§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, to leave out "may" and to insert "shall".
I do not wish to delay the Committee, but I feel there is some substance in this point. The provisions in Clause 2 are very valuable. They provide for the vocational training and industrial rehabilitation of these different classes of disabled persons. As I read it, the Clause is permissive. For example, if we should have another Geddes Committee after the war and it recommended all sorts of economies, according to the complexion of the Government of the day, the valuable provisions contained in the Clause might be washed out altogether. I therefore, desire to substitute "shall" for "may" so that these valuable provisions shall be ensured for all time to disabled persons covered by the Bill.
§ The Attorney-General
From time to time we have discussed the circumstances in which it is appropriate to use "may" or "shall." Undoubtedly, according to every precedent, "may" is the correct word in this case. Parliament empowers a Minister, enjoins him, to take a certain course, certain administrative steps, but is not imposing a legal duty. Parliament will retain control of the actions of the Minister. It would be impossible to impose a legal duty on the Crown or on a Minister to make arrangements of this kind and to set up courses, and so on. In the circumstances, it is undoubtedly better to use "may" and keep "shall" for cases where Parliament can impose a legal duty.
Hon. Members will be aware that there are cases where one can go to the court to get an order of mandamus against a Minister, but quite certainly that could not apply here. It must be left to the administrative and parliamentary field. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, because it is quite clear to me that "may" is right in this case. As to what may happen in the future, whatever words we used now could not control this House then. If Parliament were swept by a great wave of economy and it were proposed to cut down this, that or the other, it would be for the then Parliament to decide what to do. The mere substitution of "shall" for 75 "may" would not stop Parliament then from doing anything it wanted to do.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 1, line 24, at the end, to insert:Until such time as facilities are available for training all disabled persons, preference in selection for such courses shall be given to those disabled as a result of a war injury, a war risk injury, or detention or a war service injury. The words 'war injury,' a 'war risk injury,' or 'detention' and a 'war service injury' shall have the same meanings as in the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act, 1943.
§ Mr. Bellenger
On a point of Order. This Amendment contains a principle which runs through several Amendments later in the list. I am wondering, Major Milner, whether we can settle once and for all, in the Debate on this Amendment, this principle of preference for ex-Service men as such.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
I think it would be very convenient to deal with two of these Amendments together, namely, that which I am moving and a later Amendment standing in my name, in Clause 3, page 2, line 20, at the end, to insert:Until such time as facilities are available for training all disabled persons, preference in selection for such courses shall be given to those disabled as a result of a war injury, a war risk injury, or detention or a war service injury. The words war injury,' a 'war risk injury,' or detention' and a 'war service injury shall have the same meanings as in the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act, 1943.There is a certain similarity between them.
§ The Chairman
I agree that it will be convenient to discuss the Amendment now before the Committee with the one which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just mentioned.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has drawn attention to the importance and value of vocational training, and industrial rehabilitation courses. No one can doubt that those courses will serve a most useful and valuable function. The purpose of my Amendment is precautionary. It is designed to achieve that, if there is a queue in the future for ad- 76 mission to these courses, the war-disabled shall be at the right end of the queue and not at the wrong end. During the Second Reading Debate, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that it was not possible to make even an approximate estimate of the number of disabled persons who will qualify under the Bill, and that the number at the end of the war would be still more uncertain. Of course it does not follow that every person who is on the register will require training in one of these courses. It may be that a considerable proportion can be better trained in the factories where they are to do their work. I believe that at the present moment a good many vacancies exist in the training centres of the Ministry of Labour, because training can be given mare effectively in the factories.
However that may be, the number of those who will require training in these courses must be uncertain. How can we possibly say therefore that we shall provide enough premises and that there will be a sufficient trained staff to deal with all those who require training at once? It seems to me that we cannot ignore the possibility that there will be more people wanting admission to the courses than the courses can take, or the possibility that a number of persons will be kept waiting for admission. I do not want to see the war-disabled kept waiting, because their claims demand priority and should receive it.
The Minister has pointed out the difficulty of distinguishing between war-disabled and the disabled from other causes. I appreciate the difficulty. Very often when you draw a line, there are borderline cases, and if you fail to draw a line you do far more injustice and injury. In my view that is likely to be the result from the failure to draw a line in this case. If no line is drawn, men who have met with disablement from any cause whatever, whether from indulging in criminal pursuits, or while proceeding to Blackpool for a holiday or after three years' service in the war, at El Alamein or elsewhere, will, upon a superficial examination, appear to have a similar degree of disability; but we have to ask whether it is true to say that a soldier who loses his leg after three years' service, is an equal competitor in the labour market with a man who, until the day he lost his leg, was employed in the trade to which he hopes to go back. Is it true 77 to say that a disabled soldier has had an equal opportunity of amassing war savings, and is in exactly the same position as a disabled civilian? The cases are not the same, but even if they were, I think the public view would be that if there is to be any priority the war disabled should receive that priority. May I quote words which the Minister used at the Mansion House in 1942? In his speech there he said:These men have saved us, the nation and civilisation, and I believe it is essential that the country as a whole should recognise that they are entitled to full wages and an honourable future as a just compensation and return for their sacrifices.These Amendments are designed to secure that they shall not have to wait for that compensation and return for their sacrifices. I hope they will be accepted.
I would like to say one word, if I may, as to where the line should be drawn, if it is to be drawn at all. There is the difficulty of defining the words "war disabled." In this Amendment the definition is taken from the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act, so that if the Amendment is accepted all soldiers, airmen, sailors, men of the Merchant Navy, Civil Defence personnel and civilians who would be entitled to a pension by reason of an injury through enemy action or through the ordinary incidence of service, all those who would be entitled to such a pension, will be entitled to a priority in admission to these courses. I would emphasise, if I may, that this is not an Amendment seeking to exclude civilians. It is merely an Amendment seeking to arrange the queue, if there is to be a queue, in its proper order.
The Minister recognised that there was a psychological factor involved. He said on Second Reading that he proposed if he could to deal with the matter administratively. With the greatest respect to the Minister, personally I feel some doubt whether one who does not recognise the existence of the distinction will deal with this matter administratively in a way which will give satisfaction to those who think that there is a very real distinction deserving of recognition. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said on Second Reading that there would be no hesitation in introducing such measures as may be necessary to ensure that the needs of ex-Service men would be first met if the needs of all are not adequately met. I would 78 say, why not make quite sure now by the insertion of these words that the needs of the ex-Service man are first met if the Government's expectations are not fulfilled? I hope this Amendment will be accepted by the Government.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
I beg to support the Amendment. I hope that the Minister replying will show a conciliatory spirit because I assure him that we who have put the Amendment down consider that a most vital principle is involved and we attach the greatest possible importance to this principle of giving preference to the disabled ex-Service man being established, in the Bill. It may be that the problem of training and resettling men and women after the war will be smaller than most of us now think. Personally I think that possibility is so extremely unlikely that we have to envisage a very large problem, possibly a problem even larger than the one which faced us after the 1914–18 war. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary very honestly admitted in his Second Reading speech that he had no idea of how big this problem would be. The fact that he has no idea of what kind of provision, what amount of provision, will be necessary makes it extremely difficult for me at any rate to understand the confidence which he subsequently expressed when he said that the Government believed that the Bill will make satisfactory provision for all the disabled.
I think the Government must realise that probably the greatest difficulty in the matter of training disabled persons after the war will be finding suitable instructors, and in this they will find themselves in very active competition with the President of the Board of Education. I feel most strongly, in view of the very strong likelihood that there will be a shortage of training facilities available to start with, that preference should be given to the ex-Service man and woman. It is true that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in his Second Reading speech assured the House that the special claims of the war disabled will be kept constantly in mind. This phrase about "active consideration being given to this or that" is one with which the Committee is very familiar. In fact when I heard the Joint Parliamentary Secretary make use of it I wondered for a moment whether he had borrowed a brief from the Minister without Portfolio. It 79 is an answer that the Committee have had time and again from the Government when they have been questioned about post-war plans.
Even this extremely vague assurance which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary gave us was offset by my right hon. Friend in replying to the Debate when, in answer to an interruption from the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) he declared that he found it difficult to see that there was any difference between work in a factory and attacking the enemy. It seems to me that my right hon. Friend was showing rather less perspicacity than he really has. I have far too much respect for the intelligence and good sense of my right hon. Friend than to think he really believes there is no difference. There is a phrase which is being constantly used, "We are all in the front line now," the suggestion being that everybody is experiencing the same kind of hardship as a result of the war. That, of course, is utter nonsense and I do not believe for one moment that the general mass of people in the country think that there is no difference between the contribution which is being made to the winning of this war by the civilians and by the men in the fighting Services. The Minister of Labour tells us that he finds great difficulty in distinguishing between the man he directs to war work and the man he directs to the fighting Services. There is really all the difference in the world. After all a man who is directed for war work enjoys safety; he does not suffer the separation from his family which is endured by the men in the Services: he has far better wages than the man in the Services and he enjoys a very large measure of his peace time rights and privileges, whereas the man who is directed into the Army, Navy or Air Force, or the Civil Defence Services for that matter, suffers hardship and risks, separation from his family, and low rates of wages which in my judgment entitle him to a very large measure of preference from the Government and from the country.
In fact if the Government refuse to accept this Amendment they are saying that the ex-Service man who has been broken in the service of the country must take his chance on an equal footing with a conscientious objector who has been directed on to a farm and has been disabled in the course of his employment. 80 That proposition is one which the country must never accept and I find it very difficult to understand why there should be any reluctance to accept this principle we are seeking to establish in view of the fact that Clause 6 of the Bill dealing with reinstatement in civil employment states categorically that the persons to whom the Measure applies are male persons who, since May, 1939, have entered upon a period of wartime service in the Armed Forces, and female persons who have been directed to various women's Services and to persons in the Civil Defence. I find it very difficult to understand why this preference should be given in one Bill presented by the Minister while it is refused in another case. In time of war it is general for the Government and the country to show a generous spirit to our fighting men, and it is regrettable that, as so often happens when the danger is past, this generous spirit is apt to evaporate. It is going to be a pretty poor look-out for the ex-Service man if, even in wartime, this House shows a reluctance to give him any preference in the post-war world. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour (Mr. Bevin) in his Second Reading speech said that he proposed to deal with this matter administratively and not in the Bill. We demand most emphatically that this principle should be put in the Bill, and we are not likely to be satisfied with any answer that the Government gives us which does not concede this point.
§ Mr. Messer
Does this Amendment give to civilians who are injured as a result of the war the priority given to the Service men?
§ Captain Cobb
We are not seeking to exclude the civilian disabled by the war. All we are asking is that the man or woman disabled as a result of his country's service, or as a result of his service in Civil Defence, should have a preference in training over the ordinary civilian casualty.
§ Mr. Messer
I understand the hon. and gallant Member to mean that anybody who is injured as the result of an air raid will get priority.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
I do not think that is quite the position because as I understand the Act which provides a pension if he is entitled to a pension, then he will also be entitled to priority under this Amendment.
§ Mr. Messer
Does not a civilian injured as the result of enemy action have the opportunity of going home and getting high wages and other amenities?
§ Captain Cobb
One has to draw a line somewhere. What we are seeking to establish is that a man who has been injured by the enemy has a right to preferential treatment, as compared with the civilian who has been knocked down by a motor car. I want to finish on this note. I feel it is essential that the men and women who have served at this time should realise that Parliament is vitally concerned with their interests and is determined to defend those interests whatever the cost may be. We attach the greatest importance to this and I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham South)
I am certain that this Committee wants to do justice to the men and women who are serving the country in such a courageous way. I cannot for a moment believe that the Committee would be unmindful of the great sacrifice made by our soldiers, sailors and airmen. I am also certain that they do not want to create any fresh injustice. I do not know whether the framers of this Amendment realise its full implication. It means that one of those very brave men of whom we think so much might not himself be injured but might have a son congenitally diseased or injured for whom he would do much more than he would for himself and he might see one of his colleagues get priority over his own son. I am certain if choice were given to such a soldier he would decide that he was fighting not for a selfish purpose but for the purpose of creating a new world. I do not want to deny any civilian any of the benefits that may arise from resolutions passed by this House but the anomalies in this Amendment are going to prove almost overwhelming to those who will have to administer it. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman said in answer to my question, there is a right of priority to somebody injured as the result of an air raid; 82 but there might be the case of a civilian walking along the street the next day on whom a coping stone fell and who could not prove that it was the result of the previous night's air raid. Such a civilian could not get priority and would be more fortunate if he had been in the air raid.
§ Mr. Messer
That only proves you would have to go further into the difficulties created by this Amendment [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]. Well, if I were in the Ministry and had to administer it I should find it difficult to decide the justice in that. The hon. Gentleman said a person is injured indirectly as the result of enemy action, and I say there is no justice in that. The hon. Gentleman said that the soldier is entitled to it because he is away from his family for long periods of time and undergoes privations, and is wounded. Quite frankly I can understand those who are responsible for administration saying there must be degrees of priority, but it can be better done administratively if it be done justly. The truth is, that whenever we get into the realms of distinction laid down in an Act of Parliament, in addition to the borderline cases we come up against what in effect are impossibilities. If, however, it is left to the Department, where there may be some elasticity, and some measure of adjustment, and a recognition that there is a vacant place for a particular type of disability, where there is a vocational course, where there is a vacancy for the type of case that can benefit from it, the Amendment says it must be one of the classes mentioned for priority. You would be doing very much better service if you were to give that vacancy to a civilian who, because of his type of disability, was better fitted for the vacancy. Those things cannot be done by Act of Parliament. To lay it down in an Act of Parliament seems likely to create graver injustices than would be caused by leaving it to the discretion of the Minister.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) is going in for a good deal of special pleading. I cannot see that this Amendment presents any great administrative difficulties. While I and my 83 hon. Friends who have placed this Amendment on the Paper feel that the advantages of these courses should be made available to all, we feel even more strongly that until facilities are available to all there are certain categories to whom preference should be given, for the State has a more direct responsibility for the disabilities of some than it has for the disabilities of others. It may be that the results of an accident in one's home or at one's work, or even when walking along the street, may have precisely the same effect as an injury received on the field of battle or when following some hazardous employment at the direction of the State, but no one could argue that the State was responsible in the former case or that it was not responsible in the latter. We would give a priority for those for whose disability the State has a primary responsibility, to whom it has cause for very deep gratitude, and in respect of whom it lies under a sense of very great obligation. The Report of the Tomlinson Committee, speaking of fractures, says that 30 per cent. are due to industrial accidents, 15 per cent. to road accidents, and the remainder are due to accidents which occur in one's house or at sports. Surely it would not be contended that those who receive injury on the football field, while out cycling, or while following their ordinary employment came within the same category as those injured in the service of the country. We feel that if anybody has to wait for treatment it should not be those whose disability has resulted from their being directed to work of national importance, and still less should it be those who are disabled on the field of battle.
I should like to take up in slightly more detail a point which was made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry (Major Manningham-Buller) when he alluded to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister on the Second Reading. The Minister referred to his difficulty in distinguishing between the war disabled, those disabled through being directed to a T.N.T. factory and those who risked their lives loading cargoes. I cannot see the difficulty in distinguishing between certain persons and people in those categories. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) deal with this matter, but I would like to carry it a stage further. What 84 happens to the man who is loading cargo when he is injured? As a result of a telephone call, an ambulance comes to him within a few minutes. In another few minutes he is in a hospital, where every device known to medical science is available to him. How different when a man is injured on the field or on board ship, in the Navy or in the Mercantile Marine. A man injured on the field probably has to lie out for hours, then receive first aid, then be transported for miles perhaps to a casualty clearing station. I hope that hon. Members will have in mind the pictures we have seen in the illustrated Press of the sufferings and hardships that men have had to undergo in New Guinea and Burma while on their way to casualty clearing stations. Then they may have to wait for days before receiving hospital treatment. The same applies to men injured at sea. They have to wait until their ship arrives in port before hospital treatment is available.
