HC Deb 04 March 1957 vol 566 cc135-52

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the National Service (Miscellaneous) (Amendment) Regulations, 1957 (S.I., 1957, No. 180) dated 8th February, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th February, be annulled. It is not the case that we are opposing these Regulations because they are a more generous interpretation of the grounds upon which hardship could be agreed to exist both in industry and domestically. We believe that the 1948 Regulations, which both the Labour Government and the present Government have applied, enabled the applicants in genuine cases to have a proper hearing and a fair chance of having their hardships dealt with. I stress, therefore, that in praying against the present Regulations we do not do so because we do not wish to see better and more generous terms provided, especially for those with domestic hardships.

The purposes we have in mind are to enable the Minister to explain the changed circumstances which prompted him to alter the conditions of the 1948 Regulations, and also in order that we may be able to voice certain fears which we entertain consequent on the nature of the new Regulations. As yet we have had no explanation from the Government about their reasons for changing the character of the 1948 Regulations. We do not know whether the Minister discovered that his own Government have, for five-and-a-half years, been acting in a heartless way by enforcing those Regulations and that the new Regulations indicate a sort of deathbed repentance after a life of infamy and shame.

We feel that it is for the Government to explain to the House and to the country the reasons for their desire to change the conditions of the 1948 Regulations. We should also like to know what results the Government expect to flow from the new conditions. On 21st February, I asked the Minister of Labour and National Service by what amount he anticipates that the number of deferments of military service will be increased during the next three years as a result of the Regulations laid before Parliament on 12th February, 1957. The Parliamentary Secretary replied: As my right hon. Friend indicated in his statement on 12th February, his intention in amending the Postponement Regulations was to liberalise their operation, but he cannot anticipate how many men will apply for postponement or what effect the revised Regulations will have on the number of men whose call up is postponed on grounds of exceptional hardship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 21st February. 1957; Vol. 565, c. 81.] It seems to us somewhat strange, as I shall try to show, that there is a great change of principle in these Regulations; yet the Government have never sought the opportunity to tell us the reasons for these changes; nor, apparently, are they in a position to tell us what sort of estimate they have made of the effect which will flow from the new Regulations which the House is being asked to accept.

We know that until now applications for deferment were granted for the purpose of enabling applicants to make alternative arrangements, either of a domestic character or, in the case of business, for someone else to replace them, or for the disposal of the business. According to the Explanatory Note, the position is changed in quite a revolutionary way. The note states: The new Regulations provide that if it is not reasonable for such alternative arrangements to be made, or for the business to be disposed of or discontinued, a period of postponement may be granted for as long as the circumstances are likely to remain unchanged, subject to the maximum periods mentioned below. Provision is also made for postponement in a case of domestic hardship to be granted for a similar period where it is not reasonable to expect alternative arrangements to he made. The change in the actual period for which deferment may be granted is considerable. We know that under the 1948 Regulations the maximum was six months. Under the present Regulations it is for a period of up to two years. In itself, that is important. On further application after the first two-year period hardship committees are given the opportunity to grant other periods up to one year in each instance. So far as the actual time factor is concerned, that is a very great change but I believe that the change in principle which is contained in the new Regulations is of even greater importance.

Now we see that deferment of call-up for business people is not to be based merely on the opportunity being given to the person making the application either to have alternative arrangements made for the running of the business or to dispose of the business altogether. That proviso has now gone, and therefore I assert that this change needs a lot of explaining.

Having departed from that principle, we cannot find, once deferment has been granted, on what principle an applicant can ever again be called up for military service. I have quoted from the Explanatory Note, and I believe that my explanation is correct. The language used by the Minister when he discussed this matter on 12th February during an economic debate bears out the interpretation that I have just put on the Regulation. The right hon. Gentleman said: Under the new Regulations I am extending that maximum"— that is the maximum of six months— to two years for an initial application and one year for the subsequent ones; and also laying down, where it is not reasonable to make alternative arrangements, that the period granted should be related to the probable duration of the circumstances of hardship. I think it also important that we should change the Regulations that may have been appropriate in the past in relation to business hardship. Previously postponement could only be granted to enable other arrangements to be made for the carrying on or disposal of a business. I do not think we should go on with that provision in present circumstances, and I am amending that Regulation. That language leads one to believe that the only basis we have ever had to recall a person with a deferment for business reasons has now gone.

