§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Perkins
I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, at the end, to insert:Provided that in the case of any such person in which to the satisfaction of the Minister and/or Military Training (Hardship) Committee it is established that immediate calling up would imperil the existence of the business which he alone carries on, there shall be accorded one year's postponement of the military training specified to enable him to make suitable arrangements for his absence from the said business.This Amendment explains itself. The object is to avoid undue hardship falling on a young man working for his own profit in some little business. I think every hon. Member knows from his own experience of one or two really hard cases in his own constituency. They will be very few in number, and they will of course occur only in the first 12 months of the operation of the Act. As an example of what I mean I will give a hypothetical case. A young man aged 20, whose father and mother are dead, starts on his own account in a small business, perhaps a chicken farm, perhaps a milk round, perhaps a small shop, and then suddenly in the middle of this summer he gets called up. What is he to do with his business? He cannot afford to employ someone. The alternative left to him is to sell his business, and to sell it at a fortnight's notice. The whole object of my Amendment is to give men in those conditions 12 months' warning in order that they will have time to make some arrangements for the carrying on of their business, so that the business will be there for them to go back to when they have completed their term of service.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having proposed this Amendment, not that we are in a position to accept it, but because it gives me an opportunity 1706 to make a very brief but frank statement of what the conditions would be in the situation outlined. The important thing is that the postponement that can be granted where necessary should be long enough to enable a man to make alternative arrangements for the carrying on of his work or business during the period he actually passes in the militia service. At the present moment the Minister and the hardship committee have got full discretion to grant a postponement where they think hardship would arise. The effect of this Amendment would be to limit this discretion, so that postponement could be accorded only for one year. It might be that circumstances would arise when a year's postponement would be unnecessarily long, and it might well have been possible for the man in a period of less than one year to have made alternative arrangements for the carrying on of his business. Again, it is possible to imagine circumstances when a postponement longer than one year would be desirable in order to prevent hardship to the man. I hope that, with this explanation, my hon. Friend will withdraw his Amendment, bearing in mind that the interests which he represents will not be forgotten by the Government or the hardship committees.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, after "registered," to insert:or may permit any person so registered to be exempt from his liability to be called up for military training.The purpose of this Amendment is to empower the Minister or the hardship committee to exempt a person altogether from his military service. I shall be brief and give one or two concrete examples of what I have in mind, in order that the Minister may give consideration to them. The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to the position of small business men. In some industrial areas people have to put the whole of their savings into businesses, and in some cases when they have met with an accident, or have met with difficulties of an economic character, the carrying on of such a business depends entirely on a son, and we 1707 say that in cases of hardship of that character special consideration should be given. I will take just two further examples. In some cases a widow is totally dependent on her son for her maintenance, and then the Minister or the hardship committee should have power to do what is proposed in this Amendment.
My final case is this. It is well known that people who suffer injury in industry are in a very serious position. There is a Royal Commission considering that, and with all the complications that they have to contend with the probability is that it will be years before they issue their report. During that period it will be most unfair in cases where the parents are totally dependent upon the son, to take him away in these hard circumstances. We know that the maximum amount which an injured person can draw is 30s. a week. Compensation is based on the pre-accident earnings, and in many cases, due to short time or to circumstances over which the man has no control, they have to manage on 15s. or 20s. a week. In cases of that character it would be most unfair to take the son away from a crippled father who may have been injured in the pit or in industry in other ways. Therefore, we say that special cases of this character ought to have special treatment.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
I beg to second the Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) has referred to cases of hardship in industrial areas. I would like to refer to cases of a similar kind and just as serious which may occur in rural areas among the farming community. They may also have the further serious effect of tending towards a decrease in the production of food in this country. That is the one thing which, in the event of an emergency, we want to avoid. I have in mind such cases as smallholders who work holdings by themselves. Much more frequent is the case of a small family farmer having a son on whom he is dependent. When the son comes of military age it will be difficult for him to carry on. In view of the fact that food production is so important and of the plans which are being put forward for ploughing up the land and increasing food 1708 production, farmers are becoming very anxious. In my constituency recently there was a meeting at which it was discussed, and the fear was expressed that unless the hardship committees were able to deal with cases of this kind the result would not only be hardship but a decrease of food production.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
This is a similar issue to that which has just been discussed. It raises the whole scheme of the Bill. It is a very simple scheme and was decided after the most careful consideration. It was decided that there should be only three causes for exemption, namely, service in the Regular Forces, conscientious objection and failure to pass the medical board. The moment we depart from that clear principle it will not be only the hard case of the only son of a widow mentioned by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) but a whole catalogue of hard cases will have to be included. Taken separately a case could be made out for each in terms of sympathy, but to include them would destroy the whole structure of the Bill. The Government decided, therefore, to proceed not along that line but rather upon the road of postponement. This Clause proposes to give power of postponement to the Minister or the hardship committee may postpone for a period which may be six months or 12 months, or, in extreme cases, much longer. If we started to make exceptions there would be no end to the list of separate cases that might be made, and it is clear that the two things—postponement and exemption—could not work together.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
The fact that in the Minister's view there might be a long catalogue of cases surely justifies the Amendment rather than disposes of it. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to look at it from this point of view. It is a sound axiom never to refuse to widen the area of exemption where hardship exists. The number of cases may be many, as the Minister seems to think, or much smaller, as I think, but however many the number, there must be some where the Minister would find it expedient to exercise authority to exempt from military service. Whether the number of cases be large or small it would be wise to have a power of exemption. In the absence of such power the Minister would surely be in an 1709 uncomfortable situation if he discovered a case where it was obvious that the right of exemption had been proved but, because this Amendment was refused, the Act denied him any authority to grant exemption. I know that hard cases do not make good law, but may I quote a case which seems to typify the necessity for the right to exercise this power? This case did not come to me in connection with the Military Training Bill, but it might have been constructed in order to justify my argument.
It is a case of a family in which the father has been for a long time unemployed and is likely to be unemployed for life for health reasons. The mother has broken down under the strain and anxiety of her family experiences. There is a boy of 25 who, after service in the Regular Army, with three years in India, was discharged last June, and since then he has had three weeks' employment. Otherwise, he has been completely unemployed and is, therefore, an obstacle to the recruiting sergeant in the successful development of the voluntary system. There is another boy of 18½ who is more unemployed than employed. There is a girl of 14 who is about to leave school in order to go into employment. The only earning member of the family is a boy who will be 21 in the early autumn of this year. This Bill will, therefore, without the power to grant exemption in that special and surely exceptionally hard case, take out of that family the only earning member. It will confront them with an economic hardship which I cannot help feeling would justify a right of exemption being inserted in the Clause.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There will be general agreement that if the power to exempt were exercised it might lead us into difficulties. All sorts of cases would arise, complications would ensue and many awkward questions would be asked in this House. It has occurred to me that there might be one way out of the difficulty. Persons who enrolled in the Territorial Force before 27th April were exempt from the provisions of this Bill. It might be properly urged upon the Government that if, in the opinion of the hardship committee, there was a strong case for exempting a person, that person might be called upon to enrol in the Territorial Force. If exemption is to be provided at one end to persons who were in the Territorials before 1710 a particular date, there is surely a case at the other end, on the assumption that there existed strong ground for exemption, for asking a person to enrol in the Territorial Force who might normally come under the Bill.