These men start under an initial disadvantage. We are in duty bound to make up, as far as possible, for their disadvantages by giving them preference in training, in rehabilitation, and also in employment. There is another aspect of this matter. Whenever anyone is injured seriously it results in great anxiety to those nearest and dearest to him. But what a difference there is between the anxiety caused to the relatives of those who are injured in this country and those who are injured in the field or on board ship. In the case of a man injured here, his relatives know within a very short period the nature of his injuries and how he is progressing from day to day, and they can see him daily. But the wife of a soldier or a sailor gets a brief intimation that he has been injured, she hears no more for weeks perhaps, and it may be months before she can see him. If this Bill goes through in its present form there will be additional anxiety for such people while they sit waiting for their husbands to get places at these courses, while in the meantime they may see other people who have been injured at football getting the places before them. That is unthinkable, and it is not in accordance with the wishes of the people of this country. The Tomlinson Report says:acceptance of the principle of general eligibility will not prevent the introduction of (1) any system of preference as between different causes of disablement as may seem advisable …85 We accept that principle, but we say that preference is not only advisable, but essential, if justice is to be done. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry referred to the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary, who promised that the needs of the ex-Service men would be dealt with as a matter of priority. I have no reason to doubt the good faith or the good intentions of the Parliamentary Secretary, but this Bill should provide for the special claims of the war disabled. It is of such importance that it should be decided in this House, not left to the good intentions of Ministers.
If we could be convinced that the needs of all could be adequately met in the immediate post-war period, there would be no need for this Amendment, but I would remind the Committee of the situation. The Parliamentary Secretary alluded to the impossibility of ascertaining the extent of this problem at present. If that is so, we have no right to anticipate that facilities will be available to all in the immediate post-war period. In addition, the Tomlinson Report again and again stresses the difficulties that have to be overcome. It says:Surgeons and nurses and specially-skilled personnel are in short supply. Buildings and apparatus are in short supply. There is a shortage of beds, there is an even greater shortage of nurses. The necessary increase in trained personnel cannot be brought about without the fullest co-operation between the authorities responsible for medical education, the training of masseurs and allied workers in rehabilitation—it must take time.The impression I get is that time will be required. We cannot expect too much to start with. If that be correct, there can be no doubt that some of the disabled persons will be given the advantages of this Bill before others. Some must get priority. We ask simply that that priority shall be given to those who have suffered most, who have risked most, whose families have borne the greatest burden of anxiety, those to whom we principally owe our safety and security, those mentioned specifically in this Amendment, which I would press my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to accept, not only as a matter of justice but as a reflection of the feelings and sentiments of the great majority of the people of this country.
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
There is one thing that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Preston 86 (Captain Cobb) said, with which I very much agreed. He said that the comparison between men in industries here and those in the front line was somewhat ridiculous. There is a good deal of nonsense talked on this matter, even in connection with some of the most hazardous industries. The hardship that a man in industry suffers is not comparable with that which a man on active service has to suffer. But while I agree with that, I would point out that there are soldiers who have been in the front line who will be penalised if this Amendment is passed. There are, to my knowledge, men around my own district who have been injured in industry after taking part in fighting in this war. This Amendment would in fact penalise some of the people whom hon. Gentlemen opposite think they are helping. If I may say so, I sometimes think that those who are not closely associated with industry, and even those who are associated with industry, are extremely vague upon the decimation that takes place in industry every day. The extent of injury throughout the whole range of industry in normal times is colossal. I remember a friend of mine who served in the last war, and was one of those fortunate men who served right through on the front in Northern France and Belgium, in the whole sway back and forth, particularly on the Ypres front and Passchendaele, and were not wounded, but he was killed in the pit a fortnight after coming back from the war. Tragically, a son of his was killed within three years of the man himself being killed.
Those of us who are opposing this Amendment are just as anxious to protect the interests of the soldier as hon. Gentlemen opposite. The great bulk of the fighting men have taken their part in industry, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) said, they have people at home, some of them sons, and the operation of the Amendment would prevent a son or daughter who might be blind from receiving consideration. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is how I understand it. It is no good trying to avoid the logic of the situation that the soldier is associated in the main with the average working-class home. His brothers or father might be penalised if the Amendment were accepted. As I said in my Second Reading speech, you cannot dissociate the ordinary man in industry and 87 actual working practice from the soldier himself. I doubt very much whether the soldier himself would like to see such a distinction made. I shall deal with the extension of this later on, and I hope that the Minister will not accept the Amendment, which is the beginning of the general principle of separating the soldier from the ordinary civilian and it will make, in actual practice, the working of this very magnificent proposal almost impossible.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
I support the Amendment because it is a most reasonable one. In the first words of it, "Until such time as facilities are available for training all disabled persons," this preference is to be given. We also support the view of the Bill that every one must come into the scheme as soon as possible, but what we are saying to-day is, that there is a first duty to those who have been directly injured by the war. It is not only the soldiers or those who have special communication with them who feel like that; I have had the privilege of mixing to a great extent with working men, and I find that the working man everywhere is anxious that some such priority as this should be given. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) rightly referred to the duties of the State in this matter, but it is not only the State that has a duty here but this House. We really are the trades union leaders for the members in the Forces and we have a prime duty to see that, contained within the words of the Bill itself, this priority for the time being is given.
What really does the Bill, as it stands, now mean? It means that every one who is disabled is in the same position. I take the extreme case. Suppose someone who objects strongly to war, whether a conscientious objector or not, is injured; you are putting him in exactly the same place with the same priority as someone who has been injured or captured by the enemy, and has returned here after years, it may be, of suffering. I do not believe that the country would stand for that. This Committee would be doing less than justice if it allowed the Minister simply to say, "You must leave this to me; I will protect their interests." I believe the Minister was very genuine on Second Reading, but, in fact, this Amendment gives effect to the words he used, and the 88 House is anxious to give effect to them too. Particularly as the Bill now stands, and when even the regulations are not subject to the affirmative approval of the House, it becomes more than ever important that the Committee should insist that the Minister shall give effect to what I believe to be the general wishes of the House. Certainly, it has been the effect of the speeches already made.
I want to refer to two points made from the other side of the Committee. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) referred to a border-line case, which I am bound to say, with great respect, was a case of special pleading, where a tile or something from a roof fell on to a man and injured him, and it might have been caused by an air-raid. All would be taken into consideration in the case where an air-raid had occurred the night before. If he could prove that the reasonable cause of the accident was the tile dropping on him, he would be entitled to the same preference as anybody else. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) referred to miners who had been soldiers being sent back to work in the pits and then being injured. I believe that any soldier who came back uninjured to work in the pit would be only too anxious to take the risks with the other people employed in the pit. I think that a case has been made out for the Amendment. We are entitled to ask the Government to give effect to the general view expressed in this Committee and we ought not to be satisfied with an ordinary assurance from the Minister, or even a promise, that the matter would be considered in the Regulations.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
There have been charges levelled against Members on this side of special pleading but according to the attention I have given to the speeches made from both sides of the Committee, I should say that this special pleading is not limited to one side only. I heard my hon. and gallant Friend specially pleading the case of the disabled soldier, that the soldier facing the enemy and the seaman on the sea are not able to get such prompt medical attention as the civilian in the factories, but the hon. Member knows the Navy, the Merchant Navy and the Army very well, and he knows that by no means are all of these people actively engaged in combating the enemy. This question in another aspect 89 has been a constant source of irritation both in the last war and in this war. It is what is known as the base-wallahs getting special consideration when it comes to decorations and honours. It is getting into dangerous water when we raise the issue as it is being raised to-day. It is easy to be sentimental. I occasionally do it myself. For what purpose? Not for priority for the Services. No, but for equality of the Services with those civilians who are staying behind, whether directed into industry or not. I do not want special preference for the Services and I do not believe the Services want it either. When these men and women come back after four or five years of war, perhaps many of them after a lesser period, they will be civilians and will have to take their part in the life which, we hope, will then open up to them. I view with great apprehension this dividing of the country into two classes. Hon. Members opposite often accuse us on these Benches of being engaged in class warfare and I can conceive of no greater danger to this country than to put the soldier, sailor, airmen or merchant seaman in a specially privileged class after the war.
§ Commander Galbraith
We are trying to make these people equal, to give them a more equal chance. They have had all the "downs" and should have a little of the "ups" now.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That is all very well. That would be quite good enough in some of the popular publications, which, I have no doubt, would appeal only to the emotions and not to the intelligence. I am going to try to appeal to the intelligence of hon. Members opposite, if I can. What does the Amendment say? It does not put the soldier, sailor and airman in a specially privileged class; it includes the whole of the civilian population. If I understand the Amendment aright the war risk injury can include the whole of the civil population.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
May I ask the hon. Member whether he did not say in the course of his speech on Second Reading that he came down on the side of a preference for the ex-Service man?
