HC Deb 08 February 1945 vol 407 cc2197-8
1. Mr. Thorne

asked the Minister of Labour the number of boys who have been sent to prison for refusing to go down the coalmines.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 14th December, 1944, to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for King's Norton (Major Peto).

Mr. McGovern

Is there no possibility of coming to some arrangement whereby these young men can volunteer for some other form of service?

Mr. Speaker

The Question only asks for the number.

6. Sir John Mellor

asked the Minister of Labour whether local appeal boards have power to recommend cancellation of directions to coalmining in cases where applicants have shown exceptional diligence and military aptitude in pre-Service training corps.

Mr. Bevin

In order to ensure the impartial operation of the ballot for coalmining, I do not accept appeals based merely on the grounds of an appellant's alleged special suitability for the Forces. The question of a recommendation on this point by a local appeal board does not therefore arise.

Sir J. Mellor

Does not this mean ignoring facts of great personal importance, and also of great importance to the war effort?

Mr. Bevin

No, Sir. Mining is essential for the war effort, and coal must be got. If Members of this House now claim that men can escape their liability for mining, the war effort must suffer.

15. Sir J. Lucas

asked the Minister of Labour if he will arrange that when a youth called up for the Army expresses preference for the coalfields and a cadet called up for the mines expresses preference for the Services, they may be allowed to exchange so long as both are physically qualified.

Mr. Bevin

No, Sir. With the exception of certain skilled tradesmen, youths of the requisite physical standards who express a wish to undertake coalmining as an alternative to service in the Forces are allocated to the mines. Members of pre-Service training units are not excluded, as such, from the coalmining ballot and to allow a cadet to avoid his obligations by means of an exchange, even if it were practicable, would impair the impartiality of the ballot.