Military Training Act, 1939.

– in the House of Commons am ar 21 Mehefin 1939.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

4.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I beg to move, That the Draft Order entitled the Military Training (Consequential Provisions) Order, 1939, presented to this House on the 14th day of June, be approved. As the House will see, there are three Motions on the Paper each one of which refers to a separate Order in Council, but I gather that it would meet the general convenience of the House on both sides if, when I have moved this Motion, there followed a general discussion covering all three Orders. For that reason I propose, first of all, to give the House a description of the main outlines of the three Orders in question, and of the purposes which they are intended to serve, and their scope. The main fact in the matter is that the two Acts of Parliament out of which these Orders spring place new obligations upon those who are affected by them, and in the discharge of those obligations it is inevitable that some inconvenience will fall on those who are affected. That inconvenience will vary very greatly according to the circumstances of the men, and for the most part the inconvenience of being called up under either of those Acts cannot be entirely removed by anything that we may do in this House; it must for the most part be borne by the men affected, mitigated by the not inconsiderable consolation that they are undergoing it in the service of their country and that as far as possible the burdens placed on them by the Acts are placed on them in a spirit of equality. But as Parliament has imposed these new obligations it is the duty of Parliament and the country to do what may be done to ensure that the path of service is made as easy as possible. It is the duty both of the country and of Parliament to see that the new Orders provide the necessary protection for the men whom they affect.

I believe myself that the real help to the man may be found less in the letter of the law than in the spirit of the country; and I am sure it will be the desire of everyone in the country to act fairly and generously by the men affected by these Orders, knowing that their service or training, as the case may be, is undertaken in the service of the country. But there is much that the law can do, and these three Orders in Council, presented in draft to the House, are an attempt to make such consequential alterations in the normal legal position as will save these men from any avoidable hardship or injustice during the period when they are called up. I will make two preliminary points which are of some importance in coming to a decision on these two Orders. In the first place I would try to make it clear that these Orders in Council are by no means war legislation. They are not to be taken as a precedent of what corresponding action would be taken in time of war. In such a time all the resources of the country, both in man power and material, would be devoted to a far greater extent to the purpose of war, than is involved in the six months training for a batch of men, or in the new obligations under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act. consequently, with obligations extending over a wider sphere in time of war, with a much greater devotion of the whole national effort and resources to that purpose, it would be necessary to review that entirely different position afresh, and, it may be, to make quite different provisions as between the individuals affected and the State from those contained in these Orders. The Orders, like the Acts from which they spring, are temporary in character and are meant to deal with the same situation as that for which the Acts themselves were designed.

A second observation I make is about the nature of these provisions. In countries where compulsory military training is a settled part of the social system, the difficulties with which the House has to contend to-day do not arise to anything like the same degree. Custom has enabled these societies to adapt themselves to the central fact of a period of compulsory military training, and all the obligations and rights of individuals in those countries bear the impress of that primary obligation on the citizens, and the whole of society having adapted itself to that requirement, there is not the same problem before them as is before us. The problem we have to face in trying to devise these Orders in Council and to pronounce upon' their merits is really that of covering a period of change and transition. These new obligations have entered into a society which knew them not, affecting by their entry a great number of rights and obligations undertaken, and our primary duty is to provide for such a period of transition as that, and to see that the transition shall be effected with as little friction and hardship as possible.

With these preliminary observations I come to the Orders themselves. They are long and complicated Orders; that I do not deny. But that is inevitable, because in the first place there is a vast variety in the circumstances of the men affected by them. The Military Training Act applies to all citizens of a particular age group, without exception, and consequently a whole cross-section of the population is involved, each member with his particular obligations and rights. Another reason which adds to their length and complication is the vast variety of the obligations themselves. The Orders contain provisions dealing with matters as diverse as rent, the levying of distress, eviction, mortgages, hire-purchase agreements, the rights of guarantors and dependants, bankruptcy, winding-up, superannuation rights, national health and unemployment insurance, and such minor matters as compensation to officers for changes in county boundaries and the like, and the great and complicated question of industrial and life assurance. The last category is a matter of vast complexity in itself, and it has been deemed convenient to the House to deal with it in a separate Order, which is the subject of the second Motion in my name.

Let me take, first of all, the provisions with regard to civil liabilities and indicate the method that we have adopted to provide a cover for those who are affected by the Acts. If the House looks at Part I of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Order and Articles 1to 3 of the Military Training Order they will see that protection is there given to Militiamen, Reservists and Territorials in respect of certain civil liabilities. In general, the form that the protection takes is to place a restraint or prohibition upon the exercise of certain remedies by a creditor or person who is entitled to exercise those remedies in the ordinary course of events. The restraint runs for the period of training and for an equal period thereafter; it does not terminate with a man's engagement to serve, but it is continued for an equal period in his civil life so as to give him protection for a period during which he can re-establish himself. During that time the leave of the court is necessary before any action can be taken for the recovery of possession of premises which were occupied by the man immediately before his period of training or his calling up, and it applies equally to payment of rent or mortgage interest in respect of the premises.

Nor without the leave of the court can payment be recovered under any other kind of obligation entered into by a militiaman before 15th June of this year, that is to say, under obligations which were entered into by the man before he had notice of his rights under these Orders. This is the militiaman's position, but in the case of Reservists and Territorials there is a different position from that of the militiamen, and the relevant date is before he was called up. The House will see that a man need not wait until his landlord or creditor takes steps to exercise his remedies; he can, if he chooses, go to the court on his own initiative and by Article 2 of each of these Orders this protection is extended not only to the man himself, but to tenants or other debtors whose position is affected by his calling up.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

That applies only to an Order as given by the court?

Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

There is a matter here of some susbtance. In the cases of occupiers of decontrolled houses the landlord can issue a distress of his own volition without going to the court. How would those cases be affected?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If hon. Members will look at Articles 1 and 2 they will see that they really proceed on a somewhat different basis. The general sense of Article 1 is that when there is any judgment or order against a man it cannot be enforced without the leave of the court. Article 2 supplements that by leaving it open to the man himself, if any judgment or order has been given against him, himself to go to the court and ask for the relief which in the opinion of the court is appropriate.

Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to look at that point again? In the case I have mentioned no question of that kind arises. From time immemorial the landlord has had that right, and I do not see how that case is covered by these orders.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

How can the man go to the court if he is serving in the militia if the court is in Glasgow and he is serving in the South of England?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If there is someone left at home, then that person can apply.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But if that person does not choose to go to the court then this man loses his rights.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Not at all, he has the other rights under Article I, and he can have his rights protected. There is also a provision in the Orders restricting the recovery of possession by other means than an order of the court; that is to say, a landlord who could ordinarily adopt any other way of getting possession of his premises cannot do it without the leave of the court in the case of a man protected by these Orders.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

May I ask a question on this point?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I would observe that if the House chooses to ask me questions on every conceivable point that may arise, I shall never get on at all with my explanation of the Orders.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Does not that statement justify the suggestion made by hon. Members on this side and in other parts of the House that this is not the appropriate procedure?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is quite a different matter. I am trying to deal with an important point put by the hon. Member, and surely it is fair that I should be allowed to deal with that point and not be continually diverted to other topics which no doubt can be raised later. If the hon. Member will look at paragraph 2 of Article 1, on page 7, he will see the provision to which I refer. It says that during the period under which any order or judgment of the court could not under the last paragraph be enforced without the leave of the court no remedy which may be available to any person for obtaining such possession or payment, or for such enforcement, without arty such judgment or order, shall be exercised except with the leave of the High Court or the county court.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Supposing the militiaman is down in the South of England and the case is tried in Glasgow. Who is going to pay his fare to Glasgow?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not anticipate that such cases will arise —

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

—and the real point is to put a restraint upon a landlord from exercising any remedies for which he has to get an order of the court or any remedies which he can exercise without the leave of the court—that is, to make it a condition in every case that he gets the leave of the court and has to go to court and justify his actions. The court will know that the man affected is a serving soldier and the judge has under this Order power to deal with the matter even if the man is not there.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Will it be possible for a notification to be given by the landlord that action is about to be taken?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Under ordinary law the landlord cannot start an action without giving the man notice that the action is to be started against him. That is a primary obligation in all legal proceedings.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But if the man does not attend the court, then under the law in Scotland, automatically, the court has no option but to grant the pursuer what he wants, and so this Order gives no protection unless the man appears.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

No, Sir, that is not so. What the Order says is that if a landlord wishes to obtain possession of premises he has to go to the court and justify his action, whether he can get those premises only by means of an order of the court or not. He has to give notice, and if the court knows that the tenant or the person affected by the notice is one to whom we desire to give this protection, then, automatically, under the Order itself, the court will have jurisdiction. It will rest entirely with the court to give leave or not as the court chooses, and the court can take all the relevant circumstances into account. That is the best way of getting justice in this matter. The hon. Member knows that in rent restriction cases and many other cases it is customary to entrust the county court judge in England, and the sheriff in Scotland, with a great amount of discretion as to what is the just and fair thing to be done—whether there should be payment by instalments, whether an order should be made and so on—and we have adopted exactly that procedure.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But in Scotland the sheriff, as the presiding judge, has no option. As far as I see it the Order does not set that aside. Where there is no appearance by the defendant then the sheriff must give the pursuer the decree sought. This Order does not alter the law in that matter. If there is non-appearance the sheriff must give the decree.

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Dundee

Surely the point is this, that what the right hon. Gentleman has said applies only to cases in which a judgment or order has been given. The landlord may go and get his order for possession even though he cannot enforce it till the six months are up.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member has given his interpretation and I want to give mine. My opinion is that under this Order a landlord trying to regain possession of his premises, in the case of an absent militiaman or the dependants of such a man, would not only have to show the court in the ordinary way that there was a tenancy agreement and that the rent had not been paid, but would have to satisfy the court that the circumstances of the case were such that it would be just for him to recover possession, and that protection will run as it has run throughout the whole of our judicial system in many analogous cases.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

The right hon. Gentleman has said, as regards the enforce-ability of an Order even by the court, that that is within the discretion of the court, and that is true; but he has, I think, admitted in reply to an interjection that a man may be summoned to appear at court by the landlord or the creditor, and the point which the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is raising is as to whether there is anything in these Orders which enables a judge to say that a man should not appear in court in answer to a summons.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

In such proceedings as the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) has suggested, the court would follow the ordinary procedure of the law. When a creditor seeks to invoke the aid of the court the first question that would be put to him would be "Has the man against whom you are seeking to invoke the law been informed in the legal fashion of your intention to do so? "

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

No, it is not. You have never seen the Glasgow courts at work. I have attended those courts over and over again. The Minister has never attended the Glasgow Small Debt Court. I have seen 50 or 100 cases an hour dealt with. Sometimes the sheriff does not even sit and hear them. I think it is a scandal that there is not a Scottish law officer here who knows the position. You are simply trifling with me. This is a terrible insult. Come with me to Glasgow and I will show you the court at work. You do not know it.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There are peculiarities in the Scottish system of jurisprudence and I am willing to admit that my knowledge of it is not as extensive as it might be, and if the hon. Member will put his question with reference to Scottish law at a later stage I have not the slightest doubt he will get an answer from the authority on Scottish affairs. What I was saying was that it is impossible in ordinary practice for such proceedings to be taken without the man being informed. In these cases the judge will know that he is a militiaman or a reservist—more than that, if he knows that the person directly concerned, if not a militiaman or a reservist, is the wife or the mother of a militiaman or reservist—he has power to stay proceedings.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

This is a point of great substance and I suggest that, the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. The ordinary practice would be for a landlord or other creditor to issue a summons against either a militiaman or his dependants. How is the judge going to decide whether that summons should be issued or not if by virtue of Articles 1 and 2 he is required in the first instance to inquire whether the circumstances—for example, the position of the man who is undergoing training or the position of his dependants are unsatisfactory or not, If he has to make such an inquiry as is called for in these Articles how is he going to do that before he issues the summons?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The judge will make use of any information which he has, and I am perfectly confident that county court judges and sheriffs will work these Orders for the protection of the man. If it is a case that arises during the operation of the two Acts from which the Order springs he has power to stay any proceedings of any sort.

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Dundee

He has only the power to stay proceedings in the nature of execution after there has been a judgment or order, but not where it is a case of obtaining a judgment or order.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That may be so. But the House has to remember that the getting of an order by a landlord is a matter which involves him in some effort and expense, and if he knows that to get such an order will be of no use to him because it cannot be enforced without the leave of the court, that in itself will be a protection. What the hon. Member has not quite appreciated is that this protection does not extend merely to orders and executions. It applies to those methods of obtaining possession of premises or property, for example, under a hire-purchase agreement, where no order of the court is necessary at all. Then the person who would have these rights in the normal course without going to the court at all will, under this Order have to go to the court and justify his application for an order. That is the position under the particular Article. The discretion given is very wide. Not only can an order be rendered ineffective but it can have attached to it any conditions which the judge in his discretion thinks right.

