HC Deb 20 March 1951 vol 485 cc2325-7

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 38, leave out from the second "that" to "for" in line 41, and insert: either before the service of the notice under this section or within seven days after the service thereof, he had applied in the appropriate manner.

4.20 p.m.

The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

As hon. Members are aware, it was suggested in the course of the Second Reading debate, and in particular on the Committee stage, that we should afford a measure of protection to those men who are included in the category of Class Z and Class G Reserve who would wish to apply for exemption on any ground whatever. We discovered that the warning notices sent out by the War Office and by the Air Ministry, having no legal sanction, would not afford a measure of protection and, moreover, there was some difference as between the warning notices sent out by the War Office and those sent out by the Air Ministry.

This Amendment, therefore, is designed to provide protection for those men by the passage of the Bill which affords legal sanction and gives them an opportunity, after they receive the actual training or call-up notice, to apply within seven days for exemption either on the ground of hardship or for some other valid reason within the limitation of the Bill.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

The House will appreciate why this has been done and it is obvious from what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said in another place that it is desirable to avoid giving such facilities to these men that they can appeal literally a day before they do their training. I am sure that hon. Members will naturally desire to support this protection. I suggest, however, that seven days warning is a little bit short. Postal arrangements being what they are, it is conceivable that it would take two days before the notice arrived. That leaves five days within which a man could appeal. He may be a traveller for a firm and away from the place where the notice arrives. Therefore, the notice is very short indeed.

I understand from discussions I have had that it is the intention that this notice of service should go out a very short time only before actual training begins. If that be the case, it is very important that we should make quite certain that the period within which an appeal can be made is sufficient. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that in Clause 2 (2) powers are given to a Service Authority to alter the date on which training is to begin. Therefore, it is conceivable that even after the original training notice has been sent out an alteration may then take place in that date and the man may be put to very great inconvenience.

In the warning notices that are being sent out there are three dates that can be chosen by the reservist and he is asked to make his first, second and third choice; but there is a footnote to say that there is no assurance that he will be given his second choice, let alone his first. Therefore, with this considerable uncertainty that will result however a man answers his warning notice, and with a possibility of the training notice being later amended, it seems to me that seven days is a very short time indeed for the man to have in which to appeal.

I humbly suggest to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman that I think he has powers already in the Bill, if he chooses to use them, to cover this particular point so that he avoids what this Lords Amendment is deliberately designed to avoid and, at the same time, is a little more fair to the man than the concession of this Amendment is likely to prove. Clause 5 (2) of the Bill says: The Service Authority may make regulations … as to various matters … and otherwise for the purposes of this Part of this Act … It would seem to me he could make regulations under that subsection to cover the point I am trying to put to him. and it seems to me a fairer way in the long run to do it by that means than by limiting himself absolutely to seven days.

Mr. Shinwell

I can only speak again with the consent of the House, but I should like to say a few words in reply to the hon. and gallant Member. First of all, there is the warning notice and, presumably, if a man is anxious to appeal he would do so on the basis of the warning notice. That is his first opportunity. If he chooses to apply to the War Office or to the Air Ministry for exemption he would have an opportunity under the Bill itself.

I think the hon. and gallant Member is under a misapprehension. There is a minimum of 21 days after receipt of training notice before a man is due to appear in his unit. He will have the full seven days after receipt of training notice. In our judgment that is quite ample. The hon. and gallant Gentleman cited the case of commercial travellers. We appreciate they are often away but, as I understand, after being away five days of the week they turn up in their homes at the weekend. At least they are expected to do so, and if they failed to do so I presume their relatives would see that they were suitably informed.

We apprehend no difficulty in this matter. We have given it very careful consideration, but if we find that a man is not fully seized of the opportunity afforded under this Clause to enable him to appeal I am satisfied that the War Office or the Air Ministry, in their administration, will try to protect the interests of the man. I think I gave an assurance on the Committee stage that in all matters there would be humane administration and, therefore, I think the hon. and gallant Member can rest assured that nothing is likely to go wrong or to be detrimental to the interests of the man concerned.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

Would these new words apply to those who claim exemption on conscientious grounds?

Mr. Shinwell


Lords Amendment: in page 11, line 13, at end, insert: