§ 5. Mr. Sorensen
asked the Minister of Labour whether it is the practice of tribunals dealing with conscientious objectors to discriminate adversely between those who base their appeal on religious and on ethical and political grounds, respectively; and whether an attempt is being made to secure reasonable similarity of judgment among all the tribunals?
§ Mr. E. Brown
Conscientious objection is not defined in the Act, and local tribunals have to use their own judgment in deciding whether an application, on whatever ground it may be based, is or is not of a conscientious nature. Both the applicant and the Minister have an unrestricted right of appeal to the Appellate Tribunal whose leading decisions will be circulated in order to secure reasonable uniformity among the local tribunals.
§ Mr. Sorensen
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, is he aware that there is considerable disparity as between one tribunal and another with regard to both ethical and religious grounds and as to decisions?
§ Mr. Stephen
Can the Minister say that he agrees that this House, in giving the right to conscientious objectors, meant to do so on all these grounds?
§ Mr. Stephen
But the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware that some chairmen of tribunals—
§ 6. Mr. Glenvil Hall
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Francis Harrison Maw, a Quaker living at Milnsbridge, Huddersfield, was refused registration as a conscientious objector on religious grounds by the north-eastern local tribunal sitting recently at Leeds; and what steps he proposes to take to call the attention of those sitting on these tribunals to the legal rights of those who appear before them?
§ Mr. Brown
I am aware that the tribunal unanimously decided to register Mr. Maw on condition that he was employed only in non-combatant duties. I have no power to vary this decision but Mr. Maw may appeal to the Appellate Tribunal within 21 days of the local tribunal's decision. I have no reason to think that members of the tribunals are not fully aware of the legal rights of applicants.
§ Mr. Hall
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a very real fear that, if a member of a religious society such as the Society of Friends, cannot establish his claim to exemption, other people equally genuine are not likely to establish their claims and is not that in a way preventing the Act from working and the decision of the House from operating?
§ Mr. Brown
I think the hon. Member is wrong. It is not a matter of whether an applicant is a member of a particular religious denomination or not, but it is a question of the tribunal's judgment as to his conscience about military service, and, of course, the hon. Member will understand that all members of the Society of Friends do not necessarily take the view that the majority take.
§ Mr. McGovern
Is the Minister aware that, in many cases, decisions are being 387 made not merely on the basis as to whether the applicants have a conscience or not, but because of the fact that members of the tribunal are trying to browbeat them with tricky questions?
§ 13. Major Milner
asked the Minister of Labour the number of conscientious objectors of whom notice has been given; the number of cases heard to date by area tribunals; and the results thereof by areas or tribunals, respectively, all to the latest convenient date?
§ 14. Major Milner
asked the Minister of Labour the number of appeals lodged by conscientious objectors; the number of cases so far heard before the central tribunal; and the results thereof to the latest convenient date?