Article 3 refers to building societies. It provides for the postponement of instalments due to building societies till after the period of training or service.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

We have four documents in our possession. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the number in such a way that we shall be able to follow it.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I will endeavour to do so in the future. This provision is common to both the Orders with which I am now dealing, and it comes in Article 3 of the Order under the Military Training Act, page 10, and also in the corresponding part of the other Order.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Will this extend to the recovery of property in the household of the person who is called up? Suppose you have an unemployed family in which the earning son is called up for training, and there is property on the hire-purchase system in the household. Must the creditor go to court in order to recover the property because a member of the household is a training soldier?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Yes; the hon. Member will find it in the Military Training Order, page 9, Article 2, Sub-section (2)

The position with regard to building societies is that provision is made for the postponement of the payments during the period of training. It is a just provision which would obviate any hardship in that case.

There is only one of these Orders in which the question of civil remuneration is referred to. That is the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Order.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Will the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, as applied by local authorities, also come under this?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

No, not under Article 3. This applies only to building societies which have entered into a particular form of contract with their clients, under which the house is bought and, over a period of years, instalments are paid extinguishing both interest and debt. Proceedings under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act are a different case, in which there is a loan repayable to a local authority. An obligation in the case of a militiaman entered into before 15th June is covered by the general rules governing civil obligations.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

In the case of the Small Dwellings Act, after the expiration of the training period and the further six months period he must pay up the arrears?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There a different system applies, but there, again, if arrears of that sort have been accumulated at the end of the period of grace, the court may make any order it likes for liquidating the matter in such a manner as to avoid hardship.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Will the right hon. Gentleman direct my attention to any Article which provides that after the period of grace has expired the court has any power to adjust conditions in the way he indicates?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Again I refer the hon. Gentleman to Article 2 of the Military Training Act. Article 1 deals with recovery of possession, payment of any money or enforcement of any security under an order of a court.

That is one thing. Article 2, paragraph (2), says that: if, on application made by any person to the High Court or the county court, the court is satisfied that, by reason of circumstances directly or indirectly attributable to any person having been called out, it is necessary for the avoidance of hardship to restrain the exercise of any remedy which may be available against the applicant for obtaining possession of any property, for the payment of any money or the enforcement of any security, the court may grant such an injunction, either conditionally or subject to such conditions as the court thinks just.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that at any time after the period of grace has expired, six months, or two or three years, a man could ask for an injunction of this kind?

Mr:

Morrison: The question rather answers itself. It would be hard for anyone 15 years after his military service is over to prove to the satisfaction of any court—

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

He might have lost his job.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is a matter which would arise in a much earlier period than 15 years. The further it goes from the date of calling up for service the more difficult it will be to show that it was attributable to military service.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

There will be thousands of cases under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. Will they have to pay up their arrears when they come out as well as resume their ordinary payments?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The question would arise if a local authority, which was the lender under the Act, were to proceed against a man to recover the whole of the arrears at one time when he came out and the man was in a position that he could not do that. All he has to do is to go to the Court, which will examine into the circumstances and make such an order as will relieve the man from any such harsh treatment. I imagine that such a question is not likely to arise but, if it arises, the remedy is there in the background. My belief is that you will find very few local authorities, if any, which in a case of this character would desire to act tyrannously or harshly or injuriously against a man called up for service, but if such a thing happened there is the remedy. The Court could restrain them from doing it.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Could the Court alter the contract or prolong the term, so that there would be no accumulation of debt at all and the man would be able to start off quite clear?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not know about the last point, but the Article says the Court may make such Order as it thinks just.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

I am not anxious for the liability to be taken away. I am anxious that the man shall be relieved from an accumulation of debt. Will the judge have power to alter the contract by prolonging the period and allowing the man to start straight away without an increase of responsibility?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

As far as the Order is concerned, the power of the Court is very wide. In a suitable case it could order that any arrears should be paid off by instalments. As to the actual prolongation of the term, I should like to consider that. I do not want 1o give an opinion that I have not really thought out, but I am satisfied that the Order is drafted in order to give the judge control over these transactions. There is another point that I might mention now because it may obviate a good deal of discussion. There is a White Paper, Cmd.6043, dealing with the provision of monetary assistance to persons liable to training or service. A committee is being set up which will have power, in a proper case of hardship, while a man is training— hardship which cannot be met properly by these Orders—to make grants of money to enable obligations 10 be carried on and discharged. I mention it because hon. Members ought to have it at the back of their minds, though it is not in the Order itself. Besides the protection given in the Order, provision is being made for monetary assistance in discharging obligations where the mere deferment of the obligation would cause undue hardship.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

The right hon. Gentleman must look at his own White Paper. This Hardship Committee can operate only while the man is actually serving. Therefore, it cannot operate in the case of a debt which has been accumulating on account of past service.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is so, but consider the sort of cases which will arise. You may have an obligation which a man has entered into, the proper way of dealing with which is merely postponement—to provide for its discharge by instalments later on according to the circumstances of the man. On the other hand, there may be obligations of such a character that they cannot be settled by the ordinary method of stay of execution, which is all than an Order-in-Council can do—obligations whose punctual discharge during the man's period of service is the only way of dealing with them without undue hardship; and it is in these circumstances that monetary assistance can be given during the period of service.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

There is a limit of £2 to the amount that can actually be received, and that includes the allotment of the man himself, which brings it down to £1 16s. 6d. In the case of a building society, the period of loan can actually be extended, and when the man finishes his period of service he has no debt behind him, but in the case of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act he has a debt to pay off. Could not the right hon. Gentleman so alter the Order that, as in the case of the building society, the man who comes under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act could go on free of debt as a result of an extension corresponding to his period of service?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am much obliged to the hon. Member for that suggestion. I will look into it, but even in advance of that there is, under the Order as it stands, power to prevent a tyrannous local authority from exacting its obligations with undue harshness. I was, however, dealing with cases which could not be met in that way, and in which a contribution could be made to the man from public funds under the conditions set out in the White Paper.

As regards the question of civil remuneration, there are provisions in the Order empowering local authorities and certain other authorities to pay to those of their officers who are called up the difference between their service pay and allowances and their civil remuneration. These arrangements conform with those announced by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on 24th May last, which the State is making for its own employé s of all categories. All civil servants in Great Britain will be paid the balance of their civil pay during their whole period of absence; and I understand the Reservists in the employ of the Government of Northern Ireland will be dealt with on the same lines.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in stating that all categories of State employé s will be treated in that way. I think I am right in saying that the arrangement does not embrace people who are employed in Government establishments, but only relates to civil servants, whether permanent or temporary. Ordinary workmen in Government establishments are not affected at all.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogwr

Has not the Minister of Health already issued a circular which debars local authorities from making up the pay of their employ és who are called up?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) is right in saying that it only refers to civil servants. I was going on to say that this provision as to making up the Army pay and allowances to the civil remuneration applies to Territorials and Reservists only, and not to militiamen.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is another matter. I will merely say in passing that the obligations of militiamen are very different from those of Territorials or Reservists. In all other cases the militiaman is placed on exactly the same footing as the Territorial or Reservist. I think there might be objections raised to militiamen who are civil servants or employé s of local authorities being placed in a different category from the other young men.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Does the right hon. Gentleman's statement about civil servants apply to the man who is not established? In the shipyards you have tradesmen who are established and who have civil servants' rights, but you also have men who have been working there for many years but who are not established. Does the arrangement apply to them? If it does not, there will be two sets of Government employé s, the one receiving full wages and the other not—the very thing that the right hon. Gentleman is denouncing in regard to the militiamen. Further, is the provision applying to local authorities voluntary? Can one local authority pay and another refuse to pay?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The answer to the hon. Member's first question is that my statement does not go beyond civil servants. With regard to his second question, the Order makes it permissive in the case of local authorities to make up the pay, in the case of Reservists and Territorials only, if they so desire. That is the usual way of empowering local authorities to act, because they have control over their own funds, except to the extent that, if they expend those funds in a direction which is not authorised by legislation, they are liable to be surcharged. Without such a provision in the Order-in-Council, it would not be possible for local authorities to make up the pay of their officers who were Reservists or Territorials.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

That means that the ex-service civil servant who is not now established, in addition to having no pension rights is going to be treated differently from other civil servants, because, not being established, he will not have his wages made up, whereas the established civil servant will.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I put a question on this point, and the reply that I got was very definite. It was that the arrangement applies to all civil servants, and I can say quite definitely that that was taken by all the Service organisations to embrace, not only established civil servants, but such other categories as have been mentioned. It will be a very great shock to them if what the right hon. Gentleman says is correct, namely, that the unestablished civil servant is not going to be treated in the same way as the established civil servant.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I said nothing of the kind. I said what my right hon. Friend said, namely, that this applies —

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But not to the un-established man.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not quite know what the hon. Member means by that. There are so many categories of civil servants.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

What I mean is very simple. I mean that it applies to the person employed by the Government whose day-to-day service is recognised for pension rights, but not to the man employed from day to day whose service is not recognised for pension rights.

Photo of Mr Robert Taylor Mr Robert Taylor , Morpeth

There are certain ex-service men now who are assisting at the local unemployment exchanges, and who are unestablished to begin with, but who, after a certain length of service, become established.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The answer I give to the hon. Member is that, as regards all permanent civil servants of the Government, this is what is proposed. But the categories within the Civil Service are of an infinite variety. When I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, I frequently had to consider questions of civil servants' pay and rights, and I remember how bewildering I found the categories, grades and classes in the Service. I am sure the House will not expect me, in the absence of my right hon. Friend, to give an answer beyond what I am certain is right, namely, to repeat what I said to the hon. Member for West Walthamstow, without specifying how far all the categories and grades of the Civil Service may be involved. If the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will be good enough to put his question in a form which accurately describes, so that it can be recognised, the grade of civil servants he has in mind—

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I am describing it; it is quite simple.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If the hon. Member will put his question in such a form that the grade he has in view can be recognised, he will be told in the course of the Debate, yea or nay, whether that grade comes under this provision or not, but he is now merely raising a general question in language that may be subject to different interpretations.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

You are simply dodging it. Surely you can tell the House the difference between established and unestablished.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I hope the hon. Member will believe me when I tell him just what I know. I know that, as regards civil servants of the Government, it is proposed to make up the pay of Reservists and Territorials. I have said that that applies to Reservists and Territorials only, and not to militiamen, and I have given the reason for that. I was going on to , say that in the Order there is a provision which permits local authorities to do the same thing. It is permissive, because their funds are not those of the Treasury, but they will have authority for it and will not be surcharged.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Do I understand that a civil servant on the temporary staff, who may have been employed for 10 years in a temporary capacity, will not come under this provision, but that one who is on the permanent staff, although he may only have been there two or three years, will come in?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The man on the permanent staff will certainly get the benefit of the arrangement, but I cannot quite identify the class of man to whom the hon. Member refers as having been a civil servant in the employment of the Government in a temporary capacity.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Cannot you get the information?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

The right hon. Gentle man must be well aware of the men in the Employment Exchanges —

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Surely we are entitled to ask questions?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

Hon. Members are really not treating the Minister fairly.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

He is not treating us fairly. There are clerks in the Employment Exchanges who have been there for 10 years, there are postmen, there are tradesmen in the Admiralty who have been there for 10 years, but have never been put on what we call the established list and recognised, but have only carried on from week to week. Will those men receive the benefit of this arrangement, or will they not? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman find the answer to that question?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I will find the answer. I do not know it at the moment, and that is why I do not attempt to give it. I was explaining the reason for the provision in the Order which enables local authorities to follow the same course which it is proposed to follow with regard to civil servants —

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

It is provided that local authorities may make up this difference, but local authorities get grants in respect of public health work, and I should like to ask whether the Government will stop or whether they will continue the full amount of grant in the event of this difference being made up?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That would be the case. The sole reason for putting in this provision with regard to local authorities is in order that men employed by local authorities, that is to say by the ratepayers with the assistance of a grant from the taxpayers, should be placed in exactly the same position as those whose remuneration is paid by the Exchequer alone, that is so say, by the taxpayer.

