HC Deb 16 February 1945 vol 408 cc580-3

Amendments made: In page II, line 14, leave out from "in," to "two," in line 15, and insert the case of an officer who immediately before the material date held.

In line 15, leave out "the officer."

In page 12, line 48, leave out "means."

In line 52, leave out the second "on," and insert "in."

In line 52, at end, insert except that for the purposes of paragraph 5 of this Schedule it means the date on which he became so engaged.

In page 13, line 9, leave out the second "on," and insert "in."

In line 13, leave out the second "on," and insert "in."—[Mr. Willink.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question "That the Bill be now read time."—[Mr. Willink.]

2.0 p.m.

Mr. G. Hutchinson

Having pressed my right hon. and learned Friend on the Committee stage of the Bill, perhaps unduly, I desire to say to him at this stage that my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) and myself, and those in whose interests this Bill has been promoted, are grateful to him not only for the way in which he has met us, but for the prompt manner in which this Bill has been introduced and carried through.

2.1 p.m.

Mr. Burden

I also would like to thank the Minister for this Bill, not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of those whose interests it is designed to meet who are now on war service, I want to thank him for the kindly and sympathetic way in which he has dealt with the points we have put to him and for the care and attention which have been shown in the preparation of the Bill. So far as I know, the point which has just been raised in Committee is the only one of substance which has emerged in the detailed consideration of the Measure.

2.2 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I join with my two hon. Friends in expressing appreciation to the Minister for the helpful way he has assisted us in the proceedings on this Bill. I would also like to ask him whether he would take advantage of the Third Reading, to clear up a point that I raised with him on Second Reading. He has been good enough to do it by letter, which I find entirely satisfactory, but I shall be grateful if he will confirm that the position now is that any youngster who went into the Army, Navy or Air Force after the opening of hostilities is entitled to compensation under this Bill.

2.3 p.m.

Mr. A. Walkden

I wish to add my appreciation to that which has been expressed, to thank the Minister for this Bill, and to congratulate him on the happy and expeditious way he has got it through. I hope that we may be just as happy and expeditious next week on the much larger Measure that will then be introduced.

2.4 p.m.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

I would not like to strike a discordant note, but I think it is necessary to sound a note of warning. There have been so many bouquets thrown at the Minister that they might have the effect of making him feel that he can steer everything through, in the placid way which he has enjoyed on this Bill. I am sure that that will not be the case. This was a needed Bill. It was necessary in the interests of justice. We are glad that the Bill is going through. If it had not been passed there would have been a grave omission. Many tasks will be lightened by its passage, because at this juncture no graver disservice could be done than by creating grievances and dissatisfactions among local government staffs. We shall shortly be calling upon those staffs for strenuous service. Nothing is more important than that they should be efficient and satisfied, and to the extent that this Bill makes a contribution in that direction, we are grateful. It is necessary, however, to warn the Minister that the life that lies ahead for him will not be composed of such easy paths, unless, of course, he completely adopts the philosophy which I hold, that is, Socialism.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)

On Third Reading, we cannot discuss philosophy, but only what is in the Bill.

Mr. Messer

That is true, and I would say that to the extent that this Bill is a Measure of social justice, it is a contribution to the philosophy of Socialism.

2.6 p.m.

Mr. Willink

I am grateful to my hon. Friends for what they have said and for having helped us to get this necessary legislation through the House with so little delay. Only yesterday we were discussing the immense importance of our local government service in the years immediately ahead. This Bill is a small contribution to fair terms and justice for local government officers who have been on war service of whatever kind. I am glad my hon. Friends the Members for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden) and for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) asked me to make clear the position on a point which was raised on Second Reading. The question was whether any difficulty would be caused for a local government officer who had run off on war service, without getting the approval, or even against the advice and instructions, of his local authority. The point is quite clear, and can be stated in a way entirely satisfactory to the hon. Members who raised it and to those who are affected.

So far as this Bill and these officers are concerned, the position is covered by paragraph (7) (2) of the Schedule, which provides that any period during which an officer has been engaged in war service within the meaning of the 1939 Act shall be reckoned as a period of service in his office. That is to say, the criterion is whether or not he was on war service, and not the circumstances in which he embarked on that service. Any officer of a local authority who ceased to serve his authority in order to undertake service during the period of the present emergency would be on war service as so defined, and he can reckon that service, whether he joined the Forces voluntarily or compulsorily, with or without the permission of his authority. I am speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland as well as for myself when I express my gratification and gratitude to those who have helped us to get this Bill through.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.