That is a possible way out of the difficulty. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept it at once, but I ask him to consider it. It is imposing a serious obligation on the hardship committee if they are refused any power to exercise the right of exemption. They may be confronted with a case where it is clear serious hardship would ensue, not merely temporary hardship for six months or a year, but hardship for a long time to come, or there may be a case where it was desirable that a person should not be asked to undergo training for six months because he was engaged on work of national importance. What is the position in the case where a person is engaged on such work? If such a man appears before a hardship committee and they have no power to exempt him, what will be the position? The Minister should exercise considerable caution before he imposes an obligation on the hardship committee of being unable to exempt in any circumstances.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
I have on the Paper an Amendment to much the same effect and I am glad to shorten proceedings by saying what I have to say now. The words which I had on the Paper were intended to allow exemption to youths of 19 and upwards who have such financial or business obligations or are in such a domestic position that serious hardship would ensue if they should be called up for military training. The operative words are taken from the Military Service Act, 1916. That Act definitely exempted such persons. The real injustice—and it is a serious injustice—in this Bill is that such youths cannot, like others, anticipate their service. It can only be postponed. Others from 17½ upwards can anticipate their service on good cause being shown, but upon those unable to anticipate the Bill presses with cruel hardship. They have undertaken serious financial and domestic obligations from which they are unable to absolve themselves. These youths cannot be reinstated for they are in one-man businesses and their businesses will come to an end when they enter the service.
1711 I have been at pains to look up the early history of conscription in several foreign countries. In every case when universal military service was started pains were taken to provide plenty of exemptions during the first few years, and thereafter with ample notice, to stiffen it up. I submit we have gone too far in this Bill in making the obligation absolute and universal to an extent which no foreign country in Europe ever contemplated. The only son of a widow, the one-man business and the persons who have dependants were exempted in France, if I remember right, until 1906, and in Germany until 1912. In every case when they knocked off exemptions they gave two or three years' notice and they provided, as this Bill does, for anticipation. The proviso which I should like to see substituted would be needed for the next 18 months, and not, as the hon. Gentleman has just suggested, for the period of the Bill. The intention is to exempt young men over 19 already running one-man businesses and who have serious financial or domestic obligations. Those not yet 19 can very well anticipate their service and do their training.
I have four cases that I should like to put before the Minister to illustrate what I have in mind. The first is that of a young man who, on the death of his father six months ago, took on his father's business as a draper. He is just over 20. He keeps the accounts, buys the stock, and manages the shop, and he is doing it single-handed and making a success of it. He could not afford to put in a manager. He has to pay the rent, he has financial obligations, and he has to interview travellers. If he is called up, he will have to close the shop. He cannot be reinstated. The maxim that "hard cases make bad law," is applicable to judges in the execution of their functions; but not to the House of Commons when it is endeavouring to produce a just law that will not create hard cases.
The second case that I have in mind is a young man who a year ago set up in a village as a butcher. He has earned a thoroughly good reputation by not merely selling foreign meat at the usual prices, but making the very most of every animal that he takes from the local farmers and converting every part of it into its appro- 1712 priate delicacy—and there are far more assets to be got out of a pig than anyone has any idea of who does not live in Lancashire. He has made a success of the business, but it is a one-man business, and he does the whole thing himself. He is proud of his skill and of his clientèle. He is the very sort of person whom Members on both sides of the House admire and wish to see more of. We cannot help the growth of big businesses, whether as chain stores or as co-operative societies, but we can do what little we can in this House to encourage the young, independent man who has risked much in order to make his own way in the world, who is responsible to nobody but himself, and who is neither an insured person nor an employed person, but an independent citizen.
The third case is that of a locksmith, with business in great blocks of flats and offices, whose proprietors occasionally want new keys. They do not want to entrust their sample or master keys to a large factory, which may employ men who are here to-day and gone to-morrow. It is a very responsible and a very honourable post to be locksmith to a large group of flats or big offices. This young man was established in that trade a year ago. He is "on his own," and he has his little shop. No Order in Council could enable the Government to pay his rent. He has his clientèle, who may send for him at all hours of the day or night, to make keys—a job which requires all his skill. He has a safe in which he keeps the master keys of the locks of the various offices. He will find that if he is called up, he has lost his trade, and he cannot get back his clientele. I submit that there is no equality of sacrifice between him and a youth who is an employed person.
The fourth case is that of a young man on a smallholding. There are many of them, but I would rather see 30,000 of them lost in the first year if we exempt them and give the Act a good name from the start. I am thinking of the boy half-way through his nineteenth and twentieth year, who is the one hand employed on a smallholding, with his father, or with his mother, or with his two sisters or a brother. He is the key man of a business which provides a hard but honourable and an independent living for men and women who wish nothing better than to owe nothing to anybody and to be dependent on nobody. Under this Bill he 1713 cannot anticipate his service, as he could have done if he had been two years younger. He must abandon the job and put in a hired man for six months. Now a hired man, as every agricultural Member knows, who can be trusted to take on a job, with a mother and sister, and work in with a family as a help, and do seven days' work in agriculture, is not easily to be found, and I do not think any compensation, any system of adjustment by Order in Council, can meet such cases.
I urge the Government, if they cannot do it now, to consider in another place whether, by being so strict, by refusing exemption to anybody except on grounds of conscience, they are not doing far more damage to the Measure in the future throughout the country than they would do by allowing reasonable exemptions on these grounds just for the next 18 months, in the interest of this particular generation, on whom the blow has fallen with such severity. My Amendment contemplated exemptions only for those who were already 19 years of age, numbering perhaps 6,000 or 7,000, possibly 10,000, who may face ruin. The Government cannot compensate them; they cannot be reinstated; they cannot find anyone to take their place; and they will lose the little niches in society which they have already carved for themselves. Are we to tell them that we will make no exemptions, that the House of Commons feels that everybody must share and share alike? Will the young man who will have a guarantee of reinstatement share and share alike with the young man who has no guarantee, who, in fact, knows that his business will be ruined? I think we shall be making a grievous mistake in so doing.
