HC Deb 11 April 1940 vol 359 cc676-9
9. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Minister of Labour whether any steps are taken to verify the accuracy of statements made by men appearing before tribunals claiming exemption from service on conscientious grounds; and whether the applicants for exemption are required to take any oath or make any solemn affirmation of the truth of their statements to the tribunal?

Mr. E. Brown

It is for the tribunals to determine what evidence they require in support of statements made before them. It is a punishable offence to make false statements in giving any information for the purposes of the Act, and a warning to this effect is printed on the official forms. Applicants may be required by tribunals to give their evidence on oath; the practice of the different tribunals in this matter varies.

Mr. Thurtle

I did not catch the first part of the reply. Do I understand that, if necessary, tribunals do make investigations into the statements of applicants?

Mr. Brown

It is open to them to make what investigations they think desirable.

Mr. Thurtle

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is the practice of the tribunals to make investigations?

Mr. Brown

I have said that the practice of various tribunals differs and the law lays the responsibility on them.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Does not the large number of rejections support the desire of the hon. Member in this respect?

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Has my right hon. Friend any information as to what tribunals do in Germany with regard to conscientious objectors?

Mr. Speaker

The Minister cannot answer for what happens in Germany.

14. Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Makins

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the resentment felt at the fact that a large number of conscientious objectors are better off financially than their contemporaries in the fighting services; and whether he will consider the desirability of introducing a scheme under which no conscientious objector should receive more money in respect of his civil employment than the equivalent pay and allowances of a militiaman, the balance to be paid by the employer to the Exchequer?

Mr. Brown

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Ralph Etherton) and the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. Purbrick) on 4th April, a copy of which I am sending him.

Sir E. Makins

May I, without criticising in any way the opinions of the conscientious objectors, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really considers that a man should benefit by refusing to fight for his country; and is he aware of the rising tide of indignation of men in the Services and the vast majority of civilians?

Mr. Brown

These are, of course, matters of opinion, but I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to do one thing for me. If he will help me to break down the prejudice which farmers have to using conscientious objectors who are assigned to land work, he will help me greatly.

Sir E. Makins

I have not heard of the information the right hon. Gentleman has, but if he will give it to me I will be glad to help him.

Mr. Brown

I should be most happy.

Mr. Davidson

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind that many privates in the Army are much worse off financially than brigadiers and are doing more work?

Mr. Kirkwood

And better looking men?

17. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of difficulties arising through Indians resident in this country who, on conscientious political grounds will refuse to obey their calling-up notices, and that existing arrangements respecting conscientious objectors do not cover this type of Indian political objector; and whether he will take special action to deal with this difficulty, and also to cover the cases of those Indians who volunteered to serve in the British Army and were refused because of their colour and will refuse to be conscripted on the ground that they were deemed unworthy of voluntary service?

Mr. Brown

Indian British subjects ordinarily resident in this country are liable to be called up for service under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act. They have the same rights under the Act to apply for registration as conscientious objectors as all other British subjects, and I have no power to make special provision for them. As regards the last part of the Question, any Indian British subject who wishes to volunteer for service in the British Army may do so on the same footing as European British subjects.

Mr. Sorensen

Is the Minister not aware that citizens of Eire in this country are allowed to stay here two years before they are made responsible for military service, and could he not at least place Indian subjects in the same position? May I ask, further, whether facilities will be given to Indians who are resident here to go back to India if they so desire?

Mr. Brown

That, of course, is another issue, and I should like to see that specific point on paper. The hon. Member did call my attention to a difficult case where it was refused before this present rule was operating.