The next question arising on the Order, which is very difficult to deal with without some complication of drafting, is the question of superannuation rights. The complexity in this case arises from the fact that the superannuation rights of officers of local authorities and others are covered by a number of statutory provisions, some of which are recent, but others of which have been on the Statute Book for some years. Consequently the paragraphs and articles in the Order which deal with superannuation rights have necessarily a complicated appearance. But the principle that we have endeavoured to go on is the same in all cases, namely, that in the case of a local authority servant who is on superannuation rights, his absence on training or service shall not prejudice his ultimate benefit in the superannuation scheme to which he belongs. His time during service is reckoned as qualifying full-time for his superannuation rights, and will be counted as if he were still in the employ of the authority, and his benefits at the end will be the same as they would have been had he not been called up at all.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogwr

I take it that the right hon. Gentleman means that this will apply to all persons whose allowances have not been made up by the local authorities?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Yes, Sir. In the case of a man whose pay is not made up he will not be expected to keep up superannuation contributions. But if a man's pay is made up he will be asked to make the appropriate contribution out of that money towards the central fund which administers it.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberafan

What if he gets 50 percent.?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

In those circumstances I presume there would have to be some special arrangement between him and the authority. The important thing from the man's point of view is that his rights are safeguarded.

Articles 9 to 12 of the Military Training Order and Article 26 of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Order deal with the questions of national health insurance, contributory pensions and unemployment insurance. Under existing legislation, without these Orders at all, if a man called out under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act is already insured for National Health Insurance and contributory pensions, he will continue to be so insured and no provision needs to be made for him. In the case of the militiaman also, if he is already insured under the Acts, he would, unless provision were made to the contrary, continue to be insurbale as an ordinary employé. But since throughout his six months' training he will be fully maintained when ill and given medical treatment as if he were a Regular, it is only logical to put his insurance on the same basis as Regulars. That is done in Article 9.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

What about the man who is not normally in insurable employment? What happens to him?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I was going to deal with that. Article 10 of the Military Training Order and Article 26 of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Order deal with the cases of those who are insured for contributory pensions but not for National Health, and they provide that such men shall continue to be so insured during their period of service, and after it will have the same period of free insurance as ordinary employé s.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

With regard to National Health Insurance, will it automatically follow that immediately the man has come out the liability comes straight on to the approved society? If he returns after six months I assume that the State's liability ceases and becomes the liability of the approved society?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

While in training he will have all his rights and when he comes out he will be in the same position as any ordinary employé. I think that is the position which the hon. Member has in mind. Article 11 of the Military Training Order provides, in the first place, that the militiamen already in Unemployment Insurance shall continue in Unemployment Insurance, but besides that, it makes a special provision in his favour which could not be applied to a Reservist called out under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act. Not only will the 26 weekly contributions due in respect of the six months be paid by the Exchequer, but the militiaman will be credited with four more, making 30 in all. Ordinarily he would return to his employment after training, but if not, his 30 contributions will enable him to make application for benefit at once. If he is employed in agriculture the same conditions will apply except that they will be related to the Agricultural Unemployment Insurance Scheme. As it is undertaken that no deductions are to be made from the militiaman's pay, Article 12 provides that no part of the contributions, whether for health insurance, pensions, or unemployment insurance, can be recovered from him.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

There is no provision made here for a man who is not in any unemployment insurance at all. When he comes out he will not get 30 contributions allotted. There are various people, such as the man who has had a little shop and given it up, who have not been in insurance.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I would like to ask a question with regard to the case of a man who has not been in employment at all. There are many thousands of young men of this age who have left school and never yet obtained employment, and, therefore, have not become insurable. What will happen to them?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

There are a number of cases where individuals have been called up for training and who, in consequence of having been six months away from their occupations, will find their work gone, and yet they were never in unemployment schemes at all. When they come back they have to re-adjust themselves in industrial life but will not be available for benefit. Not having the benefit of the stamps they will not be able to get benefit.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

It says: "normal employment." Who is to decide on that? Is it the military people who are providing the stamps or the Ministry of Labour?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Article 11 is governed by this: a person under training must, before the beginning of his period of training, have been normally employed in insurable employment within the meaning of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1935 to 1938. That I imagine to be the answer to the hon. Member for Gorbals.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Yes. The test of whether he was normally in insurable employment or not is precisely the same one as is employed by the Ministry of Labour now.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

The Ministry of Labour have already determined that a person who has a lorry or a shop is not normally employed. Obviously that test will apply. It will also apply to a person who has never had insurable employment. Therefore, I take it that will be the case?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

There must really be some limit to the number of questions which are put to the Minister while he is making his speech.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

On this matter I would say that I do not want to be unfair, but I would ask you, Sir, to bear this in mind: On these Regulations a great deal of help can be given to us by asking questions. I can assure you that if I am asking questions apparently a little aggressively, it is because I want to find out something about these matters.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I do not want to interfere at all with genuine inquiries, but it is very hard for the Minister to explain if he is subjected to continual interruptions.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The ministry of Labour have already determined that certain occupations are uninsurable because contributions are not being paid by the man —for instance in the case of small businesses or a boy selling newspapers. He is in the Army for six months and has lost his pitch. When he comes out he has had no stamps credited to him because he was not in normal insurable employment before. When he comes out he will not be able to get Unemployment Insurance benefit while he is looking for employment because no stamps will have been credited to him. That is the sort of case we have in mind. The man ought automatically to fall into the insurable category.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Is it not possible to treat, under national service, the 26 weeks with the four weeks additional credited, as giving the first start in life to the young man and treating all classes alike, thus removing all these anomalies?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

As I have said, to my mind, under the Article as it stands, the provisions relating to Unemployment Insurance are limited to those who are normally in insurable employment as defined in the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1935 to 1938. While I appreciate the point put to me by hon. Members as to various categories, I have no hesitation in telling the House what I believe to be the case, that it would be quite outside the power of an Order-in-Council of this sort to extend the scope of persons who are normally in insurable employment. This Order-in-Council does not have this effect. Unless a man is in the terms of the Order and comes within the definition of a person who is normally in insurable employment as defined in the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1935 to 1938, he is not included.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Under the Army Act if a man had been a wine dealer or anything of that sort when he joins the Regular Army he at once has contributions paid on his behalf and becomes insured. Why cannot the same provisions apply to militiamen? If I have a large private business and I join the Regular Army, the Ministry of Labour will make contributions on my behalf. Why cannot they do that for the militiamen?

Photo of Mr Thomas Magnay Mr Thomas Magnay , Gateshead

Would it not require an Act of Parliament to enable them to do that?

Photo of Mr Thomas Magnay Mr Thomas Magnay , Gateshead

On a point of Order. There are some of us who want to hear the Minister expound this matter. May I, on behalf of the House— [Hon. Members: "Oh! "]—may I express my personal hope that a careful note is being taken by the Chair of those who are interrupting so that those who want to speak will get a chance?

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

While thanking the Leader of the House for that intervention, may I ask whether there is power, under Clause 11, to put in a provision covering this?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I think there might be such power if different words were used; but, as the words stand, I do not think there is such power. [Interruption.] I have wondered once or twice during this discussion whether I was addressing the House or the House was addressing me. I hope the House will let me try to expound the Orders in as connected a manner as possible. With regard to the matter to which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) drew attention, when he commented on what he regarded as a disparity of treatment between the Regular soldier and the militiaman, the fact is that the conditions which apply to Regular soldiers do not apply to Territorials and militiamen. The plain fact is that the militiaman in this matter is put in the position of the Territorial and not in the position of the Regular Army man.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogwr

But the militiaman is absent from his business for a long time, like the Regular soldier.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is a matter of degree. He is not absent as long as the Regular soldier.

May I just turn to the third Order, which deals with insurance policies? Here is a matter of great difficulty and complexity, but I will try to put briefly what the Order says, and, with regard to the merits, I will leave it to the House to consider the matter. It will be noticed, first, that a distinction is made between industrial assurance policies and ordinary life policies. Each is given an Article to itself. The reason will be well known to the House; but, in case there is someone who does not know the main difference between industrial assurance policies and others, I will explain that industrial policies are for relatively small amounts: the premiums are relatively small, and they are collected at intervals of a week, a fortnight or a month, instead of quarterly, half-yearly or annually. Industrial assurance policies are very numerous. I was surprised to learn from my advisers that the number out is in the neighbourhood of 85,000,000. That is a tribute, I think, to the habits of our people, and it is important to bear it in mind, because it shows how many people this may affect. When we consider that there is this huge number out: a number, roughly, equivalient to double the British population, it is quite clear that the militiamen and the reservists to be called up will, for the most part, have one or more of these policies in their possession.

The truth with regard to these policies is that arrears would be very liable to accumulate. Not only may they accumulate during the period of training, but a man may enter his period of training with some payment due. The effect of this Article is that policy-holders cannot be deprived of cover during what is called the period of relief owing to nonpayment of premiums, whether falling due within the period of relief—which is, roughly speaking, the period of service and an equal period after—or falling due within 28 days before the period of service. That is to enable a man to go into the Service with, perhaps, a month's arrears and yet not lose his cover on that account. Nor, when the period is over, can the man be deprived of cover for nonpayment during the period of relief until he has had a reasonable opportunity—put at two months—of showing whether he wants to keep the policy alive. Policies sometimes come and go; they lapse, and are taken out for short periods, with no intention of continuing them permanently. Therefore, this period is allowed in order that it may be discovered whether a man has serious intentions of continuing the policy.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Will the right hon. Gentleman define a little more accurately a phrase that seems to be rather obscure— "evinced a desire"?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

We are trying to distinguish between the man who takes out a policy but has no real intention of continuing it, and the man who wishes to continue it permanently, or, in classical language, "evinces a desire "to do so.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

How does my right hon. Friend expect to distinguish between a man who really does desire to continue the policy and a man who merely says that he does?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member will realise that we are dealing with industrial policies only. What the insurance companies will want to know is whether a man who is getting this protection is going on with the insurance or not. If a man merely wants a policy for a fortnight, or takes it out for a whim, not intending to keep it up, it is not fair to the company or to other policy-holders to give this protection.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

Is the position that a man may go into arrears for 12 months: for the period of service and six months after? Suppose that two months after that, he evinces his desire to carry on the policy. If he cannot pay up the arrears, what protection will there be from having the policy lapsed?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member is quite right if he is talking of the militiaman. Militiamen are given relief for this further six months, and then there is another two months, during which, if a man shows in some way that he desires to continue the policy, the policy goes on.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

Are we to understand that "evincing a desire" means evincing a desire in writing? And what does the Minister mean by talking about an insurance policy that a man intends to keep for only a fortnight? Is there such a policy; and has there ever been such a policy?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I give this for what it is worth, but I remember that, as far back as 1923, when I took an interest in the Industrial Assurance Act of that year, we were sometimes told of men taking out policies for a fortnight, and then letting them lapse. [An Hon. Member: "They were not intentionally letting them lapse."] With regard to "evincing a desire," I see nothing in the Order which says that the desire must be evinced in writing. I may add that arrangements will be made for the military authorities to supply these men with information about all their rights in this matter. This information will be tendered to persons who are hardly so familiar as right hon. Gentlemen opposite with Acts of Parliament, and, of course, different language will be employed; language which might be appropriate to the right hon. Gentleman would not be used.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Can the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that the people who prepare this new and cheery handbook will not be people who have not had any sleep for weeks, as the Lord Chancellor said of the people who prepared this book?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am prepared to guarantee that every effort will be made to phrase the information in language that will be understood.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Will the sergeant-major's manual be given to Members of Parliament so that they can understand it?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I hope that there will be no temptation to indulge in sergeant-major's language. I would say, in reply to the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) that after the period of relief is over, there is a further period called the period of grace, and the effect of paragraph (a) of Article I is that where a claim arises before the end of this latter period no deduction can be made by way of interest or for arrears of premiums falling due in the period of relief; nor, even if the claim arises at some later date, can any interest on such arrears be charged provided the holder paid them up during the period of grace. Thus the period of relief gives protection from forfeiture, while the period of grace, if used to pay up arrears, gives protection against a reduction in the value of the policy on account of interest on those arrears.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what will be the period of grace?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member will find it in the Order. My impression is that it is equal to half the period of relief. In the case of the militiamen it is six months, and in the case of the reservists it may be two months. It will be noted that the protection given to policies effected on and after 15th June is much less than that given to policies effected before 15th June, since the holders of the former policies entered into the contract with their eyes open. If a policy is effected after 15th June, when these Orders were first published, no period of relief is given until a year has elapsed between the date of the policy and the beginning of the period of service.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

There are certain rights with regard to forfeiture of policies, and I take it that there will be no restriction in regard to the selling of policies.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There is nothing that will affect the rights of the holders of such policies in any way. Under the Industrial Assurance Act, 1923, industrial assurance policies are differentiated from ordinary policies, and all that is not affected. It is merely a question of adding to the cover of the man. Now I come to the question of ordinary policies.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman has done this intentionally, but he has adroitly side-stepped the most important part of this question. He has not given one word of explanation as to the methods by which these arrears are to be multiplied. After the period of grace has expired, the amount of arrears is to be multiplied by the factor in the Schedule, and will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain to the House precisely what this means?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It simply means this. After the period of relief, plus the period of grace, has expired, the method adopted for dealing with the arrears, if a man is desirous of continuing the policy, is that the arrears of premium are deducted from the sum ultimately assured, and the capital sum to be deducted is arrived at by the application of the appropriate factors in the Order. These factors are well known in the insurance world.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

In that event what happens if the surrender or cash value of the policy is not sufficient to meet the arrears of premium?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

What we are trying to do in this Act is to give a man, who is the holder of an industrial assurance policy for endowment or anything else, additional protection that he does not possess to-day during the period he is in training or while he has been called up as a reservist. There may be all sorts of opinions. It may be said that it is not generous enough. I am sanguine enough to expect that all cases will be put; I expect the ensuing Debate to cover the whole question. I am asking the House to address its mind to the approval or disapproval of the Order, and to consider whether, in all the prevailing circumstances, we have not arrived at a solution which is fair to all parties.

