§ 1.22 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord af the Admiralty (Colonel Llewellin)
I beg to move, in page 12, line 28, to leave out from the first "for," to "was," in line 29, and to insert "training to which this section applies."
With this Amendment there are four others relating to the same subject to be Considered. They are rather more than merely drafting in character. The one to which I direct particular attention is—in page 13, line 16, at the end, insert:(2) The training to which this section applies is training for a continuous period of six months or more, being training which the person called up has become liable to undergo by virtue of his having entered or enlisted in one of His Majesty's reserve and auxiliary forces on or after the twenty-seventh day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, and any reference in this section to a person enlisted or called up shall be construed as including a reference to a person who, by virtue of this Act, is deemed to have been enlisted or to have been called up, as the case may be.That is a new subsection which we shall, later, seek to include in the Clause. Hon. Members who were good enough to listen to me, will recall that I spoke for a considerable time on a similar Clause on the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Bill, and I gave the House an assurance then, that the Government wished to make this procedure as watertight as we could. The words which we are attempting by this Amendment to delete are:Service for a continuous period of six months or more under this Act.If hon. Members direct their attention to Clause 2 (3), they will find that those persons who are entered in the new Royal Naval Special Reserve or in the Auxiliary Air Force are not in any event liable to be called up for military training under this Measure, and it is very doubtful, looking into it further, whether the words "a continuous period of six months or more under this Act" would apply to them. Hon. Members will agree that I should be in a most unfortunate position if I had said that the Clause was watertight, as I did, and then find that the people in the Royal Naval Special Reserve, who are the particular concern of the Admiralty, had by inaccurate drafting been excluded from these provisions. We are, therefore, seeking to 912 put in these words to make it clear that people who join the Royal Naval Special Reserve and people in the Auxiliary Air Force will be included and get the benefit of these provisions.
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
In putting the Amendment, I will endeavour to do it in such a way as to save the Amendment which the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) wishes to move in the same line. I am afraid as it stands I cannot save it; but I think the hon. Member can move it as an insertion a little further on.
§ Mr. T. Williams
On a point of Order. May I suggest that instead of my Amendment being after the word "service," in line 28, it might follow after the word "training" in the Amendment just proposed by the Minister? The Clause would then read, if my Amendment were carried:It shall be the duty of any employer by whom a person called up for training or made subject to the condition that he shall engage in and perform work of national importance …The Government Amendment is at a point that is one word too early to allow of my Amendment being moved at the place at which it appears on the Order paper. If the Chairman can therefore see his way to accept the first word of the Government Amendment—"training"—and then allow my Amendment to be moved at that point, it would have the effect that we desire.
§ The Chairman
I am obliged to the hon. Member, and I think the way he suggests is all right and will meet the difficulty.
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of Order. I wonder whether this is an occasion on which I could deal with a point that I have in mind. I understand that the Government Amendment has been moved in order to make sure that this protection is watertight. I wanted to discuss whether the class that the Amendment now proposed covers is in fact afforded any protection.
§ Mr. Silverman
I know, and I suppose one might agree that the Amendment, if carried, would make the particular class which it covers as watertight as it is in 913 any other case, but supposing some of us are of the opinion that it is not watertight in the case of any of them, I think the argument that this Amendment is watertight would not be a good argument. However well-intentioned the Government may have been in this matter, under the Clause as drafted, even with this Amendment, there is no substantial protection, in my view, for anybody at all.
§ Mr. Mabane
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in discussing the whole principle of this Clause on the Amendment moved by the Civil Lord, which, I think, relates merely to the classes of people called up?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member would be in Order in so far as anything which he has to say deals with the group of Amendments to which the hon. and gallant Member referred in moving his Amendment.
§ Mr. Silverman
It seemed to me that as the hon. and gallant Gentleman put forward his Amendment with the argument that if we passed it, that would make the Clause watertight, and there would then be real protection for everybody, it was not out of Order to deal with that argument. It seems to me that the Clause would still be inadequate to afford any substantial protection for anybody, even including the new class which would be covered under the Amendment and which was not covered before.
§ Mr. Mabane
On the point of Order. May we know what precisely is the group of Amendments which we are supposed to be discussing?
§ Colonel Llewellin
The Amendment that I am moving, is on page 12, line 28, and the Government Amendments on page 12, line 31; on page 13, line 16; on page 13, line 17; and on page 13, line 21.
§ Mr. Mabane
I think that that rather supports my view that we are not entitled on this group of Amendments to discuss the conditions that are applied to employers, which was what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) was dealing with. If he is in Order we shall be in Order in discussing it, too.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will not proceed with it at this stage but will raise it on a later Government Amendment.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
You will have observed, Sir Dennis, that eight Government Amendments were put without explanation or debate an hour ago.
§ The Chairman
I did observe it and I could not help observing it, but I do not see what is the application of the right hon. Gentleman's remark.
§ Mr. Silverman
The Chair has said that I shall have an opportunity when the Amendment is reached and I am content with that.
§ Mr. Mabane
There is an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) which raises the general question of re-instatement. Could we have a general debate on that Amendment?
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there inserted."
§ 1.39 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after "training" to insert:or made subject to the condition that he shall engage in and perform work of national importance.The simple point in the Amendment to the proposed Amendment is to ensure to the person who under Clause 3 (5, a) is diverted from his usual work by doing work of national importance shall have the same right of reinstatement at the end of that work as the person who is called up for training. On Clause 3 every hon. Member agreed that if the spirit of the words of the Prime Minister is to be observed, there must be no punitive treatment of the person who proves to the tribunal that he is justified in taking a particular stand. The Lord Privy Seal 915 and the Minister of Labour made concessions on Clause 3 so that a man has the same right of appeal as has the Minister in certain disputes. The Committee welcomed that kind of gesture. For the first time in the Bill Clause 6 makes a differentiation in treatment between the person who claims to have a conscientious objection and the ordinary person called up for training. To exclude the conscientious objector from this Clause is not consistent with the Prime Minister's statement or his desire when he made it.
Take, as an example, the case of a shop assistant. He entered the service of a shop at 14 years of age. Up to the age of 20 he was acquiring knowledge and then became an efficient assistant. He is diverted by the appropriate tribunal for 12 months—not six months—to work of national importance. What that work is likely to be even the Minister of Labour could not tell us yesterday. He said that Sub-section (5) was purposely left vague in order to allow the maximum of elasticity for the tribunal when dealing with these cases. The shop assistant may be sent to a farm or an engineering shop, or anywhere, and he is sent away for 12 months. His instruction is that under pain of heavy penalties he must remain there to perform the work of national importance for 12 months. Before he is sent he must satisfy a tribunal that he has sustained his claim to be a conscientious objector. Then he is sent away for 12 months on work of national importance and thus fulfils his part of the national demand, and all the conditions imposed upon him. Ought he not at the end of that period of service to be able to claim the right to return to the same employer for whom he worked for the six years previous to being called up? I do not want to inflict punitive treatment on one person any more than another or to make conditions easier for one class than another, but if the House admits that there is such a thing as a conscientious objection and provides facilities for dealing with it, we must, in order to be logical, safeguard the employment of the conscientious objector in the same way as we safeguard the employment of the man who does training.