There is the old legal maxim, "Exceptio probat legem," or, alternatively, "Exceptio probat regulum," the exception is the test as to whether or not the rule is good. The exceptions which I have indicated—and there are, of course, many other categories—suggests that the rule, as laid down in this Bill, is not a good one, and that we should give some liberty to the tribunal to exempt boys who cannot, by reason of their age, anticipate their service. We did it in the Military Service Act, 1916, and it was a complete success. The tribunals worked honestly and fairly, and although there was a considerable number of exemptions, it made it possible for the work of the 1714 country to go on. In the words of Ecclesiasticus, XXXVIII:All these trust to their hands: and every one is wise in his work.Without these cannot a city be inhabited: and they shall not dwell where they will, nor go up and down:They shall not be sought for in publick counsel, nor sit high in the congregation: they shall not sit on the judges' seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment; they cannot declare justice and judgment; and they shall not be found where parables are spoken.But they will maintain the state of the world, and (all) their desire is in the work of their craft.It is for those that I appeal.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
The hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) has brought this Debate to a new proposal, or to a modification of the original proposal, on which the Government ought to make a statement and on which, if we had time to discuss the Bill in the usual way, I think the general desire of the House would be that the Government should meet the kind of case that the hon. and gallant Member has put forward. He has developed his case at considerable length, but may I state, in two or three sentences, how real and powerful his contention is? The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has objected to this Amendment, which would give these powers of exemption for all time, and indeed, so far as all time is concerned, it will be possible for young men in the future to adjust themselves to the circumstances, because they would have, broadly, from 17½ to about 21, a long period, and it might be possible, without great dislocation, to find within it some six months for military service. But the hon. and gallant Member has put a case which undoubtedly will lead to the ruin of businesses. We are ruining businesses now, because now, on 30th June, there will be throughout the country young men called up for service, perhaps young men in their own business, or more frequently in a business belonging perhaps to a father, which depends on the young man, and he cannot be replaced. Beyond the possible power to postpone for one year, there will be no alternative method before the tribunal, and it is reasonable that such cases should be met ad hoc for one year or 18 months. The Minister of Labour ought either to meet 1715 the point or at any rate to answer it before the Debate concludes.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I agree entirely with what has fallen from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), and also with the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), although in so far as he talked about Territorials, I hope that, as there is an Amendment on the Paper to Clause 2, in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise), it will not be necessary to deal with that side of the matter now. I rise to support the argument put forward from the point of view of the family farm. I raised this question last Friday, on the Committee stage, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said in reply:Where there is only one worker on a faun, that case will be specially considered, and what arrangements can be made will be made to avoid hardship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1939; col. 879, Vol. 347.]I listened to the sympathetic approach to this question that the Minister of Labour made. He said that what the tribunal would do would be to postpone such cases, perhaps for a long period, but I do not see how, by a mere postponement, you will do away with the injury that will follow to these men on family farms. I will take the instance of a man of 60 working on a farm with a boy of 20. All the heavy work on the farm is done by the young man. In many cases the old man is not fit for it. If you postpone the young man's service for two or three years it only means that the farmer is growing older and the son more indispensable. There are farms where there is never any hired labour at all. They are much too small for that and their method of farming is not conducive to the use of hired labour. The son goes on working for his father and in due course the father retires and the son takes over the farm and thus it is carried on from generation to generation.
These family farms are to be found in various areas of the country. In the Yorkshire Dales the family farm is usual and the larger farm is the exception. The difficulty about the problem is that by taking these young men you will be 1716 hitting certain areas of the country. I do not seek to make out a case for the larger farms on which three or four men are employed. The circumstances in those cases are entirely different. But the small sheep farmer in the Yorkshire Dales or in Durham will be very harshly treated, unless power is given, not merely to postpone service but to exempt from service, in circumstances of special hardship. I hope the Minister will have regard to these facts and also to the speech made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on Friday in which he said that special consideration would be given to these cases and arrangements made to meet them. The only way to do it, is to exempt these young men.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I feel that we make a great mistake in many important Measures of social legislation by drawing our lines hard and fast, and failing to give the Minister complete discretion to deal with particularly hard cases. My first grounds for appealing to the House to support the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) is that I think the time has come when we should realise that every social Measure must involve hard cases, and that those hard cases can only properly be relieved at the discretion of the Minister. My second ground is that we are in this Bill giving every consideration to those whose consciences direct them to object to military service. Let us not have to plead guilty to the charge of treating lightly the consciences of those who would not stoop to an untruth, in order to escape from what may well mean the ruin of their life's work. This is not primarily a military Measure. If there was an acute state of military necessity, we should not limit the Measure to young men of this restricted age group. Taking the longest possible view, this is primarily a social Measure. If there was an acute state of military necessity no one would propose any sort of exemption except for extreme reasons of conscience. If this is to be a successful social Measure we are not, I submit, justified in doing great injustice in certain individual cases. Therefore, I add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin in begging the Government to reconsider their position and give complete discretion to the Minister in cases of exceptional hardship.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
I wish to support the request which has been made to the Minister for sympathetic consideration of these cases, by reading a letter received by me this morning. It expresses more clearly than any language I could use the difficulties and injustices which may be involved in this demand made by the State upon these young men. As far as I know, no consideration has yet been given to the case of the family which is still suffering hardship as a result of the last War. The letter is as follows:Dear Sir,With regard to the possibility of my only son being called up for military training, may I ask you if it can in any way be possible for him to obtain exemption? He is employed at the Handley Page aircraft factory. He will be 21 years of age on 6th September next. I am totally disabled myself through the last War, having to pass my days in an invalid chair. My son has seen me only as a cripple.…I am entirely dependent on my wife, assisted by my son. His mother is greatly worried over him, and for the past 20 years they have been my only means of aid. He is a great help to her in every way, and I fear for the consequences to her if he should be called up. So it is on account of her that I should be grateful for your advice, which will be appreciated.I know nothing about this case except what is contained in that letter but what is happening is very clear. There is a little home of three people consisting of the father, who is a hopeless cripple, the mother and the son. The mother is not physically able to lift this man into his invalid chair or render those services which a hopeless cripple requires. It will be impossible when the boy is called up, for her to pay for other assistance. That is one of the exceptional cases. They may be few in number, but that fact does not lessen the hardship to the individuals concerned, and I think that is the kind of case in which the Minister might consider the possibility of exemption.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Sir Joseph Nall
The case which has just been stated to the House is one of those which cannot fail to move the instincts and emotions of all hon. Members, and, of course, we can find many cases of the kind. That does not alter the fact that if we begin with a series of exemptions, by granting discretion to the Minister, apart from the provisions already in the Bill, to allow individuals, for reasons such as have been stated, to avoid the obligation of a by no means 1718 onerous period of service and of preparation for emergency, we shall open the gates to a wide series of demands which must, ultimately, produce a state of uncertainty and ill-feeling.
§ Sir A. Wilson
Is my hon. Friend aware that this case could not possibly arise, except for boys who are 19 or 20 now. For all boys under 19, the case could not possibly arise. We ask merely for exemption for boys who can postpone, but who cannot anticipate their service.
