§ 3.15 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING rose to call attention to the need for revision and extension of the Government's schemes for securing civilian employment for officers on the termination of their service, with special reference to the position of officers over 45 years of age; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I have recently had the opportunity, through the kindness of the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War, who is, I understand, to reply to this debate, to pay a visit to a Dispersal Centre, and I hope that others of your Lordships will take advantage of the facilities which he has been good enough to arrange, to make similar visits, for you will, I am sure from my own experience, find it an extremely impressive and satisfying piece of organization.
§ But, my Lords, what then? When all these attractive garments have been what the War Office presumably call "em-boxed" in a cardboard container and borne away by a demobilized soldier, what is the next stage? Actually, I am told that the immediate next stage is that a nice kind gentleman meets you at the corner of the street and offers you £20 for the lot. But I was looking perhaps a little further ahead than that. What are the prospects of these people who arc emerging from the Services into civilian life? Mr. Charles Morgan, in one of his books, has written that there are not any rewards from a modern victory for the generation that won it, and many of us have had a two-fold opportunity of judging the truth of that saying. I am, how- 413 ever, to-day not asking for rewards, but merely contending that it is neither just to the individual nor worthy of the community that, so far as we can contrive to avoid it, a man should find himself worse off at the end of six years' arduous service to his country than he was at the outset. That may not seem a very exalted standard to set, but it is not an easy standard to attain.
§ In this Motion I have confined myself to officers, not from any sentiment of class consciousness, which indeed would be wholly misplaced in the Army of to-day. Fortunately in this war we never heard that revolting expression "a temporary gentleman," which did so much more discredit to the user than to the subject. But I have chosen to confine it to officers for three main reasons. In the first place, I believe that at least at the present stage of demobilization there is little or no difficulty in the way of other ranks obtaining employment—indeed, there is a shortage of applicants. Further, officers are, on the whole, less benefited by the provisions which exist for the reinstatement of persons on the termination of their service into their former employment, because many of them maintained businesses of their own. In the third place, and I think the most important, these are men who have graduated in a very exacting school and have qualified themselves for leadership. They are the men who, during this period of transition from war to peace, should be given the first and best opportunities to put at the disposal of the country just those qualities—concentration, initiative, fortitude and patience—which they have acquired or developed during their service in the course of the war.
§ I shall probably be told by the noble Lord who is replying that it is not possible in this equalitarian age to distinguish between officers and other ranks when you come to a question of employment in civil life. But a discrimination is going on at this moment. Whilst men are being released from the Army, officers in the same age groups are being retained for considerable periods after they expected to be released. Relying upon a series of assurances as to the inexorable revolutions of the machinery of age plus length of service, many of these men have obtained jobs, have found, not without difficulty, homes to live in, have arranged for their wives 414 to vacate such separate employments as they were carrying on, and then have found themselves, at short notice, confronted by all the hardships of having those arrangements more or less indefinitely suspended. If we are not going to treat our officers better than our other ranks, we might at least not treat them worse.
§ I have not put down this Motion with the primary object of criticizing the. Government. Indeed the instinct of self-preservation would teach me not to do that because when, a little time ago, I ventured upon some very mild criticism, The Times parliamentary report the next morning publicly degraded me to Viscount. I realize I must walk warily or tomorrow I may find myself a mere Baronet, with no right to address your Lordships at all. Apart from that, I want less to criticize than to give to the Government spokesman an opportunity to dispel, as far as possible, those anxieties which very genuinely weigh upon numbers of officers who have either quitted the various Services or are confronted with the immediate prospect of quitting. The last thing I want to do by this Motion is to shake the confidence of officers in the machinery which has been established for their benefit, but I cannot, having regard to my correspondence, disguise from myself the fact that that confidence is in some degree shaken, and not without cause. I am not alone in that; my noble friend Lord Rennell authorizes me to say that his correspondence shows exactly the same features as my own.
§ If I deal, in what I have further to say, largely with the older officers and with the officers of the Army, it is because it so chances that it is with them that my own personal experience has recently been, and not because I disregard such hardships as may affect the younger officers in that and other Services. I hope that others who are good enough to support my Motion will cover much of the ground that I leave uncovered. In any case, young men are not coming out in great numbers at the moment. It may be that the interval between now and their emergence can be used to overhaul the machinery where it is found to be in need of overhaul. But what of the older men; what of the men over 45? What are the prospects for them? In many cases they are men skilled and experienced in administration and in 415 man-management. They are coming out and already many of them have begun that weary pilgrimage from firm to firm in search of a job, being greeted on each occasion with the answer: "Yes, you are just the kind of man we should like to employ; you are the type of man who ought to hold one of the managerial posts in our business. However, we have not any men for you to manage, they arc still in the Armed Forces; and if we had any men for you to manage there would be no raw material for them to work on because none has yet been released." From the point of view of these applicants for employment, that is an irrefutable argument.
§ Remember, these are not men with large resources behind them. In many cases they are men who have given up the whole of that which they have built up over the past twenty years, men whose businesses have collapsed during their absence, whose homes may have been destroyed and whose future is wholly precarious. What is to happen to them? Is it to be the Labour Exchange and the "dole"; or is it to be the Officers' Association and charity? That, surely is' not to be the tangible form of Parliament's thanks to the Armed Forces, which was so handsomely expressed in this House only a few weeks ago. Or are they to live on their gratuities—when they get them—for as long as they last? Or are they to invest yet again in chicken farms and roadhouses, ruining themselves and the countryside at the same time? I would make to the noble Lord two suggestions for bridging that temporary gap, because it is a temporary gap, although perhaps not a brief one. There will be four and a half million men under arms at the end of this year and two and a quarter million still under arms by the end of next June. It will not be to-morrow or the next day that these managerial posts will be ready for these men. The first suggestion I would make to the noble Lord is that there are in Government employment over a very wide field a large number of young men who might even benefit by a period of military service, their places being taken by the older men.
§ My second suggestion is this. The important people to get out of the Army now are the young men who have not yet had an opportunity to train themselves for the future, young men for whom these 416 schemes of vocational training and further training and education have been largely, if not exclusively, designed. They are the men who ought to be free to educate themselves. Instead of that, they are being kept in the Army, and the older men, most of whom would be only too glad to be left where they are, are coming out. I suggest that it is by no means too late. Many of those men, having experienced the current brand of civilian life, would like nothing better than to be taken back into the Services, or into U.N.R.R.A. or into Military Government, where they could well replace younger men, who might be free to qualify themselves for life.
§ Let us show a little imagination and for once let the older men step into the shoes of the young. People tell me sometimes in this connexion that a number of officers suffer from swollen head and will not take the jobs which are offered to them—when jobs are offered to them—because they think that they have become too good for that kind of work. That may be a very reprehensible attitude, but before we criticize and condemn them let us pause for a moment and consider what is involved. Is it to be said that because before he went into one of the Services a man was wrapping fish or cutting up silk or doing joinery, he is for ever afterwards to be condemned to wrap fish or cut silk or do joinery? Or is he entitled to say, "During these six years of my service to the country I have found myself; why should you now condemn me to lose myself again, just when you want people of my type to help with the reconstruction of the country?" Do not let us be too hasty in condemning these officers who want to embark upon a better career than the one which they had before they blossomed out during their period of service to the nation.
§ That brings me to the consideration of the actual methods of interview and selection for appointment. There are, I believe, thirteen appointment centres throughout the country, and of course a number of labour exchanges which deal with the question of placing all ranks. I should like to know, if the noble Lord can tell me, the number of officers on the books of these various appointment centres and the proportion of them since demobilization began who have been placed by those appointment centres in 417 jobs. I understand from the letters which reach me that the position as regards interviewing is this. The Regular officer who is leaving the Service is, quite rightly, interviewed by a Board which is composed of other Regular officers. The temporary officer is interviewed in the great majority of cases by an official of the Ministry of Labour, a civilian who, far more often than not, has never been anything but a civillian who does not know the Service background of the man he is interviewing, and who cannot judge the qualities which that man has been bound to display before he attained the rank to which he may have attained, but who can judge only the civilian side and endeavour to place him with reference to the occupation which he was following when he went into the Service. If that be right, I for one cannot regard it as a satisfactory method of conducting these interviews.