§ Mr. Bellenger
That is a typical example of misquoting, and I am surprised at the hon. and gallant Gentleman taking one phrase out of the context of 90 my speech. What I said was not that I am in favour of a preference for the Service man, but if we are to have the same scramble for jobs after this war, then I come down on his side. But that is where hon. Members opposite and I disagree fundamentally. They are visualising the same conditions after this war as we had before the war, otherwise the whole Amendment falls to the ground.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am hoping that the Minister of Labour is going to do a complete job and not half a job. If the Ministry of Labour are only intending to provide facilities for that limited class to which hon. and gallant Members have referred, then I am against this Bill entirely. I am hoping that the Ministry of Labour—although I agree they do not quite realise the magnitude of these problems I believe in the genuineness of the Minister and his Department—will regard this problem to the extent that in no circumstances will they neglect to provide facilities for training and rehabilitation of any class of disabled in this country. If they do that job properly there is no need for the Amendment. If they do not, I agree with hon. Members opposite, there will be need for some sort of preference to be shown, But how pessimistic hon. Members opposite are.
§ Major Thorneycroft (Stafford)
The hon. Member was equally pessimistic in his speech. He said, "If the time ever comes, I fear it may," so that pessimism is not restricted to one side.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That is a very good interruption, I must admit. "I fear it may" is quite true. Shall I tell hon. Members why I fear it may? Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will pay attention to this. I fear that hon. Members opposite, whether they belong to the Tory reform group or not, will prevent us from putting into operation measures which we sincerely believe will prevent this scramble for jobs after the war. That is why I said, "I fear it may", and my hon. and gallant Friend asked for that reply.
§ Sir D. Thomson
May I interrupt the hon. Member? If, by some conceivable error or general incompetence, other steps are taken under this training scheme he will be glad to see that there is a 91 justifiable preference given to the ex-Serviceman?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am trying to prevent a few hon. Members opposite continuing the attitude which prevailed before the war. The Services are not looking forward to conditions whereby there will be only a limited number of vacancies for training and rehabilitation. The Services are looking forward to a much more comprehensive order of society than that after this war. Therefore, I am bound to say that I cannot see the point in my hon. Friend's argument in supporting this Amendment to-day. I have to confess that there are many ex-Servicemen of the last war who will not be covered by this Amendment if it is carried. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) referred to ex-Servicemen serving in this war coming out unscathed and going into industry, who may not get a preference under this Amendment, because they do not come within the categories defined in this Amendment. There are thousands of ex-Servicemen of the last war who will be excluded if that happens.
The other day I visited a cordite factory—I am not permitted to say where it is—and saw women and girls engaged in jobs which, I say frankly, as having some experience of war, I would not like to undertake. The soldier goes into battle and it is true he has the occasion to refuse to fight against the enemy. Of course, a man would be a coward, but there are many involuntary cowards, sometimes. I am not condoning that. All I say is that they have the occasion to do it. Even if they do not, and go forward against the enemy, after two or three days they are relieved and taken out of the line to rest. That is true of the Army, but not of the girls and women in cordite and similar war factories who are there day after day, night after night, week after week. Those who have seen something of the manufacture of cordite will realise this aspect.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
The hon. Member has made a statement which should not go unchallenged. He has said that troops in the line get relieved after two or three days. Is he aware that men of the Eighth Army have been overseas for four summers and have fought month after month without being relieved?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am arguing from the general and not from the specific. My hon. Friend's experience of the Army may be somewhat limited to certain operations of this war. There is no doubt men are relieved. I do not know what was the experience of my hon. and gallant Friend in Egypt, but I suggest that he was not always in direct contact with the enemy. He seems to admit that. What I am saying is that the women in the cordite factories are facing the enemy day and night. Are we to exclude, possibly, daughters of Servicemen or their wives from the facilities granted? I submit that Servicemen may be under a handicap in this war. I submit, as a Serviceman with a son engaged in this war, that if there is any preference I would far rather that my son should have it than that I should have it if I were eligible. I beg the hon. Members opposite to be very careful lest they divide the country into two artificial classes. Let them give their support to the schemes the Minister of Labour sets up for these people. I believe the Minister of Labour can do it, and there should not be any man or woman denied the opportunity of rehabilitation through the facilities to be granted by the Ministry of Labour merely because one happens to be in khaki and another one in mufti happens to be sitting in a cinema enjoying himself when the bombs drop. In my advocacy for a considerable time during this war for the ex-Serviceman, I have done what I considered to be my duty to call attention to legitimate grievances, and have not always received assistance or help from some serving Members opposite in that respect. I want to see the position, which hon. Members opposite have mentioned—the position of inferiority between the Service and civilian population in this war—removed. We are now sending men into the mines, many of them sons of serving men who do not want to go there, who have a conscientious objection to going there——
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I think we had better not go into that question; it is getting rather wide.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Perhaps I had better withdraw "conscientious" and say "men who have a rooted objection to going into the mines." I say that when you are conscripting a nation in that manner you have got to make adequate 93 provision for all of them. When you are directing them into the mines, where it will be possible for them to be injured in the course of their war occupation you are going to create a dangerous situation if you ignore their claims. I beg of hon. Members opposite to try and avoid the emotional appeal which can always be made on these questions of fair treatment for the Serviceman and to reason this Amendment out on logical, intellectual and intelligent grounds, because that is the only argument that I am prepared to listen to.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
The Parliamentary Secretary, moving the Second Reading of this Bill, when he had seen some Amendments on the Paper raising this issue of preference, referred to the principle of this Bill that a privileged or special class of person, namely, all the disabled, should be given a special quota of employment in the general field of industry. One of the factors which brought about the almost unanimous Second Reading was the assurance given by the Parliamentary Secretary in the first instance, and by the Minister later on, that, if it proved to be necessary, they would through administrative action see that the ex-Serviceman in the one place—that was the Minister speaking—and the war-disabled in the other—that was the Parliamentary Secretary—were first considered. Well now, it almost involves them in a matter of honour to carry out that pledge should that eventuality arise. I hold that having regard to the Second Reading granted to them unanimously, the Minister and his assistant are in honour bound so long as they hold office. Did I understand the Minister to say——
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I made that statement with a view to binding the Department, not only during my term of office, but in the administration of this Bill permanently.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I am very grateful to the Minister for that. That is an intention which I am sure the House will appreciate, and with which the country will find itself in very great sympathy. It has been the practice of the Ministry of Labour—which I still praise—for the last 20 years to give something in the nature of administrative preference to ex-Servicemen. When an employer was inquiring for labour, many branches of the Ministry of Labour would 94 put forward names of men and thus give an administrative preference, but I suggest they will not be able to do that if this Bill is passed unless we amend it in some way such as that suggested by the Member who moved this Amendment. It is one thing for the Minister of Labour to put ex-Servicemen forward and carry out the directions of the Ministry when there is no specially defined duty devolving upon the Ministry. It is quite another matter when a statutory duty has been defined and laid down by Parliament. It sets up a special privileged class consisting of disabled persons and by the will of Parliament it says they shall have a preference over ordinary non-disabled persons in securing employment. They all have equal rights—civilian, soldier and air raid warden. If, after the Bill was passed, the Minister then said he could place these people in front of the others he would be acting contrary to the intentions of the Statute and it would therefore be impossible for the Ministry to carry out administrative preference after the Act was passed, unless the Bill gave him the power to do it.
I have great hope that the Government will meet some of the later Amendments which are on the Paper. If they are to do so they cannot carry out those later Amendments unless, in the meantime, they have provided training facilities for ex-Service groups. Hon. Members opposite have said that we will be depriving particular people of benefits. Let us examine the equities as between these various groups. For 20 years the idea of preference for disabled has been in the minds of the leaders of the British Legion, who have advocated it from time to time. The Minister has told us that it has been in his mind and in the minds of his trade union friends for a very long time. Many enlightened people have had in mind the idea of helping the disabled but not until war comes along and dramatises the situation and presents the nation with the certainty that many young fighting men will be disabled and not until we have a National Government do we get Parliament and the country ready to pass this Measure. I think that without doubt the Measure comes to the front and falls to be considered at this time because of the feeling for ex-Servicemen.
