up the men for service. Not one word is out of place, there is not one grammatical error, not one single qualification. They are being called to give unqualified sacrifice. Clause 1 states definitely and clearly, within the understanding and comprehension of the most simple Member, what is expected of those who are being called up.
There is a difference when we come to the Clause dealing with the return of the man from his service and sacrifice—because, remember, we are not dealing now with men who were unwilling, but with 397 those who have testified their willingness to share in the nation's burden by joining either the Territorials or the Auxiliary Reserve. The Clause does not say that the Minister shall set up a committee which will decide that a man who has been away for a certain period "must" be employed, in the way that Clause 1 says that he "must" do his service, but says that if the employer can prove that it is not practicable to bring him back into employment, or can offer him a job which, though not the job he had when he went away, is a reasonable job, and can prove that it is all he can possibly do, then the employer will have made good his case.
What is the worker to do? There are thousands of working-class people who, unfortunate though it may be, are scared of the law, and when they receive a legal document—sometimes even an insurance policy—are unable to deal with it because of their lack of education. But the returned soldier must issue a summons. The responsibility lies, in the first case, with him. Either through an agent or by his own act he has to issue a summons to call the employer into court. Of course, after leaving the Forces, with all the savings that have accrued to him, he will be able to afford legal help. I expect he will be able to hire some of the hon. Members of this House, whose fees are very extensive indeed. But, apart from that, the whole thing is just a farce. It is an indication that the Government are prepared to take everything and give nothing.
I come to the Clause dealing with the acquisition of land. What is it that the Government is asking of these young men, this Government which says that it desires fair play? Though many of them recognise that the international situation has been brought about by the stupidities of this Government they are prepared to make a sacrifice and have indicated their willingness to be called up for a definite period. They are prepared to give their service and, if necessary, their lives, because the ultimate objective of willingness to serve is willingness to make sacrifices, and these men can make only one sacrifice in their capacity as soldiers, and that is the sacrifice of life. In the case of land the Government say that if the nation in its dire peril, in its extremity, desires land from some landowner he shall be paid compensation based upon the Act of 1842—and that is ample compensation. They 398 do not go to the landowner and say, "Look here. You have got land, the nation is in peril, we want you to give it, even though it may be dear to you." They say, "We want your land and we will take your land, but rest assured, old man, that we will compensate you amply and handsomely for it." That land is to be used for the training and housing of working-class men who are prepared to give everything they have got, to leave their homes and their families, and give up their industry.
I say, therefore, that this Bill indicates to me that the Government desires this National Service without giving national service. I am going into the Lobby against this Government until they are prepared clearly and definitely to give decent conditions to men who are prepared to make the sacrifice. Until the Government are prepared to give national service for National Service I will vote against their Measures.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
I would speak about certain matters of some little importance, and the first is contained in Clause 2. I do not disguise from myself that it is a little difficult, under that Clause, to protect the returning workman. It would be strange if it were not so. For several centuries we have built up a system in which the workers have as few rights as we can decently give them, short of a revolution, and it would be odd, when the Government are seeking to give them a little protection, if it were not found difficult to fit some measure of protection into the existing framework. With the greatest respect to the Government I say that this is not an honest effort. The idea is that you must protect the employer from losing several pounds or several shillings. Fancy a waste of several pounds or several shillings of an employer's money when all that the other fellow has to do is to protect the first fellow's skin. Employers can short-circuit the whole thing. They can say on the returning Service man: "Come in on Monday. The terms of your job will be as favourable as they were before. Those terms will include a week's notice, and if I give you a week's notice on the following Friday that is exactly what I could have done three months before."
§ Mr. Pritt
I did look at that Sub-section, but I did not think it was worth mentioning. The Sub-section says:If the Minister is satisfied that it is necessary to do so for the purpose of preventing evasion of the provisions of this Section he may make regulations for preventing employers from terminating the employment of their employees by reason of their liability to perform any obligation imposed on them by or under this Act.If it is possible to legislate, why do the Government not do it? If it is impossible to do so, why fob off the unsuspecting public—which is not to be found on these benches, I am glad to say—by pretending that the Minister may make some regulations to do something which the Government are either too lazy or too incompetent to do now? Has anybody the faintest doubt that it will be necessary to prevent evasion? It might be said that 90 per cent. of the employers of the country are filled with patriotism, and that their desire to assist their employés will actually survive the disappearance of the crisis. It may be so, but what about the other 10 per cent.? Why should their employés suffer? Instead of legislating about the matter the Government say: "Later on, if there is a horrible row about it, the Minister may make some regulations"—which are likely to be no better than the Measure itself.