§ I am told—the noble Lord will be able to check me if I am wrong—that at one if not more labour exchanges, if you succeed in penetrating the outer defences and get through to the head of the office you will be confronted by a lady, whose business it is to settle the future of these officers. I yield to no man and to comparatively few women in my admiration of women and the work that they do, but I find it difficult to think that this is a suitable occupation for them or that this lady's presence would give great confidence to the applicant who was being interviewed. You might as well turn to the Commandos and ask them to provide you with a matron for a maternity home, except that, being grounded in versatility; they would probably comply!
§ Again, are jobs (when there are jobs) handed out in sheaves to anyone who comes along on a particular day, in the same way that house agents used to hand to any applicant a list of houses vacant—in the clays when there were houses vacant—or are they given to suitable applicants one after the other, so that for each job there is not a queue waiting outside the office, jostling one another to get in first? Is there any follow-up? Does anybody know, when people are sent off to a job, whether they have been accepted or rejected, and, if they have been accepted, arc steps taken to see that no further applicants are sent 418 chasing after that job; or, if they are rejected, are steps taken to see that as soon as possible some other suitable applicant is sent to make application for the job?
§ There is another matter that I want to mention. There is provision for making a £150 grant in certain cases, but, for reasons which I fail to understand, that grant is available only for the reopening of a previously-existing business. Why should not that grant be available to any man who can honestly show that he wants to start a new business, if there is room for a new business in the area? It may be said that a number of redundant businesses would be started. It is highly probable that at the time of their foundation Harrods, the Army and Navy Stores, Gamages and the rest were all considered redundant, especially by their competitors in the same neighbourhood. There can surely be no excuse for strangling enterprise in this way, and withholding this £150 grant from men who want to start a new business and earn their livelihood by it.
§ There have been in the course of the preparation of this scheme a very large number of committees, and they have produced, no doubt, numbers of valuable reports; but even the bulkiest report is poor sustenance for a hungry man. I hope that the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, will be able to give some picture of the actual machinery, of the opportunities which exist, and of the vacancies which have been filled, which will bring a little comfort to those who have already taken the plunge into the chilly waters of civilian life or who are still shivering on the brink.
I have dealt only with one limited aspect of the whole wide problem of demobilization which was recently debated in your Lordships' House, but let me add one final, if perhaps somewhat postdated, observation on that general position. It was a satisfaction in that debate to hear the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack say that the Government were not pledged to the preservation of every jot and tittle of the present scheme and that if a good case could be made out for some alteration, alteration could be made. It seems strange and some what ironical to have to remind this of all Governments that in this whole ques-
tion of demobilization there are not two but three parties—not merely the Government and the Service personnel, but the Government, the Service personnel, and the country—and that in seeking to do absolute justice to the individual they may well be doing relative injustice to the community at large. I would remind them of one sentence written by the historian Lord Acton, in connexion with the French Revolution. And in mentioning the French Revolution I am not, necessarily, accusing noble Lords on the Government Bench of plotting a Reign of Terror—a Reign of Error is quite inconvenient enough. The sentence that I commend to them is this —it holds, I think, upon the whole of this problem of demobilization a very profound truth:
The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion for equality made vain the hope of freedom.
§ My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 3.42. p.m.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, the House has listened with great interest and, I suspect, with some little concern, to the speech of the noble Marquess. I venture to think that no subject could be brought up at a more opportune time for discussion in your Lordships' House. Such information as has come my way has, I am bound to say, been largely in corroboration of the story we have just heard as regards the potential employment of officers. The story, so far as my correspondence goes, is, in many cases, of frustration and, in certain cases, of disillusionment. It seems to me once more the same old dismal story, the rather melancholy repetition of the action of the Government of the day—I am not necessarily making any attack on the present Government—in adopting a negative attitude towards the welfare of the country's Armed Forces when once the nation is no longer in danger. It is a deplorable fact, as your Lordships well know, that while war is being waged and the country is dependent for its safety upon the efficiency and self-sacrifice of its sailors, soldiers and airmen, nothing is too good for our officers and men, no effort is spared for their better comfort and well-being generally. And on the conclusion of hostilities resolutions are passed—as they were the other day in both Houses of Parliament—thanking the Services for their heroism and endurance.
420 And there the matter seems to end. No implementing of the country's gratitude into any practical action. No translation of words into deeds. In fact, on this occasion less than ever before in that even the traditional grants of monetary awards to our great war leaders have this time been denied to them. What lack of generosity, what absence of imagination is here. Have the Government ever stopped to consider that those awards in the past have been not only a gesture of thanks to and admiration for those war leaders personally, but a practical expression of the country's gratitude and pride to all those officers and men of all the Armies who have fought and endured under their command? And who can doubt that the act of honouring their leaders has been taken by those hundreds of thousands of officers and men of all arms as an honour to themselves and to their units? Gratitude is not enough. Remembrance is not enough. We owe a debt to-those who have come through great tribulation, who have fought and survived the manifold perils of the last six years, and nothing should be left undone to discharge the obligation, which I feel we are bound to honour, of looking after the officers and men —for I include both categories—in the aftermath of the war.
There is little I can usefully add in support of the Motion which has been so ably and, as was to be expected, so eloquently moved by the noble Marquess, but there are just two points, of which I have given notice to the Minister who is to reply, upon which, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to say a word or two. I have no detailed information of the machinery at the Ministry of Labour which operates the actual submission of names of candidates to fill whatever vacancies occur. I understand that here, in London, at the Ministry of Labour, there is a senior officer of one of the Services—I think a Flag Officer in the Navy—who has working under him three separate staffs of naval officers, military officers and air officers, whose duty it is to interview and to record; that is to interview the officers who come for employment and to record their various qualifications. From the records, these names are submitted in some way as jobs occur.
In passing, I may say that I should be grateful (if I may repeat the question 421 which the noble Marquess has already raised) to know from the Minister whether in fact these Service staffs do interview only the ex-Regular officers and not the ex-temporaries. It would appear to me to be undesirable for ex-temporary officers to be interviewed by civil servants, except by their own wish. Civil servants or civilians at the Ministry of Labour are probably in no position to know, as the noble Marquess has said, the qualifications of these officers who have spent the last six years in the service of their country. The specific information which I should like to have upon this first point is this. Are the nominations of ex-officers, which are submitted by the authority 1 have named, given in every case the same consideration as nominations from civilian sources? In particular, are the nominations of unemployed ex-officers given priority over the nominations of civilians who are already in some form of employment? I do not suggest, for a moment, that priority should be given to the unemployed ex-officer over the unemployed civilian, but I do suggest that the claims Of the civilian who is already in some form of employment arid is seeking to better his position should come second to the claims of the ex-officer who is in no form of employment at all. Particularly, of course, does this affect the older officer, the desperation of whose position needs no stressing in your Lordships' House.
This leads me to my second point. In the Navy—I do not think this occurs in either of the other two Services—there is a small band of older officers who, after some years' service, were placed voluntarily upon the Emergency List prior to the 1914–18 war. They were called up for service in that war and served throughout and on the conclusion of hostilities they reverted to the Emergency List. Once more they were called up in this war and they are again in the process of being reverted to the Emergency List. These officers—and I stress that their numbers are very small—are in receipt of no gratuity or pension other than the war gratuity which is payable to all ranks and ratings on the conclusion of hostilities. They have already experienced, after the last war, the difficulties of starting again in civilian life. They now have to face an infinitely more difficult position by reason of the fact that they are of an age between 55 and 60. Their prospects are bleak indeed.
422 To cite a particular case within my own knowledge, an officer had nine years' service prior to being put on the List. He served in both wars and to-day has twenty years' active service to his credit. His position is similar to that of those who were placed on the retired list after the last war and who received a gratuity or pension. But by reason of the fact that he chanced to go on the Emergency List before the war, he is entitled neither to a pension nor a gratuity. This is not an occasion on which to advocate the reconsideration of such cases from a financial point of view, but I urge that special consideration should be given to assuring them civilian employment as far as possible, remembering that it is not their own fault that they have been placed in the position I have described, a position which will commend itself to your Lordships' sympathy and, I hope, to the sympathetic consideration of His Majesty's Government. His Majesty's Government have shown little enough timidity in instituting changes of a far-reaching character in the ordinary economy of this country. There has been no lack of initiative in certain measures they are introducing, hive introduced or are proposing to introduce, which command a limited degree of support from a fractional section of the community. If they will only show no less initiative in tackling this question of the employment of our ex-officers, I feel that they will come nearer to gaining that universal support which so far has eluded them.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ LORD POLWARTH
My Lords, I understand that it is your Lordships' custom to extend a measure of indulgence to those who address you for the first time. I would crave a full measure of indulgence for one who has had little opportunity in the last six years to practice the art of speaking. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has given us a most eloquent description of the plight of the older officers who seek employment on leaving the Services. I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a very few moments while I try to show that there is just as serious a need to help the very much larger number of younger officers who are, for the most part, still serving but who will very soon be coming out in large numbers. When the war began a great many of us were just leaving schools or universities. A great many 423 more have since cut short their studies in order to join the Services. Unlike our uncles and older cousins, the over-45's, most of us have had no opportunity of acquiring any qualifications or training for a specific civilian job. Some of us had made up our minds what our career was to be. A great many of us had not decided and the war has made that decision a great deal harder. I think your. Lordships will agree that now more than ever before it is the possession of the right qualifications and training which get a man a job rather than any consideration of standing or class, and very rightly so.
