HL Deb 24 June 1912 vol 12 cc133-6

THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether, having regard to the fact that County Territorial Associations are obliged to employ a number of men as (1) range-keepers, (2) markers at ranges, (3) extra men for baggage parties, the Secretary of State for War will consider the advisability of issuing instructions to Territorial Associations as to how such men, who are of different civilian occupations, should be dealt with under the Insurance Act, and if any additional charge is to fall on association funds; and if the Secretary of State will consider the advisability of making separate provision therefor.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have given notice of this Question because those connected with the Territorial Force regard tins matter as of some importance in view of the early commencement of the operation of the Insurance Act. I have been in some difficulty because until quite recently I have not been aware to whom I ought to address the Question. I am bound to confess that personally I viewed the promotion of the noble and learned Viscount now on the Woolsack with mixed feelings. While I very cordially associate myself with the paeans of congratulation which he has received on all sides, we who are connected with the Territorial Force felt that with the noble Viscount's departure from the War Office we were likely to be in a somewhat inferior position to that which we occupied before, because while when the noble and learned Viscount burst upon your Lordships with his genial presence we recognised that he provided an expansive target for our shots and criticisms, we also recognised that he spoke with absolute authority, which to us is a very important point, and that he had that feeling for the Territorial Force which is usually associated with a fond parent. But consider the present position of War Office representation in your Lordships' House. In the other House, where, owing to the exigencies of Party politics, there is never any real opportunity for discussing these questions, there are the three regular Parliamentary representatives of the War Office. I do think it is very important that on matters of this kind we should have somebody in this House who can speak with authority.

I do not propose to go into all the difficulties of the case to which I am calling attention. I have specified one or two in the Question on the Paper. I think it will be recognised that, in view of the difficulty in which County Associations are placed with regard to casual labour and the doubt which exists as to what casual labour really is, it is important that something in the nature of what I have ventured to suggest should be carried out. County Associations in this connection look upon their position in regard to casual labour with some anxiety and some suspicion. They are anxious as to their position, and they are rather suspicious as to the result. What they feel in regard to casual labour is that where they are compelled, as they often are, to engage men at the beginning of the week, they will be called upon to pay the insurance, and that the other employers will endeavour to get the casual labourers who can show that the insurance in respect of them for that week has been paid. What I ask of His Majesty's Government is that a simple statement as to the actual position of County Associations with regard to casual labour should be drawn up as soon as possible and circulated among the various associations. We only want a simple, straightforward statement. I should like to call the attention of the noble Lord who will reply to this Question to the fact that during the last four years the County Associations have been supplied with a great number of circular memoranda. Many of these successive memoranda have been apparently contradictory of each other, while many of them have been so drawn as to be totally incomprehensible to the lay mind. On this matter we want something quite definite; and, above all, we want an assurance that if the County Associations are put to extra expense, as they probably will be, on account of the working of the Insurance Act, this extra expense will not be thrown on the general purposes grant or on any other grant at present in existence, but will be definitely provided for outside existing grants. I beg to ask the Question standing in my name.


My Lords, in rising to answer the noble Earl's Question, I would venture to express the hope that your Lordships will accord to me that indulgence which I have always met with at your Lordships' hands up to the present. I can only say that as long as I represent the Office which I have been asked to represent it will be my earnest endeavour to give your Lordships every possible information that I can, and also to convey the substance of your Lordships' remarks, should you so desire, to the Secretary of State.

With regard to the Question which the noble Earl has asked, generally speaking, the County Associations are in the position of ordinary employers of labour, and therefore as regards the rules which they will have to follow they will have the same sources of information as ordinary employers of labour. Employés consist of two classes —first, clerks, storekeepers, grooms, etc., who are employed during the whole of their time; and, secondly—and these, I take it, are the people to whom the noble Earl refers—men employed in part time in cleaning horses and wagons and as markers at ranges. As regards this second class, I am asked to point out that the County Associations have the same opportunity as other employers have of making representations to the Commissioners to obtain a special Order of exemption under Part II of the First Schedule, Paragraph (1), of the Insurance Act, which refers to— employment of any class which may be specified in a special Order as being of such a nature that it is ordinarily adopted as subsidiary employment only, and not as the principal means of livelihood: As regards the question of an increased grant to cover this expense, I may say that the expense will not be at all large. In view of this fact and in view of the grant which has recently been instituted for general purposes the Secretary of State does not see the necessity of instituting any fresh grant to meet this trifling expenditure.


We do not yet know whether the expenditure is going to be trifling or not. I would earnestly press upon the noble Lord that the view of the County Associations is that they have quite as much to do with the existing grants as they can possibly do, and if extra expense is thrown upon them owing to the passing of a measure of this kind surely it is only fair that they should ask that the extra expense should be provided for outside the existing grants.


If this new expense turns out to be a very grave burden upon the associations the matter will naturally have to be reconsidered; but as at present informed the Secretary of State desires me to say that he does not consider the expense will be such as to justify making any alteration in the existing state of affairs.


I understand that if the expense is larger than is anticipated it will be met by an extra grant?


I did not say that; but if it proves to be a real burden upon the County Associations the matter may have to be reconsidered.