I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary what criteria will guide military service (hardship) committees after the two years initial deferment, if the conditions are unchanged? Will further deferment be obtained as the applicant comes along, so long as he can say that the conditions upon which he obtained the initial deferment have in no way changed?

In the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman said: I should inform the House that I have sent special instructions to all my officers to say that all those cases are to be considered with the fullest sympathy. What sort of instructions have been sent to the people who will be members of the hardship committees? Unless the interpretation which I have just put upon the new Regulations is wrong we have reached the stage in which people who have obtained deferment have a vested interest in making sure that the conditions upon which they obtained it do not change for the better.

What did the Minister mean by saying: Previously postponement could only be granted to enable other arrangements to be made for the carrying on or disposal of a business. I do not think we should go on with that provision in present circumstances, and I am amending that Regulation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1957 Vol. 564, c. 1203.] What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by "in present circumstances"? We have had no information that the circumstances are in the slightest degree different from what they were when other men, in exactly similar circumstances, had to comply with the 1948 Regulations. These men are now in the Forces.

We should like an explanation of the changes. What does the Minister mean by saying that in present conditions the 1948 Regulations would not be applicable? The right hon. Gentleman is saying to people who have obtained their first two years of deferment on grounds of business hardship that they need only make sure that the conditions continue until they are 26 years of age and they will never be called up for military service at all.

Far from these new Regulations aiming to help cases of legitimate hardship, they seem designed to narrow the basis of the section of the community from whom we obtain National Service men. That would pave the way for a more selective type of call up. National Service has been accepted by the nation as the fairest method of dealing with the problem of manpower for the forces mainly because of its universality. It would be wrong to claim that National Service could ever be popular, but so long as we could show that it was fair and that all men shared the burden of defence the nation accepted it.

I know that there have always to be exceptions, as, for example, people engaged in coal mining, merchant seamen and certain types of agricultural workers. It is necessary to defer their service for economic reasons which I believe are well understood and accepted. If we are to embark upon a policy which gives to a very considerable section of people a basis upon which they can almost contract out of the conditions the nation is entitled to say that the old basis upon which it accepted National Service has gone completely.

There are in my submissions certain reasons why the Government are asking the House to accept the Regulations. The Government are in a sticky dilemma. They have refused to get rid of the basis of National Service but are confronted with the problem of having far more men available than they require. The Regulations give to a class of self-employed people favourable conditions which employees in industry generally cannot obtain. That cannot be good. I do not pretend to know how many businessmen below the age of 26 own small businesses, but I am certain that the number must run into many thousands.

When I was at the Ministry of Labour we knew that certain practices which were not very creditable were going on, in that fathers whose sons were becoming liable for the call-up were obtaining smallholdings for them, and that kind of thing, in order to avoid military service. There was a great deal of trouble about it. We tried to amend the agricultural provisions of the call-up. These Regulations tend to cancel out the call-up of many thousands of people who have small businesses. The Government are introducing the narrow end of the wedge of selective service.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)

I would put the hon. Gentleman straight about one point. I am sure that he would like to be clear about it. The periods of postponement are added on to the liability to call up after the age of 26. Therefore, it cannot be true that by granting postponement we are allowing the owners of small businesses, or anybody else, to escape liability to National Service.

Mr. Lee

Either I have not stated the case clearly or the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my point.

I am speaking on the basis of the Explanatory Note and of the Minister's speech on 12th February, namely, that once deferment of the call-up has been granted on the grounds of business hard-ship, it continues so long as the conditions remain the same. There is no question of being deferred in order to get some other person to run a business or to dispose of the business altogether. That has gone. Once one has obtained deferment there is no need to prove that one has tried to change the conditions.

We go back to the military service (hardship) committee and say, "The conditions upon which you granted my deferment are identical with those which obtain today", and I do not see how the committee can do anything but add a further year's deferment. One could go on ad infinitum apparently. As for the point made by the hon. Gentleman, the maximum age would not apply any more because one could go on to any given age. Therefore, because we feel that on the question of business hardship that the business community is being placed outside the pale as it were, and given provisions which cannot possibly be obtained for employees in industry, that will have a most deleterious effect on the rest of the community.