§ Sir J. Nall
I do not follow my hon. Friend's intervention. What I say is that there should not be exemptions of this kind, at a time of national emergency—because that is what the House has to face and what the country, I believe, is facing. In a time of national emergency it is the duty of all men to forge and wield the weapons of war, just as it is the duty of women to care for and nurse the sick and wounded and raise and nurture the next generation. [HON. MEMBERS: "For the next war."] When a Measure of this kind is before the House, the more we enable individuals to believe that by one means or another they may avoid that service to the State, which it is the duty of men to give, the more likely we are to disturb the feelings of those who find that they have no reason to make any such application.
§ Sir A. Wilson
But the right of exemption was in full force in 1916 and throughout the rest of the War.
§ Sir J. Nall
There were a great many exemptions in the last War which were very bitterly resented by those at the Front, and we do not want that kind of exemption again if another war should occur. But we are not dealing with war. We are dealing with peace conditions and my hon. Friend is asking the House to apply, under peace-time conditions, to a service which involves only six months' training, the rules which were applied in a time of war and which we hope will not be allowed to apply in a future war. Cases of the kind referred to by the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) must be considered on their merits, not with a view to exempting the individual from service but with a view to providing adequate arrangements to alleviate any hardship which may arise. It was mentioned in that letter that the young man was already employed in a 1719 civil capacity. Therefore he cannot be at home all the time to render that assistance to which the hon. Member refers. Obviously what is needed in a case like that is some assistance in the home, and not the retention in the home, of the man who is at present earning the maintenance of the home.
§ Mr. Messer
The hon. Member evidently does not know what is the custom in the homes of many of these poor helpless ex-service cripples. They are lifted into their invalid chairs in the morning and remain there all day until night when they are lifted into bed.
§ Sir J. Nall
No one would say that a man who is away at business all day should be exempted from a short term of military training under peace conditions, simply in order that that very necessary help should be given in the home. To say that is to raise a principle and an issue which, if extended, would enable a large number of men to claim exemption. On that ground, I urge the Minister to hold fast by the provisions of the Bill. We have hardship committees, we have provisions for considering cases of this kind, we have provision for allowances to dependants, and, as was said by the Secretary of State for War in an earlier discussion, we ought not to regard this obligation for training as something to be evaded if possible. We should regard it as the normal civic duty of the individual. Where cases of hardship arise and where the provision of help in the home is necessary, let those cases be dealt with on their merits. Do not make them the excuse for enabling individuals to evade their military obligations to the State.
§ 8.1 p.m.
It has been refreshing to listen to the many humane appeals made to the Minister to deal sympathetically with a number of problems which will arise out of the application of this Bill, but the effect was quite spoiled by the speech of the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall). I have had many cases sent to me by constituents, and I have forwarded some of the letters to the Minister of Labour and hope that they will receive his sympathetic consideration. One case was similar to that quoted by the hon. Member for South 1720 Tottenham (Mr. Messer). It was the case of the only son of a disabled ex-service man. He has received 100 per cent. disability pension and the mother is quite unable to render services to the husband for his comfort and to promote his happiness and health. If the hon. Member for Hulme would realise how dependent women are in such cases upon the services of their sons he would realise that, even if the son is working all day, the mother is glad at week ends to rely on that son to wheel out his father in a bath chair so that he can get some fresh air.
I want to emphasise a point that was made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). In cases of that kind, where hardship would undoubtedly ensue, is it worth while to compel young men, who would not desire to appeal for exemption on conscientious grounds, to be called up to do six months' training when they are already engaged upon work of national importance? In the case I have quoted, where the mother is dependent upon the help of the son in the home to minister to his father's comfort, and also on financial grounds, the son is already working in Woolwich Arsenal, and I think any hardship committee would say that he was engaged upon work of national importance. There are many other types of case to which reference has been made, the case of the one-man business. I have knowledge of a case where the parents have made tremendous financial sacrifices to establish their son in a business of his own and have entered into financial commitments until the business has been put upon a sound footing, and if he is called up it will mean not only ruin for himself and for his future prospects but financial ruin for his parents. I hope that sympathetic consideration will be given by the Minister to the appeals made to him from all sides of the House, and I trust that he will not embitter large sections of the community by refusing to accept this very reasonable Amendment.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Captain Heilgers
We have listened to a number of moving speeches, in particular the speech by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson). I felt myself almost swept into his camp, but, like the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) I feel that here we are dealing with a scheme which has been extremely well 1721 thought out, which has made no distinction between rich and poor or any parts of the community, and I believe that that feature of it should be maintained and that there should be no exceptions whatever. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) put the case for the family farmer, and either he or the hon. Member for Hitchin said he thought that all agricultural Members would support such exemptions. I appreciate that family farms do present a big difficulty, but I do not believe that those difficulties are insuperable.
§ Captain Heilgers
We have family farms in Suffolk, though not so many as there may be in Yorkshire, but I believe that the case of the family fanner and similar cases can be met under the postponement Clause of the Bill. As far as I understand it, and I hope the Minister of Labour will correct me if I am wrong, it is intended to make full use of that Clause. There is practically no limit to the use that can be made of that provision, and to my mind it will meet those very hard cases.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) put forward a proposal that exemptions might be made on condition that the man exempted went into the Territorial Army. At first sight that is a very attractive proposition, but I ask the House to remember that the object behind this Bill is to provide a reserve for the Regular Army, in order to enable it to function quickly in a national emergency. If there are too many exemptions I think it will be found that we shall get a large Territorial Army but will not create a big reserve for the Regular Army. I will conclude by saying that I believe it is far wiser to make this scheme applicable to everyone, and I certainly hope that the Minister of Labour will make no exemptions.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
This has been one of the most interesting discussions which we have had in the course of the proceedings on this Bill, and that was certain to be so from the nature of the case, but I think the course of the Debate will have confirmed everyone who looks at the purpose of the Bill in the soundness of the decision of the Government to draft the Bill in its 1722 present form. I was confirmed in that view by a phrase used by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) when he said that the rule would be effective. It is effective, and it is because of its effectiveness that cases such as have been put to us are bound to arise. Looking back over the discussion I notice that we have had three types of plea made to us. There was the moving and humane plea made by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson), who is not the only Member who has sent me cases. I would point out that the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is not a personal one as such but raises the occupational issue. We begin with a narrow circle. We do not know how many cases it will embrace and only experience will show. Then the circle broadens out. The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton suggests that we must add to the personal factor the occupational factor. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) goes further still. He does not put his plea either on the personal or on the occupational ground but on the national ground. He asks, What is to happen to the young man who is in an industry of national importance?
Therefore, in this short space of time, we have had a real flashlight thrown upon the difficulties of making any breach in the general rule which, as admitted by the hon. Member for Hitchin, is effective. That is not to say that the Government have not been aware of the difficulties. My answer to the hon. Member for Seaham is that I have already told the House on two occasions that inside the group of 310,000 persons now affected by this Bill there are some 60,000 now on the schedule of reserved occupations.
