HC Deb 11 April 1918 vol 104 cc1674-7W

asked the Minister of Munitions how many men employed in the Ministry are of military age?


The number of men of military age employed on the, headquarters staff of the Ministry is 2,664. Of these, only 372 are Class A men Of this number, 218 are entitled to exemption from military service under the existing Schedule of Protected Occupations, and of these

  • 78 being engineers,
  • 27 being mechanical draughtsmen,
  • 96 being chartered or incorporated accountants,
  • 17 being chemists.

Included in the 372 Class A men are 36 Civil servants, the majority of whom are heads of sections or higher officials. Their average age is thirty-six.


asked the Minister of National Service if he will state the number of male persons of military age on the indoor and outdoor headquarter staff of the National Health Insurance Commission; how many of "such are passed in Grades I. and II. or the equivalent A, B 1, B 2, C 1, and C 2, and how many in these grades or classifications are married; is it proposed to take immediate steps by the withdrawal of protection or exemption certificates, given on occupational grounds to these men or otherwise, so that they may be at once released for military service; and, if so, will he give the number of men who will be released?


I have arranged with my right hon. Friend to reply to this question, and in order to give what shall not be a misleading reply to it the following facts need to be mentioned. In consequence of the National Health Insurance Commission having been established only two and a-half years before the War, and of its having been started with an establishment of very young men from other Government Departments, the proportion of men over forty-one years of age was extremely low-as compared with all other Government offices. There were, in fact, at the outbreak of War, in the total indoor staff of 1,569 (883 men and 686 women) only twenty-four men over that age, where other offices would have had some hundreds. This extreme paucity of older men has necesarily occasioned, under war conditions, great difficulties as to administrative supervision; the Department has nevertheless made every endeavour to release as many men as possible, and has succeeded in sparing from the indoor staff a number equal to more than three-fourths of the total indoor male staff of all ages; 532 for service with the forces and 167 on loan or transference to other Departments for war work. This severe (it is believed, unique) depletion of the male staff has had to be met by the employment of large numbers of temporary and constantly changing women clerks, mostly without previous experience in clerical work; and it has been imperatively necessary, to avoid an otherwise certain breakdown of National Health Insurance throughout the country, to retain a bare sufficiency of experienced men for directing and supervising the work of this large mass (some 1,300) of inexperienced and constantly changing temporary employés. As a result, the male indoor staff, analysed to show the points asked for in the question, is now as follows: Under military age, 6; over military age, permanent 27, temporary 28, the latter being too old and inexperienced to be given responsible supervising duties: within military age, Grade I., thirty-nine, of whom all but one are over thirty-one years of age, and all but four are married: Grade II., fifty-nine, of whom thirty-four are over thirty-one years of age, all but six of these being married, and eight of the others are married; Grade III., nineteen; rejected, discharged, etc., thirty-eight. These figures exclude the messenger grades, in which no men eligible for military service are now employed.

As regards the outdoor staff the numbers at the outbreak of war were 223 men (of whom only sixty-eight -were over forty- one years of age) and sixty women. Though the proportion of the men over military age to those within the age was higher here than in the case of the indoor staff, it was not large. The men, moreover, are only enabled to carry out their duties by reason of' the special qualifications on account of which they were appointed and by the unique experience they have gained of the working of the Insurance Acts; so that it is impossible for their duties to be carried out, except to a very limited extent, by substituting for them temporary officers without experience; for it is essential that intelligence officers, who have to carry on their work as isolated units away from the head office, should be thoroughly versed in the intricacies of the National Insurance Acts, if insured persons are to be assisted adequately in securing the benefits; due to them. By careful rearrangement, however, the Department has so far contrived to release men up to a quarter of the total male outdoor staff of all ages, forty-nine for service with the forces and six on loan or transference to other Departments for war work. As a result, the male outdoor staff, analysed to show the points asked for in the question, is now as follows; Over military age, seventy-two; within military age, Grade I., thirty-seven, of whom all but one are over thirty-one years of age, and all but four are married; Grade II., thirty-six, of whom all but one are over thirty-one, and all but three are married; Grade III., nineteen: rejected, discharged, etc., five.

In reply to the concluding paragraph of the question it must be stated that the grave depletion of the staff above explained has already at times brought the Department's work perilously near to breaking point, and the work is now heavily increased by the direct consequences of the War upon the Navy and Army Insurance Fund and otherwise, and also by the heavy new duties occasioned by the new Insurance Act just passed by Parliament; hence the hon. Member's suggestion to release to the Army each of the remaining Grades I. and II. men (thus taking away nearly all of the few men now remaining in the administrative grades who are capable of supervisory responsibilities) would immediately imperil the distribution of benefits throughout the industrial population and other essential elements in the working of the Health Insurance Acts. The hon. Member may, however, rest assured that the position of the work in relation to the staff will again be most carefully reviewed in conjunction with the Ministry of National Service, in connection with the further demands, shortly to be made upon Government Departments generally.