HC Deb 14 March 1960 vol 619 cc903-5
8. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Labour to what extent, under his regulations governing the postponement of call-up, the hardship to an employer arising from the loss of skilled labour may be taken into account by hardship tribunals.

Mr. Heath

The National Service Regulations indicate that exceptional hardship to an employer may give ground for postponement of call-up if the absence of the applicant would require new arrangements for carrying on the business or discontinuing it, and if those arrangements would either be unreasonable or require time to make.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Minister aware that there is complaint from small firms about this kind of hardship not being taken into account by tribunals? Has he in mind the representations which I have consistently made to his Department about a small firm dependent upon apprentices who have completed their training where the production programme is disrupted again and again by the call-up of these men as soon as they become fully skilled? Will he, therefore, review the matter and call to the attention of hardship tribunals what he has just said?

Mr. Heath

I think that hardship tribunals are well aware of the circumstances which I have mentioned to the House. I have seen the cases which have been brought to our notice by the hon. Gentleman. In one case, I think that no application was made for postponement, and in another it is still under consideration.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the Minister bear in mind that, while many of us are grateful to him for the prompt action which his Department very frequently takes in such cases when the circumstances are brought direct to his notice, it is only because local tribunals seem to be unaware of their power to take this matter into consideration that it becomes necessary to trouble the Minister at all? Will he think again about his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), who asked whether he would take particular steps to see that local tribunals are made aware that they have power and should use the power to take hardship to an employer into consideration in suitable cases?

Mr. Heath

I will certainly look at the point and see that it is brought to their notice.

11. Lieut-Colonel Cordeaux

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a man who has been granted deferment of National Service in order to qualify for a profession, and who passes his qualifying examination before 1st June, 1960, is then compelled to undertake his National Service, whereas a man who fails the same examination and is then granted a further deferment beyond that date is exempted altogether; and if he will take steps to rectify this anomaly.

Mr. Heath

Yes, Sir. This is not properly to be regarded as an anomaly. Deferment from National Service for students is granted to enable studies to be completed where this is justified, including a second attempt at a final examination, and the rewarding of success or failure is not involved.

Lieut-Colonel Cordeanx

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in these cases a man who fails the final examination in the first place gains a very considerable advantage both financially and from the point of view of experience in his job over a man who is successful, and there is obviously a very strong temptation to a person who knows he can pass these exams to fail in the first place? Now that the last date for call-up is coming so very close, will my right hon. Friend consider exempting altogether from National Service those people who are deferred for this reason and who pass their final exams before 1st June next?

Mr. Heath

I hardly think that gentlemen are likely deliberately to fail examinations. I do not think that I could at this stage exempt from National Service those who have passed their examinations. There is the other aspect, that those who failed once, if they were to be called up for National Service, might very well suffer great hardship for the rest of their lives.