There are good employers as there are less good employers, good workmen and perhaps less good workmen, and always 916 we have to legislate against the worst type of individual. A person who in six years has proved to be an efficient employé will as a rule have no trouble in getting back into his previous employment, but we may come across employers who will not re-engage him, who will not give him a character, who will make it as difficult as possible for him to obtain other work. If that man has sustained his case before a tribunal we ought not to subject him to that humiliation. According to the Schedule the chairman of a tribunal is to be a county court judge, and if the applicant has satisfied a county court judge that his case is a good one it ought to satisfy the Minister of Labour and the Government that he is entitled to the same rights and privileges under this Clause as are given to other persons who are called up and perform their training.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I was interested to hear the hon. Member talk about this in terms of logic, but I did not find his logic convincing, because really there is no relation such as he suggested between this Clause and Clause 3. How does Clause 6 arise? It arises from past history. If persons have rendered military or naval service in times of national emergency there has always been an appeal to their employers on account of the service they have rendered—and no other service—to take them back into their employment after the emergency has passed, if that employment still existed; and I have no doubt whatever that apart from this Clause 6, the great bulk of the employers in the country would be willing to do so under present conditions, just as have the overwhelming majority of employers in past years. But there is one distinction as regards the present emergency, and that is that we have in this Statute—
§ Mr. Brown
Well, a statutory duty is proposed in the Bill, if the right hon. Gentleman is so pernicketty and so precise. We have this statutory obligation imposed by this Bill because instead of its being an emergency likely to continue for a short period only, as has happened once or twice since the War, this is a definite period, a long period, and the man is to be compulsorily taken away. In the circumstances the Government 917 have felt that, since they were laying compulsion upon the man to give service in the armed forces of the Crown, they ought to lay a compulsion, and it is a compulsion to be enforced by heavy penalties, upon the employer to reinstate the man who has rendered that service to the community where it is reasonable to say that he can be reinstated.
That is the structure of this Clause. I cannot agree that it follows in logic that if a man has not rendered the particular service for which this preference has always been asked—and been given voluntarily—the employer should now be asked, under penalty, to reinstate him. I want to make that quite clear. I do not complain about the Amendment being put down now, because the hon. Member asked a question yesterday, and I made it plain that it was not by an accident of drafting that the arrangement is as it is in the Bill. We felt that we ought to have this unprecedented thing, this very difficult thing—for it will be a very difficult thing—this statutory obligation upon an employer to take back the men who have served as the nation desires to compel them to serve by training for the armed forces of the Crown; but I do not think the House or the country would wish to lay that heavy obligation, imposed under penalty, upon the shoulders of employers in the case of those who for reasons of conscience have not so served. To push things to the logical conclusion of the terms of the hon. Member's Amendment would be to misinterpret the whole intention of the Statute, and therefore I cannot ask the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ 1.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
The impression has been created that we are displaying a better mood towards conscientious objectors than was the case in the last War, and I am very glad that the provisions of the law affecting conscientious objectors are being discussed in times of peace, because we are better able to get reasonable treatment for them, but we have had one or two interesting revelations in the pontifical utterance of the right hon. Gentleman. He said that this emergency is going to be of long duration. The Bill is only for three years. If the Government say that the emergency is to be of long duration that is an answer to the question which was asked by the right hon. Mem- 918 ber for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). Of course this is not a temporary Bill. It is a permanent change in the social structure of the country. The right hon. Gentleman forgets what happened in the last War, forgets how the conscientious objectors were persecuted and driven from their jobs—sometimes from their jobs under local authorities. Even in this House people pleaded that the Government should not reinstate those who had been conscientious objectors. He forgets, also, that people tried to prevent conscientious objectors from even having a vote. There was a debate on this House in 1916 or 1917, and some Members tried to prevent them from having the vote under the Franchise Bill.
I wish hon. Members would go to the Library and turn up the OFFICIAL REPORT for March, 1917, and read the speech made on this subject by Lord Hugh Cecil. It is one of the most moving speeches, and one of the clearest, on this question which has ever been made. His case—I wish I could repeat it in his words—and it is our case, is that the conscientious objector who believes that conscience comes first will brave public obloquy for his conscience. Other people will lay down their lives because they feel that they have a conscientious duty to fight for their country. But they have this in common, that both erect conscience as against State worship. That is really the fundamental point in this question of conscientious objection—whether we are to take the view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, which was in essence State worship, Hitlerism pure and simple, or whether we ought to take our stand on the point of view we have advanced. Whether we are people who would willingly go out and fight or willingly stay at home and suffer for our conscience state, we have this in common, that we stand for something that is a principle against this hideous doctrine of State worship which is beginning to pervade the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I want to join in the protests against the spirit of the Minister's speech. If the principle of that speech will do anything, it will encourage employers to sack conscientious objectors now. Some are being discharged now, before the Bill comes into operation. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have 919 very strong objections to the conscientious objector forget that the foundation of human liberty has been built upon that kind of thing. History always puts on a pedestal the man or woman who has stood for conscience and been loyal to his faith. They have given great service to humanity through their loyalty. I do not believe that I would have the courage to be a conscientious objector if I were a young man. I have plenty of a sort of courage, but I am not sure that I could stand the test, especially if I had just been married, of risking my future, the future of my wife and perhaps the future of a child by definitely standing against this thing.
I say that not because there is the least self-righteousness in me as to what I would do. I hope that I would do it, but I am not sure. When I see young Quakers and young politicians who are imbued with a great love of truth and idealism taking this stand, I am carried away with admiration for them, just as I am carried away with admiration for the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) who served in the Navy and carried out brilliant work. I am made up in that contradictory way, but I can admire courage, bravery and devotion, even if I disagree with the manner in which it is expressed. Here are these men for whom we are asking this consideration. They will face all the obloquy of their neighbours. I have here a book—I cannot and I dare not read extracts to the House fromit—about what happened during the last war to the conscientious objectors, who endured to the bitter end. They were heroes in the very best sense of the word. To say that is in no way derogatory to heroism in other walks of life.
The Government have admitted the right of these men to a conscience and have said that men who can persuade the tribunals that they have a conscientious objection should do work of national importance. The Government impose that work upon those who will accept it, without the men knowing anything about wages or conditions. It is easy for me to say this and many other things, but I believe that during war-time all of us ought to be upon a level of absolute equality with the men who carry on the war, so far as remuneration and this kind 920 of thing are concerned. These men are to be sent to work of various kinds, but no one knows what the remuneration will be. We are not going to safeguard these men in any way. The right hon. Gentleman says that they are not fulfilling the demand which the Government have made upon the young men of the nation, and he spoke of logic. I am never a logic-chopper anyhow, and I am not going to attempt to chop logic with him, but there is something which has not been taken into account.
The fact is that the Government have definitely recognised, and the Prime Minister has said that he wants to recognise, the right of an individual to say that his conscience will not allow him to serve the nation in that way. Having done that, having planned what a man shall do instead of serving the nation as a fighting soldier, having determined that he shall serve the nation in a civil capacity and that he is not to carry on his own work or his own little business—he is not to be allowed to choose what he shall do because the tribunal will make that choice—the Government deny him protection when the period of service, 12 months, and not six months, is over. His employer can say to him: "You were a conscientious objector. I conscientiously am not going to employ you." That is a very serious breach of the Prime Minister's promise at that Box that the conscientious objector should have fair and proper treatment.
Is this to be the policy of each Government Department and of the local authorities? If so, it lays down that there is no obligation upon employers to reinstate these men whether the employer is the Government, a local authority, a great utility company or a private person. By refusing to accept the Amendment the Government are showing that they feel in their hearts that these men are doing something derogatory to public policy and to the well-being of the country. I stand definitely by these men, even though I cannot claim that I could be like some of my hon. Friends were in the last War. I do not know that my make-up would allow me to do it.