Here you have a whole generation of us who have sacrificed six of those very years which we should normally have spent in acquiring those very qualifications. I know that during those years we have learnt a great veal which we could never have learnt in civilian life and for which our lives will be the richer, but there is a tendency among certain of our potential employers to regard us as a lot of somewhat ignorant young fellows with a rather exaggerated idea of what we can do in civilian life. Surely the loss of six of these years when we should have been acquiring this training is just as serious as the loss of six years beyond the age of 40 when a man has already had the opportunity of becoming proficient in a career. I know that the Government have prepared schemes for assisting a man to choose a career, to train in a career and finally to find a job. I do not want to find fault with these schemes. I think they are excellent so far as they go, but there are two points to which I want to call your Lordships' attention.
First of all, there is the question of choosing a career. Surely the choice of a career can never have been more difficult than at this moment when the future of so many industries and professions can only be seen most indistinctly. It is here that the officer is at a certain disadvantage compared with the other rank. The other rank, leaving school at an early age, has normally had a job before joining the Services. He has this job to which he can return or at least which will guide him in his choice of a career when he leaves the Services. For the most part, the men for whom I speak—the men under thirty—had not had a job when they joined. I know that there is a re- 424 settlement advice service of the Ministry of Labour which exists to give advice about careers. There are also the Appointments Offices to which the noble Marquess made reference. I have actually been to offices of both these organizations. I must confess that they were not a little surprised to be approached by a member of your Lordships' House, but when I had convinced them that the occupation of a Peer was not necessarily a whole-time occupation, they could not have been more charming or helpful.
But this is where the gap appears. The Resettlement Advice Service can give a little general information about different careers. It can tell you how much you will earn in one and in another, if you are lucky, but that is as far as it can go. The Appointments Offices are there for the sole function of finding a definite job for a man with certain definite qualifications. What is lacking is anything which can give really sound advice to the man who has not yet decided what his career is to be. I should like to suggest to the noble Lord who is to reply that some organization should be set up on similar lines to the Appointments Boards which exist at our universities, where there would be skilled personnel with a really wide knowledge of affairs in the world of business and commerce to-day— Boards which would have the very latest information about the prospects in every different profession and industry, and whose information would include the prospects in those industries for which the Government are proposing to make themselves responsible.
I will give your Lordships an example. I asked at an Appointments Office what were the prospects, or what were likely to be the prospects, in connexion with civil aviation. I am not an airman, but it is a subject in which I am interested. I was told that at present there were no openings available, and that they could not offer me any prospects yet. Surely, that is a poor sort of answer to give to those thousands of keen young officers who are now and shortly coming out of the R.A.F. and who are both eager and eminently suited to take up posts in this great concern of the future. That is just an example, I suggest that we must have boards of this sort able to give full information about all possible careers.
My second point concerns training for a career. I know there is the Government's 425 further education and training scheme. That is a very excellent scheme for those who wish to take up a career for which there is some recognized course of training. But there are a great number of careers for which no such course of training has existed in the past, and where the normal practice has been for an entrant to start at the very bottom as an office boy and work his way up through the different stages. It was to find some means of filling this gap that, in February this year, a committee was appointed by the late Government under Sir Frank Newsome-Smith to make a report on possible means of training ex-Service men in business methods. In September of this year they made their report. I am sure your Lordships are all familiar with that report, and I will not go into any details about it. Briefly, it recommended a general course in business training, either three months' whole-time or longer part-time, to be available to all ex-Service personnel. This is a splendid scheme, and I can tell you from my own experience that the publication of this report has given great heart to a large number of young officers who were undecided what to do when they came out of the Services. A great many of them had previously felt that if they went into commerce or industry with no previous experience they would be left at the start. This report is just what they want.
In his reply, I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us what has been done about this report, and when the first course under this scheme is going to start. I would also like him to tell us, when it does start, for how many officers and men it will be able to cater, both initially and in the long run. I will not keep your Lordships longer. I know that in all these matters there should not be a distinction between officers and other ranks, but the officer is at a disadvantage in a number of ways, in particular owing to his much heavier responsibility. He has not the time to take advantage of the Forces' educational and vocational schemes. I speak from my own experience; officers have their time cut out trying to run the scheme for their men with very little material and very few instructors. Those for whom I have been speaking are not waiting helplessly, asking to be spoon-fed or pampered by the authorities. But the officers of this war will be the country's leaders of the future, and, unless they are 426 given every opportunity now to get away to a flying start in civilian life, the loss of those years will be not only their loss but the country's.
§ 4.7 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure you will all wish to join with me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, on a very excellent maiden speech. As one young man who has fought in this war, I heartily endorse everything the noble Lord has said. There is a great deal of concern among the younger members of His Majesty's Forces. I am going to speak particularly with reference to members of the "Wavy Navy" to which I was proud and privileged to belong. I am going to quote to your Lordships an instance of what happened to a brother officer of mine when he applied for a job. The interview was going quite nicety, when he was suddenly asked, "What were you doing in the war?" "Oh," he said, "I was in Light Coastal Forces." His prospective employer turned round and said to him, "I am afraid you will not do; you must, obviously, be far too scatter-brained." That brother officer had a D.S.C. and Bar, and I do riot think that is quite the right way to treat a gallant gentleman.
We have also, primarily, in our Service in the Navy—and it is a point which causes me special concern—the development of radar. At the outbreak of war, there were no regular radar officers in the Royal Navy; I do not think radar existed. I do not know the exact percentage of regular radar officers now in the Royal Navy, but I do know from my own experience that 98 or 99 per cent. are volunteers, highly skilled young technical officers. These officers are going to be at a severe disadvantage because it is obvious that, until regular radar officers are in The Navy, they cannot be released. By the time they do get out, nearly all the good jobs—in fact, all the good jobs—will have gone. There is also another point that I have in mind. An officer who was my late commanding officer, and who had command of some 1,500 men, ran a very successful private business with a partner before the war. When the war came, both he and his partner joined up straight away and closed down their business in the hope that, as the noble Marquess said, they would not be worse off at the end of the war. Unfortunately, 427 this particular officer—and there are thousands like him—is a great deal worse off. Not only has he got no business, but he has been told he cannot start his business again. Surely, that is not the way to treat a gallant officer.
Being connected primarily with the Light Coastal Forces, where we were ail young people, nineteen or twenty years of age—perhaps one was considered old at twenty-seven—I have had connexions recently with a lot of young people who are keen to go to the universities to study. They do not know what, but they want to go and study. They are told, however, that they cannot get out until their release group comes up. Surely some kind of indulgence might be granted to these people who want and specifically state that they want to go to the university or to study for the law. Surely they might be granted leave, even if unpaid leave, to go and take their courses. I do not propose to detain your Lordships much longer, but there is a feeling, which is a bad feeling to arise, that "We do not know what we are going to do, so we had better sign on for another year.'' Surely one could hold out some faint hope or offer some idea as to what these young officers could do, instead of their just postponing the evil day of becoming a civilian again by signing on for another year.
§ 4.11 p.m.
My Lords, I rise with great temerity to address your Lordships for the first time, and I crave the indulgence which is so courteously given to one in my position. This Motion, as seems to me, raises no Party issue in any shape or form but is simply an inter-Services human concern. Nevertheless, I propose to plead to your Lordships the cause of the retired officers of the Royal Navy, to put their viewpoint and to endeavour to show that they come in a somewhat different category from the general run of retired officers. As I think the debate has shown, it is the demobilized temporary officers who are generally considered. As your Lordships undoubtedly know, to become a Regular officer in the Royal Navy, a boy leaves his private school at the age of thirteen and goes to Dartmouth, where he stays for four years. When he gets there he finds that the system of education and the general curricu- 428 lum differs in very many respects from that of the ordinary public school. He says good-bye to the classics entirely, and instead has to devote himself to learning the arts and crafts of a deep sea sailor.