That being so, we, who represent those men to some extent, and who also have many friends among disabled civilians, say 95 we will support the Government in including in this Measure severely disabled civilians. But let it not be forgotten that far from civilians getting a bad—deal under this Bill they are with all respect exceedingly fortunate to be coming into the Bill. I rejoice that they are; I wish them good luck. I do not sympathise with one or two Amendments which seek to put them out. I cordially agree with those who say that until there is provision for all, the ex-Servicemen must come first. We are asked from the other side, "Are you not inconsistent because you stretch from the soldier to the war risk injury, the A.R.P. cases and such like?"
§ Sir I. Fraser
My hon. Friend says that it is the whole of the civilian population but it is not; it is the whole of the population who suffer a particular risk. As I have said, I am glad that they should come in, but at the same time you have to find some place to draw this line which carries with it the wish of Parliament and the country and it is administratively more convenient and more equitable to draw it where my hon. and gallant Friend has drawn it. We have already defined the class of persons who suffer from war disability or war risk injuries. They have already been catered for by Acts of Parliament and they are recognised by those Acts of Parliament. It seems logical, therefore, that they should be defined as such for the purposes of this Bill.
I must confess to being a little disappointed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I had thought that he would have come down on this side, but instead he threw it into the House that at this time this party or some other group will block reconstruction through some objection to Socialism, shall we say, or to schemes which he or his friends may have in mind for providing employment for all. He said that we were intent upon blocking such schemes and that we wanted to ensure a place in the sun for ourselves, which does not seem in line with the friendly co-operation which has existed between him and us in many matters relating to ex-Servicemen. All of us hope for employment for all, but if there is not let each Member ask himself, "Who comes first?"
§ Mr. Tomlinson
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if at this stage I give the Government's attitude to this Amendment and to this question. I find myself in a position of having been able to have made every speech made on both sides of the House. It may be strange but we all want to do the same thing. What we are doing is questioning whether or not it can be done in a certain way. The hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb), said that if there was to be a queue ex-Servicemen should be at the right end. None of us want there to be a queue but we are all agreed that if there is the ex-Serviceman should be at the right end of it. But where I part company with my hon. and gallant Friend is this: I say, and the Government says, that by the use of the administrative machine it is possible to guarantee that he will be at the right end of the queue, as he has been at the right end of it during the past two years. Can a case be brought forward under the administration of the interim scheme for dealing with the disabled in which an ex-Serviceman has been kept waiting while a civilian has been brought in? Surely the Government are entitled to ask the Committee for its confidence on the basis of its actions during the two years in which the interim scheme has been working. A definite assurance has been given that that which the Committee wishes to achieve can be achieved and will be achieved. There is also the further assurance that if there is any failure of any forthcoming Minister—which nobody mentioned but which might be in the minds of some people—the House has its remedy. That, I think, would be the only reason for wanting to include this provision in the Bill. The Committee has had the definite assurance from the Minister to-day that the Department is pledged, and with this on record the matter is in the hands of the House at any time.
§ Mr. Hogg
We have heard arguments from the party opposite which pledge that party not merely to the view, apparently, that this can be dealt with administratively but that it ought not to be dealt with at all. That is the argument which was put forward by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) who was, I take it, speaking officially from the Front Bench opposite.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Perhaps if we keep our minds on the principles and do not try to 97 score debating points—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and try to help the disabled rather than point out the difficulties with which Parliament might be faced, we might arrive at a conclusion which will do all that we desire. I am quite certain in my own mind that if the Committee forced the Government to accept this Amendment it would not do what hon. Members are anxious that it should do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because wherever you draw a distinction or attempt to define a particular class there is always on the other side of the line an individual whose case everyone realises is just as good. Is the Committee convinced that where a man has been considered for pension and where the question has been whether his disability is attributable to war service, nobody has ever made a mistake?
§ Major Thorneycroft
The Parliamentary Secretary would not use that as an argument against having pensions?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Of course not. What we are dealing with now is a particular class of people who are disabled and the primary thing I regret about the Debate to-day is that we seem to be attempting to set against each other two classes both of which are deserving, [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I know we are not doing that but there is the danger that we might be thought to be doing that.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Will my hon. Friend forgive me but he said that he would not hesitate to take such steps as were necessary to put the war disabled first. We say, "Make sure you have the power to do it."
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I have been trying to convince the Committee that we have the power to do it. If we have not, we would have been doing it without power for two years and nobody has questioned it. The ex-Serviceman has always come first. I am not anxious that we should tell people who we know are deserving of treatment that they will come first. If someone else has to wait why tell him? Why not give him the hope that he will come in?
I am not entering into the competition in pessimism which has been going on today. Everybody is saying, "We want to make provision for all." I believe we 98 can. The Tomlinson Report has been quoted against me by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith). I am glad because it gives me an opportunity to explain that whatever is decided and whatever definition is made under the administration some people have to wait. The whole question is whether they have to wait until you deal with somebody else. We have not made the same progress in medical science on every side. The ex-Serviceman who is suffering from a disease for which we have not got the cure at the moment, but in which we may be making progress, cannot be brought to the stage where he can take advantage of vocational training. Under this limited Amendment you would say to the Department that until medical science has progressed to the stage at which an ex-Serviceman suffering from heart trouble as a consequence of his war service is in a position to take advantage of vocational training we cannot put a civilian into a training centre.
That is what the Amendment means. It is not what hon. Members want it to mean but that is what it does mean. That is what you call upon the Department to carry out and it is because of that and similar difficulties that I must ask the Committee to accept the assurances which have been given that administratively every attempt will be made to meet the requirements which have been asked for. I am certain that our friends would not want to penalise an individual who had been injured in a given way after he had been in the Services. I am not thinking of the man who has been sent back to the pit. I am thinking of the man who has done a period of the service and has not been injured during that service but may have been in the front line. He comes home and then meets with an injury, whatever his work may be. My contention is that that man is just as much entitled to the benefit of this scheme as any other and no one should have priority over him in the sense of preventing his return to normality. Therefore I hope the Amendment will not be pressed from the standpoint of wanting to include any words in the Bill which will determine the Minister to act in a given way but that he will be at liberty to do all that he wants to do administratively, and probably do it better than he can possibly do it if you tie him down by this Amendment.
§ Major Thorneycroft (Stafford)
I hope the hon. Gentleman will reconsider the position that he has just stated. There is a measure of agreement between him and my hon. Friends who have put down this Amendment. They and the Minister are anxious that preference, in some form or other, should be given to these men whom we broadly call ex-Servicemen. The Minister says he will do that by administering the Measure in a way that is not authorised by the Bill itself. That is to say, he will take the class that is set out in the Act and, without any specific authorisation, will give a preference to a particular part of that class. I do not think that is a very desirable way of proceeding. Views may change from time to time as to a particular class or how we define it. I think it is much better for the Committee to take the responsibility for laying down in the Bill the people to whom we want a preference given. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said he felt it was unfortunate that it might appear from the Debate that the case of the ex-Serviceman was being defended on this side only. I agree with him. I think it would be a tragedy that any impression should go out to the country that just one party was looking after the interests of the ex-Serviceman. That impression need not go out. It is open to hon. Members opposite to say that they want preference in some form or another given to these men, but that is not what has been said. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who has been a great advocate for the case of the ex-Serviceman—everyone gives him full credit for that—asked us to be logical and intellectual and, I think, eloquent. I would ask him, at least, to be consistent.
§ Mr. Lawson
Shall we have an opportunity of discussing the wider aspects of this subject later? This question was asked in the earlier stages, and I have noticed a tendency to have a kind of Second Reading Debate on the subject of preference. This is a particular Amendment which has a limiting effect. I deliberately refrained from discussing the general aspect of the matter because of the limiting effect of the Amendment. If there is an opportunity I shall certainly deal further with it and support the line that I took in my speech.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman make it clear how the description "ex-Serviceman" fits in with the Amendment, because it seems to me that once a man becomes an ex-Serviceman he goes outside the scope of the Amendment?