This thing I do know: These men are taking a stand which in the days to come will be looked upon in exactly the same manner as the stand for freedom has 921 been looked upon in the past. The other day the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) quoted the Bible, and went on to say that in any case you could get one quotation to cancel another. Perhaps you can, but it is not possible to say that the Author of our faith, when the test came to Him to make the supreme sacrifice, refused to make that sacrifice in the teeth of nationalism, statecraft, priestcraft and everything which we have been brought up in this country to believe to be hateful and to have nothing to do with. These young men, fools as they may be in the eyes of some people, cowards in the eyes of others, are following the light of their conscience, which tells them that they must do this thing, and it is very shabby if Parliament will not give them the protection for which we are asking this afternoon.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
With a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said I am in entire agreement, and it seems to me that the Minister of Labour also was in entire agreement. We do not want anything in the Bill to make possible persecution for conscience, but I cannot see that this Amendment would be workable. If at another stage the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) were to bring in a new Clause laying down a penalty for dismissing a person on the sole ground that he was a conscientious objector, I, for one, should support him.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Has the hon. Gentleman looked at the question from this point of view? There will be in the Civil Service a large number of young men between the ages of 20 and 21, some of whom will have a conscience. All that we ask is that the Government, if they put these young men to work of national importance in some other occupation than their Civil Service occupation, shall reinstate them afterwards.
§ Mr. Turton
I do not think there is any division of opinion in the Committee that we want to stop persecution for conscience' sake, and I should have thought the Minister had made that quite clear to every section of the Committee. As to whether the Amendment would be workable, the Committee will recollect that, in the discussion on Clause 3, the Minister pointed out, and it was generally agreed, mat there is nothing in Sub-sec- 922 tion 5 (b) that would prevent a person from changing from one employment to another employment while doing work of national importance. Take the position of a munition worker. The Minister made it clear that no man would be transferred to munition work, but, if the man was already a munition worker and wished for conscience' sake not to undertake military training, he would remain in his employment, but could if he wished transfer to other employment of the same class. I hope that a man who wants to improve his position, and who naturally in the ordinary course might be promoted from one employment to another, will not be bound to one employer, but the words of the Amendment would make it obligatory on such a man to go back to the employer for whom he worked at the beginning. While we are all in agreement that we do not desire any persecution to take place, it is an entirely different matter when people are brought from the labour market, kept on a training register without any chance of getting employment, and then thrown back on to the labour market. Then they should be given a chance of getting back to their former employer. But to make it a rigid condition in the case of men who are not taken from the labour market that they shall go back to their first employer would be a grave mistake, and not in the interests of the men themselves.
§ Mr. Williams
The Amendment clearly provides that there shall be a guarantee that the employment will be available if the person who has done his service requires it. It does not compel him to go back to his old employer, but only declares that, if he wishes so to return, he shall have that right and privilege. All that the Amendment asks is that the same privilege shall apply to all men and not to some.
§ Mr. Turton
In a case where a man has not been transferred owing to the conscience Clause, if at a later stage he were promoted or had gone into other employment, he would have a right to go back to that particular employer for which there would be no possible ground at all.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
This is my first intervention on this very important Bill, and I hope the Committee will pardon me 923 a personal reference. A Member of this House who could have spoken with authority on a subject like this was buried a week or two ago, and I hope I may be forgiven for mentioning that his case is an example in favour of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman will of course be aware that I am referring to the late Morgan Jones. What happened to him will probably happen to other conscientious objectors under this Measure if we carry out what the right hon. Gentleman has stated. Morgan Jones was a school teacher, employed by a local authority. He proclaimed himself a conscientious objector during the Great War. He was sent to gaol for two years, and, when he came out of prison, there was no job for him. The local authority declined to employ him in the district where he was bred and born, and he became a colliery underground labourer for another two years; his scholastic career was ended. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that that is exactly what is going to happen to these men under the present Measure.
§ Mr. Davies
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman a very simple question. The Government must have thought out this problem of reinstating men who are put on work of national importance, and the first question that arises is: Do the Government themselves intend to reinstate such men in Government employment? I think we are entitled to ask that question. I speak with some little knowledge of this problem, because I myself was a conscientious objector during the last War. I was, however, immune from any penalty because I was the secretary of an approved society, and my job was exempted from any penalties such as might otherwise have been placed upon me. It was grossly unfair, of course, that while I was exempted from military service members of my society were penalised for holding exactly the same opinions as I held.
There is another reason why the right hon. Gentleman ought to accept this Amendment. I am connected with the distributive trade. He knows that the distributive trade employs proportionately more young people than any other in- 924 dustry, and there will, I suppose, be a bigger percentage from shops and offices falling within the provisions of this Bill than from coal-mining, textiles, agriculture, or any other industry. I should imagine too that in the distributive trade there will be as many conscientious objectors proportionately as in any other occupation; I have come across some of them. I want the right hon. Gentleman to follow the case, say, of a boy leaving school at the age of 14½ or 15, going into an office or shop with the idea of becoming a branch manager, chief of the office staff, or something of that kind. If he is a conscientious objector, he will be liable to all these penalties; he will become a farm labourer, a colliery worker maybe, or something of that kind. And then, when he asks for reinstatement, the employer will quote the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day, and the boy's career in that occupation is finished. He will be a very generous employer who will reinstate a man who raises a conscientious objection to the provisions of this Bill after he has served his 12 months on work of national importance.
If the right hon. Gentleman and his Government want to penalise these men, they are doing it already. They put the militiaman into training for six months, but they say that the conscientious objector must serve 12 months on work of national importance, and they make no provision at all for his reinstatement or for finding employment for him. There are some spiteful employers who will be delighted to exploit these fellows, not because they want to do so, but because they want to penalise them as conscientious objectors. I say, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman that he is getting away from all Government promises that have been made in this connection. There is one enlightenment that we have had this morning. I have always thought that this Government was bluffing on this Bill from beginning to end, and the right hon. Gentleman has been honest enough at last to call some of that bluff.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I cannot say that I have the boundless sympathy for the conscientious objector that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has, but in this particular case I do suffer from some difficulty in agreeing with my right hon. Friend. There are three types of conscientious objector. 925 There is the first type, who is not prepared to kill men, but is prepared to do Red Cross work. That kind of man is called up for six months, then goes back to civil life and is assured of his job. He suffers no penalty. There is a second type of extreme objector, who puts his case so well to the tribunal that he is excluded altogether. Therefore, he suffers no penalty and keeps his job. I cannot, from the point of view of fairness, appreciate the attitude of the Government towards the third type of conscientious objector, who alone is to be penalised. I say so not as a great sympathiser with conscientious objection, but from the point of view of cold equity and fairness. I cannot see why you should penalise this one type of person and not the other two types.