At the end of four years in this somewhat specialized education, he goes straight to sea. This is at an age when other young men either go to a university or are able to study some business or trade. He continues for the next five or six years, practising his own trade and becoming a proficient naval officer, and at the end of that time a great number of these men decide to take up some specialized branch of the Service, such as gunnery, torpedoes, navigation and so on—all highly technical subjects and necessitating intensive courses. When they have qualified they return to sea in their particular specialized branch. A few years later, owing to the fact that all officers cannot reach high rank, there has to be a weeding out and consequently compulsory retirements of some of these officers. This goes on, year in and year out, unaffected by war—it happens in peace-time. Thus we get a situation where every year a certain number of most efficient and some highly technical officers are placed on the retired list, having spent the whole of their lives from a young age in the sea service. For this reason and the fact that they have had this limited education and not been able to go to a university or to study some business or trade even for a short time, I contend that these officers are in a very different category from the masses of retired officers which war, or the termination of war, creates.
The Admiralty owe some moral obligation to these unfortunate officers and are only too anxious to discharge it. The problem is, how best to do so. To show your Lordships that this concern is genuine, I understand that two distinguished officers from the Admiralty are listening this afternoon to your Lordships' debate. There is, I think, a solution, or at any rate a partial solution, to the problem. That is that these officers to whom I have referred, the Regular retired officers (and my proposal is limited to them) should be entirely free from the present Government schemes for employment, and that the Admiralty should be allowed on their own to approach industry in their own way, to make their own personal contacts and keep their own 429 liaison. This would undoubtedly appeal to the officers themselves. A still more important point, which raises a much wider issue than this Motion calls for, is the fact that it might have a very great bearing on future recruitment to the Service. But I leave that issue for another time.
There is in this country a not inconsiderable section of industry who are very kindly disposed towards the Navy—I refer not only to the shipbuilders but to all those contractors and manufacturers of naval armaments and equipment. During this war, for the first time—it never happened in the last war—they have all worked very closely indeed with the Admiralty, and they have had constant and sometimes daily personal contact with naval officers, mostly officers attached to the Naval Ordnance Departments, on questions of design, inspection and other technical requirements of the Admiralty. During this time there has grown up between them quite a friendly feeling of mutual respect. They have had to work together, they have learnt to appreciate one another's point of view and, at long last, they have been able to see each other's virtues. I am convinced, from conversations I have had, that if the Admiralty approach these concerns in their own way—and I suggest that the Government can have no reasonable objection to it—they will be welcomed with whole-hearted co-operation and much friendliness, and it will provide many opportunities for some of the best human material that this country produces.
One further point. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, said about civil aviation, I did read in the Press some two or three weeks ago that there were a thousand jobs going in B.O.A.C., which fact had, quite properly, been circulated round all the R.A.F. messes. Although, I suppose, it is quite impracticable, I was sorry to see no mention of the Fleet Air Arm, which in this war has shown itself to be as skilful as its counterpart ashore.
I have one final suggestion to make. I was going to ask the noble Lord, the Minister of Civil Aviation—who I see is not in his place but who will, I hope, read this debate—whether, in the event of the inauguration of a flying boat service, he would not forget the flying personnel who have been hatched out under the wing of his first love. I apologize if I have kept your Lordships too long.
§ 4.21 p.m.
My Lords, although I have only once addressed your Lordships, it is my great pleasure to congratulate on his maiden speech the noble Lord who has just sat down. I feel that if I could speak to you with the same dignity and calm and use words of such good sense, I could consider myself as of very great value in your Lordships' House. When I was first released from the Army I received, as everyone else did, a copy of that excellent pamphlet, Release and Resettlement. Although I was not myself looking for a job, I read it very carefully and with one exception, to which I will refer later, I felt that anyone who was in doubt about his future would be definitely reassured. May I quote one sentence from the last page of the book?Remember your rights will be safeguarded and the measures to assist in your resettlement which are described in this booklet will be available whenever you arc released.'That seemed to me to infer that the misery which came after the last war would not be repeated and that everyone would have a fair chance in his future civil employment. I realize that this book was written when the Coalition Government was in power, but, as has been quite rightly said, this is not a Party issue. I hope that not only will this Government accept and act on what is in that book, but that they will make great improvements in that connexion in the near future.
The Ministry of Labour, with its subsidiaries, the Resettlement Advice Bureaux and the Appointments Board, deals with the question of the ex-Service man. I feel that although the individuals in those bureaux are doing everything they can to help, things are most definitely going wrong. Before I deal with those bureaux I should like to make one general point, and that is with regard to employers. Your Lordships know that under the Act of 1944 employers are forced to take back into their service people who were employed by them before the war and to keep them for a period of either 26 or 52 weeks. A very fine example has been set by the big institutions, such as the banks. Not only are they welcoming their people back, but they are giving them courses to bring them up to date and are helping them in every way to get back into the life to which they were accustomed before the war. Unfortunately, however, there are certain 431 employers—I am sure they are only few in number, but nevertheless there are some —who, although keeping just within the law, are not carrying out their moral responsibilities to these people. Instead of welcoming them back, they are treating them as a definite burden. I can quote one example. I spoke to a manager who quite openly told me that the people he had had temporarily during the war were very much better than any of those who had gone into the Services and he sincerely hoped that only a few of them would come back. That is not a very pleasant attitude to adopt and it is not very encouraging to the returning soldier
It has been suggested that there is another side to this question. It has been said that these people are coming back with an exalted idea of their own worth. I am afraid I cannot possibly agree with that. These people, who were quite often junior clerks, office boys or people holding quite subordinate positions in offices and factories, joined up and not only did they become N.C.O's, but they became officers, sometimes of quite high rank, during the years when they were away. Surely such men as those are going to be an asset and not a liability when they return to their former employment. Although I believe there are one or two very few—cases of over-quick promotion turning the heads of young officers, I think during the two months' leave which they will have when they first come back that failing will disappear completely and they will be perfectly reasonable and willing to take a normal job
Now I want to go into the question of the Resettlement Advice Bureaux and the Appointments Bureaux. The Resettlement Advice Bureaux do not really come into the scope of this debate, because they only give advice and do not pretend to find jobs. I went to visit one, and I would like to say how very impressed I was with the efficiency of the arrangements that were made to welcome anyone who went to seek advice. In every case they seem to take an enormous amount of trouble, so that the individual worries of the officer and man are dealt with as speedily as possible. But that is only advice; it does not get jobs. It is on the question of what happens in the Appointments Bureau that we get into real trouble. Recently I joined the com- 432 mittee of the Royal Artillery Association. That is a voluntary organization, as your Lordships probably know, which deals with the employment of ex-gunners. They are doing a remarkable piece of work in getting jobs for ex-Service men. It is because of the discussions I had with them and the example they set that I am taking part in this debate this afternoon
There seem to me to be two chief causes of trouble in the Appointments Bureaux in dealing with ex-Service men. The fir t is the gesture of drafting people to other jobs if they have not got a job to go back to. May I quote one other sentence from this little pamphlet, because, after all, this is the book that everyone takes and reads before he leaves the Army. It says:But if, after the end of your paid leave, you are unemployed or become unemployed and are available for work it will be open to the Ministry or Labour anti National in appropriate cases and where necessary, to direct you to work in accordance with the national needs at the time and the usual safe guards of appeal will apply.After six years in the Army or in any of the other Services, the last thing that an officer or man wants is any feeling of compulsion. I should have thought there were better ways of finding work for these people than by threatening them with possibly quite different jobs from those they hope to get or are entitled to receive
The main reason for the trouble, I feel, is the complete lack of contacts there appear to be in the Appointments Bureaux. In the R.A. Association the people will do anything in their power to find jobs for those who come and ask for them. Only in the past few weeks, as one small example, they went to a leading West End hotel, and there obtained work for four officer, and two other ranks. The Appointments Bureaux appear to wait for the employer to offer a job, instead of going out to find it. This difficulty is going to be very much greater when the big groups between Group 24 and Group 30 come out, and there will be far more people unemployed temporarily than there have been for some considerable time
I do not want to weary your Lordships with examples, although I could go on for a very long time giving examples of what people have found by going to the Appointments Bureaux, but I want to show you the kind of thing that happens when people do go there, and therefore 433 I propose to give two examples. The first is that of an officer who went to the Newcastle bureau for work. He was told to come for an interview in a week's time. This he did, and he first saw a lady who sent him to another part of the bureau, where he gave all the information required and told them all that he could. All that happened was that the interviewer picked up the telephone and spoke to one of his staff, asking him whether there was a job vacant, and the answer was No. This was some months ago, and since then nothing has been, heard. The work that this man wanted was in the textile trade, and that does not seem to me to be very out-of-the-way work to want
The second example is of a man who wanted a situation in the Ministry of Labour itself. His reason was that for five years before the-war he ran his own commercial employment bureau. After some delay he was told that he might apply for the position of officer, third class. He applied for this, but did not get it. He then asked for an interview to see whether he could work in one of the offices run by the Government, and the only reply he got was. "We are very short of staff, and you will have to wait a considerable time before you get an interview." Only a few days ago an officer went to an appointments bureau and was greeted with the words, "There are an awful lot of officers who appear to come here, and we have very few jobs." The R.A. Association and other voluntary organizations have been approached and are still being approached by people who are willing to give jobs, and especially in the case of the Army to people of the Lieutenant or Captain-and-Quartermaster class. I feel that a great deal more could be done by these Appointments Bureaux to take work from the voluntary organizations which is really theirs to do
I realize that what I have said so far has been entirely destructive. Before I sit down, I should like to say one or two possibly constructive things which may help in a very small way. The first point that I want to raise is that of companies in which there is an age limit. There are a great many very big companies who refuse to take people over a certain age. The usual age is 30. A man under 30 now would have been 434 under 24 before the war. At the normal age for applying for some of these jobs, 25 or 26, a man would have been 17 or 18 before the war, which would mean that he would be unable to take the job simply because he had not reached the required standard of education. I suggest that these companies be asked, and not only asked but forced, to raise their age limit to, say, 35, so that these people, who were too young to qualify before the war, can have a chance of going into these companies now. I feel that that might in no small way ease the position in future
Finally, there is the question of the over forty-fives. You have heard such good speeches this afternoon from people who in age make me appear to be an old man that I feel that I should like to say something about people who are even older than I am. These forty-fives have not only spent the last six years at war, but spent four years at war in the war of 1914–1918, which means that almost 20 per cent. of their lives has been spent at war. Surely these people are some use in the Army and in administrative jobs to-day? Let me give one very short example. A man came to us who was over 45, who had been in the Regular Army all his life. We applied through the D.D.S. & T. for a job as barrack warden for him, and the answer was, "We are sorry, but we cannot give him the job, because he is over 45 years old."