We on this side of the House have made our position abundantly clear. We feel that this is the thin end of the wedge for selective service. My right hon. Friends the Members for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), in defence debates, when this issue has been discussed, have said that we should like to see the end of National Service. We would work to that end. We have even put in a date by which we should like to see that accomplished. It is perfectly consistent for us to say now that to attempt to introduce a type of selective service—as I have asserted this is—is really to make it impossible ever to get rid of National Service.

What we are now doing is so to narrow the basis from which we draw Service men that in the end, if these conditions continue, we shall have a small semi-inarticulate minority trying to get rid of conditions which the vast majority will feel it was in their interests to perpetuate. Therefore, I ask the Government to look at this question again. I have asked a number of questions on which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us satisfactory replies.

It is not my intention to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide against these Regulations tonight. On the question of domestic hardship we are at one in wishing to do everything we can to assist in the very difficult cases which we all come across. The House as a whole would feel it to be right and proper to help wherever we can. A very different issue is involved in the question of business hardship. I have stated it and will not repeat it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that that which we feel is the case is not in the mind of the Government, and that if the Regulations have been drawn in the way that I have indicated we can expect an alteration in them to make sure that rather favoured conditions do not obtain in the way I have mentioned.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

I beg to second the Motion.

May I point out, at the beginning of my speech, that most hon. Members have found the Ministry of Labour and National Service most helpful on cases of hardship in past years? Most of us feel that we would much rather deal with the Ministry and try to get someone deferred than to wait until he is in the forces and then try to get him out on compassionate grounds, which, in most cases, is almost out of the question. I therefore start with sympathy for the way in which the Ministry has approached this question in past years. Nevertheless, I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) has referred to something which might be an abuse unless it is watched carefully.

The changed circumstances are that under present National Service arrangements we are getting too many men, 'whereas if National Service were abolished there would be too few. It is in trying to find an in-between number over a temporary period that the difficulty arises. We want to impress on the Minister that we wish to avoid a selective call-up. Organise it however we may, it would be repugnant to most people in the country. We have to safeguard the position and try to see that selective service is not introduced by the back door. Already there are considerable gaps in the fully comprehensive National Service as we once had it. I understand that Grade III men are not now being called up on medical grounds. Obviously, if we raised medical standards a considerable number could be removed from the ambit of National Service.

Has the Minister made any estimate of the number of business applications that he is likely to receive under this new arrangement? I should have thought that a person being called up at the age of 18, 19, or 20 would not have the experience, or background, or training to be fully responsible for carrying on a major business of any kind. Postponement of his service could only be looked on as a temporary expedient whilst someone else was sought to carry on the business. We all know of cases in which, because of ill-health, the father who owns the business has to devolve responsibility on to his son.

I would ask the Minister, in considering such a question after the two-year period is up, and the man comes up for reconsideration, to find out how strenuous have been the efforts of those concerned to find someone else to carry on the business. Those people could sit back and make no effort, but hope that the man would be deferred and deferred again until National Service came to an end. I am sure that there are people above military age who, with extra effort, could be found to carry out these tasks.

I should like to have an idea of what is envisaged in this connection. I wonder whether we could have the numbers of those who have been deferred under this heading in the past and those who have continued as deferred for six months or more, so that we could make some judgment of the position. The cases I have in mind, and with which all of us have tremendous sympathy, are domestic hardship cases which come to us week after week in our constituencies and in which we sometimes find it very hard to understand why tribunals have not given exemption.

I had such a case in my constituency last Saturday morning, a widow who had just lost her husband under very tragic circumstances. She has two children of school age and a grown-up son living with her. He is unmarried, 21 years of age, and has just finished his apprenticeship. He is now in quite a good job. In my view, it is essential for him to remain at home for the time being. He attended a hardship tribunal last week in Middlesbrough and his application was rejected.

I raise this question because a mother came to see me on Saturday saying that she had read in a newspaper that the Government did not want all these people in the forces and now wished to cut down the number; and in the circumstances of her case, strong as it was, she could not understand why the man was being called up.

I should like the Minister to tell me whether any general guidance has been sent to the hardship tribunals to take into account such cases as that. Has there been a relaxation of the compassionate grounds necessary for deferment? I hope there has. I have written to the Parliamentary Secretary about this case and I hope that he will look into it most sympathetically, because I consider it to be the kind of case in which priority should be given, by comparison with some of the more general business cases in which we cannot prove, one way or another, whether a business would fail if a man were called up.