With regard to ordinary policies of insurance, here again a period of relief is provided which is subject to the same conditions with regard to the date of the policy, and a period of grace providing for protection against deduction of interest on arrears. It does; not apply to policies carrying premiums of more than £25 a year, the assumption being that policies of that kind are held by people who can make arrangements to meet their obligations.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Supposing a man wants to assure for a larger amount and distributes his premium in portions of £25. Does he get the benefit of these proposals or not?

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

Is it not the fact that policies for larger amounts are split up and spread over several companies?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The fact is that in the ordinary way the limitation has relation to the policy and not to the man. These provisions apply to policies on which £25 or less is paid. I gather the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers) to be, that a man with a policy of £500 a year splits it up into a number of smaller policies. The hon. Member, in envisaging such a case, must bear in mind the very different conditions which prevail in regard to policies taken out before the 15th June as compared with policies taken out afterwards. If the suggestion is that a man will proceed to do that now because he will get protection he would not otherwise obtain, my hon. Friend must bear in mind the restriction of protection which applies to policies after 15th June.

Photo of Colonel Henry Burton Colonel Henry Burton , Sudbury

Is it not the fact that policies on which a premium of £25 or upwards may be paid might quite easily be collateral security for mortgage, and what is going to happen to them?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not see that that influences the matter at all. Let me take the question of the arrangements with regard to policies made after 15th June which seem to cause so much disquiet in some quarters. I have every admiration for the insurance companies and the work they do. I have not such an opinion of their n ivéivet é and lack of business acumen that they would not, in agreeing to any such transaction after 15th June, and being aware of these provisions, exact a corresponding premium. If an insurance company agreed to the changing of a policy carrying an annual premium of £500 into an appropriate number of smaller policies each of which would have this protection, it would do so with its eyes open.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

The small man would find it more expensive to insure than the rich man.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I was not dealing with the small man and the small policy. I was referring to the man to whom the right hon. Gentleman called attention who might try to secure an advantage by converting a large policy into a number of smaller policies, and in my view the insurance companies are quite capable of making arrangements to the advantage of both sides. Article 3 relieves a militiaman of liability for forfeiture of his policy in respect of non-payment of premiums due in his period of training, plus an equal period, and provides for a further period of grace. All that Article 4 does is to enable an employer to go on contributing to life insurance schemes in respect of employé s who have taken up training.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Apart from industrial assurance, there are people who belong to friendly societies who pay contributions for sickness benefit, superannuation, etc., and there seems to be nothing that covers these payments. Is there anything to protect people in friendly societies who are paying two shillings or so a week? Is there any protection for them?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am obliged to the hon. Member. The fact is that there is no specific mention in the Order of friendly societies. There is specific mention of two sorts of policies. One is the industrial assurance policy with regard to which there are certain statutory provisions, and in Article 2 all other policies are included, comprising friendly societies. That is the way the Order is drafted. It was necessary to draft a separate article for industrial assurances, which are governed by statute.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

A man not only pays for industrial assurance but for sickness, death, superannuation and unemployment. A proportion only of the contribution is in respect of industrial assurance, and can the right hon. Gentleman say whether only that same proportion of his contribution will be protected? Is there any kind of protection of the superannuation rights of the man?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The best answer that I can make at the moment is this. As regards the policy of insurance where the insurer is a friendly society catering for all forms of insurance, not only life and endowment insurance, but sickness and other benefits, my impression is that the provisions of the Order have exactly the same effect of protecting the policy from lapsing for non-payment of arrears as they have in the case of ordinary insurance. Therefore it seems to me that the man's rights, whatever they may be, are preserved here to exactly the same degree as are other rights. If a man claims during the period of grace, for any of these benefits, he is entitled to them, even though' he has not paid his premiums during the period of relief.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Does not this cover only life assurance endowments, and not the kindred objects which have been spoken of by hon. Members?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I can only give my impression, and I think I am right. It refers to a policy of insurance in general terms. There are all sorts of claims and benefits that may arise. The Order is not concerned with benefits but it is concerned with protecting whatever benefits are covered during the period of service, and it does that in the interests of the men to a degree not previously done.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Where is that provision? This applies to: every policy of assurance upon a human life under which premiums are payable. It deals with the Industrial Assurance Act, 1923, and the Industrial Insurance Act (Northern Ireland), 1924. There is no reference to anything else.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Will the hon. Member read on? or a policy effected before the commencement of the Industrial Assurance Act, 1923. or the Industrial Assurance Act (Northern Ireland), 1924, by a collecting society within the meaning of the said Act of 1923 or the said Act of 1924, as the case may be, which is not a contract of industrial assurance within the meaning of that Act.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked a question in regard to trade societies. Trade societies do not come in this Article at all.

Photo of Sir Robert Aske Sir Robert Aske , Newcastle upon Tyne East

These provisions do not apply to the cases mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals, where moneys are payable under a trade union's rules.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

There is no such thing as a policy here. I am chairman of a trade union, and we are rather generous, because we are a comfortably-off union. Other unions may not be in the same fortunate position. We cover a man to the amount of £20 at death, also for sickness, unemployment and superannuation. What I am asking is, what protection, if any, is given there? We do not grant a policy, but we do it by the ordinary rules of the society.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Under the normal procedure of a trades union, a man will run out of benefit in six months, and that may be the period when he has been called up for training. As far as I can see, this Order gives no protection whatever to the man in those circumstances, nor does it give any protection to men who are ordinarily in what we call friendly societies. They do not come in under the Orders we are considering.

Photo of Sir Richard Denman Sir Richard Denman , Leeds Central

Is it not clear on the face of the Order that the term "policy" includes much more than the ordinary policy? Policy includes where no specific document is issued constituting a contract of insurance, any document in whatever form evidencing such a contract.

Photo of Mr William Lunn Mr William Lunn , Rothwell

Is it not a fact that these men will have completed their service before the right hon. Gentleman finishes his speech?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) for his intervention. I have looked at the definition of policy in the Act and as far as I can understand it what it does is to ensure that any sort of document, in whatever form it is made, does constitute a policy, even though it would not be a policy in the ordinary sense. I was perhaps a little rash in answering the hon. Member for Gorbals. I did not quite appreciate what he meant when he asked me about friendly societies. What I was anxious to impress upon him was that policies issued by friendly societies attract the same sort of cover as do other policies.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

They do not issue policies.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

By "friendly societies" the hon. Member means something rather different from what I had in mind. I take it he is dealing with trade unions.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

And with friendly societies, such as the Shepherds and others.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I should think that it would depend upon the contract. I do not think that there is anything here that says that if a trade union has certain rules, and those rules are the sole guarantee the members have that they will get anything in the event of contingencies happening, that would be a policy that is covered here. In that type of organisation it has always been possible for the members to make their own rules and conduct their own business. This Order applies to wherever there is a contract of insurance between a friendly society or company on the one hand and on the other a beneficiary, who is not a member in the sense that he has any control over rules. Where the members have control over rules it is for the members to make their own rules.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

This matter affects the body with which I am associated. Does it follow that in regard to the rules of a society, the members having the right to go through the rules, and those rules being applicable, there would be no ground of liability under these Orders in regard to those particular members?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The answer is, I apprehend, "No," unless there was a policy in one form or another. If there was a document passing between the society and its members, if there was any form of document whereby the man is guaranteed on certain contingencies arising that he will be given a sum of money, then that is a policy to which this article applies. On the other hand, if there is no such document interchanged between the beneficiary on the one hand and the society or management on the other, and the whole matter is left entirely to the rules of the society, I understand that this Order does not apply.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

Within the purview of this Order if such rules had been registered by the Registrar, would any liability be carried by the Government in regard to any loss that might occur to the member while away on service?

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Does it come down to this, that where the rules of a society, such as that to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) referred, provide for the grant of a document to a member, that document would be a policy within the meaning of this Order, but where there is no such document then there is no policy, and the benefits are not protected? If that be so, will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Government thought it right to protect a contract in a case where there happens to be a document but not to protect it in a case where there happens to be no document, bearing in mind that the rules in both cases were passed and accepted by the society at a time when they could not have had any knowledge that the circumstances of the Military Service Act would ever arise?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That raises a rather larger question. My opinion of the matter is, as I have already stated, that if there is any document passing between the society and the man, which constitutes a contract of insurance under which the insurer undertakes some liability, then that document is a policy to which the Order would apply.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Does it matter at what date that document comes into existence? Could my hon. Friend's union start issuing documents now?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Suppose a union alters its rules in order to cover its members and another union does not alter its rules. That would mean that certain men called up would be covered for six months while others would find their policies or their agreements lapsing so far as industrial insurance is concerned. Do the Government intend to take no action of any kind to protect them? Will it do nothing to ensure regularity so far as these men are concerned, many of whom will be in trade unions and friendly societies?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

My observation would be that I do not think that as a general rule members of trade unions require to be protected from their union. In most cases they will find that anything that requires to be done is done. I am informed that there may be cases where the rules of the society itself are in such a form as to constitute, on any proper interpretation, a contract between the man and the society.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Where they are in that shape that would be a policy of insurance, because it is a document constituting a contract; but there may be many other cases where the rules are not so drawn, and in that case the Order would have the effect that I have indicated.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

A union or a friendly society alters its rules. What I am wondering about is whether in that process of altering the rules any protection can be given to the union or the friendly society that may take action to safeguard its members, but its rules do not. allow them to do so in the intervening period until the rules are altered. I want to know whether there is any protection in the intervening period.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not see precisely the point of the hon. Member. What I say is that as far as friendly societies are concerned—I do not speak from as wide a knowledge as the hon. Member although I have a fairly wide knowledge —I think the ordinary friendly society in a great number of cases is in a sort of double position in regard to its members. It is not only technically so, under the rules that they may have agreed together to enforce, but it is actually in a sort of contractual relation with its members and if there is a contractual relation with its members and a man is called up, then this Order applies. In other cases where there is no such contractual element present in the rules at all, and where there is no document which would bring it within the Order, I think the proper course would be to amend the rules so as to make them fair to the society and to the man.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

On a point of procedure. The Minister has now been addressing the House for two hours. I have no complaint to make against his manner or as to his courtesy, because both have been considerable indeed. But surely it shows that the Government have adopted a procedure in this matter which prevents Parliament effectively considering the matter before it. Ought not the Government to reconsider the whole position? There are many points still to be elucidated, and the proceedings to-day only show the absurdity of this procedure.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

May I make an appeal to the Minister? I heard the Prime Minister at Question Time to-day, and I understood him to say that he would see how these draft Regulations worked, and would then reconsider them if necessary.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That is not a point of Order.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I think the best way of dealing with this matter is for me to conclude my speech, and I gather that that receives the unanimous approval of the House. If I may be permitted to contribute to the discussion, I want to say that there is a great deal of urgency about this matter. I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) as to the inconvenience of this Order-in-Council procedure, and I agree that it should not be resorted to unless time is of the essence of the contract and something has to be done. Reservists have already been called up and militiamen are to be called up on 15th July. These obligations begin to press upon them now. It is all very well to say that the cover may be defective in some cases, but there is no doubt that it is a very great deal in most cases. Surely the best thing we can do is to get these Orders through, because no one can deny that they contain some excellent provisions. Let us give the cover now and then look about and produce any amending order which may be necessary. It is far better for the men to have this than to have nothing. The only other item I will mention is the question of scholarships. It is provided that if a scholarship is limited to a certain term of years it must be extended to the appropriate period after the man comes out. There is also the question of billeting and impressments, and the Order gives power in this connection analogous to the power under the relevant Act to call up reservists and Territorials if the situation warrants.

