HC Deb 09 December 1943 vol 395 cc1107-9
9. Sir John Mellor

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will direct to coalmining all physically fit conscientious objectors of military age who are not more usefully engaged in the war effort?

19. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Labour whether he proposes to direct conscientious objectors to military service to work in the coalmines?

Mr. Bevin

Conscientious objectors who are liable to be called up under the National Service Acts for service in the Non-Combatant Corps will take their chance for coalmining like anyone else liable to be called up under the Acts. In considering whether to direct other conscientious objectors to work in coalmining, I must have regard to the order made in each individual case by the independent tribunals set up by Statute to decide what work they should do as a condition of their registration.

Sir J. Mellor

Will not the genuine conscientious objector welcome this opportunity of service accompanied by some personal danger?

Mr. Bevin

There are thousands of cases in which conscientious objectors, although they have refused to take up arms, have shown as much courage as anyone else in Civil Defence and in other walks of life.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of the fact that it is now admitted that work in the mines involves personal danger?

10. Sir J. Mellor

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will exclude from the ballot for conscription for coalmining members of the Junior Training Corps who have shown exceptional military aptitude?

12. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Labour whether members of the Sea Cadets, Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps will be permitted to serve in the service for which they are preparing themselves or whether it is proposed to direct them to employment in the mining industry?

21. Major Sir Edward Cadogan

asked the Minister of Labour whether boys who have joined the pre-Service units, naval, military and air, before the announcement made by him on the subject of recruiting labour for the coalmines, will be exempt from the proposed ballot; and whether those who subsequently join these units can be made exempt provided they attain to certain standards of efficiency in those units?

Mr. Bevin

I will if I may answer Questions 10, 12 and 21 together.

Sir E. Cadogan

On a point of Order. My Question is rather different from Question No. 10 and raises further issues on the matter. I have no objection to the Questions being answered together, provided the right hon. Gentleman answers my Question.

Mr. Bevin

I regard it as essential that the ballot for coalmining should operate as widely and impartially as possible, and I cannot therefore allow any exceptions beyond the very limited categories mentioned in my statement in the House on 2nd December. Apart from this, no change is contemplated in the present arrangements whereby members of pre-Service Training Corps are considered for the Service of their choice when they become available for calling-up under the National Service Acts.

Sir J. Mellor

Will this not discourage recruiting for the Junior Training Corps and displace some valuable potential officers?

Mr. Bevin

No, Sir, I do not think so. The country, if it is to win the war, must have the coal.

Sir E. Cadogan

In view of the encouragement which the Government have given to these boys to join the pre-Service units, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is something in the nature of an implied contract, and will he not reconsider the position?

Mr. Bevin

No, Sir. Recently, when there were not sufficient optants in the pre-Service Training Corps for the Navy, I had to direct men who had opted for certain Services from the Army to the Navy, and equally I have had to divert people away from the Air Force to other forms of military service. In this case, owing to a shortage in one direction, to maintain the war effort I must direct them similarly.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

While I deplore the effect that this must have on the pre-Service units, does my right hon. Friend realise that if he gives way on the point, seeing that there are 450,000 boys in them, it would make nonsense of his scheme? Would he consider a pre-Service training scheme for mining on which the Forster Committee reported a year and a half ago?

Mr. Bevin

I must have notice of that.

Mr. Keeling

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the young men who pass through the pre-Service units are the very best young men of their age and that we want the best men in the mines?

Sir E. Cadogan

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this question at the first opportunity on the Adjournment.