§ Mr. Brown
I know they will be called up. Therefore, hon. Members who have been submitting their appeals will see exactly where we are to be led if, in addition to allowing for the pleas put for ward by the hon. Member for Hitchin, the hon. Member for Dartford and for the most eloquent plea made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. Ellis Smith), we take notice also of the plea of the agricultural and other occupational Members, and then of the plea for those in reserved occupations, who are a fifth of the whole age-group.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I do not want to be misrepresented. I did not ask that every person engaged on work of national importance should be exempted, but I did say that a hardship committee might find, in the case of an applicant for exemption, that it was a special case and that it was not desirable to take him away from work of national importance.
§ Mr. Brown
I am coming to that point, but we ought to see this matter in the light of the purposes of the Bill as a whole. I am bound to see these things at their maximum before I consider what ought to be done. While the House is rightly concerned about such cases as the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) described, I suggest that there is no need for us at the moment to reach instant decisions about these matters, because the Government have already decided upon machinery under which we may be able to survey the field, not in advance of the situation but in the light of the knowledge which will be thrown upon the working of the Measure by the operations of the hardship committee. The right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) fell into an error. The power of postponement is not for one year only.
§ Mr. Brown
But if the right hon. Gentleman will read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow he will see that he said that it was, and I want to make it clear that it is not. The power of postponement is limited only by the duration of the Bill. Clause I says that the registration shall run from one year from the end of the postponement. I suggest that that shows that the Government, in their arrangements for hardship cases, are taking the widest possible view about these cases. Because it is a case of hardship now—take the example of the one-man business—it does not follow that a year from now it will be a hard case. It may or may not then be a hard case, because the circumstances may have changed. As I envisage hardships, in the light of our knowledge of life, there will be hardships that time will not cure, about which the House has been continuously concerned during the course of the Bill and will have to be concerned if they are on a large scale, and there will be hardships that time will cure, because the circumstances will change. I suggest that no Member would say that we ought to give a power of 1724 exemption in a case where the circumstances may entirely change in the course of six months or a year.
Three modifications have been suggested. One of them has been turned down already. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) saw at once when the answer was given him that it was better to have flexibility. In some cases six months might be better than a year or a longer period might be better for all concerned. In regard to the hard cases in which anticipation is not possible, I suggest that the power of postponement gives the Government, the country and the persons concerned, the advantage that there is time, all the time we need, for the hardship to be placed before the committee, studied and dealt with, and for postponement to be given. Then, if the issue has so magnified that it must be brought to the House, the House will be able to make up its mind, not in advance, but in light of the knowledge it has had from the actual examination of the evidence and the needs of those concerned.
We had a suggestion from the hon. Member for Seaham that we might take another power to exempt, on hardship being proved, and service in the Territorial Army put forward instead. I need only say that that seems an ingenious suggestion, but when you apply the method of the Bill, of bringing the facts to judgment in the light of the evidence, the power of postponement shows that the Government have taken the wiser course, and that if action has to be taken in the future we shall be able, and this House will be able, to take it, not after a short Debate like this, but in the light of all the facts concerned. We shall be making a very great mistake to accept this Amendment, and I cannot recommend the House to do so.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
The right hon. Gentleman has said that hardship would come before the House after we had had experience. On what occasion?
§ Mr. Brown
What I meant to say was that if the thing was a demand it was bound to come before the House. If you are dealing with a large number of hard cases the House would be made aware of it. This is a democratic assembly and one of its joys is that a sense of hardship outside instantaneously makes itself felt inside. I have no doubt that our way is the democratic and wise way.
§ Sir A. Wilson
Do we understand rightly what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that postponement may be indefinite until the end of the Bill?
§ Mr. Brown
If my hon. Friend will look at Clause 1 he will find these words:The Minister, if satisfied that there is good cause for so doing, may permit any person to be registered in the military training register before he attains the age of 20 years, or may permit any person so registered to postpone his liability to be called up for military training, and in the latter case, the period of one year for which he is liable to be so called up shall begin with the date to which his liability is postponed instead of the date on which he was so registered.That carries out exactly what I said and means that the actual power of postponement will be limited by the Bill.
§ Sir A. Wilson
One further question. The right hon. Gentleman said that the matter would be reconsidered by the House and by the Government. I ask whether he is prepared to undertake that he will place before the House a proper report of the working of the military hardship tribunals and will give the House some opportunity of judging whether or not the statement that he made is to be taken seriously.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The right hon. Gentleman has already spoken, and has exhausted his right to speak. He can speak again only by leave of the House.
§ Mr. Lansbury
On a point of Order. We have had a long speech from the Minister and you have ruled that he can do so again only by leave of the House. I think we ought to have that little courtesy from whoever speaks twice.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I remember Mr. Speaker Ruling that a Minister could not speak twice except by leave of the House. I am not complaining that the right hon. Gentleman did so but I am saying that you ought to maintain the right of the House to give that permission.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 190.1727
|Division No. 138.]||AYES.||[8.22 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mander, G. le M.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Marshall, F.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Maxton, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Grenfell, D. R.||Messer, F.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Milner, Major J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Groves, T. E.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Barr, J.||Hall. G. H. (Aberdare)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Batey, J.||Hardie, Agnes||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Benson, G.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Paling, W.|
|Bevan, A.||Hayday, A.||Parker, J.|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Pearson, A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hicks, E. G.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Price, M. P.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hollins, A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cape, T.||Hopkin, D.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Ridley, G.|
|Cocks, F. S.||John, W.||Ritson, J.|
|Collindridge, F.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Daggar, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Dalton, H.||Kirkwood, D.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lathan, G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lawson, J. J.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leach, W.||Sloan, A.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leonard, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Ede, J. C.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lunn, W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||McEntee, V. La T.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Foot, D. M.||McGovern, J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Gardner, B. W.||MacLaren, A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Walker, J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Watkins, F. C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin|
|Thorne, W.||Watson, W. McL.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Thurtle, E.||Welsh, J. C.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Tinker, J. J.||Westwood, J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Tomlinson, G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Walkden, A. G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Goldie, N. B.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham),|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Grimston, R. V.||Nicholson, Hon. H. G.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (So'h Univ's)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Hammersley, S. S.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Hannah, I. C.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Harbord, A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Pilkington, R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Radford, E. A.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hepworth, J.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Higgs, W. F.||Renter, J. R.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Richards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Holmes, J. S.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hopkinson, A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Rowlands, G.|
|Bull, B. B.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hunter, T.||Salt, E. W.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Channon, H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Keeling, E. H.||Selley, H. R.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Kimball, L.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'burgh, W.)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Levy, T.||Storey, S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lewis, O.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cross, R. H.||Liddall, W. S.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lindsay, K. M.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lipson, D. L.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Little, J.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Loftus, P. C.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Denville, Alfred||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Dodd, J. S.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||McKie, J. H.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Magnay, T.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Emery, J. F.||Markham, S. F.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Errington, E.||Medlicott, F.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wise, A. R.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Furness, S. N.||Morris, O. T (Cardiff, E.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hen. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Munro and Captain McEwen.|
§ 8.30 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 27 to 31.