We must approach the whole problem with care to ensure that there are no abuses, that there is no unfairness between different categories and that, because a self-employed person can obtain deferment, there is no sense of grievance growing among those who are employed and who cannot obtain deferment. The solution of the problem, of course, is the abolition of National Service, and although we cannot expect a statement on that tonight we hope that the two-year period mentioned in the Regulations will be all that is necessary in this matter.

8.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)

First, may I say how glad my right hon. Friend and I are to have this opportunity to discuss these Regulations and to make their purpose clear? I will in a moment deal, I hope satisfactorily, with the points which have been raised by the hon. Members for Newton (Mr. F. Lee) and Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), but I should like, first, to give a general background to show why we have introduced the Regulations.

All call up inevitably imposes some degree of hardship. When the need for manpower was very great one had to tolerate a greater degree of hardship. although we always recognised, both during the war and afterwards, that there were certain circumstances in which relief from call up should be given. Now that the pressure on manpower for the Forces is less great than it was, we are enabled to be more liberal in granting postponements on grounds of personal hardship. We have, therefore, been enabled, in these Regulations, to go further towards meeting the difficult cases. We hope that the amended Regulations will do this, while avoiding the danger—which the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees stressed so strongly—of allowing postponement for a degree of hardship no greater than that which falls on most men who are called up. That is the intention of the Regulations, and I can assure the hon. Member for Newton that this is no case of a death-bed repentance after a life of infamy and shame of living under the 1948 Regulations.

Mr. Lee

Does the hon. Member mean that he proposes to continue to live in infamy and shame?

Mr. Carr

On the contrary. I must remind the hon. Member that he held my office for several years while these Regulations were in force. I am sure that he did not live in infamy and shame, and in following his example I feel quite safe in my own virtue.

We do not believe that these amended Regulations will make any great difference in numbers affected, but we believe that they will be a help to a small but significant number of people who are in personal difficulty and hardship and who at the moment are not relieved from it by postponement.

It is nonsense to suggest that this is the thin end of the wedge of selective service or some means of reducing the call-up. I cannot give exact figures because whereas one can give estimates of the number of people who fall into different categories by age or occupation, it is impossible to estimate how many people have certain degrees of hardship. Perhaps if I give the figures for 1956 the House will appreciate the small scale likely to be involved. During 1956, there were no more than 2,943 first applications for postponement.

Mr. Chetwynd

On both grounds?

Mr. Carr

On hardship grounds, whether for domestic reasons, business reasons or other reasons.

Of those 2,943 first applications, 1,636 were granted. In addition, there were 1,245 applications last year for renewal of postponement certificates after the first period had run out. Of those, 849 were granted. However one looks at it, therefore, the scale of this exercise is really a small one. Although, undoubtedly, the numbers will now increase, we have no reason to believe that they will increase to any large extent.

It certainly seems to us inconceivable that their numbers should increase by an extent which would make it in any way significant in its effect on the total number of people called up for the forces or to be in any way, as the hon. Member for Newton suggested, the thin end of the wedge of selective service or selective service by the back door.

Mr. Lee

Does the Parliamentary Secretary remember that on 22nd January I asked the Minister of Labour how many grades of people are now being deferred from National Service; the numbers involved; and what effect their deferment is having on the length of service required from others."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1957; Vol. 563, c. 29.] and that I got the reply that up to the end of September, 1956, there were 444,991 people in that category? That is not a small total, but a very large one, and I should have thought that it justified the suggestions I have been making.

Mr. Carr

The hon. Member is perhaps confusing deferment with postponement. Deferment is granted to certain categories of people by virtue of either the work they are doing—as in the case of miners or agricultural workers—or by virtue of training that they are undergoing, as in the case of apprentices, and is given in the national interest. Postponement is given in the individual interest in circumstances of hardship, either domestic or business hardship, and is something quite different.

The figures mentioned by the hon. Member referred to deferment, which is a much larger sphere, whereas postponement, which is what we are discussing tonight, involved last year only approximately 3,000 initial applications and about 1,250 renewal applications. Therefore, one thing of which we can be certain is that this Amendment will not have any significant effect on the call up for the Forces. What would have an effect on it—namely, any change in our arrangements for deferment—would be an entirely different matter, but that is not involved in the Regulations which we are debating tonight.