Let us give these men the cover which the Order affords them. Their dependants are safeguarded, they are safeguarded as to rent, and they also have monetary assistance if they come within the terms of the White Paper. Militiamen's obligations entered into before the 15th June are covered. Superannuation is completely safeguarded so that their service will count for superannuation and their rights are preserved. All questions regarding National Health insurance and employment are also safeguarded. Therefore, I say that whatever criticisms may be offered it can be said that in these Orders we have made a real effort to provide for the men who are answering the country's need a degree of protection which, I believe, does not accompany similar compulsory service in any part of the world.

6.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Brendan Bracken Mr Brendan Bracken , Paddington North

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down I want to put a point to him. I am one of the few members who have shown self-restraint. There are two small points on which I should like to ask a question in regard to Article 1. If a man is haled before a court to defend his position in relation to any claims made upon him and is brought from Salisbury Plain to Oban, or some other wild place in Scotland, he will have to. pay a considerable sum of money in railway fares. Who is going to pay that sum of money?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

The hon. Member cannot go back and ask a question on the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Before I put the Question I understand that the debate is to range over all three Orders. If the hon. Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell) moves his Amendment now it will somewhat limit the debate and, therefore, I think it would be better if he moved his Amendment at the end of the debate and then the House can take a decision on the first Resolution.

6.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

I entirely agree that it will be for the convenience of hon. Members if I postpone moving the Amendment until later in our proceedings. I feel that I am expressing the opinion of all hon. Members who have been present during the last two hours in Offering our sympathy to the right hon. Gentleman. He has had a most difficult task and I think he has acquitted himself very ably. At the same time I think it should be said, and I shall say it as kindly as I can, that the last two hours have proved a time of profound humiliation to the Government. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has said has convinced hon. Members on this side of the House, and I doubt whether conviction has been brought to hon. Members opposite, that the ambiguities to which the Lord Chancellor referred in another place have been removed. I go so far as to say that doubts have increased. One thing appears certain, and that is that considerable difficulties will emerge if these Orders are accepted.

It appears to me that the Orders have been framed by lawyers. I say that because one thing is tolerably sure to happen, and that is there will be considerable litigation in the future; the courts are going to be very busy. While I am not complaining about the courts in general I am not prepared, nor are my colleagues prepared, to put the militiamen and their dependants at the mercy of the courts. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the provisions contained in the Orders-in-Council are better than nothing. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said. Surely it is very strange for a representative of the Government to come along and say, "Here are these Orders-in-Council; they may not be as satisfactory as we should like them to be, there may be doubts, and confusion may arise, but, after all, they are better than nothing."

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The only point I wanted to make about that was that it is better to have these Orders-in-Council than to go into a huddle on a Select Committee and postpone these Orders until they are technically perfect.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

I do not desire to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. He was quite fair in his presentation of the Government's case, and I shall try to be equally fair in the presentation of our case against the Orders-in-Council. I want to say a word about the question of procedure which will have to be settled. I should have liked to have seen the Minister of Labour in his place because he was responsible, during the Debate on the Military Training Bill, for presenting the arguments in support of Orders-in-Council. He told us on that occasion that it was the simplest form of procedure, no difficulties would arise, and that in due course hon. Members would be acquainted with the intentions of the Government. Some of us ventured to express disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion. Now we are faced with this very unhappy procedure, which in my judgment is fair neither to the militiamen nor their dependants, nor for that matter fair to the people to whom they may be indebted.

It will be agreed that we are dealing with matters which are highly technical and complicated, and with matters of far- reaching importance which can be adequately debated only in Committee. We are debarred from offering any suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman for the reason that he could not accept them. More than once during his speech the; right hon. Gentleman said that he was anxious to listen to hon. Members. But what is the purpose in view? The right hon. Gentleman cannot, on this occasion, amend the Orders, for he is debarred from doing that by this procedure, unless he means—and the hint was conveyed in the course of his speech—that suggestions made by hon. Members in the course of the Debate will be accepted, or at least considered, by the Government, and that very shortly there will be amending Orders. If that be the intention of the Government —

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

—we should now have an unambiguous reply, for that might curtail the Debate. It might place hon. Members in the position of realising that, however ambiguous and unsatisfactory the Orders may be, at least in the course of a few days, or a week or so, new Orders will be produced. In the absence of a reply on that head, I must assume that the Government are still in doubt as to their future intentions.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Gentleman has more or less asked me to give a reply. I think the position was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and I do not wish to add to what he said. The Government will consider everything that is said in the Debate. It is clear that these matters affect such a wide range of life that contributions from as wide a source as possible will be welcomed and considered. We will consider their effect in practice and in experience, and if wisdom shows that amending Orders are necessary, then Amendments will be made. There is time for them.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

My reply to that observation is that the Government, in making that offer to wait and see whether the provisions operate satisfactorily or not, are themselves in some doubt as to the adequacy of the provisions.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Let us be quite clear. We know now where the right hon. Gentleman stands. When I put that point, he shook his head. The Government, then, are satisfied about the adequacy of the proposals. Is that the position of the Government?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There is no such dilemma. I do not say that the Orders are perfection, and no one can ever say that they are. No human endeavour is. What I said was that we think they are adequate in the sense that they afford a very great measure of protection, but we do not profess to say that experience may not show us that they need to be changed. If that happened, we should be prepared to amend them.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that his colleague in another place said that the Orders would require to be amended by other Orders? Indeed, the Lord Chancellor indicated that the House of Commons would no doubt express opinions of which the Government would take note. Obviously, the Government are on the horns of a dilemma, but what I want to know is on what horn they propose to be impaled. Do they propose to accept suggestions from hon. Members in the course of the Debate with a view to amending Orders being introduced very shortly, or do they propose to see how the provisions operate over an extended period, and then, as a result of difficulty, confusion, discontent and the clamour of public opinion, to say that, in the circumstances, the Orders will be amended? The position is a most unsatisfactory one. I will not delay the House further by dealing with questions of that kind at greater length.

I come to the facts of the situation. We are all in agreement in trying to do the best we can for the militiamen. The question is whether these provisions are calculated to bring that measure of relief to the militiamen and their dependants which we regard as being essential in the circumstances. It will be noted that the Government are accepting no financial liability. There is no Treasury grant. The Government are not giving anything. There is no question of a subsidy—these are militiamen, not farmers or landlords. It will be agreed that liabilities may be incurred by the men and their dependants —that is implicit in the Orders—and by landlords and traders; but none will be incurred by the Government, who have forced these men into the service of the country. That cannot be denied. Let us see exactly what the Orders mean. I will follow the right hon. Gentleman and try to deal with the Orders in turn, although on the subject of industrial assurance, apart from a few general observations, I shall leave that matter to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston).

I will take the first matter that arises under the Military Training Order. Here we are dealing with what the right hon. Gentleman described as "cover" for militiamen and their dependants, where debt has accrued, or is likely to accrue, as a result of rent that may be due or moneys that ought to have been paid under hire-purchase agreements. Let us get into our minds exactly what is likely to occur. A militiaman is called up. He goes into training. He may be a married man. Of course, the allowance, plus the allotment from the husband, is inadequate to enable the wife to keep the home going, and to pay the rent; and she finds herself in difficulty. If she is unable to pay the rent—and this is a case that may arise— what is the landlord to do? There is nothing in the Orders which asserts that the landlord, in those circumstances, is not entitled to institute proceedings. He wants his rent. A contract has been entered into and the terms of that contract must be complied with. The landlord issues a summons against the militiaman, and the militiaman is expected to appear in court. There is no provision which states that the militiaman need not appear. In default of an appearance, an order may be given against him. But let hon. Members note that it is not within the competence of the judge, whoever he may be, to determine the circumstances of the defendant unless that defendant appears, or is represented, and the facts are stated. The same considerations apply to the dependants; of the militiaman. There may be a widowed mother who is haled before the court, and an order may be given against her, if the landlord demands it. But after the order has been granted, the Order-in-Council begins to operate. If, in the opinion of the court—the judge has absolute discretion in the matter—the circumstances are of such a character as to justify the non-enforcement of the order, the judge may so decide.

Arising from that, I want to put a point that was mentioned by several hon. Members in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. What is to be the position of the defendant, the militiaman, if he is undergoing training in a camp that is remote from his place of residence? Is he to obtain leave of absence without difficulty in order to appear in court? But whether he does or does not, what kind of situation is likely to emerge if a number of militiamen are hailed before the court to answer a summons at the behest of a landlord or a hire-purchase trader? How is that going to affect the morale of the men, and what effect will it have on public opinion, quite apart from the dislocation of the training? I want to know whether the defendant is to appear in court? Is he to obtain the necessary leave of absence, and moreover, is he to be provided with travelling facilities? Are we to understand that the War Office will place at his disposal a free railway warrant in order that he may appear in court. Finally, are these men to be provided with legal facilities? That is the essence of the case. It is particularly so in the case of a woman, the wife of a militiaman, or it may be his widowed mother, a female dependant, or an aged parent. These persons may have to appear in court, to face a judge in unusual circumstances and unusual surroundings, and to face, it may well be—it is almost certain—a lawyer on the other side for the landlord or the trader who desires to be represented by a lawyer. We are entitled to know whether these persons are to be legally represented, and what provision is made for that. That is a serious difficulty.

I come now to what is likely to happen in the ordinary case that one can envisage. A landlord issues a summons against a militiaman on the ground that he has failed to comply with the terms of a contract for rent or hire-purchase. The circumstances are to be inquired into by the judge. The judge must be satisfied that the defendant was not in a position to meet the liability. What kind of questions are going to be asked? They will be, What the allowances are, what the allotment is, and whether the soldier can afford to allot more than 3s. 6d. from his pay? Moreover, the means test is to be invoked and after all these inquiries and interrogations the judge has to decide whether title order is to be enforced or not. Suppose the judge in his discretion decides that an order of the court should not be enforceable during the period of training and during the further period of grace. The man returns to civil life. He may or may not be reinstated in his former employment. That depends on a variety of circumstances. The court in its discretion may decide not to enforce the order for a further six months. But at the end of the period there has accumulated a load of debt which cannot easily be disposed of and which hangs like a millstone round the neck of the militiaman or is a burden on his dependants. Surely that is not our intention. But that is precisely what is going to happen. Thus we shall be faced with a situation in which men will be saddled with debt, attributable to the Military Training Act and their service for the Crown.

I submit another consideration which may not have occurred to the Government. Take the case of a militiaman who serves his six months and is attracted to Army life. While he is serving as a militiaman, these Orders-in-Council can be invoked for his protection so far as protection as required. He decides at the end of his training period to join the Regular Army. The Secretary of State for War, I presume, would have no objection to that. The militiaman is entitled to join the Regular Army but immeditaely he transfers torn the military training scheme to the Regular Forces, he is denied the protection of these Orders, although the same liabilities may still exist. There is something very anomalous in a provision of that kind. After the period of training and the period of grace have both expired, a court order cannot be stayed any longer. It comes immediately into operation, although it is true that the judge may decide to adjust the conditions of repayment—by which I suppose is meant that repayment can be by instalments. Nevertheless, the man, because of his period of training, or it may be, because of unemployment during the further period of six months grace, will be unable to meet his liabilities.

I pass from that to consider the position of the creditors. Where do they stand? Article 2 of the Order under the Military Training Act provides that landlords, traders and other creditors should be indemnified, that is to say that no court order shall be enforced against them if, in the opinion of the court, their inability to comply with the terms of any contract is attributable to militiamen having had to undergo training or the dependants of militiamen finding themselves unable to meet their liabilities. That is an unprecedented proposal, and I want to know how far it is to extend. If a hire-purchase trader is not to have an order of the court enforced against him, because of these circumstances, then the manufacturer is entitled to have this moratorium extended to him. Take the case of a cycle trader. He sells 100 cycles to militiamen, or to those who are likely to become militiamen. They find themselves unable to pay and he finds himself in difficulties. An order is made against him. The court decides that his financial circumstances are attributable to the fact that these militiamen are undergoing training, and to their consequent inability to pay. The order is not enforced. What about those from whom the trader has bought the cycles? So we find here a labyrinth of provisions which will in the end lead to extraordinary loopholes and evasions. I do not think the Government have given this point proper consideration. I leave it to the right hon. Gentleman and I hope for some reply from him upon it.