I trust that we may expect yet another concession in regard to this Clause. 1728 I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy is to move an Amendment that will give, in the case of the other tribunals, what we are now asking in the case of the hardship committees, and, 1729 if it can be extended in the one direction, we think it might also be extended to the hardship committees, which, we are all agreed, will have to deal with questions of very great difficulty. I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will realise that those questions will be very involved. They will include the question of the conditions in the homes of the young men who desire to appear before the hardship committees, and other varied questions, such as the amount of income coming into the household, the condition in regard to health of the dependants of the young man, and his conditions as regards income, expenditure and employment. The Government are placing on three members the heavy responsibility of deciding these questions, and they are leaving this loophole whereby a committee can prevent a young man from making an appeal against their decision.
I suggest in all humility, as a backbencher on this side, that the one thing the Government have to fear in regard to this Bill is a feeling that the man's right of appeal against the decision of any committee is being taken away. That is a feeling that must be guarded against, and, therefore, I ask the Government to give this question their most careful consideration. It would create no difficulties for the Government, because they have already provided that, where the decision is a two-to-one decision, the right of appeal is extended to the man. This proviso, in my opinion hurriedly and mistakenly inserted by the Government, merely states that, where the decision is unanimously against the young man, he shall be debarred from making any appeal. We have maintained continually in the legislation of this country that one of the most important things is the right of the subject to appeal from the decisions of such committees as these. I think hon. Members opposite will realise that I am not asking that any steps should be taken to facilitate anyone in evading his responsibility. I am asking that the Government shall accept their responsibility, and that, if they decide to set up these hardship committees, each consisting of a chairman and two members, they shall not prevent even one person from having an opportunity of appealing as prescribed in the Bill itself. They must recognise that these committees will have to decide questions of hardship or of economic 1730 conditions in the young man's home—conditions of rent, income and poverty such as call for the greatest measure of consideration. I trust that nothing will be done to prevent a young man from making an appeal as prescribed in the Bill itself.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think it is a very reasonable request. I can imagine that the hardship committees will have a very difficult task to perform. Having all the varying shades of hardship to determine, a committee may, with the greatest of good will, make a unanimous decision that leads to injustice. I have heard in this House very often, especially from legal Members, that it is necessary not only that justice should be done, but also that it should appear to be done. That is what we are asking. A young man who appeared before one of these committees should be satisfied that he has had a full and fair hearing. Many of us on this side are very conversant with tribunal? and examinations of various kinds. In regard to compensation, there would have been a revolution in this country long ago had we not had the right to appeal to some higher authority after examinations had been conducted, with the most meticulous care, and an adverse decision given.
It seems to me that there is an analogy for this Amendment in the court of referees which deals with unemployment insurance claims. If the decision of the court of referees is unanimously against the application, the chairman may grant the applicant the right of appeal to the umpire, and, even if the chairman and the rest of the court are against him, his union, if he is a member of a trade union, has the right to appeal on his behalf, while, failing all these possibilities, the insurance officer, if he believes that a wrong decision has been given—even if the decision is against the applicant—has the right to appeal to the umpire on behalf of the applicant. I think that is a perfect analogy. The Amendment does not seek to interfere with military training, but it does seek to establish that there shall be that impartial weighing of evidence and the balancing of shades of hardship, so that when the final decision is given, whether it be for or against the applicant, he can be satisfied that at least he has had a full and impartial hearing.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) suggested, the Government have given way on a number of Amendments in response to arguments advanced from both sides. It is our desire to use the knowledge of the House in order to get the best possible Bill. But that would be no argument why we should give way on an Amendment of this kind, which I believe cannot be justified. The hon. Member for Maryhill cited the analogy of the local tribunals. It is true that the Government, on the Committee stage, accepted a suggestion from the other side, allowing an unrestricted right of appeal both to the Minister and to the appellant, but it would be a confusion of thought to identify the situation in regard to the hardship committees with that in regard to the local tribunals. The local tribunals are few in number: there are not expected to be more than a dozen covering the whole country; they are to deal with a limited number of cases—and cases in respect of which no local knowledge is necessary. It has indeed been argued, with some force, from the other side that local knowledge on the part of the tribunals might well be not an advantage but a danger.
But quite a different situation applies in the case of the hardship committees. Instead of being 12 of these, there will be 120. They will deal with many cases; and people who want either to anticipate or postpone their service are fully entitled to come before the committees, no stigma being attached to them for doing so. In this case local knowledge is essential—or highly desirable. The exact situation of the individual and the difficulties of his own trade are so important that it is desirable that the committee should be fully seized of them. It cannot be claimed that the umpire in London is generally speaking better qualified to decide whether a man has made out a case than the local committee. It is, however, true that provision is made for an appeal, both by the Minister and the appellant. There is a right of appeal for the man himself if the decision of the committee is not unanimous or if leave is given to appeal. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, in dealing with the unemployment insurance position lost sight of the fact that the committee can give leave to appeal to the umpire, even though the decision of the committee has 1732 been unanimous. In addition, there is the provision whereby, if the hardship committee are not unanimous, there is a full right of appeal for the individual. The constitution of the hardship committees is such that no hon. Member need fear that an unfair decision is likely to be arrived at. There is a chairman of high legal attainments, who would generally be a chairman or deputy-chairman of a court of referees, and two other members: one drawn from an employers' panel and the other from a workers' panel. The hon. Member feels, and some other hon. Members may feel, that allowing the Minister the right to appeal and not giving the same right to the applicant may be unduly weighing the scales in favour of the Minister. This, however, shows a misunderstanding of the part to be played by the Minister in this matter. He is not a partisan in any sense of the word. He is not anxious that the just claims for a man to be given privileges because of hardship should be withheld. He is an independent administrator, with no bias one way or the other. The Minister is not anxious that a particular decision should be reached unless it is justified on the facts. The hon. Member opposite stated the case of the unemployment insurance law, and pointed out that the insurance officer was in a position to appeal if he thought that a question of principle was involved. In precisely the same way, if a question of principle is involved here, the Minister can appeal.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
There is also the question of the right of appeal if he is not sufficiently satisfied that the case is being properly conducted.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That leads me to my second point. My right hon. Friend is not going to appeal in a whole variety of cases, but is more likely to appeal if a question of principle is involved. There will be over 400 committees—not 120, as I inadvertently Stated just now. If there was a full and unfettered right of appeal, without any regard being paid to whether or not a hardship committee was unanimous, it might mean that the umpire would be flooded out with a host of appeals, many of which might be frivolous, and a large number, if not most of them, would involve no question of principle at all. I hope that I have made the position clear and that the House 1733 will see that, there is a real difference between the situation here and the situation with regard to the local tribunals on which we were prepared to give way two or three days ago.