I can understand that it is very difficult for an employer to keep a job open after 12 months. I appreciate that that is a fair argument. As my hon. Friend has said, it is possible to restore a job to a man after he has been away a month, or two months, or possibly even six months, but it is exceedingly difficult after 12 months. But that was not my right hon. Friend's reply. Therefore, what is to be our attitude? It would be out of Order to revert to the discussion of the Clause on which we considered extending the training for these particular conscientious objectors from six months to 12 months. Still I do not think it was a wise course; it would have been infinitely better to have insisted on six months work of national importance, and then the yearly fortnight of service. Then you could have said that at the end of six months a man would return to his job. The Government have said that they are not proposing to penalise conscientious objectors. My right hon. Friend to-day has repeated that statement. It was possible to have said, "We shall penalise them, for we think they are a bad lot," but that is not what the Government said. The Government said, "We will recognise their consciences." That statement having been most solemnly made by the Prime Minister and repeated by the Minister of Labour, I cannot see the logic in refusing to these men the same rights that are to be given to other conscientious objectors. Therefore, I am sorry I am not able on this occasion to support my right hon. Friend.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
It is not often that the hon. Member who has just spoken echoes what is running in my mind. He has referred to logic. As I understood logic when I was attempting to take a class on the subject, it seemed that what we had to do, as an element of it, was to take two premises, to use the same method of deduction, and that then we would arrive at the same conclusion. If that be logic I would like to see that test applied in this case. We take a man and we subject him to training. That is work of national importance. The fact that it happens to be preparation for war does not alter the fact that it is work of national importance. We take another man, and for reasons which at the moment ought not to enter into our discussion, we do not give him the same sort of work of national importance, but we take him from his job in exactly the same way as we have taken the first man. We rob him of the opportunity of getting the wages that he was accustomed to getting, and in the end he is not to go back to his original job and is not to be treated in the same way as the other man, though logic demands that he should be so treated. Because you are giving him the right of presenting his case as a conscientious objector, you are taking possession of him. You are not giving him the freedom that he would have if you had not made that claim on him. Obviously the treatment in both cases should be the same.
I suggest that the Minister of Labour will not be doing a service to this Bill unless he concedes this point. It is a point that will be strongly pressed, because, as has rightly been said, the conscientious objector who gets clear from any commitment is not called upon to leave his decent job, to leave the work which he is accustomed to doing, to leave his home, his friends, and his social life; but here is this man who has to do work of national importance, and when it is ended there is no opportunity for restoration of the position that he previously occupied. There is surely no test of logic by which the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman can be justified.
§ 2.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
The remarkable thing about this Debate, no matter who has taken part in it or from whatever part of 927 the House speakers have risen, has been that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour is alone in the opinion which he expressed at the beginning of the Debate. No one has shared that opinion.
§ Mr. Turton indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member will forgive me. He has expressly dissociated himself from the right hon. Gentleman's opinion. The hon. Member's view was that the principle of the Amendment was a sound one, that he agreed with it, that he thought there ought, if it were practicable, to be the same protection in the case of the one conscientious objector as in the case of the other, but that in his view he was unable to support the Amendment because he thought it impossible in practice to work it. In other words his objection was not an objection in principle at all, but simply the view that it was not possible to apply the Amendment. But there is a fundamental difference between his view and the view of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman alone in this Debate has sought to establish a distinction in logic or principle, and the remarkable thing about the Debate is that he is alone in his view. What was that view? It was that it was illogical to give to this class of men the same protection as to the other class because the demand for it had not been made. His view was that the Clause in the Bill was introduced only in order to protect in his job a man who was called out for military service. I do not think there is any authority for that view.
I entirely agree that everybody in the House and in the country wishes that if a man is called out for military service he should be protected in his job when he comes back. That is quite true. But in everything I say, I say it subject to this, that I do not believe, in fact, that in this Clause there is any substantial protection for anybody. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, because this Clause was inserted in response to a public demand that a man called out for military service should be protected in his job when he came back, it was not logical to extend the same protection, for whatever it may be worth, to men not performing military service. I should have thought that, in accordance with what has been claimed to be the spirit of the Bill, and certainly with the way the Prime Minister presented it to us, the man 928 who is not willing to do military service but who is content to do other national service should be in no way reproached or made into a sort of second-class citizen. The right hon. Gentleman made it his case that you ought not to treat them in the same way: that you ought to divide them: that one class ought to be sheep and the other goats. I find it a matter of great gratification that nobody in the Committee, even on his own side, is prepared to accept that point of view. I think that that alone ought to weigh with him.
I ask him to give me a specific answer to this question: What is the position of the Government going to be with regard to those men, if there are any, who come under this category and are now in Government service? Certainly, if this Amendment is accepted they will be protected; if not, is it the Government's intention to protect them without statutory obligation? In that case, if they are prepared to protect men in their own service without statutory obligation, they ought not to object to other employers being compelled to take these men back. If, on the other hand, they are not, without statutory obligation, prepared to give these men that protection, it makes it all the more incumbent on the Committee to see that the Government are bound by statute to do what I think everybody in the Committee would like to see them do.
§ 2.29 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I am certain that the recommendation I have made to the Committee is in no way a breach of the undertaking given by the Prime Minister or of the general structure of the Bill. We have, for the first time in our history, done our very best, as I think was generally agreed yesterday, not merely to draft the Statute so that the unhappy experiences of the last War may not be repeated, but, in the discussion on the Amendments, shown that our whole attitude was one of understanding of the vital claims of conscience. Therefore, charges of Hitlerism leave me quite cold. But I say that there has been no attempt to answer the case I put up, except in the reference made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). He did show an understanding of the case I put up.
The case was that in this part of the Bill we are doing what the nation would have 929 desired for those who serve it in the armed forces of the Crown. That was the whole plea for preferential treatment. The whole record of this country in peace time has been one of preferential treatment for those who serve it in the armed forces. On that basis, the Government have gone further. They have not been content to face the country and say "The record of employers in the past in this matter has been good. Only a small number in past emergencies has not taken men back; and hi most of those cases it was not because? they were unwilling, but because circumstances had changed and the jobs were not there." We are saying that it shall be the statutory duty of the employer, under heavy penalties, to do what the best employers would in any case do, and what the great majority have always done. To say that, because we do not include in this Clause those who do not serve in the forces of the Crown, we are not treating? conscientious objectors properly, is to press against the Government a charge that does not lie.
If I had been asked to add one more word, I would say this: The hon. Member talks about those in Government employment who may be called upon to do national service. I should have thought that it would stand out at once that those in Government employment were doing work of national importance; and, therefore, the question would not arise. If he asks what is the Government's desire about local authorities or private employers, I would say that we should desire that, apart from due reason given, they should reinstate such men. The Committee is asked now to amend a Clause which is designed to give, what has always been the desire of the nation, preferential treatment to those who serve in the armed forces. I regret to say that I cannot see my way to alter the recommendation I made to the Committee.
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman said that people engaged in Government service were presumably doing work of national importance, and that, therefore, the matter would not arise. But is it not possible that a Government servant applying for exemption would be given exemption in the (b) class, and the tribunal has the right to determine what work of national importance such a man should do. In many cases the tribunal may—and certainly will—determine that 930 he should be put on work of national importance not so pleasant and well paid as he was doing in a Government Department. In a case like that, what would be the attitude of the Government when the man finished the work of national importance assigned by the tribunal? Would he be allowed to continue the work of national importance that he was doing before in a Government Department?
§ Mr. Mander
The Minister has not dealt with the point raised by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) that the extreme conscientious objector is now protected, because he does not have to leave his work, while the less extreme conscientious objector is not protected.