This links up with the very serious question which has been raised in another place about the future of our Army. We cannot ask the Government to state what size the Army is going to be, because it depends on many things, and probably even the Government do not know at the moment. But it would be valuable to have some basic idea, so that we could know whether these officers, and the older administrative officers, would be wanted not for a year or two—that is no good—but in permanent jobs. I feel that that, too, might help to solve this problem. What I really ask for, and what I think all your Lordships want, is a square deal for the people who fought in this war and in the last war. I do not think I need say that if it had not been for what they have done neither you nor I would be here to-day, and it would not matter what Government were 435 in power, for the people really in control would be those people who are now sitting in the dock at Nuremberg.
§ 4.38 p.m.
THE EARL OF CAVAN
My Lords, I apologize for rising at this late hour. I had no intention of speaking, but I was greatly moved by what was said by the noble Marquess, and in the very excellent maiden speeches to which we have listened, and especially that of my noble friend Lord Polwarth. I think that something could be said by a very old soldier, although my experience is of the war of 1914–18 and of the Boer War rather than of the war that has just concluded. As Chairman of the Army Benevolent Association, however, I am brought in touch with modern feeling and modern thought.
The only point that I want to make is that there seem to me at the moment to be two alternatives before these officers who are as unfortunately placed as the noble Marquess has said. They can either sign on the dotted line and go on soldiering, as a good many of them want to do, or they can go into civilian life. They can sign for another year, hoping that the position will be clearer by then, but they will not sign to take permanent Commissions until they know the conditions under which they have to serve. What happens if they try to go into civilian life I cannot say, because I know nothing about it, but you have heard the conditions fully described. It seems to me, however, that we are in great danger of falling between two stools and losing the services of these men, who, as Lord Moynihan has said, are of great use to the nation. I hope that in the reply we may hear something about what the conditions are going to be in the Services, the conditions to which these men will be asked to subscribe, or else at least that their prospects in civil life will be greatly bettered from what they appear to he now, judging from the remarks of previous speakers.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, before the noble Lord, the Minister, replies, may I add a few words to those of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who has just addressed us, in order to suggest to the Under-Secretary of State that this problem, which has been discussed to-day, is very closely linked up with the point which was put before him recently and 436 upon which I understand he hopes to make some statement before too long? If he can give definite information as to how many officers have the chance of staying on in the Services and what their conditions of service are to be, he would, I think, very largely help to solve the problem which is confronting the House to-day. My second point is this. In addition to every form of assistance that the Government can give, I think we ought to send out a message to all industry in the country asking it to do everything in its power to absorb these highly trained and brilliant young men who have been serving their country. I would beg that consideration be given to the view that their names should be looked at before the names of those who have not had their whole lives severed, who have not had their whole opportunities of getting into industry eliminated, and who have, in fact, had a less strenuous life during the last five years. If that can be done I feel sure that it will assist greatly.
Now there is a matter which I would like to bring to the notice of noble Lords who have spoken. It is not, perhaps, my business and I know that the noble Lord who is going to answer on behalf of the Government will be able to look after himself and his Department. But what I would like to point out is that this problem has been under consideration before. It was not one, two, or three, but I think more like five years ago that I first presided over a Committee for Educational and Vocational Reform in the Army, the recommendations of which, I think, were adopted without the alteration of a word by the other two Departments. All these problems have been before the minds of those responsible for our Fighting Services, and I would urge that it is after you have given an educational brush-up, and after you have provided a beginning, as it were, that you want assistance. I do hope that it is not true that when officers apply for employment to one of these bodies that have been referred to, they are not received with every kind of sympathy and encouragement. The spirit in which they are met counts for so much, and it is heart-breaking for a man who really has been doing wonderful work, either as an administrator or as a fighting soldier in the field, if he comes home 437 and does not receive all the encouragement which I am sure your Lordships feel that he deserves.
One other point I will touch upon very briefly. I do not quite share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, which he expressed in an admirable maiden speech, that there must be no discrimination as between officers and other ranks. I would ask him to change that word "discrimination." Obviously if business is looking for someone who has been controlling men, an officer who may have had under his administration or control fifty, five hundred or even a thousand men, has experience which I think everybody will agree should entitle him to favourable discrimination. It may very likely be that he is a man who has risen from the ranks and has worked his way up to a very high post in the Army, and surely a man who has proved his qualities of leadership in that way is just the kind of man which industry requires to help in the immense struggle that lies before it. I know that the noble Lord who is going to reply for His Majesty's Government has these matters very much at heart. I hope that he has been stimulated and reinforced by all the admirable speeches which have been delivered by noble Lords, from their hearts to-day, on behalf of these gallant officers and other ranks who have served us so well.
§ 4.45 pm.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD NATHAN)
My Lords, the debate this afternoon, opened by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has been useful, interesting and important. It deals with a subject that affects the minds, and not the minds only but the hearts also, of many of us. But I think the noble Marquess will agree with me that perhaps one of the most interesting and important features of to-day's discussion has been the fact that there have participated in it younger members of your Lordships' House who have actually come to the reinforcement of your Lordships' House from the Forces and who bring with them their experience, their anxieties and their ambitions.
I should wish to express to Lord Polwarth and Lord Hatherton my congratulations upon maiden speeches of charm, information and substance. All 438 the matters that have been raised this afternoon have their own significance in relation to this problem of unemployment. Your Lordships will appreciate that it is not a matter, grave though it is, for which I have departmental responsibility. I am here as spokesman of the Ministry of Labour and National Service. But I have taken pains to inform myself on the subject, and I regret that the noble Marquess, who visited Dispersal Centres of the Army, and has spoken of them in such laudatory terms, has riot been able also to visit the Appointments Office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service —which I, myself, did in order to fortify myself for the purposes of to-clay's discussion.
§ LORD NATHAN
May I say to the noble Marquess and to y our Lordships in general, that every facility will most willingly be accorded to any of your Lordships to visit the Appointments Board if you will be good enough to let me, or the Minister of Labour, know that you would wish to do so?