§ Mr. Silverman
When the Government were considering the corresponding provision with respect to the tribunals, they agreed to alter the original idea, and, instead of leaving a conditional right of appeal, make it an absolute right of appeal, and I think that there is an Amendment on the Paper to carry out that pledge. Will the Minister tell us the difference between the two cases?
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is it not proposed at least to give the trade unionist the right that he has under Unemployment Insurance? Also under the Unemployment Insurance Act a person appearing before the court can say, "I am not going on with my case because the court is not fully constituted. There ought to be three people in this court, but there are only two present and I am not going on with it?" The workmen's representative may be absent.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is in order in asking questions, but he must not attempt to make a speech.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me whether the applicant has the right to say, "I refuse to go on with the case because there is not a fully constituted court, and I ask that my case shall be put back until there is one."
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
By leave of the House, I would like to deal briefly with the three questions which have been asked. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) was here while I was speaking, but I am afraid he must have profited very little by the observations I made. I devoted the first two or three minutes of my speech to explaining the difference, as we see it, between the tribunals and the hardship committees. To the second question of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), the answer is that the same principle will apply as that which applies in a court of referees. This must be a fully constituted court. There must be a chairman and two members present, or it is not a fully constituted court. He also asked whether I was not in error in having failed to point out to the Com- 1734 mittee that a trade union has the right to appeal from the court of referees to the umpire if it so desires even if the decision may have been unanimous. It is right that he should point that out, although, of course, I did not deliberately omit to mention it. The courts of referees in general are concerned with industrial matters in respect of which trade unions have special knowledge and responsibilities. The arguments in favour of allowing the right of appeal on the part of trade unions from decisions of courts of referees are well known to industrial Members of this House, but there is very little analogy between that situation and the one we are now discussing. When no particular industrial problem is involved, everybody should be treated alike.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
I am rather surprised at the attitude that the Government are again taking up on this question. If I understand the Parliamentary Secretary properly, the main reason why the Government object to deleting this proviso is that there will be too many appeals, and, I would add, too many who will be likely to get off. That is really the prime reason why they are opposing this Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that the Minister has the right to appeal, but that the individual, who is directly affected, has not that right of appeal. Does the Parliamentary Secretary think that the Minister will appeal if the case goes against the man and not against the Ministry? He will not appeal there. The Minister will not appeal to shield the individual man, and yet he has the right to appeal if the decision of the court goes against the Minister taking the man. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that there is a distinction between the tribunals and court of referees, and that there will not be as many conscientious objectors coming before the court of referees as there will be cases coming before the hardship committees. That will be a question to answer later on. Neither he nor I can assume that there will be far more cases in one section than there will be in the other. Some of us have had something to do with courts of referees in more ways than one. I have sat on one side of the referee with someone else sitting on the other side. The chairman of a court of 1735 referees has the power to refuse an applicant the right of appeal to the umpire unless he belongs to a trade union. I am surprised that the Government are not prepared to delete this proviso. I will read it:Provided that if the determination of the Committee with respect to any application was unanimous, the applicant shall not be entitled to appeal to the umpire or any deputy umpire except with the leave of the Committee.If it is a unanimous decision the man cannot appeal to a higher court, and yet representatives of the Government have been saying for a fortnight "We want to give everybody, as far as this Bill is concerned, a fair crack of the whip." A man is not getting a fair crack of the whip in any circumstances if he is not allowed to appeal against these three people in the court of referees, and unless we get a different decision from the one which the Minister has given, we shall go into the Division Lobby against him.
§ Mr. Benn
If the Minister gives us an affirmative reply to the question which I am about to put, I shall have nothing further to say. Is it proposed that the Minister shall issue general directions to these 400 committees as to the general way they are to conduct their proceedings? Does the Minister say "yes"?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. Gentleman must allow me to say "yes" or "no" in my own way. The answer is, "No."
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I listened to the Minister's argument for the rejection of the Amendment, and I cannot understand why the Government feel that it cannot be accepted. Anyone with a knowledge of the working of the tribunals or the committees knows that the principle which is here outlined does not work to the advantage of the individual who comes before them as an individual. When it is suggested that the Minister is standing in this relationship as an individual who is not predisposed one way or the other, 1736 I do not understand his position. Surely, the assumption in the Bill is that the Minister wants all the men he can get, and the hardship committees have been set up for the purpose of determining the amount of hardship which has to be established before such a person can be excused. If the committees come to a decision, and it is a unanimous one, I suggest that the individual against whom the decision has been given must have the right of appeal, otherwise he will always feel that he has not been given, as has been pleaded for, a fair crack of the whip, particularly when it is suggested on the other hand—and this argument he has not answered that the Minister has a right of appeal against the decision. Everything that the Minister suggested as being the case with regard to the applicant is also the case in regard to the Minister. All the facts and circumstances are taken into consideration, and yet the Minister is to be at liberty to appeal against the decision given, even if it be unanimous. If it is right for the Minister to have that appeal it is equally right for the individual, who is more concerned than the Minister.