§ Mr. Brown
A conscientious objection is the most difficult thing to establish, and we know, from the cases that came up in the last War, that it is only a small section who would refuse to have anything to do with national service. I did not justify it on the ground of logic but on the ground of experience. There is a class of conscience that regards its inner and religious convictions as so strong that it will stand by them at all costs. I do not think that the paragraph (a) in the Clause which we discussed yesterday ought to be laid against us in regard to this Amendment.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not want the Committee to feel that they had been misled by anything he had said. Will he state specifically that, if Civil Servants are ipso facto taken to be doing work of national importance, that in itself is the full justification for the reinstatement of these people if they leave that work for other work of national importance? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, what distinction can he draw between any other employés on work of national importance who might ask for the same treatment to be given to them?
§ 2.37 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
During the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that employers who 931 did not accept their statutory obligation to reinstate their employçs would be liable to a heavy penalty. The Minister will realise that the wording of the Clause dealing with the particular point states that the fine will be one not exceeding £50, and, therefore, an employer may only be fined £1 or £2, and have to provide four weeks' remuneration. A fine of 10s. has even been mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in making that statement, and, therefore, cannot he bring in a regulation that, where the employer is proved to be guilty of an offence, a very heavy and definite penalty shall be imposed?
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question which I put to him? Will he state categorically that a Government servant considered to be doing work of national importance will in no circumstances be discharged?
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
It seems that we have now arrived at a point where there is a most unpleasant differentiation. Clause 3 presumes that an objector on the ground of conscience is to be put into one of three categories, in any one of which he is recognised as having a conscientious objection to military service. Why should the right hon. Gentleman refuse to recognise the points made from this side of the Committee? This is a very important differentiation, and I feel deeply about it. If you differentiate between a man whose conscience takes him into the Army and is entitled to his job when he returns from Army Service, and the man with a conscientious objection so fundamental and deep-rooted as to be recognised by the tribunal, whose right to have his job back is not as firmly rooted as in the former case, you enter into a very unpleasant differentiation. I have heard two hon. Members opposite, one an hon. and gallant Member, refer continuously to shirkers and conscientious objectors. That conveys to my mind not only an unpleasant differentiation, but a very unpleasant attitude indeed, and the right hon. Gentleman should be sure, in these cases where conscience is recognised on the three grounds in the Bill, that there is to be the recognition of the right of re-employment.
§ Mr. Naylor
Are we to understand that a person in Government employment who may be a conscientious objector is to be left undisturbed in his employment irrespective of the nature of the work he is performing merely by virtue of the fact that he is in the service of the Government?
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
Although we are working under a Guillotine we cannot possibly tolerate this sort of thing. The hon. Gentleman has put to the right hon. Gentleman a perfectly specific and brief question, whether the Minister suggests that the Civil Service is a work of national importance and therefore completely covered; and the other question put is, will the Minister say what is his intention about the conscientious objectors in the Civil Service? Will he keep their jobs open or not? As far as the Debate has gone, it is clear that the Government intend not to retain the jobs of conscientious objectors and are starting the pressure in peacetime against those who stand up for conscience. We want an answer. If he will not answer—and the right hon. Gentleman is not usually very backward in giving an answer—we shall frame our own answers, and make it clear that we have framed our answers in default of any answer from the Government.
§ Mr. Ridley
On a point of Order. Has any hon. or right hon. Member of this Committee the right to suggest that in the face of the facts another hon. or right hon. Gentleman will supply an answer which is in contradiction of the facts?
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
On a point of Order. Are we to understand from the Minister who now states definitely that he will not reply specifically to the questions put to him, that he was in fact endeavouring to mislead the Committee in his earlier statement.
That is not a point of Order. The hon. Member cannot ask me whether the Minister is trying 933 to mislead the Committee. He must draw his own conclusions.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour cannot expect to get off like that. I was not a conscientious objector in the last War, and I adopt the line that my hon. Friend adopts. I recognise that persons like my great personal friend the late Morgan Jones showed an amount of courage in the stand that they took that was as great, in many ways, as anything that could be displayed on the battlefield. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that towards the end of the last War Civil Servants were very considerably derided by certain organs of the popular Press as Cuthberts, which was supposed to indicate that the Government were keeping healthy young men in Government employment rather than allow them to go into the Forces. It was alleged, I have no doubt quite untruly, that persons using family and other influences could keep themselves out of the Forces. Does he take the line and say that we are not going to have any men sheltering themselves as postmen or clerks in Whitehall, while other men are in the Forces, in barracks or in tents, if the local tribunal decrees that a man in the Civil Service who applies for exemption as a conscientious objector shall perform some class of work of national importance other than in the Civil Service? That is the point. The Minister has given the local tribunal that power. When it comes to the end of the 12 months and the man has returned to civil life, will the right hon. Gentleman give a promise that the man who has been removed by the local tribunal from the Civil Service shall be replaced in the Civil Service on his return to civil life?
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Sir William Davison
I am sorry that I did not hear the beginning of this Debate, but I have listened to the recent speeches. The Opposition are endeavouring to decide in advance as to the decisions of the Tribunals. It is a matter for the Tribunal in each case to consider whether the work of a particular person is work of national importance. I submit that if the Government lay down in advance all the various things that are 934 to be considered as work of national importance, we shall be here for a long time.
§ 2.46 p.m.
The duty of the Minister is to explain to the Committee the Government's full intentions with regard to the tribunals, and the Committee must take into account the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. I asked, in a perfectly candid Parliamentary manner, a definite question. The Minister said equally definitely that under this particular Clause any employer who evaded his statutory obligations would suffer a heavy penalty.
I am afraid that the hon. Member is addressing himself not to the Amendment but to the Clause.
May I point out, with due respect, that the Minister referred to the heavy penalty on the employer who refused to accept his statutory obligation? Therefore I think I am entitled to ask whether it is not the case that his statement is misleading, and that in fact an employer can be fined in accordance with this Clause only 10s. or £1?
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Does the Minister propose to issue regulations, instructions or guidance to the tribunals, or does he propose to hand a copy of the Act to them and say: "There is your job"? If he proposes, after the passing of the Act, to issue instructions to the tribunals, will those instructions contain—
§ Mr. Griffiths
May I be allowed to ask whether the instructions will contain the statement that if a man is already doing work of national importance he cannot be conscripted?
§ 2.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Perhaps the best way to meet the situation is to ask the Minister a specific question. In the case of a conscientious objector who is employed in the Civil Service, if he serves his period in some other work of national importance and at the termination of that period he applies for reinstatement, do the Government intend to reinstate him? I think 935 we ought to be given a clear answer by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I could not answer the kind of general question that was put by certain hon. Members, but I can answer the question put by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and the hon.
§ Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and the answer is: "Yes".
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 113; Noes, 200.937
|Division No. 121.]||AYES.||[2.51 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, Agnes||Ridley, G.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Riley, B.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hayday, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Shinwell, E.|
|Batey, J.||Hicks, E. G.||Silkin, L.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chater, D.||Lathan, G.||Stephen, C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth. N.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Leach, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cove, W. G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thorne, W.|
|Daggar, G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||MacLaren, A.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, H.||Mander, G. le M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dobbie, W.||Marshall, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mathers, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maxton, J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Messer, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Foot, D. M.||Milner, Major J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Frankel, D.||Montague, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gibson R. (Greenock)||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.||Mr. Adamson and Mr. Charleton.|
|Groves, T. E.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Christie, J. A.||Emery, J. F.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Colman, N. C. D.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Furness, S. N.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Cross, R. H.||Goldie, N. B.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Davison, Sir W. H.||Gretton, Col. Rt Hon. J.|
|Brass, Sir W.||De la Bère, R.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Denville, Alfred||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Doland, G. F.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Donner, P. W.||Hambro, A. V.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Bull, B. B.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Dunglass, Lord||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Eckersley, P. T.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Nall, Sir J.||Spens. W. P.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrese)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Petherick, M.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Kimball, L.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Procter, Major H. A.||Touche, G. C.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ramsbotham, H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Levy, T.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Lewis, O.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Repner, Colonel L.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Mabane. W. (Huddersfield)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Rowlands, G.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Russell, Sir Alexander||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|McKie, J. H.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Maitland, Sir Adam||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wright, Wing-Gommander J. A. C.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||York, C.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sandys, E. D.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Markham, S. F.||Scott, Lord William|
|Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Selley, H. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Major Sir James Edmondson and Colonel Herbert.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there inserted.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move, in page 12, line 30, to leave out "when he was so called up," and to insert:on the twenty-seventh day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine.