Before I come more closely to this Motion, let me refer to the suggestion made by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Cavan, my predecessor Lord Croft, and Lord Moynihan, as to the desirability of publishing figures and other information as to terms and conditions of service in -the Army. I would remind your Lordships that only, I think, last week, speaking from this place, I said, on behalf of His Majesty's Government—and I now repeat—that it is hoped that within what will now be quite a few days a statement may be made giving those particulars so far as other ranks are concerned, though there may be short delay so far as the terms and conditions relating to officers are concerned. That is inevitable because of the mechanics of the arrangements in connexion with the conditions and terms of service.
I could have hoped that the noble Marquess, who framed his speech, as his Motion, in terms of officers, would perhaps have adopted a rather wider framework, for really the problem with which we are concerned is resettlement in civilian life of all those who wish to return to normal civilian life either after service in the Forces or after service in some industry of national importance to 439 which they may have been directed or which they may have entered as their contribution to the national war effort. Important though the officer aspect is, it is only a part of the problem and I should prefer to deal with it as a problem relating to ex-Service men as a whole besides those who are seeking new occupations after experience in particular industries of national importance. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn—and I think that this point was also raised by the noble Marquess—that all applicants, whether drawn from the Services or from civilian life, whether officers or other ranks, are treated alike in this service of employment under the Appointments Board, except to the extent that where the conditions and qualifications are equal, preference is given to the ex-Service man, officer or other rank, according to his qualifications for the particular position that may be open.
The noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, asked me a question, in particular, with regard to a relatively small group, consisting in all of a very few, drawn from the Royal Navy—the Emergency List naval officers. I think I might perhaps dispose of that at once. I feel it is courteous that I should do so because he was good enough to give me notice of the question. These officers are men who left the Navy after the last war and who rejoined for this war. Normally they would have had spells of unemployment and therefore that is an advantage over others of the same age. It is not proposed to make any special provision for them; they will stand on the same footing as the others. Lord Hankey gave a great deal of time, thought and energy to presiding over a committee on higher appointments and he used a phrase which, it seems to me, should he adopted almost as the motto of the Minister of Labour in this matter. He defined the objects of such a service as the Appointment Offices as this:To make sure, in the interests of the country as a whole, that full and proper use is made in the future of its greatest single asset—the trained ability and intelligence of its men and women.Consequentlywe must provide men and women, and their employers, with the best available information, advice and help.To that end, a comprehensive service has been organized in three tiers. There 440 are the local employment exchanges, there is what used to be called the Central Registry and which is now known as the Technical and Scientific Register, for those of the higher technical and scientific qualifications, and then there is the great middle range dealt with by the Appointments Offices which deal with' employment in managerial and executive positions and in technical positions not up to the standard of the Central Registry. They deal with all those who are above the level of the employment exchange. Broadly speaking, the employment exchange provides for those up to the point of foreman or clerk, and above that level the Appointments Board operates. It is with the Appointments Offices, the great middle range, that we are alone concerned to-day.
In addition to a head office in London, there are twelve provincial centres and the noble Marquess and others will be interested to learn that the civil servants at the head of each of these offices comprise those with Service experience in four cases—a Brigadier, two Air Commodores and one former Commanding Officer of the Gordon Highlanders who served in command of his regiment in the course of the present war. They are not interviewing officers of whom I am speaking; they are the heads of the branch. In that connexion I might perhaps say in regard to the question raised by the noble Marquess as to a woman being in charge of an office that it is the case that in one of the offices the head of the office is a woman, but she has a staff of men under her. She was carefully selected and was appointed because it was felt that there ought to be at least one senior officer assisting in a service which is to be used by ex-Service women as well as by ex-Service men. It is not her task to be the interviewing officer of men. She is the head of her office. It would be a mistake to think that the scheme is limited to the mere placing of applicants, or finding of vacancies for applicants. It goes far beyond that. It is designed to help the applicant in his choice and to assist him in making his choice effective.
The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, and also Lord Moynihan referred to the Resettlement Advice Bureaux an] spoke of them, I am glad to know, in terms of commendation. It is not any part of the work of the Resettlement Advice Bureaux to find em- 441 ployment. It is the invaluable purpose: of such a bureau to put the applicant in the way of finding the place to which he should go for his particular purpose—it may be to find employment, or to find a house, which is more difficult. In the former case he would be sent to the Appointments Board. The object of the Resettlement Advice Bureaux is to give general information, to put a man on the right way. But there is a careers advice service. That service expresses itself partly in the way of publishing a whole series of booklets which I have brought here with me to show to your Lordships and which I am very ready to hand to any of your Lordships who are interested. There arc 45 of these booklets dealing with upwards of 100 careers. They give a definite description as to the career, the length, manner and cost of training and the places where the training can be undertaken.
Further—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, will be interested in this —there are in each profession and industry, groups of men who have expressed themselves willing (and who do, in fact, function for the purpose), to give advice as to how a particular profession or industry may be entered by applicants. So at that stage, it is not a question of the Civil Service, but of those who are actually engaged in the profession or industry who are ready and willing to give advice. The view was held—and your Lordships will agree—that mere advice is not enough. It is necessary to afford facilities for making that advice effective. Consequently, there has been introduced a scheme for further training and education. Let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Croft, that this scheme is not really the same as that to which he was referring, in the creation of which he played a conspicuous pad. The scheme to which he referred is one which relates to those in the Army, and it is pre-vocational and not vocational, and is really for preparing those in the Army to take advantage of this further scheme when they leave.
§ LORD NATHAN
I am sure there was no misunderstanding in the mind of the noble Lord, but I think it important to point out the difference, because that is a matter for which the War Office is re- 442 sponsible, whereas this scheme is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour as part of industrial and commercial resettlement. It is intended to help those men and women who, at the age when they would normally have been training for a career or a profession, were in the Services or on work of national importance, whose training has been interrupted or who, for one reason or another, are unable to resume their previous careers or require a refresher course. It. may be whole-time or, for those already in a job, it may be part-time. As far as full-time is concerned, payments made by the Exchequer include tuition fees and a maintenance allowance in the case of those going to the universities—the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon—on the same scale as that normally applicable at universities. It is the sort of allowance ordinarily those going to a university might expect to have had from their parents. In connexion with professional or non-university training, there is an allowance of a maximum of £160 a year for a single man, with £100 for a wife if he is married, and, if there be children, £40 for each child, but I ought to say, in order not to mislead the noble Marquess, that this scheme does not apply at present to those who have served in the Regular Army.
There is nothing which is excluded; there is no ability or faculty, which a young man may show he possesses, to which the fullest scope will not he given if he shows himself likely to take advantage of it. The only test is that in industry or commerce, or in the professions, it must be felt that attendance at these courses—because of the expenditure of public money—would materially improve the entrant's prospects in the profession or industry, and that it is to the advantage of the country that he should have this training. If, on the other hand, instead of it being a profession, industry, or commerce, a young man has a special facility for, or skill in, or aptitude for music, painting, or sculpture, or any other of the arts, then, equally, the best opportunities will be given to him, with the assistance of the State, to have the advantage of this scheme.
If your Lordships will bear with me, perhaps I might tell you in this connexion of an experience which I had when I visited the London Appointments Office. I went right round it, and, at 443 one point in my journey round, I found two soldiers—one an officer—being interviewed by, I thought, a very sympathetic interviewer. Knowing the kind of question which the noble Marquess had in mind, I took occasion to ask what the background was of that interviewer. It was the background of a civil servant who had war experience, though only in the last war, but he had that kind of background which enabled him to appreciate the feelings and the ideas of the Service man. One of the young men was rather lame, and I asked him where he came from. He had been wounded, and had been in St. Mary's Hospital. He had entered the Army straight from school—he was a young officer—and he wished to train for the medical profession. Whilst I was there, the necessary arrangements were being set on foot for this scheme to be put into operation with regard to that young man so that he might become a medical student at, I think it was, St. Mary's Hospital.
At the same time, there was another young man in uniform, but this time it was not an officer; it was a corporal in the R.A.M.C. who had, so he told me, in peace-time been a chiropodist. During the war he had acquired some liking for the medical profession, and be, like the officer, was anxious to enter upon study at one of the great teaching hospitals. There, again, the actual arrangements were being made when I was there. I hope both those young men will prosper in their careers. These are merely examples with which I came into contact by chance, as it were, and I thought the noble Marquess might be interested in them.