Let me say a few words about the appeal that is provided for even where the decision is not unanimous, that is, provided the committee give the right of appeal. During the last three months I have filled in seven applications to the chairman of a court of referees, asking for the right of appeal where the individual has no right of appeal, because they were not in organised trade unions, and in seven instances during those three months the right of appeal has been refused, and there is no redress. A committee comes to a decision, even though it is not unanimous, and then there is an appeal to the chairman of that particular committee which has come to the decision, asking for the right of appeal? Can hon. Members imagine that it will be granted? Every reason given to us to-day for turning down the applicant is a reason for refusing the right of appeal, and unless the Government accept the Amendment the provision made, which is intended to remedy what must have been in the minds of the Government as a potential grievance, is not worth the paper on which it is printed.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
Have any of the hon. Members opposite stopped for a moment to 1737 reflect what they would do if any one of them was appointed an umpire, and this Amendment had been carried? Such a man would find himself in an awkward position. He would have put before him a whole series of appeals, and in every case he would know that the facts had been investigated by a strong local tribunal. The chairman of that tribunal, as we have been reminded, would be a man of legal experience, sitting with two members drawn from strong panels of people with industrial experience and experience of working conditions. That local tribunal, with all its local knowledge, would have decided that there was no case of hardship. If one of the hon. Members opposite found himself umpire in these circumstances, does tie not think that he would find it very difficult to overthrow the decision of that local committee? Surely, in the great majority of cases there can be no doubt that the opinion of the hardship committee would be upheld. Therefore, I suggest to hon. Members that what they are asking for is not, as they might think, something of great value to a great number of people, but, on the contrary, something which, if
§ granted, would very likely be of very little value. On the other hand, it obviously is open to the objection that if you flood the umpire with a great number of cases, which he has to examine, you must increase the risk of the more difficult cases, where the hardship committee found it difficult to make up their minds and in the end were not unanimous, would not get the full attention they deserved. Examined from that point of view, it seems to me that the case for the Amendment falls.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
All that the hon. Member has said as to what would take place in regard to these hardship tribunals and the umpire takes place now almost every day, and has taken place for many years, with respect to the courts of referees and umpires in London, precisely in detail as the hon. Member has described.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 200; Noes, 130.1739
|Division No. 139.]||AYES.||[9.4 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyle, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cross, R. H.||Hepworth, J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cruddas, Col. B.||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||De Chair, S. S.||Higgs, W. F.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Denville, Alfred||Holdsworth, H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Dodd, J. S.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Hopkinson. A.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Beechman, N. A.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Eckersley, P. T.||Hunter, T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ellis, Sir G.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Emery, J. F.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Errington, E.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Brown, Rt. Hen. E. (Leith)||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fildes, Sir H.||Kimball, L.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fleming, E. L.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Furness, S. N.||Lamb, Sir J. O.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Levy, T.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Lewis, O.|
|Channon, H.||Goldie, N. B.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Grimston, R. V.||Little, J.|
|Cobb. Captain E. C. (Preston)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Loftus. P. C.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hammersley, S. S.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hannah, I. C.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Critchley, A.||Harbord, A.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Magnay, T.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Maitland, Sir Adam||Remer, J. R.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Madlicott, F.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Rowlands, G.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Turton, R. H.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Russell, S, H. M. (Darwen)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Salmon, Sir I.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Salt, E. W.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Samuel, M. R. A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Munro, P.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Nall, Sir J.||Sandys, E. D.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Selley, H. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Snadden, W. McN.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Petherick, M.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Pilkington, R.||Storey, S.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Radford, E. A.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Major Sir James Edmondson and|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Sutcliffe, H.||Captain McEwen.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Groves, T. E.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, Agnes||Price, M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hayday, A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ridley, G.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Hicks, E. G.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Batey, J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hollins, A.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Benson, G.||Hopkin, D.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Isaacs, G. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||John, W.||Sloan, A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees-(K'ly)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W, J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Collindridge, F.||Leach, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Daggar, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tomlinson, G.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Walker, J.|
|Dobbie, W.||McGovern, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mander, G. le M.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marshall, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maxton, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Messer, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Milner, Major J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Foot, D. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Mathers an Mr. Whiteley.|
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I beg to move, in page 2, line 31, at the end, to insert:(5) The Minister may make Regulations to provide for enabling parties to proceedings 1740 before a Military Training (Hardship) Committee or before the umpire or any deputy-umpire to appear either in person or by a representative of any trade union to which they belong or by a friend.1741 I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to help the House and save a little time by indicating now what many of us hope is the case, that he is prepared to accept the Amendment. It is the same as one which has already been accepted in the case of the tribunal, and whatever distinction the Minister thought might exist as between a tribunal and a committee in the case of a conditional or unconditional right to appeal, it is extremely difficult to see why a man who applies for exemption on conscientious grounds should have the right to be accompanied by counsel, solicitor, or his trade union representative, or a friend, while the man who is applying for a postponement of his period of service should have to appear alone before the committee. I should have thought that it was impossible to establish any distinction between the two cases, and I hope the Minister will be able to grant the same concession in this case as he did in the other.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am afraid I cannot accept the words of the Amendment, but it is our intention to accept the principle. Under Clause 12, as the House will see, the Minister has power to make regulations with regard to the procedure of the hardship committees, and it is proposed that these regulations shall provide that an applicant, whether before the hardship committee or later on before the umpire, may appear in person or by a trade union representative or by a friend. We are having discussions as to the exact and appropriate words to describe what a "friend" is, and that is making it a little difficult to accept the Amendment, but I can assure the hon. Member that we are in sympathy with the idea.
§ Mr. McEntee
Will some information be sent to the man that he has this right? Otherwise he will read the Bill and know nothing about the regulations.
§ Mr. Stephen
Will he be able to be represented by counsel before the umpire? Under the Unemployment Insurance Act he can, and I presume he will, have the same right in this case.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I have given the House an indication of what it is proposed to bring forward in the regulations, and I cannot add anything to it at this stage.
§ Mr. Silverman
In view of the assurances which have been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, at the end, to insert:10. For the purposes of this Act the time at which a person attains any relevant age shall be deemed to be, according to the law in force elsewhere than in Scotland, as well as according to the law in force in Scotland, the commencement of the relevant anniversary of the date of his birth.I regret having to move this manuscript Amendment, but I think that when I have explained it, hon. Members will realise that it merely produces the results which, everyone has already anticipated. It deals with the question of when a person attains the age of 20 or 21. I think everybody will have assumed that the person attains the age of 20 or 21 on his birthday. That is the law in Scotland, and in this case, with regret, I admit that I think the law in Scotland has been more in accord with general common sense than perhaps the law in England. It may be that the law of England diverted from what seems to be common sense for benevolent reasons, but under the law of England, in certain cases, it has been held that a man who was born on 20th June, for example, 20 years ago attains the age of 20 on 19th June. One of the cases arose under a will, where a man was to get certain benefits if he attained the age of 25. He died the day before his birthday, and the court held that he had attained the age of 25, although he had not lived into his birthday. They arrived at that conclusion by a somewhat, artificial application of the doctrine that the law disregards part of a day. They, might have disregarded it the other way, and said that he died the day before he did. However, we think that the Scottish principle is the best one, and undoubtedly it is what everybody understands by the phrase "attains the age of 20". The matter has come up before, and in the 1743 National Health Insurance Act, and I think in other Acts, there are provisions similar to this to assimilate the law of England to the law of Scotland, and to provide that a person attains a particular age at the beginning of the day on which he was born. The Amendment I have moved makes a provision which, I think, deals with this matter in accordance with common sense and understanding.
§ Mr. Denville
May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend how it is possible for any man to die the day before his birthday?
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Sir Irving Albery
I rise with a considerable amount of trepidation, and I very much regret that some of my hon. and learned Friends who have been present during a great part of the Debate are not here to deal with this Amendment. As a layman, I am little versed in the law, but I did not like the manner in which my right hon. and learned Friend moved this Amendment. The laws of England are already fairly complicated, and I am not at all enamoured of the idea of assimilating the laws of England to those of Scotland. We have a law in England in this matter already and apparently it has already been interpreted in England, and I cannot see any justification for altering the interpretation which at present exists. The whole matter is obviously a very trivial one in practice, and I must apologise for rising to debate the matter. I have done so only because, unfortunately, there are not present any of my hon. and learned Friends who would certainly have taken up the point which the Attorney-General made if they had been present. I hope that when I sit down somebody who is much better versed in the law will not allow the Amendment to pass unchallenged.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I am not at all well versed in the law, but I fully comprehended the Amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend. I think we should now pass on to the next business.
§ Amendment agreed to.