As the Civil Lord says, there is a whole series of things. There is the provision in regard to reasonable time; that is not very easy. There is "practicable"; that is not very easy. To whom do you commit the trial of the question as to whether it is practicable and whether the time is or is not reasonable? You commit it to the magistrates. The two distinguishing features of the magistrates are, first, that they are utterly incompetent to decide almost anything except the simplest possible questions of fact. Anyone with practical knowledge of the matter knows that one can read judgment after judgment by the Lord Chief Justice, before whom their grosser sins are brought, if the people who suffer from them have the good fortune or have enough money to be able to bring them up.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Member cannot pursue this question of the qualifications of the magistrates.
§ Mr. Pritt
I submit to you. Sir, that this is a vital point. It has wakened up three elderly Members of the House and has provoked a perfectly proper and reasonable interruption from the hon. Lady, who is a justice of the peace, and against whom I do not desire to make any comment as a justice of the peace.
§ Mr. Pritt
No, I am not giving way to the hon. Member. I hope that the hon. Member will go to sleep again soon. If you do not want me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to take too long, I must proceed with this matter. The number of cases brought up on appeal is infinitesimal because the number of people who have the money, the technical knowledge and skill involved in this thing is also infinitesimal. If the hon. Lady wants any confirmation, I suggest that she asks anybody who has had experience in the bringing of appeals.
§ Lieut.-Colonel The Marquess of Titchfield
We all know that the Clause is not very watertight and we should all like to make it so. Would the hon. and learned Member tell us how we can make the Clause absolutely watertight? Will he give us his advice? I am sure we should be very grateful for it.
Marquess of Titchfield
Would the hon. and learned Member really tell the House, because it is very important, how the 401 Clause can be made watertight? The hon. and learned Gentleman has said nothing about what he would do. Honestly, we should like to hear his suggestions. I am sure he has had great experience in this matter.
§ Mr. Pritt
As Parliamentary draftsman I have had little experience. With great respect to the Noble Lord—if you do not rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—I will come back a little later to what he is saying. At the moment I am dealing with the point with which I propose to deal. I am not going to have my speech rearranged for me as the Noble Lord and other Members have been tending to do, even those who have been out of the House between Eight o'clock and Nine o'clock. These things are committed to the magistrates. There are two features about the magistrates. The first is that they are incapable of dealing with anything except the very simple kind of case. I was pointing out that the case we are considering is of necessity an extremely elaborate kind of case and is not merely a question of fact. The other feature is that, with certain exceptions where you get stipendiary magistrates—who are not by any means all satisfactory—or where you get a Labour bench, magistrates are definitely employers. It is a sheer farce and an insult to justice to bring before a group of magistrates, all of whom are employers and half of whom grudge any increase in their weekly wage bill, this kind of case, and to say to them: "Now, will you please deal with a charge"—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Pritt
I do not know whether you desire, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to call to order those strange noises which say that I am telling a lie. By the fact that I am getting these interruptions I know that I am both getting under their skins and, what is much more important, that I am telling the truth. I heard an hon. Member say several times, "It is a lie."
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not hear any hon. Member use that expression. If I had, I should have required him to withdraw immediately.
§ Mr. A. Reed
The hon. and learned Member was charging the magistracy of this country with being people who cannot carry out their duties properly, who, when cases of this kind are brought before them, do not do their duty or administer justice. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to charge a class of people in this country, who are appointed by a commission because of their ability to discharge such duties, by proclaiming that they cannot do their duty honestly or decently?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Member told me that he heard a disorderly statement, but he did not identify any hon. Member as having made that statement.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. A. Reed) accused the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) of being a liar, I must ask him to withdraw the words.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not know whether the hon. Member desires to raise another point, but he has withdrawn the statement, and I cannot allow him to qualify that withdrawal in any way. I have been for some time proposing to interrupt the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) to say that although, as he knows, the magistrates are not quite in the same position as judges, it is the accepted tradition of this House that reflections should not be made on justices of the peace.
§ Mr. Pritt
If it is suggested that I have charged magistrates with dishonesty, I have done nothing of the kind. I claim however, my right here, speaking before this House, to say it is well known that magistrates are not competent to decide 403 difficult questions of this kind. But I had passed from that, and was saying, and I claim my right to say, that magistrates, and, indeed, a good many judicial persons, are not capable of dissociating their own minds from the interests of the class or group or profession to which they belong. That is an accusation which is made by persons of all kinds against my own profession all day long, and it is a perfectly proper accusation to make. It is known to everyone who does not wrap his head in a blanket that, if you get a number of magistrates who are all employers of labour and put them to decide a question of fact in which an employer of labour is charged with having attempted, shall we say, to cut down his wage bill, they cannot bring to that matter the complete impartiality which they ought technically to bring to it. The Lord Chief Justice has said that time and again.