§ Mr. Mabane
On a point of Order. This Amendment was referred to earlier in the Debate and a hope was expressed that it might be possible to discuss the general range of questions which hang around the particular issue which is contained in a series of Amendments to be moved by the Government and other Amendments in the name of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee. I want to ask whether it will be possible, for the convenience of the Committee, if on this Amendment an opportunity can be given to discuss the whole matter of reinstatement raised by the Amendment, and also Amendments in the name of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and many other Amendments in the names of other hon. Members?
I do not think I can give a ruling quite as wide as that. We had better let the hon. Member develop his case and then we can see what should be done.
§ Mr. Mander
I think that the young men who are to be called up under the Bill are feeling more anxiety about the question of reinstatement than about anything else. I appreciate that the Government realise this anxiety and are trying to do what they can to meet it by inserting a number of novel features in the Bill, to make sure that they will get their jobs back again. There are difficulties, of course, but it is felt by those who are in touch with the feeling in the country that these difficulties have not been entirely overcome by the Government's proposal. Certain employers, in order that they may not come within the ambit of the Bill, have already taken steps to avoid doing so by discharging persons of 20 years who are in their employ. That is, obviously, a very improper thing to do; it is contrary to the intention of the Government and of the House of Commons, and we must find some means of overcoming action of that kind.
The object of the Amendment is to say that the right of reinstatement rests with the man not from the moment when he is called up but from the date, 27th April, when the Conscription Bill was first made known to the public. I appreciate that the Amendment if it is accepted will 939 probably involve certain consequential Amendments because it might put an employer in a difficult position if he were compelled to re-employ a man who had left of his own accord, or who had been dismissed for some perfectly good reason, or had gone to some other employer after his period of training, got a job for a few months, and when that failed went back to his original employer and claimed his right to be reinstated. Obviously, there must be some opportunity for an employer to be protected against anything of that kind, but I do not think the wording of the provision:or that by reason of a change of circumstancesis sufficient. It might be argued that there had been a change of circumstances because a man had left of his own accord. I think the Law Officers would advise that these words are not very satisfactory and if the Amendment is accepted, as I hope it will be, because it closes a gap which is now open, I hope the Government in due course will make the necessary consequential changes. I am trying to be helpful and to assist the Government in closing a gap which we all want to see closed. If it is suggested that the Amendment ought to be word perfect at this moment, I think that is going much "too far. Therefore, I ask the Government most seriously to consider whether this is not the best way of dealing with a matter with which we all want to deal, and if they feel that some further wording later in the Clause is necessary to protect the employer, as I am inclined to think it is, I hope they will make themselves responsible for that.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
I am sure that the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) is right when he says that many employés and also many employers are very much concerned about the matter with which this Clause deals. Employers no less than employés are anxious that proper provision should be made to secure that a man who is called up for training shall have a full chance of being reinstated in his employment when he comes back. It is very natural that employers of the better type, to whom the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred not long ago, should desire that these provisions should be sufficiently 940 precise to secure that all employers come properly within their ambit. When some of us read this Clause, while we recognise its intention, we felt some doubt as to whether its precise provisions would carry out that intention. It is clear at once that there might be many easy ways of avoiding the provisions of the Clause. For example, a man might come back after his training and be reinstated by his employer, and then dismissed at the end of a week or a fortnight; and as far as I can see, such an employer would be entirely exempted from the penal provisions of this Clause. Then, it subsequently occurred to many people that employers, anticipating that a man might be called up for training and that they might be deprived of his services at a time inconvenient to them, might, in anticipation of the calling-up notice, dismiss him now.
I am certain that throughout the country there is a very widespread feeling that a provision should be included in the Bill to prevent employers acting in that fashion. Hon. Members will see that these considerations have been fairly in the mind of the Government if they refer to a series of Amendment on the Paper, and particularly to the Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in page 13, line 26, which clearly sets out to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and many other points as well. I think that what we can ask the Government to do is to explain to us now in a little more detail the nature of the regulations that they had in mind when that particular Amendment was drafted. If the Government spokesman can indicate that the points of danger that may arise for an employers, are to be met by the regulations that they intend to make under the powers given by that Amendment, I think many of us will be satisfied; but we are extremely anxious to hear that those regulations will be complete and will safeguard employers in all circumstances against any attempt on the part of employers to avoid this liability to reinstate them on the completion of their training.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I support the Amendment. The hon. Member for Hudders-field (Mr. Mabane) pointed out that there 941 was a subsequent Amendment in the name of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster dealing with this matter, but I do not think that that Amendment covers all the points which were made by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). It will be some time before the regulations are made, and many young men may have lost their employment before then. At a previous stage of the discussion of this Bill I said I thought these proposals about reinstatement were eyewash. I still think so, but I believe the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton would give a certain amount of protection, and that that protection ought to be given right away. The relevant date is the date when the announcement was made. No doubt the best employers will seek to play fair in this matter. Only the more unscrupulous employers will be able to get away with practices such as have been indicated.
Even with the Amendment which is on the Paper in the name of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Clause will leave open tremendous loopholes, indeed great wide thoroughfares, enabling the employers to avoid their responsibilities and liabilities in this matter. This moderate Amendment would give some protection to a few thousands of these young men, and I hope the Government will accept it. Indeed, I am surprised that the Minister did not intervene at once to say he was prepared to accept it. The necessary consequential Amendments could easily be made by the Government, but if there is to be any protection for these young men with regard to employment, it should be given as from the date of the announcement. No decent employer will be penalised by the insertion of this date. The only employers who can have a grievance will be those who have treated their employés in an unfair and unjustifiable way. I, therefore, ask the Minister to make this concession.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I did not intervene earlier because I was anxious to hear what elucidation the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) had to bring to bear on this problem. From what he said, I do not think he appreciates the consequences which would follow if the narrow and restricted Amendment of the hon. 942 Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) were accepted by the Committee. As has been pointed out, there will be opportunities later of discussing other aspects of the problem of reinstatement, if you, Colonel Clifton Brown, call certain Amendments which stand later on the Paper, including that in the name of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to which reference has been made. But the Amendment which is before us now, would, if carried, throw upon an employer who, on 27th April, 1939, had one of these men in his employment, the obligation to take that man back into employment when his period of militia service terminated. I do not think the hon. Member fully appreciates the consequences which would follow if such an obligation were thrown upon that employer. It might well be that the Militiaman, between 27th April and the actual day on which he was called up for military training, had passed from the employment of that man to one or several other employers, and he might not wish that the only obligation to reinstate him should be on an employer with whom he had terminated his employment perhaps some time ago. It might also be that the Militiaman had been unemployed on 27th April and therefore had no employer at all, and that between that date and the date of calling up he had found employment. If this Amendment were accepted, there would be no obligation on anybody to take the man back, because being unemployed on 27th April, there would be no employer who would be liable to re-instate him.