Having dealt with that general point, I come now to the specific point which has been raised, whether we are giving any preference to the owner of a business and whether, out of some doctrinaire favouritism for these people, or for any other reason, we are treating more favourably the small capitalist or the owner of a small business as opposed to the man who is working at the bench, on the farm, in the mine, or wherever it may be. I assure the hon. Member that that is not so.

What we have been impressed by—and the hon. Member for Newton, from his experience, will know that this is a true and genuine reason—is the number of cases in which small businesses—they are usually small retail businesses, but they need not only be retail businesses—entirely depend upon the presence of the man in question. Now that the pressure on manpower has grown less, we felt that it would be right not to compel the sale of such a business by calling up the man, as was done under the existing Regulations. We felt that to compel the breaking up and final sale of a small business of that kind would be a hardship which the present situation does not warrant and should not be allowed to cause.

I do, however, want to set the hon. Member's mind at rest on this point. He asked what instructions we had sent to hardship committees. I must make it clear that hardship committees are independent statutory bodies, and that my right hon. Friend is in no position to send them any instructions.

Mr. Lee

I meant the Ministry's officers.

Mr. Carr

We can send instructions only to our officers. I assure the hon. Member that when an applicant comes for his renewal, it will be necessary for him to prove that it is not reasonable that alternative arrangements should be made.

The only change is that under the existing Regulations even if it were not reasonable for other arrangements to be made, the man had to be called up, even if the business had to be sold up. Now, we are giving small businesses a reprieve so long as the applicant can continue to satisfy, first, our authorised officer and, beyond him, the committee and the umpire, who is the final authority in these matters, that it is not reasonable that alternative arrangements should be made. I believe that the maximum period of postponement of two years in the first instance and the maximum of one year for renewals, with the provision that at the end of each of these periods an applicant has to prove it is not reasonable that alternative arrangements should be made, will be a safeguard against what the hon. Gentleman fears.

I can only assure him that we intend to see that it is interpreted in that way in so far as it lies in our power to do so. We certainly have no intent, I can promise the hon. Gentleman, of trying to favour one part of the community as against another. I think he will find that the need for repeated proof of the reasonableness of not having made alternative arrangements, coupled with the fact that each period of postponement will be added, to the maximum age, which I mentioned in my intervention, will together stop any abuse of this kind.

As the hon. Gentleman said, it has always been one of our purposes in the Ministry of Labour and National Service to stop unfair evasion of National Service. I think that we have been fairly successful in the past, and I believe that we shall be in the future. I do not think that this relaxation will enable evasion, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we do not mean it to, and that we feel confident that the wording of the Regulations will not allow it to happen.

Those were the main matters which were raised, but I would take this opportunity of saying a word about the other important changes which the Regulations make. The hon. Member was putting the change in the business hardship provisions in one scale, and it is fair, I think, to put in the other scale the changes which we are making relating to domestic hardship.

It is possible that one thing may strike the House. The provisions for domestic hardship were contained in paragraph (1) of the existing Regulation No. 14. That paragraph is not amended by these amending Regulations. Therefore, it is possible that the hon. Gentleman may have thought we were in some way not trying as much as we might to relieve hardship on domestic grounds as distinct from business grounds. I would assure him that is not so, and explain why it is that we are not altering the wording of paragraph 14 (1) of the existing Regulations.

We looked at this paragraph very carefully wth the full intent of trying to alter it in a helpful way, but the more we looked at it, and the more advice we sought about it, the more certainly were we driven to the conclusion that it was already so widely drawn that any amendment would be likely to lessen rather than widen its scope and that it was best left in its present form.

I can assure the House we looked into this most carefully. The danger is that if one tries too much to define specific circumstances which qualify for consideration one may inadvertently rule out some sort of case which may arise but is not foreseen when the wording is drafted. We think it best, therefore, to have the widest possible terms. We can find no way to improve the present wording. What matters is the way in which individual cases are treated within the framework of these Regulations. As my right hon. Friend has already told the House, he has sent special instructions to his authorised officers, emphasising again the importance of a human approach.

The circumstances in which exceptional hardship can arise, are, of course, many and variable, but our experience has shown that there are certain classes of cases where exceptional hardship would be likely to arise from call up and where alternative arrangements are often most difficult to make. Those include such cases as that of the man with a relative physically dependent upon him, that of the man who is the mainstay of an orphaned family, that of the widower with a child or children to look after, that of a man living alone with a widowed mother. All these cases will be considered very sympathetically, I can assure the House.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Does that mean that, in cases of that kind where the young man has been called up, it is possible for the case to be reviewed?