Now I come to the question of the building societies which is dealt with in Article 3. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that in this respect there is a postponement of the liability. There is, so to speak, a method of deferred payment. Whether the building societies have been asked for their opinion on this. matter or not, I am unable to say. I imagine that many building societies will incur some loss on account of the interest which would ordinarily accrue on repayments during the six months period. I am not here to speak on behalf of the building societies, however, and what I want to ask about is the position of the militiaman who is unable to resume repayment after the six months period has elapsed. Perhaps I had better direct the attention of hon. Members specifically to this Article. It says: No such instalments shall become due during his period of training, but the first instalment which would have become due during that period shall become due on the first date fixed for the payment of an instalment next after the end of that period. What does that mean? The militiaman returns from training and re-enters civil life. A repayment may be due only a few days later. Obviously he has not had time to be reinstated in his former employment. He has not received any wages. How is he to meet this liability? It is impossible. I think, therefore, that a further period of grace will be essential for men who are in that position but apparently the Government have never given that matter any consideration.

I pass to Article 4 which deals with superannuation rights. It provides that local authorities should pay contributions to superannuation funds which ordinarily would have been paid by the man himself had he not been undergoing training. I admit that from the standpoint of the man that is satisfactory and I am not complaining. But what of the position of the local authorities? The local authorities have to make up these contributions. Do the Government know what the financial liability will be? Have they considered it? Is the Minister of Health here to deal with this matter? Has he gone into it? Apparently not. As far as I know, the local authorities themselves are unaware of the implications of this provision. I know that they have made representations in connection with other matters but, so far, apparently, they have not appreciated the full force and intensity of this provision which, although it does afford a small measure of protection to the militiamen, may have the effect ultimately of increasing the rates. Besides I think we are entitled to know what is to be the actuarial position of these superannuation funds if there are adjustments. It is a matter of some moment to those who are affected by these schemes. In regard to private superannuation funds what do we find? There is a reference to changes that may occur in the absence of the payment by private employers of contributions which, ordinarily, would have been made by the militiaman if he had been at work. The expression used is "subject to such adjustments." Does that imply a reduction in the benefits to be paid when superannuation begins to operate, or does it imply that the burden is to be spread over other persons who are not militiamen but who are affected by the payments made to a particular scheme?

A word about industrial assurance. As I said my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling is to deal with the more technical aspects of that question, but there is one matter to which I wish to refer and which was not dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman. It is obvious from the Order that after the period of grace has expired, if a claim should accrue and arrears have accumulated, a deduction may take effect, which amounts to a multiplication of those arrears by two or four or six as the case may be. This involves a substantial reduction in the amount to be paid. I believe that is a penalisation of militiamen and their dependants which ought not for a moment to be tolerated. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought the terms might be regarded by some hon. Members as being too generous to the militiaman. That was a somewhat ambiguous statement. Are we to be more solicitous about the interests of shareholders, than about the interests of the militiamen? I agree that shareholders in industrial assurance companies may suffer to some extent. As far as some industrial insurance societies are concerned, the burden may be spread over other policy holders. These are considerations which the Government must bear in mind.

Then what about the position of apprentices? When the Military Training Bill was going through the House it was provided that apprentices should be protected as regards their period of apprenticeship, but no such provision appears in the Order. The Act itself says that Orders-in-Council will duly appear dealing with this matter. There is nothing in these Orders, however, which relates to the position of apprentices. What is to be the position of those men whose period of apprenticeship is interrupted because they have been called up to undergo training. The period of military training will not count and when the man returns to civil life he will have to prolong his apprenticeship period, to make up. for his six months absence from civil life. I think apprentices are entitled to a measure of protection in that respect.

I come now to what I regard as the substance of these proposals. These Orders are linked up, as I see it, with the question of pay and allowances. When we were considering that question some time ago, I ventured the opinion that the allowances were inadequate. We have now been furnished with a White Paper which I do not propose to discuss in detail but to which I will make a brief reference. From it we gather that the allowances to be provided are no more adequate than we expected them to be. Clearly, if the allowances were adequate, there would be no need for these Orders-in-Council at all, but on the present basis of allowances hardship is bound to arise, and indeed the fact that the Government have introduced these Orders-in-Council is itself a recognition of the fact that hardship is bound to occur. The question is, How is that hardship to be overcome?

But before I deal with what we regard as more constructive means of dealing with the difficulty, may I point out that another difficulty will arise in due course, though some may regard it as a disappearance of a difficulty? Private traders who are engaged in hire-purchase trading and other traders and landlords will be extremely reluctant to enter into contracts with men who are about to be called up, or even with their dependants. I can imagine a young man of, say, 19 years and six months going to a cycle dealer and desiring to purchase a cycle on the hire-purchase system, and the cycle trader asking him what his age is, and when he replies that it is 19 years and 6 months, saying, "But surely you will be called up, and then you will come within the provisions of these Orders-in-Council, and I shall not be able to enforce an order against you. You will have a liability created which you will not be able to meet, and I shall not be able to meet my liability, and, therefore, there is no cycle for you." It will have the effect of disturbing a great deal of normal trade It will certainly create difficulties for militiamen in that way, and although the difficulties which these Orders are intended to overcome may to some: extent be less intense than they arc: likely to be in the first six or twelve months, at the same time there is no reason why we should build up difficulties of that kind for persons who are about to be called up.

Now I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider other means of dealing with this situation. He has referred to the White Paper, which relates, among other matters, to the setting up of a committee which may consider cases of hardship and which may make financial grants to persons who may prove their case. I am in some doubts, and I fancy the right hon. Gentleman himself is in some doubts, as to the kind of case that could be dealt with. He seemed to indicate that rents could be dealt with, but that seems to be an extraordinary position. Surely he does not suggest that a person who is summoned by a landlord for non-payment of rent, and is ordered to appear in court, can immediately make representations to the Special Committee and obtain relief. Is that the intention? I doubt it. I am certain that if it was intended that militiamen and their dependants could ordinarily go before this Special Committee and ask for financial assistance, these Orders-in-Council would never have been introduced. It would be unnecessary to invoke the assistance of the courts and ask them to exercise their discretion. At the same time, as during the War, so now, we could create something like a Civil Liabilities Commission, and, indeed, I take it that that is what is intended, so that all liabilities—obviously there must be some limit; I regard £2 as much too low for the purpose—incurred by militiamen and their dependants can be brought within the scope of the Military Service Special Allowances Committee.

That seems to me to be a more satisfactory solution. It does not require the aid of lawyers. It obviates the need for someone to appear before the court or for extra leave from camp to be given in order that men should so appear. It obviates all the difficulties that may arise if orders are enforceable, as no doubt some of them will be, because the full circumstances have either not been explained to the court or perhaps the judge in his discretion has decided that the militiaman or his dependants can afford to pay. That is the first suggestion that I make to the Government, and I make it all the more particularly because the Government themselves have imposed this scheme on the nation. They have forced this scheme on the; House of Commons, and we ought to see that conscription is not made easy or cheap for the Government. I am not arguing the merits of conscription now. It is on the Statute Book, and we hope to see it operating efficiently and to the advantage of the nation as a whole. The Government have now undertaken the task and succeeded in it, and surely the Government ought to shoulder the financial responsibility, instead of which, if I may use a familiar but somewhat vulgar expression, they have "passed the buck" to the courts in the first place, to the landlords and traders and moneylenders.

My second proposal is that increased allowances might assist us in solving this difficulty. I do not want to deal with the details of the allowances. Hon. Members must have read them and must agree with me, from whatever quarter of the House they speak, that the allowances on the whole, particularly in the case of ordinary dependants, are most inadequate. I am speaking of allowances paid to militiamen and their dependants. The utmost that can be paid, including the allotment in the case of a widowed mother completely dependant on a militiaman before he went for his training, is 20s. 6d. a week, and out of that she is expected to pay rent. Or are we to assume that a widowed mother in those circumstances, receiving, including allotment, 20s. 6d. a week in all and unable to meet her rent liability, is to be summoned before the court and an order is to be stayed on the ground that her allowance is inadequate, and the court is then to decide, by implication, that the allowances granted by this Government are hopelessly inadequate for the purpose intended? It is an amazing state of affairs. I hope the Government will reconsider the question and increase the allowances, so that these people might meet their ordinary liabilities without invoking the aid of the courts.

Then I want to take a further point, which is that we ought in some way to make provision for financial assistance, where the circumstances justify it, after the period of training has expired. It may be that men will not be quickly reinstated and that they may find themselves in difficulties, as in the case of one-man businesses, because they are unable to respond to the changed circumstances when they return to their ordinary avocations. I urge upon the Government to find ways and means of making provision of that kind, in order to meet the hardship that is bound to arise. I must also refer to a matter of very great importance which arose in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and that is the question of making up the pay of the men in the Civil Service, in the employment of local authorities, and indeed throughout industry as a whole. It will be noted that in the Military Training Act Order there is no provision for making up the difference in pay. The Government have refused to make up the difference in pay of the civil servant, whether established or unestablished, and local authorities are being told by the Minister of Health that if they do make up the difference in pay, they will have to meet the auditors. The Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health sits in his place there and cannot deny what I have just said.

They have received instructions to that effect under the Military Training Act, but as regards the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act, it will be noted that there is a differentiation. Some civil servants, established, of course—for the ordinary workman, for example, employed in a Government dockyard or at Woolwich, a man who is not, as we used to call it, on the staff, will not be brought within the ambit of this scheme—and certain employ— s of local authorities will have the balance of their pay made up, either by the State or by the local authorities—in the case of the local authorities, if they so desire; they are not compelled. The question that surely arises is this: Why this differentiation? Why in the case of a militiaman who is a civil servant or an employ— of a local authority should there be no making up of the balance of his pay, and yet in the case of a person who is training under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act should it be made up? It will be noted that in the case of Territorials and Reservists called out under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act, who may be undergoing service for a month, two months, three months, or four months—I believe four is the maximum but I am not sure on that point—during that period the balance of their pay is made up, and in an adjoining camp, or it may be in the same camp, are militiamen undergoing six months' training whose pay is not made up at all. That is an anomaly that surely ought to be corrected.

The right hon. Gentleman appeared to suggest, as I understood it, that after all this was a very great liability, that the Government could not be called upon to accept all the liabilities likely to arise, and that some inconvenience was bound to emerge. I agree about the inconvenince, but if the Government had given a proper lead in this matter, private firms, or many of them at least, would have responded. The fact that the Government have refused to make up the balance of pay of militiamen is an inducement to private firms which otherwise might have been disposed to make up the balance of pay to refuse to do it. I want to add just this: There is a great deal that could be said about these Articles, and no doubt my hon. Friends will carry on this Debate for several hours and will have a great deal to say, but I want to say that if the Government feel that the conditions that are wrapped up in these Orders are likely to escape notice, they are making the greatest mistake of their political lives. Wait until these provisions begin to operate. The Prime Minister said this evening, and the opinion he expressed was echoed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that when they, so to speak, gather the voices of the country we can judge as to the accuracy or otherwise of the critics. I have not the least doubt that before many weeks, certainly many months, have elapsed we shall have gathered that in this country there is a considerable volume of opinion which is discontented over these provisions. We ought to recall the clamour over the Unemployment Insurance Regulations. There you were dealing with a single issue. Here we are dealing with a great variety of issues, and these Orders in my opinion will have a similar result.

It would be a reflection on the whole nation if any person were penalised on account of military training. I say that as regards the militiaman, and his dependants, and I am prepared to say it, on behalf of hon. Members on this side, if it applies to traders and landlords, some of whom are not very well-to-do, and some of whom are dependent upon what they receive from week to week from working-class people. If persons of that kind are penalised it may, in my judgment, deeply affect the moral of the people concerned. It would also disturb hundreds, and it may be thousands, of contracts, and would give rise to considerable litigation in that regard. It was never intended that militiamen on their return from training should face an accumulation of debt, and we must take appropriate measures to prevent what is certain to happen unless these Orders are amended.

I think it would be proper if the Government took one of two courses that are open to them. One seems the obvious course, and that is to withdraw these Orders at once, and come forward in the next few days, perhaps in the next fortnight, with amended Orders more satisfactory for our purpose. After all, in view of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and the speech delivered by his colleague in another place, that course is amply justified. But there is another course open. Something was said to-day about a Select Committee. I am not myself enthusiastic about the appointment of a Select Committee immediately, for it might have the effect of causing delay. But surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the proper course to take, if he is not prepared to withdraw the Orders entirely, is, if the House accepts these Orders, to appoint immediately a Select Committee who can examine the Orders and consider whether in their operation they will be adequate, or whether any amendments can be proposed.