§ Major Thorneycroft
I was going to deal with that aspect of the matter as it has been raised by hon. Members opposite. I do not think I need pursue the point raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. I was dealing with the question of consistency. Nowadays people are often making speeches in the House and in the country paying great tributes to the gallant work that our troops have done. In the Second Reading speech that the hon. Member made he made perfectly plain the view we all hold, that there may be a situation in which there is going to be some sort of scrambles to the extent that everyone will not be able to be dealt with at the same time, and that that would give a preference to the ex-Servicemen. If that goes out as his view throughout his constituency it is really a little disappointing to many who have learnt to respect him to find that on a matter of this kind we cannot count on his support.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not wish to do me any injustice. I have always advocated, not preference for the ex-Serviceman but an equal opportunity with everyone else. As regards what I said on the Second Reading, I was not dealing with the subject of rehabilitation at all but with a much wider subject, which we shall debate later on, namely, the employment of ex-Servicemen.
§ Major Thorneycroft
I will not pursue the question of employment, because that is not raised in the Amendment. I am restricting myself to the question of vocational training centres. It is evident that the first step towards employment—indeed it comes first in the Bill—is to get men trained. If you do not do that, it is not much good talking in vague phrases about the jobs we are going to give them.
§ Major Thorneycroft
The hon. Member said he was going to show a preference, but now he is sadly lacking.
101 With regard to other points that have been raised by hon. Members opposite, I find it quite extraordinary to listen to some of their arguments. I think the term "special pleading" might well be applied to them and to the suggestion that a man might come back from the Services uninjured and then be injured in some industry and excluded. That is true, but would not that man be only too happy to know that his comrades were going to get the first chance of being trained for a job? The same sort of point was put by the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer), who said that a soldier may come back and find his father and brothers at home. By this Amendment he will be put in a preferential position. The hon. Member asked what his attitude would be. I would rather ask what would be the attitude of his father and brothers. Would not they say, "Should not this man, who has borne the heat and burden of the day, be given a preference?" Then they use the old argument about the dividing line. You can always use an argument of that kind. It is true that it is difficult to draw a line but, by and large, there is no difficulty. I am not impressed by the difficulty of drawing a line of this kind. The people of the country know that there is a large section which has borne an especially heavy burden and another large section, which has to be catered for, but which has not borne such a heavy burden. I do not mind where my right hon. Friend draws the line. No doubt there will be hard cases on one side or the other. All that is just the special pleading that is put forward to obstruct any suggestion of that sort when a line has to be drawn at all. The right hon. Gentleman admits that it is administratively possible and he has promised to do it if he can. Why should he not put it in the Bill? If he leaves it in its present form how can he administer it in flat contradiction of the view expressed by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street? It would be grossly improper for him to do so under the conditions of the National Government. I beg the hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter and to meet the spirit of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Mathers
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman how he links up the ex-Serviceman, properly so called, with the Amendment?
§ Major Thorneycroft
I hoped that I had done that. There are two broad sections to be dealt with in the disabled class, one which has borne the heat and burden of the fight and another, just as important in many ways, but which has not gone through the same arduous hardships as the serving men. My hon. Friends who put down the Amendment have drawn the line widely and have included not only those who have done the actual fighting but those who have come under the Pensions Act. It might be argued that they ought to draw the line more narrowly. If that is the view of the Minister, let him draw it more narrowly, but we need not argue the point where to draw it provided that it is understood that those who have been engaged in the war should have a preference of some kind.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has shown a great deal of emotion about the Amendment. I think the majority of the Committee are unanimous that everyone who has been disabled in the service of his country should have proper facilities for training. I will go further and say that he should be paid adequate wages until that training has been made available and finished. The Amendment is an admission of the failure of the Ministry of Labour. The House and the country will not be satisfied with anything less than that all men who have served their country overseas in any of the Services should be found a job or be given training until a job is available. The danger of the Amendment is that it will suggest to the country that that training will not be available except for the disabled men. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It does amount to that.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
Will the right hon. Gentleman read the Amendment? It says, "Until such time as facilities are available for training all"—that is in case the Government's hopes are not realised.
§ Sir P. Harris
The House, the country and the Servicemen will insist that there should be training for all and no privileges for some.
§ Major Thorneycroft
The right hon. Gentleman is speaking with a great deal of emotion. I would ask him to recognise that everybody wants training centres for 103 all, but until they are provided—and we all realise the difficulties of the changeover period—the Amendment asks that preference should be given to ex-Servicemen.
§ Sir P. Harris
I think that the Minister means business and that when these men come back from the Service either a job should be provided for them or training should be provided because they have been in the Services. The Amendment is a defeatist Amendment and is admitting failure to work the Ministry of Labour.
Major Lloyd (Renfrew, East)
The remarks of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have clarified the feelings of the Committee. It is divided, like ancient Gaul, into three parts. The Government and those who have been speaking for the Amendment are in complete agreement on the principle of preference or priority. Both are substantially in complete disagreement with those who have spoken from the opposite side. Not one speaker from the Labour Benches has supported in any degree any preference or priority. On the contrary, they have opposed it. We are delighted to find that on the question of principle, which is our major objective, the Government are in full agreement. The Government, however, differ from those who are sponsoring the Amendment in that, while they are in agreement with giving preference or priority, they prefer to do it through administrative machinery. We prefer to have it down in black and white in the Bill. That is the clear cut issue and it is as well that we should get it clear in our minds.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
It is desirable that there should be a little frank talking on this question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) made a passing reference to the fact that Members on the other side were always concerned with privileges. That is true, and the privileges that they enjoy and that those for whom they speak enjoy depend upon the ruthless exploitation, the ill-treatment and the ill-consideration of the masses of the workers. The one thing that Tories have always expressed is a contempt and hatred for the working-class.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The issue we are discussing is whether a man who has been giving service in industry and has been seriously disabled as a result should get less consideration than one who has served in the Forces. The Tories come forward to-day, like the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), and particularly the so-called progressive Tories, and express what Toryism has always expressed, no regard or consideration for the workers. Take the case of two lads who are summoned for national service, and one is sent to the Army and one to the mines. The one who is sent to the Army loses a hand and the one who is sent to the mines loses an arm. Under the Amendment the one who is sent to the mines, because he is a worker, is to get no consideration. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Amendment demands that he should get less consideration than the one in the Army. Why are hon. Members so cowardly and ashamed to face up to their own attitude towards the working-class? Put in other words, the Amendment says that less consideration shall be shown to the men and women who are injured in the service of the country in industry if they are ordinary working-class people. We know the attitude of the ruling class and their contemptuous attitude towards the working people. That class are idle, useless, rotten parasites who have never been capable of doing a day's service in their lives. They pretend to be concerned about the lads in the Army. They are really concerned about trying to make divisions in the ranks of the working-class, for if they can get the working-class soldiers up against the working-class trade unionists, or the trade unionists against the working-class soldiers, they may feel that they will be able to hold on to privilege a little bit longer.
I hope that no worker in this country or in the Armed Forces will be taken in by the fraud, the duplicity and the 105 rotten deception that come from these people. I say with the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green—and this is where the test for the Tories comes in and this is what the Tories want to avoid—that if the Government are prepared to spend the necessary money every disabled man and woman, whether in the Services or the factories, can be given training or given pay while waiting training. That will take money, and the more money that is used for that the less there will be for the useless parasites and ornaments of society who should be wiped out entirely. If we got rid of the costly ornaments there would not have to be any discussion as to giving preference to one disabled man or woman as against another. How is it possible, in a country that has the wealth that this country has had and has, and that has the idle, useless parasites that this country has, that Members here should be discussing that a certain preference should be given to men or women who have suffered the most terrible injuries over others who have suffered similar injuries? If a man is blinded in the Army is there any of us who would not be willing to do everything we could to make life easier for him? Would we give less consideration to a man or woman blinded in industry? When we have the resources such as we have we should see that, whether a man is blinded in the Army or in industry, he should not lack for anything.