Mr. Carr

Where the man has been called up and is in the Forces, he has, of course, passed out of the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend, and it is a matter for the Service Department concerned. I am sorry that I cannot say more than that to the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that he will realise that I might mislead him, and certainly get myself into difficulty, if I try to answer for the Ministers of the Service Departments.

The first step we have taken on domestic hardship is not to change the wording of the Regulations, which was unnecessary, but to ensure that cases which fall under them are considered with the greatest possible sympathy. That, of course, is not all that we have done to help in cases of this kind. We know from experience that many of the difficult cases, perhaps most of those of personal hardship, generally arise in connection with renewal applications, and we have dealt with these difficulties by amending Regulation 15, which concerns the period for which these certificates can be granted. Just as it is an easement in relation to postponement for business hardship, so it is equally, if not more, an easement in the case of domestic hardship as well.

If I might repeat, to be quite clear, the previous maximum of six months will be extended by these Regulations to two years for an initial application and to one year for a renewal application. The second important change is that where it is not reasonable to make alternative arrangements, the period granted is to be related within the maximum limits to the probable duration of the circumstances giving rise to the hardship. These changes will, we are sure, provide a very substantial and much needed easement in cases of domestic hardship and business hardship as well. In fact, the longer periods of postponement which can now be granted and the recognition that alternative arrangements cannot always reasonably be made, will be of special value in cases of severe domestic difficulties, and will lessen the increasing anxieties which arise at the moment from the need to apply for renewal at six monthly intervals. We regard that as a most important point.

Finally, I come to a matter of a more technical nature which deals with appeals to the umpire. This is an amendment of Regulation 13 (2). The effect of this change is to extend the period within which an appeal to the umpire must be made by an applicant who has been granted leave to appeal from a unanimous decision of a hardship committee. This has adjusted the Regulations to the current arrangements, under which committees are fewer and meet less frequently. The fact that there are fewer committees and less frequent meetings was putting some pressure, in the time sense, on applicants when their cases went to the umpire. Although this is a technical point, the change, like the others, is definitely in the applicant's favour.

I have tried to cover the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, and I hope I have assured him that we have tried to help cases of both domestic and business hardship, and that we certainly have no intention of favouring the man in business as opposed to any other member of the community. We believe that these Regulations will work for the benefit of these people of all classes and in all occupations, and that although the numbers involved will not be large this will, nevertheless, be an easement of the hardship which is worth making and which this House would do well to approve.

Mr. Lee

The hon. Gentleman has gone into detail and has tried to be very helpful, but I tried to put the position of a person who obtained a postponement of call-up on business grounds, and who, two years later, had gone back to the hardship committee to say that the precise conditions on which he had been given deferment still obtained. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the hardship committee which he now envisages would agree that that was the kind of case in which they would be compelled to agree to a further year's extension, despite the fact that the person concerned had now had two years, instead of six months under the 1948 Regulations, in which either to make alternative arrangements about his business or to dispose of it?

Mr. Carr

He has to show that it is not reasonable that such alternative arrangement should be made.

There is one point which is important. Authorised officers are able to grant a fair number of first applications without reference to the hardship committees, let alone going right up to the umpire; but it has been found by experience that when it comes to renewal applications it becomes more difficult for an authorised officer, without all the inquiry made by the committees, to give a decision. Therefore, there is an increasing tendency with renewal applications for the case to go to the hardship committee and then, if necessary, to the umpire. When an application goes to the hardship committee, all this will be taken into account and there will, of course, be appeals to the umpire.

I am not a lawyer, so I must be careful what I say, but we work in this way rather like the common law. We work on building up a case law based on precedents. Until a number of cases has gone through the hardship committees to the umpire and he has given his rulings, I cannot forecast exactly how this will work. I can only assure the hon. Member that we do not intend it to work in the way he fears, and that we will watch the effect of the Regulations. We believe that if a man has to prove that it is not reasonable to call him up that will involve proving that he has made all possible efforts to change the circumstances, and that will be for the hardship committees and appeals to the umpire to establish in the ordinary way. We will keep the matter under review and see how it works out.

Mr. Lee

In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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