I hope that at this stage of the debate, and in the light of the Bill and the known intentions of the Government, no one will think that I am trying, by a mere verbal quibble, to disregard the very real feeling in the minds of hon. Members on this question. There are difficulties which we are anxious to meet, and we are really concerned that the obligation to take a man back should fall on the shoulders of the person who should most properly be asked to bear it. We believe that that person is the employer who was employing the militiaman on the day when he was actually called up for training. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and one or two other hon. Members have raised the question of those employers who may be anticipating the pro- 943 visions of the Bill by dismissing the men who either are now 20 or shortly will become 20 years of age. We have no evidence that this practice is widespread, and I do not believe it to be so, but if the hon. Members will refer to the Government Amendment to Clause 6, page 13, line 26—my hon. Friend the Member for Huddesfield (Mr. Mabane) has already referred to it—they will see that if that Amendment is carried, we shall be in a position, through my right hon. Friend, to issue regulations to prevent employers terminating before the training begins the employment of any person who is or is liable to be called up for military training. Hon Members on both sides will appreciate the extreme difficulty of framing this power in a rigid form; we are dealing with entirely novel circumstances; our good intentions to see that no man is penalised in these conditions are well known, and I can assure hon. Members that those regulations, which must be left elastic, will be so devised as to meet cases of employers trying to anticipate their responsibilties by avoiding them.
I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield who spoke about a man losing his employment, but I do not think he quite appreciated that the object of the Government is to see that no man suffers because he is called upon to fulfil his Militia training. We cannot go further than that and put a man in a preferential position afterwards, different from what it would have been if in fact he had not been called up for his Militia training.
§ Mr. Mabane
The point that I was trying to make was that a man might come back after his military training, and the employer, in order to avoid the consequences of the Statute, might reinstate him, and dismiss him after, say, a week or a fortnight's service, for no good reason. I and other hon. Members have an Amendment on the Paper, which will probably not be reached, which would entitle a man in such a case to take the employer to a county court in order to require him to show good cause why he should have dismissed him. What we should like is to be assured that the regulations would deal with a case like that, where employers clearly endeavour to evade their responsibility.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Will the Minister also explain the position of the docker whose work is by nature casual and who, although he may be regularly employed, will have a number of employers in any one week? What will be his position when he is called up and returns to the dock-side? Is his last employer for whom he may have worked for only three days, to be responsible for taking him back?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Obviously, no such, obligation can be imposed on the last employer. It is proposed to provide that the docker who is called up for military training shall be reinstated in the dockers' register, so that when he returns he will be in the same position as he was before being called up. In reply to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, when a man has fulfilled his military training and the employer takes him back, the employer has fulfilled his obligations under this section of the Act. We cannot impose on him a further obligation to give a man when he returns different conditions of employment from those which other men who have been throughout in that employment are asked to accept. If the man was on terms which provided that he should have a week's notice or a month's notice the same conditions should apply as if he had never been called up for military training. What we are concerned about is that a man should be put back into the position in which he would have been if he had not been called up for military training. In practice it is exceedingly unlikely that the employer would put himself in the position of calling a man back for 24 hours merely in order to dismiss him. The Minister will have power under the proposed Amendment to the Clause to issue regulations to prevent the provisions of the Bill being evaded. Should there arise a situation in which it was apparent that they were being evaded, those powers would most certainly be used.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary has fully appreciated this point. In the case put by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) it is true that if the man were taken back and then given the period of notice required by the formal terms of his employment, that would not be a breach of this Clause; it would be a fulfilment of it. Would it not be wrong, however, to say that such a man had not 945 suffered by reason of being called up, because the job might have been filled in the meantime because of his absence? The employer could retain the new servant and could then escape any penalty under this Clause by taking his former employé back and giving him the period of notice required. His obligation will have been completely discharged, but the man will have lost his job.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think the hon. Member has failed to take note of lines 6 and 7 at the top of page 13 of the Bill. These provide that it is no defence for the employer to prove that the reason why he did not take the man back was that he had engaged some other person to replace him. I think it will be found in practice that there will be adequate safeguards in the proposals which my right hon. Friend will have power to bring forward later. If it is found that there is widespread evasion and that men are suffering as a result of any failure of employers to take them back, my right hon. Friend will take full power to deal with the situation, and he will certainly do so with the full approval of the House and of the country.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I think every hon. Member appreciates that this Clause bristles with difficulties. It appears that there is no party interest in the matter, but that in all quarters of the Committee there is a desire to find some means of escape. We have to consider, first, the issue raised by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), namely, what is to happen to the man who is dismissed from his employment before he receives his calling-up notice, and, at the other end what is to happen to him when he applies for reinstatement at the expiration of training? It is true that under an Amendment which is to be moved by the Chancellor of the Duchy regulations will be drafted which will enable the Minister to find some means of dealing with the latter difficulty, but there is nothing which enables him to deal with the case of a man who, for whatever reasons, genuine or otherwise, is dismissed before receiving his calling-up notice. We are not dealing with a position where 200,000 men join up at the same time, men will be called up, I suppose, in batches of 25,000 or 50,000, and I am bound to say that I take the view of the Parliamentary Secretary that what 946 this Amendment proposes is not a practical thing, that what is suggested would not work out fairly in practice and would not afford adequate protection to the men concerned.
If that be so, surely some provision should be included in the Bill to ensure that the men are properly protected in a case of that kind. The Parliamentary Secretary said he doubted whether there would be any widespread difficulty in respect of dismissals before the calling-up notice was received, that there was no evidence upon that point; but the men are to be called up in batches and the process will go on over a fair long period—It may take a year. It may be said that there is no evidence that employers are dismissing men, or that there may be only a case here and there, but during the period over which the men will be called up there may be a great many cases—dismissals from whatever cause, legitimate or otherwise. I suggest to the Government that in such cases the man should have the right to appeal to a tribunal set up for the purpose or be entitled to appeal to the Minister of Labour himself. If a man is dismissed because the employer anticipates that he will have a calling up notice and that his absence may dislocate the works or the office or the shop, surely the man should have the right—just as he has certain rights accorded to him at the end of his training—of taking his case before the Minister or a tribunal set up for the purpose. I leave it at that because I think that is the most positive suggestion which can be made. The hon. Member, probably for quite good reasons, has embarked on a discussion of a general character on the question of reinstatement. I do not propose to discuss the general question at this moment, but content myself with dealing with the position preceding the issue of the calling-up notices and I hope that the Government will make some response.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
On a point of Order. Could you, Colonel Clifton Brown, give the Committee your guidance on a particular point? The Parliamentary Secretary referred to an Amendment which is on the Paper in the name of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; will it be in order to discuss that Amendment when it is reached in spite of the fact that it has been referred to now?
I do not think that we can go into a full discussion of that Amendment now, because it would make the Debate too long and involved. We can discuss it when we come to it.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think the Committee will expect me to make a brief reference to our intended Amendment, but I take it that there will not be a general discussion on it. We are anxious that employers should not avoid their responsibility by dismissing men in anticipation of the age of compulsory calling up, and I think the hon. Member will find that his fears will be dissipated by the regulations which can be issued under the Bill. It is our intention to provide that duties or liabilities to which an employé may become liable under the Act shall not be the cause of his being discharged in anticipation of being called up. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has had enough experience of industrial disputes to know the difficulty of providing complete statutory protection of this kind, but within the obvious limits which we know must exist, we intend to issue regulations in future to prevent an employer evading his responsibility in this regard.