Reference has been made to the business training scheme resulting from the Business Training Committee which met under the chairmanship of Sir Frank Newsome-Smith, who was, two or three years ago, Lord Mayor of London. It has been recognized that there has been an interruption to recruitment in business and industry which might lead to the loss for half a decade of business executives unless steps were taken to fill this gap. Indeed, one of the great disadvantages of business during the 1930's was that there were so few in industry to step into the places becoming vacant for executive and managerial 444 posts. The scheme is in two parts. There is a course in general administration—and the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, referred to this—covering the structure of the business world and of individual business undertakings and the basic principles of business, and the legal, economic, financial and other essential aspects of business success. It includes visits to factories and offices, and talks and discussions with business men, themselves the people who are running the show. This course takes about three months, and is followed by a second and more specialized course. It is a short course relating to administration and management in particular types of business, in connexion with firms, or groups of firms, or sections of commerce or industry. It is whole-time, or it is part-time if a man is in a job. Maintenance is provided in the same way as under the further educational and training scheme I have already mentioned. If my voice could reach any of those proposing to undertake this course, I would say to them that by far the best arrangement would he to go back to their old job, if they have one, or to get a new job and then go in for this course, because it is far easier to apply your mind to aspects of training of this kind if you are able to relate it to a particular experience or a particular objective.
The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, was good enough to give me notice of a question he wished to ask in this respect, although I do not think he actually asked it. Anyhow, I will give the answer because I think it is of some importance. He asked when it would begin and for how many. I am able to say that in the initial instance it will apply to 1,500, but I am not suggesting that that figure is a limit. That is simply the initial figure. It will start in the spring, and the reason why it is not starting earlier is partly because of the complex arrangements that have to be made and partly because, in the spring, it is expected the youngest Service men will be coming out more speedily from the Forces. Your Lordships will understand from what I have said that much is arranged and available.
Will it be used, and how does the-applicant know all about it? I am not at all sure that in this matter, as in so many others, almost the most crucial question may not be this: How are we to ensure that the applicant shall know 445 the facilities that are available? Very often one publishes an article or an Army Council Instruction, or whatever it may be, but at the particular point of time when the scheme is to be brought into existence in anticipation of a state of affairs arising, it does not affect the mind, in a personal sense, of those who read; and later on, when they would wish to know, they have forgotten. Now we have been greatly indebted and hope to be still greater indebted to the Press for their assistance in this matter, and we shall rely much in the future on the Press for making this scheme known.
Again, there is the Release and Resettlement Booklet to which Lord Moynihan refers and of which there has been a wide distribution throughout the Forces. As regards one point about direction to which the noble Lord very properly referred, I ought perhaps to remind him that this booklet was published and issued at the time when the war, even with Germany; was still in being, and that references to direction which were applicable at that time must not necessarily be assumed to be equally applicable now. But, in addition, every man passing through the Dispersal Centre is given a further document for guidance, which contains in rather shorter form the necessary information as to where to apply if he wants a job. Then there are teams of lecturers who tour the overseas Commands to tell the-people all about it—lecturers under the Ministry of Labour. There are Resettlement Advice Officers, to which reference has already been made. As regards civilians, redundant civil servants are advised by their employing departments, and workers redundant in industry are referred by regional officers of the Ministry of Labour to the Appointments Board.
It is not only important that the prospective applicant should know about this; it is also important that the prospective employer should know about it and that his interest, sympathy and co-operation should be enlisted. There again we have depended, and shall continue to depend, upon the good offices of the Press. I know a good deal about the Royal Artillery Association and I am glad to think the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is a member of the committee. I have the greatest respect for it. It is doing admirable work. It has established a good will of its own over a long period of years in 446 connexion with finding employment for ex-gunners. These Appointments Offices are relatively new. They are in process of establishing a good will amongst the employing public within industry, commerce, and in the professions.
The noble Lord said, and quite rightly, that the Royal Artillery Association sends round canvassers; why do not the Appointments Offices do the same? The Appointments Offices do the same. There are thirty of what are called Development Officers, of whom 75 per cent. are ex-Service men, and their task is to make contact with industry; to seek openings for young, unqualified men out of the Forces, for ex-Regulars and for disabled men; to bring home to the employers, by means of interviews with managements, the whole problem of the men coming out of the Forces, and to compile from the responses of individual firms a register of opportunities of employment. They are called officially Development Officers. I prefer to call them "job Seekers for the Ministry of Labour," so that the jobs may be passed on. But I think I am bound to say this: that I note with regret that the advantage of intake of younger men of good general education, though lacking special qualifications in management employment, is not perhaps as fully appreciated by industry as it might be. The reluctance to take men of that type after the last war was, to a large extent, responsible for the shortage of suitably qualified people in employment in managerial posts in the period immediately preceding this war.
The emphasis on the work of the Development Officers—and I think this will interest the noble Marquess—has been shifted. Their primary task is now to seek current employment for the older age groups in which the noble Marquess takes, very naturally and properly, so keen an interest, which I share. The noble Marquess may say that I have been speaking at large with regard to the Appointments Offices, but I do not think he will regret that if I add that I am now proposing to say something with regard to the ex-Service man in particular, and indeed I will say something about the Regular soldier also.
We regard the war-time soldier as being a civilian in uniform, and we consider that when he comes hack to civilian life froth the Army he should ordinarily be treated as a civilian by civilians. But of course 447 there are certain differences so far as the ex-Regular soldier, and particularly the ex-Regular officer, is concerned. It is sometimes difficult to assess his experience in the Services and translate it into terms of his value for civilian employment. And so there are, at the London headquarters of the Appointments Board, nine seconded Service officers, three from each of the three Services, with one co-ordinating officer—a Rear-Admiral, drawn from the Royal Navy—as well as an ex-Senior Commander of the A.T.S. who is in charge of women registrants. Every application falls within one of these two categories: an ex-Regular, or an ex-war-time soldier—I am speaking now of Service men. Those who come from the Regular Army are interviewed as a matter of course by the seconded officers of their own arm, unless they express a preference to the contrary; while those who are wartime soldiers—I am using the term "soldier" comprehensively to include the other Forces—are interviewed by civilians, unless they express a view to the contrary.
It is no more to be thought that ex-Regular soldiers necessarily desire to be interviewed in matters of this kind by Regular officers, than to think that ex-war-time civilians necessarily desire, in matters of this kind, to be interviewed by civilians. They have the choice, but the first choice is made for them: a Service interviewer in the case of those coming from the Services, and a civilian interviewer in other cases. It must not be thought that the Ministry of Labour officials who deal with these matters have not themselves a military service background. Indeed, I think I have already indicated that the heads of some of these Appointments Offices have high qualifications in the various Services. In addition, there are the nine in London who have these special qualifications as Service officers and whose special task it is to do the interviewing of ex-Regulars. It is not unlikely that that will be extended to the provinces, though the number of ex-Regular officers who apply in the provinces is relatively negligible. Those who do apply in the provinces are invited or told they may come to London. I ought perhaps to say that those who are invited to attend an interview at one of these offices are paid their fares and any subsistence allowance that may be neces- 448 sary. In fact, about one-third of those who have applied at the provincial offices have taken advantage of the opportunity of coming to the central office in London, where, for the higher qualifications, there are perhaps more opportunities.
I am bound to tell your Lordships that applicants, especially those with technical qualifications, who have been deferred from military service by virtue of their civilian employment find little difficulty in transferring from the directed employment to other employment without very much diminution in the earnings to which they have been accustomed in war-time. But many ex-Service men were receiving in the Forces much higher remuneration than they were able to command formerly, or can command even now, in civilian employment. Finding employment for them without a substantial drop in remuneration is a matter of difficulty.
The noble Marquess asked what was the actual process of dealing with the applicants. I have followed that process through, and I have the latest information as to certain of these-cases. There was one fairly senior Air Force officer who had an interview when I was there. I thought he was the sort of man who would -be likely to find a job pretty quickly—that was the sort of impression he made upon me—but I found he had already returned to his former job in civilian life under the reinstatement provisions. He had had a pretty good career. He had undertaken a considerable amount of administrative work in the Royal Air Force, in the development of special branches—I do not want to identify him by giving too specific information—and in building up one of the most important formations of the Royal Air Force. He had a total of four arid a half years on Staff work. His duties included problems connected with the construction and layout of aerodromes and liaison between the Service and contractors. He was mentioned three times in dispatches. The report went on: "He has considerable experience of contacting principals of large firms. Keenly interested in resettlement problems. Has made a study of manufacturing processes relating to such-and-such an industry." I wonder if the noble Marquess could tell me whether that was written by a Service man or by 449 a civilian? It seemed to me—and I saw the man myself—to set out admirably the qualifications he possessed. It was in fact written by a civilian.
