HC Deb 28 May 1941 vol 371 cc1847-8
41. Mr. Riley

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is prepared to consider applications for the release from the Armed Forces of skilled building trade workers who are willing to take up work immediately in the building industry?

Mr. Law

I am willing to consider the release of individual men where a sufficiently strong case is made out and it is supported by the Government Department directly concerned and by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. Applications should not be addressed to the War Office but to the Government Department directly concerned.

Sir Herbert Williams

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is not so much a shortage of so-called skilled men as of so-called unskilled men, whose absence is adversely affecting the regular employment of the skilled men?

Mr. McKinlay

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there have been instances of the Army taking men and releasing them during the same week during the blitz in Glasgow? Will he take steps to put an end to this?

Mr. Law

I think I should make it clear that whether a man goes into the Army is purely a question for the Ministry of Labour and National Service. They are drafted into the Army by that Ministry. Releases from the Army are granted as far as possible when an urgent demand is received from another Government Department.

Mr. Bellenger

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what is the procedure? Has the employer who is willing to employ the soldier to make application, and if he is engaged on Government work, is that all that is necessary before a case is put up to the War Office?

Mr. Law

The employer has to apply to the appropriate Government Department. In the case of building workers it would normally be to the Ministry of Works and Buildings. Then the Ministry of Works and Buildings, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and National Service, would make application to the War Office if the case were thought to be strong enough.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the hon. Gentleman say that the Ministry of National Service act without reference to the War Office and War Office requirements? Is there no co-ordination?

Mr. Law

Yes, Sir, there is co-ordination. We state what our requirements are, though we do not always get them satisfied, but we do not say what men are to be called up.