Secondly, the hon. Member asked that there should be an appeal for a man who had lost his job in anticipation of reaching the age of 20. He will notice that our proposals provide a punishment for breaches of the regulations. This same provision will be made in regard to an employer who is thought to be guilty of anticipating his responsibility and avoiding it. It does, in fact, apply if he fails to reinstate a man after his service, and it is intended that in these regulations provisions should be made for a man or for the Minister—it will involve a breach of the Minister's regulations—taking some action against an employer who tries in this way to avoid his responsibility.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If regulations are provided on the subject there may be a measure of protection, but take the case of a man who is dismissed on a Monday—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I will do my best to make myself heard. The man to whom I refer might be called up a fortnight later. Would that man come within the purview of the proposed regulations, or are the regulations to deal with cases that arise in the future? Would the decision of the Minister within the regulations be retrospective? Unless the regulations are retrospective some men will be protected and others unprotected.
§ Mr. Mander
The Minister has suggested that the scope of the regulations will be wide, but if an employer now or a fortnight ago has dismissed men of 18 years of age, those men are for some reason not called up for a year or two, and during that period the men get no employment, will the regulations force the employer who has dismissed them to reinstate them? Unless they do so they will not get over the difficulty that I have raised.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It would, obviously, be unreasonable and impossible to impose any obligation upon an employer unless he was the employer on the day when the man was called up for military training. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make the regulations retrospective. We are dealing with the future. There may be employers—I am glad to think they are very few—who in the past have dismissed their men because they joined the Territorials, and any legislation regarding the future could not provide for the proper punishment of an employer who acted in that way. We are endeavouring to get the Bill through as quickly as possible, and we will take every step, with the assistance of hon. Members opposite, to get it on the Statute Book at an early date. The moment it comes into operation, the provisions will be there for the advantage of the individuals concerned and the welfare of the community.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the point that I raised. I did not raise the question of the Territorials at all, but he has based his reply on the assumption that I had raised the question of the Territorials. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I want to make it clear that I did not want this to apply to cases which occurred many years ago, or perhaps a few months ago, but from a particular date, as, for example, the date mentioned by the hon. Member, or some 949 other date—perhaps the present date. It seems to me that it should be made retrospective to some extent.
§ 3.37 P.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
In the case suggested by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), the employer would be doing something in the nature of what in commercial phraseology is called "forestalling." We do not want that to happen. One realises that there is a very small percentage of bad employers who would have a grudge against a man because he wanted to undertake military duties, but it is a fact that certain people will try to evade their military duties, and they should not be put in any better position than returned soldiers. These are the men with whom we need to deal. The ordinary human employer would not have the shame of doing this kind of thing, but there are people who hold extreme views and with whom it might be difficult to deal. It must be remembered that this military service is not war; it only means giving these youths a splendid holiday, such as is enjoyed by youths at public schools. It will be a splendid thing for them. They will come out strong and fit. They will be given this training just at the age when parental control is beginning to relax, and it will give them a reason for living.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If I might, with the leave of the Committee, say a further word, I think it might be possible so to frame the regulations as to provide for the case of employers who may have already tried to forestall their responsibilities. I cannot give any undertaking; there are difficulties which all Members of the Committee will appreciate; but we will do our best to see that that is done, as we recognise that the man who has attempted to evade, or has succeeded in evading, his responsibility, should not be placed in a preferential position as compared with a man who has carried out his responsibility.
Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman
The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith) asked a very important question about dockers and casual labourers of that kind, but I should like to ask what is to happen in the case of other casual labourers, such as those em- 950 ployed by big contractors. It often happens that, when a young man has been away perhaps for a month on a job in the country, his gang is dismissed. What would be the position in a case of that kind?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Dockers, of course, are a special case, for which, I am glad to say, there is machinery available by which they can be put back in the same position as they were in before—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Yes, at some ports. Of course, however, it would be quite impracticable, as I am sure the Committee will appreciate, to deal with the case of a casual worker who in a whole year has a number of different employments, but we hope to provide for him in every way possible if he returns to the place where he was a casual labourer, so that he will be in no worse a position than before he was called up.
§ Mr. Mander
The Parliamentary Secretary has gone a long way to meet the point that I raised. I understand that if an employer dismisses a man now, and he cannot get any other job before he is called up, the regulations will be of such a nature as to force the original employer to take him back. Is that the case?
§ Mr. Mander
This is of very great importance, and the Parliamentary Secretary certainly gave some of us the impression that he was hoping that might be done, If it is not to be done, would he explain more precisely what is to be done.
§ Amendment negatived.
The next Amendment I call is that in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for North West Camberwell (Major Guest).
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
On a point of Order. Can you explain to me how it is that we are still discussing Amendments at 3.40 when the Time-table says that the Guillotine was to fall at 3.30?
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The Time-table on Clause 5 came to an end at One o'clock, and the discussion now on Clause 6 goes on until 7.30 on Monday. We are still working to the Time-table.
§ Mr. Maxton
I understood from the Time-table that Twelve o'clock midnight on the ordinary day was to be regarded as 3.30 o'clock on the Friday.
Twelve midnight on the ordinary day was to be treated the same as 3.30 p.m. on the Friday. If we are not using the Guillotine, if the Guillotine is not falling, we go on to the usual hours of the House on the Friday. We go on, therefore, until Four o'clock.to-day, as there was no Guillotine falling at 3.30.
I am not responsible for the other business. I must deal with the situation as it arises.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Major Oscar Guest
I beg to move, in page 12, line 30, after "up," to insert:upon receiving fourteen days' notice from such person prior to the termination of his six months' training period that he desires to be reinstated.The object of the Amendment is to simplify procedure after the period of a man's training. It is essential that employers should get some notice of the time when their men are returning and whether they are returning, so that they can make the necessary arrangements, and the employes too want to know whether their jobs are still open, whether they can return to them, and on what date they are to return. In the case of a large organisation there might be considerable numbers of men returning throughout the year at all sorts of times, and it would be difficult for an employer to know what men he would have to deal with in any given week. There is the further point that where an employer to lose a number of men in certain sections of work he would temporarily have to replace those 952 men. That employer wants some notice to enable him to deal with the returning men. In a store where only a few assistants are employed, it may be a very difficult for an employer to take back two other assistants who return from training.
I do not think it would be difficult to evolve machinery to enable notice of a fortnight, or possibly a month, to be given of the intention of the employ6 to come back to his job. That might be worked through the military unit with which he is serving instructing the employment exchange, and the employment exchange instructing the employer. The essence of this Clause is that the maximum number of employés should, smoothly and easily, regain their employment. What we want to ensure is that young men shall do this training with a minimum of disturbance in their working lives, and that the employer shall be able to carry out not only the letter but the spirit of the Clause.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I will answer, very briefly, the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. We appreciate the need for employers to know in advance whether a militiaman proposes to take the opportunity of returning to the employment in which he was previously engaged. It is our hope to deal with this matter administratively. The War Office will bring to the attention of the man's commander the need for his employer being informed of his intentions in time, but we feel that it would be undesirable to make it, by accepting this Amendment, a complete defence for the employer that notice of this sort had not been given.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Ordered,
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress: to sit again upon Monday next.