I have here one or two examples of the descriptions given and I would challenge the noble Marquess to tell me, from a reading of those descriptions of qualifications and of the relationship of Service experience to civilian possibilities, whether they were written by a civil servant or by a seconded Service officer. Too much importance can be attached, I think, to having a Service officer as an interviewer, although I know that among some of those who have served in the Regular Army there is felt to be some sentimental advantage attaching to it. I do not deprecate that and I do not depreciate it. But equally, I feel, experience shows that, taking it by and large, the civil servant engaged upon this task is not less well qualified than the Service man to deal with it.
I feel it would be wrong of me not to say a word about reinstatement, because it is a vital matter. Your Lordships will be aware that at the outbreak of the war provision was made whereby those in employment at the time of their being called up were to be entitled to reinstatement. I heard one of your Lordships say that some employers were not anxious to take back those they had formerly employed. I think it was Lord Moynihan who said that. I speak as an employer of labour in a modest way can say that the firm for which I have a responsibility has sought to take back, and has in fact taken back, all those who served in the war and who have returned, and will take back all those who may yet return—and gladly. In my view it is of the first importance that these positions should be readily open, in accordance with the idea underlying the legislation at the time, to those who may be returning from the war.
But it does not rest on one side only; the ex-Service man has his part to play. There are some who are disinclined to exercise their reinstatement rights. Some feel that in view of the position they held in the Forces they have a claim to some more remunerative employment, to employment of a different grade from that which they had in the years before the war, because they are so much older. In my opinion, they would be well advised to exercise their reinstatement rights. The 450 fact that they have returned to their prewar employment will not in any way impede, and it may very well assist, their efforts to obtain better employment. Job begets job. It is far easier to find a position for a man who is in employment than it is to find employment for one who is without. The noble Marquess and other noble Lords will, of course, appreciate that the cases with which the Appointments. Office is concerned are not always simple ones. Sometimes they are cases of the very greatest difficulty and complexity.
Perhaps I can give one or two instances, without mentioning any particulars which would identify the people concerned. There was 'one officer, a Major, born in the nineties, who served in the Great War. After that he became an engineer. In 1939 he rejoined the Royal Engineers as an officer and took a construction unit to France, where he was wounded in a dive-bombing attack. He was left with no vision in one eye and only one-tenth vision in the other; he was almost completely blind. He registered for employment with the Appointments Board as a civil engineer. On account of his blindness it was almost impossible to place him in employment where his qualifications could be used. However—and Lord Moynihan will be interested in this—an officer of the Department made a personal approach to the heads of a large number of civil engineering firms and pointed out that this officer, with a personal assistant, would be able to carry out certain duties. On several occasions this officer came to London from his home in the provinces to attend the interviews arranged for him, and ultimately he was placed with a Government Department at a salary of £600 a year—this man who was blind in one eye and had only one-tenth vision in the other. His family had to be brought to London as well as his personal assistant, who works with him in his office. A home was found for him, and a grant has been made to cover the cost of the removal of himself and his family and the bulk of his furniture. That is a useful piece of work, and the sort of thing that an office of this kind can do, although, of course, the generality of cases do not present difficulties of this kind.
It is as well that your Lordships should know of the difficult problem with which the office is confronted. In general, of 451 course, industry is short of man-power, but there arc pockets of unemployment in particular groups of applicants whose qualifications afford only limited opportunities during the present phase of conversion. It is possible to exaggerate this problem, however. Some 66,000 officers have been released from the Forces, but on the books of the Appointments Office on October 31 last there were only 6,716; so that broadly speaking it may be said that, of 66,000 officers, 60,000 either found employment or did not wish to seek it, or may have taken an education course or something of that kind, and the problem really relates to about 6,700 officers. Those are the dimensions of the problem, and it is proper to get it into its right perspective, because it is very easy for there to be a considerable degree of exaggeration. Of these 6,70o officers, a very large proportion—over one-third—come from a particular occupational group, the occupational group of salesmanship. Before the war these men were engaged in sales organizations, and at this time, when there is a shortage of consumer goods and it is a seller's market, there is not on the face of it very much call for those whose qualification is as salesmen or as performing some function in a sales organization. That applies, as I say, to about one-third of these 6,700 officers out of the 66,000 who have been released.
I should like to say this, however, to employers. It is a very short-sighted policy to refrain from giving employment to men qualified in sales organization and in the occupation of salesmanship just because at present there is not a large quantity of consumer goods the sale of which has to be pressed and pushed. As time passes consumer goods will become more readily available. If the manufacturing and distributing firms have not by that time established a proper sales organization, they may have difficulty in finding a market for their goods. I should have thought that industry and commerce—I hope that they will consider this—would be well-advised to take into their employment now men whose experience may be limited to sales organization, and, if they have nothing to sell immediately because of the lack of consumer goods, they might be sent round this country and to other countries in order to establish the market which 452 will be needed when consumer goods are once more available.
The noble Marquess will, of course, appreciate that these Appointments Offices are employment-finding and vacancy-filling agencies; they cannot require employers to engage any particular applicant. What can be done is to express the hope that every employer will fully co-operate. I rather regret, if he will permit me to say so, that by his Motion the noble Marquess should have drawn attention to what he asserts is the difficulty in finding employment for the older men, the men of 45 and over; because this may well lead to the mistaken idea in the minds of employers and of applicants that men above a certain age have suffered serious deterioration, whereas the plain fact is that ex-officers who were fit enough to hold their place in the Armed Forces should be fit enough for civilian employment. I greatly hope that employers will see their way to raise the age limits which they have been accustomed to impose. It is not widely enough appreciated by employers, who feel that their interests would not be best served by engaging men of over 45, that in many cases to-day the man over 45 is seeking employment solely owing to the interruption of war service, and that war service may have accelerated in men of this age the development of qualities which are valuable assets in industry. I greatly hope that the age limit may be largely raised.
I have not sought to answer all the questions which have been put to me, though I hope that I have, in the course of what I have said, answered the specific questions which the noble Marquess, with his accustomed courtesy, was good enough to notify to me beforehand. Any specific questions which have not been answered shall be answered by letter to the noble Lords who put them, and all the matters which have been raised shall he brought to the attention of and shall receive attention by the Minister of Labour and National Service, on whose behalf I have been making this statement.
§ 5.38 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I think that your Lordships will agree that this Motion has produced a useful and interesting debate. It has given some of us something to speak about, and I think that it has given the Government 453 something to think about. I am particularly glad that it has lured two of your Lordships who have not previously taken part in our debates to make such admirable contributions. I am obliged to the noble Lord who has replied for the Government for the very full statement which he has made. He took me to task for two things: in the first place, for confining my Motion to officers; and in the second place, for directing its special reference to officers over the age of 45. I have already explained that I confined it to officers because theirs were the cases which were most frequently brought to my notice, and also because they were the people, and not the other ranks, who at this stage of demobilization were in my view finding difficulties in obtaining jobs. I drew special attention to the men over 45 because, as I said, they were the ones whose cases were reaching me and others placed like me in spite of the noble Lord's gentle rebuke, I make no apology for having introduced either of those two limitations.
He told us a great deal about what I may call the preliminary machinery qualifying people to accept employment when they had found it, and I listened to him with great interest; but he told us a great deal less about the actual methods of these various Exchanges in finding actual jobs for people, particularly—leaving aside all these vocational training schemes, the Newsome-Smith Report and others—in the case that I have raised of the older men, for whom all these elaborate training schemes, I am afraid, have not so much interest, not only for the reason that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but also because, at their time of life, they have no: the time any more to indulge in these lengthy preliminaries before they take on a job.
I am still, I am afraid, not entirely clear about the system of interviewing at the various Exchanges. The noble Lord's challenge to distinguish whether the hand that wrote a particular report was the hand of a civilian or of a military man, leaves me quite cold, because association in the same office produces a similarity of administrative style which, I have no doubt, makes it very difficult to distinguish after a time whether the hand that writes it is projecting from a tweed sleeve or from a khaki sleeve. But I am obliged to the noble Lord for the explanation he has given of how the machine works, and for the great trouble that he has taken 454 to brief him-self to speak for a Department which is not his, in order to make so useful and comprehensive a statement to your Lordships. In these circumstances, I can only ask leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.