We have got the resources; why, therefore, should the Tories be allowed to take this hypocritical attitude in order to try and retain their own privileges which should have been disposed of long ago? It is not privileges for the soldiers that the Tories are concerned with; it is privileges for the Tories. They are uneasy in their seats just now at the way things are going. They are not sure that they are going to get back to the old comfort and security that they had. They feel that if they can get the forces of the working-class divided they will keep their seats secure. But we will keep the working-class forces united. The seats of the privileged will go, and when the wealth of the nation is at the disposal of the nation there will be no talk of treating blind or crippled men and women differently because they have got their injuries in different occupations.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I hope that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will speak often in the country and tell the people exactly what they are up against. It will be very helpful to the country, and it will certainly be helpful to the Labour Party. I deplore that there should be any division about this Bill, for the whole country has welcomed it. I come from a Service town where people are rejoicing over the Bill, but I feel that the Government would have been wise to accept the Amendment. I agree with everything that has been said by the Government spokesmen and I know that they mean to give priority to the Services. I am not afraid of Ministers not honouring their word. I have watched Ministers of Pensions, and whether they have been of the Right or the Left they have always dealt honourably and fairly with all cases. The same applies to Ministers of Labour. I think, however, that for the Servicemen themselves it would be far better if they saw it stated in the law that they came first. We cannot compare them really with the people who have stayed at home. One has only to represent a town from which sailors have gone away for four, five or seven years to realise that. We cannot compare the people who are fighting the war abroad with the people who are staying at home, and nobody wants to do so. I am convinced that the whole of the country would prefer that the ex-Serviceman should come first. It would be a pity to get any question of ex-Servicemen on to a political basis. We avoided that after the last war. It would be fatal to have it that way. I hope the Minister will see his way to accept the Amendment, because a lot of us feel that we must vote for it and because we know it is what the country at large wants.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I regret that there seems to have crept into this Debate a spirit of diversity. I say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), whose work I appreciate, that in the trade union movement we have been trying to get a Bill of this character for years and have not required the impetus of war to advocate such a Measure. I made up my mind as a Minister to try to remove this matter from the competitive position that had operated to the disadvantage of the people concerned, and in drafting this Bill that is the objective I have had in mind. 107 I regret I cannot accept this Amendment because it is so limiting. Administratively, it puts my Department in a most unfortunate position. Let me read the Amendment, if I may, and show what it says, and then I would ask hon. Members to turn to Clause 7 and see how I try to avoid the very thing that this Amendment seeks to do. It says:Until such time as facilities are available for training all disabled persons preference in selection for such courses shall be given to those disabled as a result of a war injury, a war risk injury or detention or a war service injury.and then it goes on to define what it means. It says the words "War injury, war risk injury, or war Service injury" shall have the same meaning as in the Pensions Appeals Tribunals Act, 1943. Immediately the man in the employment exchange is brought down to seek a definition as to whether it comes within the 1943 Pensions Appeals Tribunals Act. May I suggest that you cannot administer a labour exchange quite like that? These limiting phrases are not wanted. What is wanted is to know whether a man is an ex-Serviceman. This Amendment does not give a preference to ex-Servicemen at all; it only gives preference to a war disabled ex-Serviceman within that limitation. Let me explain the difficulty I find myself in. I took 18,000 men out of the Army and put them into the mines. They are still in the Army. Hon. Members will appreciate that they have not been released; they can be called back to the Colours to-morrow, and if a man gets injured in the mine he is still in the Services. This is the legal difficulty you are trying to place the Department in.
I am not contesting the principle at all. I am trying to do the right thing, and I think I can do it better administratively, and that is my honest conviction after much experience. Look at the difference between Clause 7 and the definition in the Act of 1943. You, Mr. Williams, will forgive me for turning to this, but it has a bearing on the matter. The Clause says:If the Minister is satisfied that the applicant is a disabled person and that his disablement is likely to continue for six months or more from the time of the entry of his name in the registerand so on. It is a different consideration that comes before the pensions tribunal. What is the pensions tribunal to do? Is the injury due to war service? That is 108 what I have got to consider. It may be hard. It may be the man is disabled and he may even be disqualified, yet I know, and my employment exchange man knows, he cannot go back into a full-time job until I have given him training, because he may not pass the strict medical board, yet commonsense tells me I ought to rehabilitate that man.
What do I propose to do? I propose to put the man's service in the Army first, because an ex-Serviceman to me is not a war disabled ex-Serviceman but an ex-Serviceman, and I will give him a preference wherever he is. I went very carefully into this matter when I came into office. I know political kudos can be got out of this thing one way or the other, and I beg hon. Members not to bring politics into this business at all. I want to carry out the objectives of the Bill. When I looked very carefully at this Amendment I realised that whatever the good intentions of the hon. Members who put it down, whatever they thought to achieve, they would not achieve it. They will, in fact, injure some people.
It is a miserable business for a man who knows that he ought to put a man or woman in, but has to leave them out because he is governed by some Clause put into a Bill. Administratively, this does not mean going beyond the intentions of the House. I am very happy to think that in the 3½ years I have been here Members have not had cause to challenge me for going beyond the powers of the House. In fact they have criticised me for not using them enough. I have tried, and my Department have tried, to exercise care. We administer hundreds of preferences through the employment exchanges. We have separate registers for the building trade and we have recently created an appointments department to deal with the employment of ex-officers. There is nothing in any Act of Parliament except the general powers given to the employment exchange service throughout the country and I want that service still to have the ability to apply commonsense, but beyond that I really cannot go.
I should be broken-hearted if I lost this Bill, and I ask hon. Members to give my Department a chance to administer this matter in a way that I am perfectly certain will give satisfaction. If at any time any Ministry fails to carry out its 109 pledge, the remedy is in the hands of the House. I would beg all hon. Members to allow my Department in dealing with this most human problem, the problem of the disabled, to retain a flexibility of administration.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)
I am not convinced by the Minister's speech. I am quite sure that he spoke from his heart and that his intentions are very sound, but I must traverse one thing he said early on, namely, that it did not require the impetus of war to bring this Bill, and therefore this Amendment, before the Committee. I must traverse that and say I cannot possibly agree with him. I maintain that the Bill was produced, and that this Amendment arose out of it, solely and wholly because we are at war. I am whole-heartedly in agreement with the principles behind this Bill, but what I want to do is something that this country has failed to do for so many centuries—to give a proper appreciation to the Fighting Services. I say that preference is absolutely essential and that a very great principle is involved. I repeat again that the Bill would never have come before the House if it had not been for the war. How, then, is it reasonable to deny preference to the people who are fighting this war for us? The Minister went on to say something with which I have some sympathy, because I am sure he meant absolutely what he said. He said that if it was left to him and his successors they would, by administrative methods, carry out the desires of those who are supporting this Amendment. I do suggest to the Minister that that is not the way he has conducted his affairs in a long and busy lifetime.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Could I ask the hon. and gallant Member a question? Is he arguing here that if it had not been for the war the Tory majority in this House would not have objected to a Bill being brought in to assist a disabled workman?
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I see how difficult it would be to penetrate the armour of the hon. Gentleman's self-assurance.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
I hope that the Minister did not seriously suggest that my hon. Friends and I put down these Amendments with the least desire to play party politics. That is certainly not my desire, which is to achieve what I consider to be justice to the war disabled. 110 May I come straight away to what the Minister has said? He has given a binding promise to achieve the object of this Amendment administratively, which promise, it has been stated, will be binding on his Department. Whatever that may mean I do not know. In my view, and I may be wrong, the only way in which this House can achieve anything binding on a Department is by putting it in an Act of Parliament. Views and Governments may change. Without wishing to indulge in any party politics I would say that if a Government formed from hon. Members opposite or from the Liberal Party—I do not know the views of the Common Wealth Party because they have not expressed them on this subject—came into power, it is obvious that this preference would cease to be given. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is playing party politics now?"]
I am afraid that I did not follow the Minister's observations about employment exchanges. It seems to me that the exchanges would be just as much bound by Regulations made by the Minister as they would be by Sections in an Act of Parliament. I want to make it clear that the Amendment was not put down with the intention of limiting the operation of the Bill, but to give a preference, and not to exclude anyone. I am sure the Minister appreciates that that is the object of the Amendment. If the words are unsatisfactory to achieve that object, that is another matter, and I am surprised that he has not said that he would reconsider the wording, if it did not meet with his approval, so that proper words to achieve what is our common object might be used.
§ Lady Apsley (Bristol, Central)
I support the Amendment, speaking on behalf of the dependants of the war disabled, who have been very unselfish and very patient, but who are anxious as to the future. A great deal hangs on the fate of this Amendment, and we who have been closest in touch with the difficulties of the war disabled after the last war know full well the shortness of memory with which people in this country have always been afflicted since the days of Agincourt, Blenheim, Trafalgar to Passchendaele. However, we must see to it that after this war similar situations cannot arise, and it is this that we are anxious about. I feel also that the Minister is out of touch with 111 the country if he does not know that the whole country desires that this preference should be given to those who will have become disabled under war service conditions.