I feel that this is an unprecedented occasion. The right hon. Gentleman delivered an unprecedented speech, for which he is not entirely to blame, because he had to deal with most difficult Orders-in-Council—for which he is not to blame, I am certain. But the Government collectively are responsible, and therefore I must criticise him as an individual. I have said what I have said, not particularly because we want to condemn the Government, but more particularly to afford the utmost protection for militiamen and their dependants.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

On a point of Order. On account of the non-suspension of the Rule to-day, may I ask whether this is exempted business?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

These Orders are exempted business.

7.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

The hon. Member who has just spoken has said that this has been an extraordinary Debate, and I think this is an extraordinary occasion. I join with him in warmly congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the happy way in which he handled an almost intolerably difficult situation, and I think we all appreciated his patience and his courtesy. But what is the position we are in at this moment? We are trying to pass what are in fact three Bills of major importance, and all immensely complicated, in about three hours. They are Bills which are not only complicated but also, I fear, half-baked. It is not anybody's fault, in particular, but that is what they are; and these three immensely complicated and half-baked measures are submitted to us, and we have to pass them, without adequate consultation or discussion, and without an opportunity of amending them in any respect. I do not think that is a proper procedure for this House, or for the Government, and I hope it is not going to be a precedent. The attendance in the House this afternoon shows that this is one of the occasions when this House is extremely anxious to offer its help and criticism, and we are not given a chance to do so. The Lord Chancellor, if I may say so, "passed the buck" to this House by implying in another place that these three Orders-in-Council would get serious consideration here. We should have been glad to give them serious consideration, but we have not been given a chance.

I had hoped to cover a wider field, but I think in the circumstances that our only chance of getting a reasoned view is for each of us to concentrate as far as possible on any subject with which we are specially familiar, and leave other Members to deal with other aspects that they know best. I know the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will be handling the question of unemployment insurance, and no doubt the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) will deal with the question of industrial assurance. I will say at this juncture only that I agree in principle with what was said by the hon. Gentleman who is leading for the Opposition this evening, and that is that I think that a great many of these difficulties might have been avoided if an adequate system of allowances for the militiamen had been devised by the Government. When the hon. Member says that the Government has to some extent "passed the buck" to the country, I think there is a good deal of truth in that. The Government in these three Orders-in-Council seem to a large extent to be foisting a burden which really belongs to them on to different sections of the community; and I am not at all sure that so far as these three Orders-in-Council are concerned, we are not getting perilously near to discussing a Money Bill. They certainly impose a very definite financial burden upon certain sections of the community; and that is an aspect that we ought to consider very seriously, if this is to be a precedent; because I do not think we have any right to impose a financial burden on any section of the community in one evening, without having an opportunity for adequate discussion, or even of amending the particular Orders in question.

After these preliminary observations, I would like to say that I do not propose to speak at all upon the general provisions of the Orders, but simply to deal with one particular aspect of them of which I have some personal knowledge. I propose to deal with them as they affect life insurance; but the arguments in this case apply very largely over the whole field covered by the Orders. Hon. Members on all sides of the House have stated more than once that it is our ambition to see that the militiamen do not suffer in any way as a result of their service. That is the main objective, I think common to all sides; and the Government, I think, to do them justice, are genuinely anxious that the militiamen should not suffer. What they are trying to do is to make other people suffer on their behalf; and the one thing they are absolutely determined on is not to suffer themselves. That is the principle that they have adopted. The original object of these Orders-in-Council was to relieve militiamen of certain financial obligations which they may have undertaken in the past, or may undertake in the future; and if, so far as life insurance companies at any rate are concerned, these proposals had been confined to the militiamen I think no very great difficulty would have arisen, because that is a comparatively small cross-section of the public, and the life insurance companies could have stood a certain amount of unfairness, because the total sum involved in any circumstances would not have been great.

But His Majesty's Government have, since the original proposal, added the whole of the Territorials and the Reservists, thus vastly extending the field; and I want to ask the Government why they have done this, and, if they want to make special concessions to Territorials and Reservists, why they have chosen this way to do it. What a method to choose! It is a bad enough method, as I think the House fully agrees, to deal with the militiamen; but to carry through a comprehensive measure of this kind by the method of Order-in-Council is, I think, a very bad precedent indeed.

With the principle of relief there is every sympathy. During the last War the life offices of this country, against whom no charge of lack of patriotism can be, or ever has been, levelled, submitted proposals to the Government with the object of relieving those who were serving, and a scheme was drawn up and operated by the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Committee which was set up in 1916. But there were two fundamental differences between that scheme and the proposals which are before us this evening. The first difference was that evidence of the need for relief was required in each case; and, so far as the relief of hardship among militiamen is concerned, I take no objection to that. We do not like the means test in other connections; but I do feel, especially in the case for example of a man who perhaps has taken out half a dozen policies, with premiums under £25, that if he is to get off and cover his life for a period without any liability, it is grossly un far. I feel that, first of all, the need for relief should be investigated; and I gather from the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite that he also accepts that view. In the case of the last War the cost of relief was borne by the Government, and I think that the cost of relief should be borne by the Government to-day. That is why I say that, if a proper and adequate system of allowances for militiamen had been devised, there would not be any necessity for these extremely complicated Orders-in-Council, which will undoubtedly weigh heavily on various sections of the community.

A cursory glance at the draft Order might convey the impression that the only cost to the life offices will arise from the loss of interest on the unpaid premiums for the part of the time during which they are outstanding. But this is very far from being the case. The cost will vary with different policies, and in some cases theoffices—and let me remind hon. Members that the offices are the policy holders— will lose up to the maximum of the whole of the premiums affected by the Order. The payment of premiums cannot be enforced. An obligation to pay a premium is not a debt. It is possible in certain circumstances to continue a life policy in force leaving part of the insured person's obligation to pay premiums as a loan. But if a loan of this kind is made against the security of a policy that policy must have a cash value sufficient to justify the advance; and if in the past any policy-holder has already borrowed on the security of his policy—even a policy which is for a long term—it may, from the cash-value point of view, be practically worthless.

Therefore, to the extent that any life office is compelled, as it will be under this Order-in-Council, to grant loans in excess of the cash-value of any policy, it is put in the position granting a life assurance without payment of premiums, and without any guarantee that premiums are going to be paid, because at the end of the period of relief, which may extend over a number of years, the insured person may allow the policy to lapse. Why should he not do so? He has been covered for two or even three years against the risk of death, and at the end finds himself holding a policy encumbered by arrears of debt. Why should he not let the policy lapse; and, if necessary, take out a new one? There is nothing in this Order-in-Council to prevent him doing it. Circumstances might easily arise in which it would be possible for an insured person who had obtained relief to allow his policy to lapse, thus getting clear of all liability for the arrears which had accumulated; and then to take out a new policy. Cover given costs money, and, whichever way one looks at it, the fact remains that a considerable number of people will, under this provision, get free life insurance over a period of years at the expense of the life offices.

I have no objection to people getting free life insurance if the State decides to give it, but it should not be at the expense of the policy-holders of the various insurance companies, many of whom are people of very small means. Where is the equity in asking these other policy-holders, who in the case of mutual offices —and many of our greatest offices are mutual offices—own the insurance company, to bear this burden, because undoubtedly it is a burden? If the Government think it is a burden which ought to be shouldered they should bear that burden themselves. That is a principle upon which, I think, a great many hon. Members on both sides of the House really agree in their hearts, though some of them do not like to say so. The life offices are not great profit-making machines. In some cases they pay nominal dividends to shareholders, but, in the main, life insurance offices are simply the custodians of the savings of their policy-holders, and it is these people who will have to bear this burden. The liability imposed under this Order-in-Council upon the life offices is one that cannot be estimated in advance, a remark which applies also to the friendly societies, the industrial offices, and the trade unions; and I venture to suggest that the Government, by introducing an Order of this character, are cutting at the very roots of the whole of our insurance system, which is based upon very careful actuarial calculations, and which will be completely upset and vitiated as soon as this Order-in-Council is passed. The uncertainty is admitted by the Government itself, because in regard to Section 2 of the Military Training Act they say: It is not possible in advance of experience to make any estimate of the cost to the Exchequer or the local rates of the matters dealt with by the Orders. This statement is not repeated in the Order which is under discussion at the moment, because the cost is to fall, not upon the Government, but upon the unfortunate life offices; nevertheless it applies just the same, and, as I say, it vitiates all the actuarial calculations that these offices have made, and will inevitably cause a revision of all their rates.

To come down to details, in paragraph (3) on page 2 of the Explantory Memo- randum, a premium of £25 is not fixed as the limit. Both the Lord Chancellor in another place yesterday, and the Chancellor of the Duchy here this afternoon, have admitted that there is nothing to prevent any rich policy-holder with a policy the premium on which amounts to £500 or £600 a year dividing his policy into half-a-dozen separate policies each of £24 10s. premium, and getting off scot free on the lot. The Chancellor of the Duchy said the provision as to £25 did not apply to individuals but to policies only. There is therefore nothing to prevent any policy holder making an arrangement to do that either with one insurance company or with separate insurance companies.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

Would it not depend upon the insurance company allowing him to do it?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

Not if he went to different insurance companies, as many people do; and hitherto few insurance companies have refused an application by a policy holder to divide his policy for purposes of his convenience.

Sir Joseph Nail:

The right to divide may already exist in the conditions of the existing policy.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

It frequently does. As it does not bar the individual I do not know why the figure of £25 was ever introduced, because it can be so easily overcome. Then, I think, we ought to make some protest about the drafting of this particular Order. I do not know whether hon. Members have read it, but I should like to ask what the word "surrender" means in paragraph 1 of Article 2, and also what the last paragraph means. Will the offices have to issue new policies in such cases? And, at the end of the day, will the amount assured be adjusted to meet the arrears, or will the paid-up policy be subject to all accumulated arrears of premium, and go on as a debt-encumbered policy? As for Article 3 of the Order, I should like to read to the House paragraph (c) of Clause 1. It will not take long, and I shall be very interested if any hon. Member is able to explain precisely what it means: if, by reason of his undergoing service on that occasion, the total period for which he has undergone service amounts, at any time during the period of his service on that occasion, to seven and a-half months, the period of his service on that occasion, together with the period immediately following the last-mentioned period, and equal to so much thereof as completed the said seven arid a-half months, shall be taken to be a period of relief. No wonder the Lord Chancellor said yesterday that these Orders were not devoid of ambiguity and would require to be amended by later Orders, and that before very long. He said further—I am quoting from his speech as reported in the "Times"—that he was perfectly convinced that His Majesty's Government would be glad to introduce such amended Orders. But, he added, that for his part he did not know how it could be done. Finally, he told us, presumably by way of justification, that both Ministers and draftsmen had been so busy lately that they had not had enough time to sleep. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House are all very distressed indeed to hear that; but, even so, I cannot think that the sleeplessness of Ministers and draftsmen is a complete justification or excuse for this particular Order-in-Council being presented to us in this fashion. The statement of the Lord Chancellor seems, however, to be an absolutely overwhelming argument in favour of withdrawing immediately these Orders as they stand and producing better ones as soon as possible. I am sure that it can be done without undue delay. I know that the life offices, so far as this particular Order-in-Council is concerned, would be glad to co-operate with the Government in that task, and I have no doubt that all other interests concerned would be glad to do so also. Hon. Members in this House who have special knowledge of these points would be glad to place their experience at the disposal of His Majesty's Government, which they have not yet had an opportunity of doing; and I am certain if the Government would withdraw these Orders that every interest concerned, every experienced person over the whole field, would place his services at the disposal of the Government, and that a fresh set of Orders—which might not be perfect, but which would be infinitely better than the present ones— could be produced within a week.

I beg my right hon. Friend to consider that suggestion very seriously. I have dealt only with the one Order-in-Council which is concerned with life insurance; but I am sure that the same criticisms could be made of the others. If they go through as they stand to-day there will be unlimited chaos, confusion and unfairness, until the time comes, as it will come, when they have to be withdrawn, or at least amended out of recognition. Meanwhile, the insurance companies will, in self-defence, be obliged to modify the very generous terms, covering all risks, which they are now offering to young men in this country; and that in itself would be a very serious thing.

This Debate has shown clearly to my mind that whatever method is desirable in order to put through necessary legislation as speedily as possible this particular method is certainly not the right one; and I hope that it is a precedent which will not be repeated, because the experience which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade underwent when he was Minister of Labour, through no fault of his own—the experience which we had in the case of the Unemployment Assistance Board—showed the folly of issuing bad regulations which cannot be enforced without unfairness and which lead to difficulty and confusion. I am sure that before the end of this Debate my right hon. Friend will receive many other warnings in addition to those already given.