§ Captain Heilgers
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. and learned Gentleman to describe benches of magistrates as being in the main all employers? I happen to be a member of a bench of magistrates myself, and I can testify to the fact that they are not all employers.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is not a point of Order, but I really must ask the hon. and learned Member to observe the traditions of the House a little more carefully. It is not in accordance with our traditions in speaking of magistrates, to make a general accusation against benches of magistrates that they are not impartial in administering justice.
§ Mr. Pritt
In answer to the hon. and gallant Member opposite, who may not have heard me correctly—I do not complain of that—I would point out that what I said was that magistrates, subject to a number of exceptions, were generally in that position. But far more important than courtesy towards magistrates is—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken. I did not refer to courtesy towards magistrates; I referred to the traditions of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Pritt
Surely, one of the most important traditions of the House of Commons is that the privilege of Members should enable them to speak to the elementary facts of life. To pretend that the human mind is so carved up into watertight compartments that a bench of magistrates consisting wholly or mainly of employers of labour can come to a question concerning an employer of labour who is charged with having dismissed an employé when he should not have dismissed him—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am afraid the hon. and learned Member is not sufficiently acquainted with the opportunities which the House of Commons has for preserving its rights and doing what is necessary. If the hon. and learned Member has serious accusations to make against benches of magistrates as a whole, there are proper methods of doing it. It is absolutely against the traditions and practice of the House of Commons to make general accusations of partiality or unfairness against benches of magistrates in the course of a Debate in which there is not a definite allegation made against the magistracy.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
There is another very strict rule of this House, and that is that respect must be shown to the Chair.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I regard that remark as one of extreme disrespect, and must ask the hon. and learned Member immediately to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Pritt
Since you regard it as such, although I am unable myself so to regard it, I accept your Ruling on the matter, which will be more impartial than mine, without a moment's hesitation of any kind, and unreservedly withdraw the statement and ask you to accept my 405 apology for having made a statement which struck you in that way. Nevertheless I desire to say that it is grotesque to describe as a general accusation against magistrates a statement of an elementary fact relating to human nature—the statement, which has been made over and over again by the Lord Chief Justice in far stronger language than I am capable of using, that no man can be expected to bring to the decision of a question of fact which is of a type likely to affect him in his own business, profit-seeking life, the complete impartiality of a highly trained judge. It is a matter which the courts have recognised in varying degree over and over again, and, the moment such a position becomes at all acute, there is a large body of law, as you, Sir, as a lawyer will know, laying it down that, so far from the courts having to deal with the case, they are regarded for that reason as being utterly without jurisdiction to try the case. It is a great misfortune that gentlemen are brought, by the accident of their situation, to try cases which would appear to affect their own interests in a semi-direct, but very nearly direct manner, and a proposal which I would say is much more satisfactory is that the whole of these questions should not be committed to magistrates at all, but to county court judges, and that will enable me to say something which the Civil Lord invited me to say, because the two things rather hang together, how this could be very much better done.
If, instead of saying it should be a punishable offence to do this, we stated, as it has been stated in other Statutes, that "it should be an implied term in every employment contract," and then set out the various implied terms, which could be nicely adjusted to ensure that they give a man real security when he comes back, the whole matter would be solved. The court, which while not perfect, for no court is perfect, would nevertheless come to the matter impartially, that is to say, it would not be likely to be composed of a particular class directly affected by problems of this kind, and the whole matter would be very much better operated in that way.
The other point to which I would refer is Clause 4, which practically commits to legislation by Order in Council as much more legislation as any Government wants to do. It is an increasing tendency. De- 406 partmental legislation, of course, we must all endure. It is absolutely essential and, if properly administered, can be very good indeed, and some of it is very good, but to say that His Majesty may by Order in Council make provision for such consequential matters as it appears to him expedient to provide for by reason of the passing of the Act, and may modify any enactment relating to such matters, is setting up a very nearly independent legislature side by side with this, enabling the Government to govern by Order in Council on anything which might fairly come under the long title of this Bill, and is a very serious inroad indeed on normal legislative procedure. It has been safeguarded by Sub-section (2), which says that such an Order shall not be submitted to His Majesty unless it has been approved by Resolutions passed by each House of Parliament. If the Clause stopped there, while I should not like it, I should regard it as an evil so closely safeguarded as to become a minor instead of a major evil, but unfortunately there is a proviso that if at any time when Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or adjourned for more than 14 days, and the Admiralty, or a Secretary of State alone, without any interference from anyone else, regards it as necessary, such legislation shall come into force and remain in force, perhaps for many months, and there is no sort or kind of provision for bringing the House together to deal with it. The actual implications of that would lead one into Committee points and, therefore, with these very important matters in the Bill, I can only now express my very great anxiety.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]