There are three things mainly responsible for winning this war for us. The first is the magnificent quality of our men who are fighting by sea, land and air. The second is the great ability shown by our women in filling the gaps, and in enabling more men to go overseas and keep away the worst effects of war from this country. The third is the steadfastness of the civilian population. Priority must be given to the first two classes. I am sure that if a census were taken in this country this view would be supported by an overwhelming majority of our people. I beg my Labour Friends to support this Amendment, as if Socialism means anything it means that the State must be an ideal employer. It is essential that we who represent the State should behave as ideal employers in regard to priority for ex-Servicemen and women who become war disabled and who suffer very greatly after having given very much for the State under the conditions of war service.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I cannot help feeling a good deal of sympathy with the spirit of this Amendment. I should have thought it was obvious to everybody, including the Minister, that some preference was essential, owing to the difference of the circumstances in which disability takes place. How can we compare the case of a man injured in a factory with that of a man who has gone through many months of fighting in the campaigns in North Africa, or night after night with Bomber Command over Germany? There is a difference which every man must appreciate. I believe that the workmen in the factories would be the first to appreciate it. I am not at all sure that it will work out that way, for if the Minister is able to provide facilities for training for all, the situation will not arise. I hope that that will be the case.
It has been suggested that the Amendment was perhaps not the best way of achieving this object, and I am rather inclined to agree. I should have thought it would be a great deal better for the Minister to be prepared on a later Clause to consider putting in some general words 112 embodying what he has just said, and indicating that a preference will be shown to certain classes. It would not tie him down to a close definition such as is contained in the Amendment, but would indicate a general view, held by the Minister himself, the majority of hon. Members and by the people in the country, I believe. In practice, I do not know that there will be very much difficulty, because I believe that the average employer will be only too proud to have in his employment a worker who was disabled in battle against the enemy——
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I am sorry, but on this Amendment it is out of Order to discuss employment.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I would like to make one last appeal to the Minister in order to avoid a Division upon this issue. It really would be most unfortunate if a Division took place in which the right hon. Gentleman relied upon the support of those Members who have said they did not approve of his doing by administrative action what he has said that he is willing to do. We have no desire to divide against the Government on this issue. I can think of nothing more unfortunate than that this Bill, which has obtained the overwhelming support of public opinion, should start with a Division upon this issue.
I endorse what the Minister has said. It may well be that the Amendment is not well drafted. Will the Minister make the promise that between now and the Report stage he will consider, in consultation with Treasury draftsmen, whether it is possible to devise words which will put into the Bill what he has said it is his intention to do in the Ministry of Labour? I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but such a course would certainly avoid putting some of us in an extraordinarily difficult position in which the Minister will have promised to do something but has been unable to do it.
§ Mr. Bevin
My difficulty in this matter is a question of binding definition. If hon. Members are content with general words expressing the intention, then I could possibly give it between now and 113 the Report stage. My difference with hon. Members is that all the time I have tried to keep in mind that this is an industrial matter and not a pensions matter. If they would agree with me that I should use terms like "a preference for a person who has served" and not merely "war disabled" I shall be very happy to meet them. My difficulty has been to get down to this wording "war disabled," as it is a limiting phrase. I have been rather more generous to ex-Service men than my hon. Friends because I have been trying to make the phrase wider and I have been unable, even with the help of the Parliamentary draftsmen, to find the right phrase. I relied on the general practice of the employment exchanges, believing that I could accomplish the same object by administrative means. If the administrative action is in relation to those who have served and is not limited merely to war disabled, and if we can have a rather wider phrase to cover the action which the Government intend to take through the administrative machine, I will puzzle my brains to find it.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
I do not quite appreciate what the Minister means by "those who have served." Does he mean to include in it an ex-Serviceman who, after he has been discharged or demobilised, meets with an industrial accident?
§ Mr. Bevin
I am afraid I shall have to do that. It is very difficult, but I have to keep in mind things which I cannot mention to the House at the moment but of which they will be apprised later in connection with demobilisation and various other matters. As to the man who is put into the Class W Reserve, I have been struggling for a rather wider phrase in order that he will not feel that because he was in the Army, was out of it for six months and is now back again, he has a grievance. I am anxious to satisfy hon. Members. I happen to know that there is very keen feeling about this matter in the Services themselves, where people are very keen that I shall not have such limiting phrases which exclude all these circumstances. In that spirit I will try to find words between the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who has taken one view, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry (Major Manningham-Buller) 114 who moved the Amendment. I will be very happy to talk it over with them between now and the Report Stage.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
In view of what the Minister has just said, and I am sure that he appreciates that my question to him was not put in any hostile spirit, in view of his assurance that there will be something in the Bill——
§ Major Manningham-Buller
I may be wrong but I understood the Minister to say that between now and the Report stage something would be put in the Bill to show that a preference should be given to Servicemen, the men who have actually served, and if I am mistaken in that perhaps the Minister would answer me. I understood him to say he would put into the Bill something to show that there was a preference for men who have served. If that was the case I would like to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
I am not going to agree to the withdrawal of the Amendment. Why should I? I do not think we know where we are. I have listened to the Minister. He has made a statement which I do not understand and which my hon. and gallant Friend clearly did not understand properly. Therefore, we ought to have something clear. There are two categories. In one case it is the rehabilitation of the man who has suffered a war injury—that is one class. In the other it is the rehabilitation of the soldier who has suffered a civilian injury. The Minister wants to put the two together. I think they are different classes. I have in mind the man who has suffered as a result of war service. I think he ought to have a preference over any class of persons, whether ex-soldiers or civilians. The Minister has made a statement which is so tied up in words that I do not know what he meant. I think he has an obligation to tell us in precise terms what is in his mind.
§ Mr. Bevin
I have bothered with the hon. Member a bit in my time. What I said was that between now and the Report stage I would try to find words to give effect to the intention of the Government which I gave in my pledge. [Interrup- 115 tion.] I am talking about finding words—I have no secret arrangement—words which would give effect to the intention which I have enunciated, which I would like to enact to cover the men who have served. In embracing the men who have served there are people who, during their service, have been released from war duties for civilian work and during that time, although they were still in the Service, they have in fact been injured. I do not feel disposed to exclude those men who have been released for war work and called back again or who have been disabled while still on the rolls of the War Office or other Services. Therefore, beyond that I cannot go at this stage. I will try to find the right words to express the intention, but I repeat I do not want limiting phrases seeking to define the categories in a way that places limitation on the administration of this matter as it is expressed in the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act.
§ Major Manningham-Buller
In view of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. and gallant Member has already proposed that, but I am afraid it has not been accepted.
§ Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
May I respectfully point out, Mr. Williams, that whether the hon. and gallant Member proposed it or not you never put it from the Chair?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
There was no question of putting it from the Chair when the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) rose and refused to agree.
§ Mr. Molson
I understand that this was a discussion as to what was meant by the statement of my right hon. Friend to-day.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, the hon. and gallant Member definitely asked for leave to withdraw and objection was taken.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Messer
I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, at the end, to add:and shall prescribe such conditions, including the right of inspection, as will ensure efficiency.116 The Amendment is quite simple, and I do not propose to make any long speech to justify it. The Clause deals with vocational training and vocational training centres and within his powers the Minister seeks to guide those, other than public authorities, who undertake vocational training. I am desirous of ensuring that in any case where the Minister farms this work out to people other than public authorities there shall be conditions that shall ensure efficient vocational training, with the right of inspection of the premises. I am aware that already there are in existence reputable agencies such as the Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops or the Earl Haig Workshops but I very much fear that when, as a result of stringency, there is a difficulty in finding places there may spring up mushroom organisations, and that it would be in their interests not to speed up the vocational training of disabled persons but rather to keep them as long as the capitation grant or maintenance grant is being paid. It is for that purpose I am moving this Amendment, with a view to ensuring efficiency, including the right of inspection.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I hope the hon. Member will not press this Amendment for reasons I have given to the Committee. When analogous arrangements of this kind are made they are always the subject of written agreement, and a written agreement always provides various conditions which are appropriate to the subject-matter and also provides for the right of inspection. Therefore, to insert these words here in this particular Bill would throw doubts or suggest that powers of inspection cannot be prescribed in other cases where these words are not inserted. This really can be done and will be done without the proposed words in the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.