I therefore suggest that the Government should, even at this stage, withdraw these Orders as they stand, consult the interests concerned, take advantage of the experience that hon. Members have in all these matters, and produce in a week's time a better series of Orders. This would cause much less hardship; and in the end would conduce to the efficiency of the Government machinery and to the welfare of the militiamen and of the Territorials. The alternative is to pass these Orders. Then what will happen? In a few weeks' time this House will rise, and although there may be the most appalling deficiencies and inequalities revealed nothing effective can be done until the late autumn. That is another powerful argument for a reconsideration of the whole question by the Government.

7.28 p.m.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

First I should like to offer a word of congratulation to the Chancellor of the Duchy for the magnificent Parliamentary performance which he put up to-day, under a withering fire from all sides of the House. It is only regrettable that the case he was trying to defend was such an exceedingly poor one. He really pleaded guilty himself, because on several occasions he had to say, "I am not defending them; I am only explaining the Regulations." I am sure it is the desire of everybody in the House to do justice to these young men who, without notice, have been called up as a result of this social revolution, because it is nothing less, by the introduction of the Military Training Act. The: Minister said this was something new and unexpected, that things would settle down, and that in due course people would become accustomed to them, and that the same difficulties would not arise. I hope that does not foreshadow a desire on the part of the Government that this should become a permanent feature of the lives of the people in this country, though I fully believe that is the intention and desire of some Members of the Government and some Members on the opposite side of the House. They would like to see conscription fastened permanently on our shoulders. We must guard against giving any assent to a proposition of that kind.

I do not think we could have a better example of the terrible difficulties into which we get by going in for legislation by Regulation. As the hon. Member who spoke last said, we are dealing with matters which, in the ordinary course, would go through Second Reading, Committee, Report and Third Reading stages and would be meticulously investigated on every single point. It is utterly wrong and entirely inconsistent with our Parliamentary traditions to try in the course of a few hours to pass legislation of this kind. It is coming very near to the system that is adopted in some other countries of legislation by decree, the executive taking power to themselves to say, "We will that the law shall be so-and-so," and so it is. We have to resist to the utmost any further inroads upon our Parliamentary methods of doing things. These Regulations are, of course, extremely complicated. We all appreciate that as the result of to-day's Debate. But what are we to think of the unfortunate militiaman, without our experience in studying Parliamentary Bills and Regulations, who will have to decide when he is away in camp whether he will make an appeal under such and such a sub-section to a court? He is going to stand a very poor chance of getting justice. It very often happens that a man who goes to the courts does not know what his rights are, and does not get them. There is a great deal in what was said from the Labour Front Bench, that there ought to be some legal assistance given to these militiamen so that they can have their case argued effectively before a court from a legal point of view, just as the case of those who are opposing them would certainly be.

I do not think very much can be said for these Regulations from the Government's point of view, because not only has the Minister pleaded guilty, but the Lord Chancellor yesterday used the most explicit language. It really will not do for the Prime Minister to say that that was only the Lord Chancellor's personal opinion, and that he was talking on his own and saying things that he ought not to have been saying. Either the Cabinet is united in collective responsibility or it is not. I have often had reason to believe that on matters of foreign policy and other things it was profoundly divided, but we have been assured recently that they accept the principle of Cabinet responsibility, so we must assume that what the Lord Chancellor said represents the view of the Government. We are discussing the three draft Orders, but they have already passed three, possibly more, Orders of a similar nature which do not require to come before the House, dealing with all sorts of other things under the Military Training Act. There is a further piece of legislation which has gone through without even this opportunity of being considered.

The Government have adopted two methods of dealing with this. First of all, the courts of the land, the High Court and the county court, are being converted into hardship committees for this purpose. Individuals can go there and plead their cause, and all they can get is postponement for a certain period while they are called up. They can, in addition to that, go to the hardship committees if they are not satisfied with what the courts have done, and they can press their case there. They can do that only while they are serving. I should like to ask whether it will be possible for militiamen who have been called up and who have been dismissed from their job because they were going to be called up will be able to go to the hardship committees and argue that as being a reason why they are in worse circumstances than would otherwise be the case? The same applies to men who have been refused employment by reason of the fact that they are liable to be called up. They are suffering, too, and it seems to me that there is every reason why they should have the right to bring a disadvantage of that kind which they have suffered before the different committees that are being set up to assist them.

The Regulations cover a great deal of ground, and they assist the militiamen in may respects. I am sorry that a great deal of sleeplessness has been caused by them, but certainly to that extent it has been worth while. We have to remember that all these men who are affected by these Regulations are minors. They are not able to enter into the same strict legal obligations as those who are over 21. Anything that they purchase must be necessaries, and it is going to be much more difficult for them in future to make purchases of that kind. It is true that guarantors are permitted to go to the court and ask for postponement of their obligations, too, and that should be widely known, because it certainly is an advantage to senior members of a family who may have contracted obligations to assist their sons. But it seems to me that it is going to make it very difficult for these young men in future when they are thinking of buying a wireless set or furniture, or, as in many cases, a van on the hire-purchase system for carrying on their business, when the person who is going to sell it to them knows that he may not get paid for a considerable period. I agree that the Government have proceeded on altogether the wrong lines. They have been trying to shuffle off the responsibility on to other peoples' shoulders who will have every right to resent it. I do not think they have got rid of the political responsibility themselves—I sincerely hope not. I think they ought to withdraw the Regulations and come back to a system which will enable grants to be made to militiamen to enable them to meet their legal obligations in a proper manner.

With regard to the question of civil pay, the Minister said that what we have to reply upon is not so much the Regulations as the spirit of the country. What is the spirit of the country as ilustrated by the Government's own decision in the question of pay to civil servants? It is laid down that a civil servant will get no pay whatever during his period of service —not one penny piece. I think that is a very bad lead to industry, because there are a considerable body of employers who are taking a more enlightened view and who are, after deducting the 9s. 6d. Army pay and a sum of, say, 10s. 6d. for keep, making up the balance to the ordinary remuneration. The Government should be model employers and should set an example. What they are doing is to discourage good employers from treating militiamen in a generous way. They are doing nothing for them under the Bill. Coming to Reservists and Territorials, for whom the Government are proposing to do something, it is the custom amongst the best employers to give Territorials full pay, in addition to their Army pay, while they are away. The Government are going to prevent that being done. The county councils of Kent and Surrey are doing that themselves. The Government by these Regulations will prevent that kind of thing being done in future. They are preventing Kent and Surrey, and possibly other bodies, from acting in the generous manner that they would desire, and again they are setting a very bad example to employers.

I should like to refer now to the way the Government have dealt with insurance schemes run by private employers. In so far as they have dealt with national schemes of unemployment and health insurance they have laid it down that insurance shall be compulsory, and as far as local authorities are concerned they have laid down the same thing there too. But when you come to the benevolent schemes of private employers, which often cover such things as sickness benefit, death benefit, widows pensions and matters of that kind, the Government have taken an entirely different line. It comes in Article 14. They say that an employer is authorised to make contributions for the purpose of any such scheme in respect of the persons employed by him. He has power to make contributions, but he has only got the power to do so. He is not compelled to do so, as I maintain he should be, and as the Government have done themselves in other matters. There they are allowing the employé to be placed in a worse position as the result of his military service, because the contributions have not been paid by his employers. Furthermore, even that refers only to annuities and lump sums and not to the other schemes that I have referred to. I should like to know what is the position of a militiaman in respect of such things as contributions to hospitals. Many hospitals now have contributory schemes, which are working extremely well and which bring in large sums of money. The benefit is very often dependent on the period of contribution. I should like to know whether the militiaman is allowed to postpone payment without losing his rights, because there certainly is a case that ought to be dealt with.

Then there is a point which would certainly affect some men with one-man businesses, the question of bank overdrafts. A man has to go away for six months leaving his; business. It is an item which may possibly affect him. I should like to know whether that is covered by the Regulations. Then there is the matter of arrears of rates, which will certainly affect a great many people. We all know that in many courts persons who are in arrear with their rates are made to pay half-a-crown a week, or something of that kind, but they certainly cannot do that while they are in camp, and an application would have to be made to the appropriate body for postponement. Is that covered, and can such people feel that they are safe?

I hope very much that the Government will pay due regard, first, to what the Lord Chancellor said, and then to what has been said by Members of all parties in this House, and that they will realise that there is widespread dissatisfaction and will desire to co-operate with the House of Commons in getting the most perfect machinery that we can for dealing with this situation. We have really had a sort of Select Committee this afternoon, because there have been brought out in the course of the discussion a large number of points which clearly will have to be dealt with, but I still think the best course will be after the Debate has gone on, as it no doubt will, until the small hours of the morning, for the Government to withdraw the Regulations and give immediate consideration to fresh ones, setting up, if they think it will be helpful, a Select Committee and coming again to the House in the course of a couple of weeks with a scheme that really will hold water.

7.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire Western

One suggestion that was made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) is of great value in a discussion of this kind. It was that Members, instead of roaming over the whole field of support for or objection to these regulations— a field which has already been adequately covered by the two main speeches this afternoon— should, if possible, confine themselves to explaining one or two points upon which they may have some special knowledge. The point made by the hon. Member himself was with reference to the difficulties which may be experienced as a result of the operation of the Order as it affects insurance policies. I should like to put the difficulties that may arise for the militiaman in that regard, and I will confine myself to a point which is rather narrow, but which nevertheless is of considerable importance to assured persons, whether they be militiamen, Territorials or Reservists. Adding together the period of six months' service and the period of six months extension, you have 12 months during which either the soldier, or his mother or father, or whoever is the owner of the policy affected by the soldier's service, need pay no premiums, and no forfeiture of the policy may ensue as a consequence. But there is another period— a period of grace— so that there is in all 18 months during which no premium need be paid upon the policy, and there will be no loss by forfeiture.

As regards this period the regulations are clear and explicit. If before the period of grace has expired a claim should arise on the policy, all that happens is that from the amount of the claim there is deducted the total amount of arrears of premiums which have accrued. I think there is no doubt about that. But if, a week after the expiry of the period of grace— the 18 months, or 15 months, if the right hon. Gentleman says that that is the limit— a claim arises, what happens to the owner of the policy, whether the owner be militiaman, Reservist or Territorial, or his mother or father, as the case may be? Here is what happens. Not only are the arrears that have accumulated deducted, but the arrears are multiplied by a factor which is specified in the Schedule, on page 12. Let us see what this means. If the serving soldier has a child whom he has insured, and who is an infant within the age group 1–5 years, then, should a claim arise under the policy, the arrears which the soldier has incurred are multiplied by 6. The average Member of this House does not appreciate what is going on here. I am not disputing the actuarial argument embodied in the figures; I am not denying that these may be the exact figures lifted from the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act; but I am asking whoever is to reply whether, under the provisions which the House is being asked to approve to-night, the serving sailor, soldier or airman, or his father or mother or whoever owns the policy affected, is to be called upon to pay the arrears multiplied by the factor in the Schedule? Let us suppose that a militiaman has a policy on his own life, and that he is in the age group 21–25. If a claim arises on that policy one week after the period of grace has expired, his arrears are multiplied by 4. How that is going to be defended on any platform in the country I do not know, but I am certain that no militiaman, Territorial or Reservist at this moment understands that arrears incurred during his period of service will be automatically multiplied by these figures that are in the Schedule.

It may be true that there is any number of offices that will not operate this provision; it may be true that there are certain friendly societies, where there are no shareholders and no profits are taken, which will not operate these provisions. But, on the other hand, this is a provision which the House is being asked to approve now; it is going to be law if it passes this House and another place; and I would beg the President of the Board of Trade to get somebody on behalf of the Government to-night to tell us on what ground of personal service, equality of sacrifice, or anything else you like, it is possible to justify the multiplication, by a figure ranging up to six, of the amount of arrears incurred as a result of service under the Act. These young men, Territorials and militiamen in particular, have had their contracts broken or suspended through no fault of their own. The State comes along and says," You will serve six months' training, willy-nilly; contracts that you honestly entered into, or your fathers or mothers honestly entered into in the expectation and belief that you would be earning a journeyman's wage, are now broken; but the State declines to make any contribution financially towards the hardship you have thereby incurred." As my hon. Friend truthfully said this afternoon, no one can guess what the end of this shattering of contracts will be. These contracts are broken through no fault of the serving soldier; the State refuses to contribute, and, in addition, now decrees that the arrears incurred during a man's period of service shall be multiplied by a figure which goes up to six according to the age group in which the life assured happens to be at the time of death. I hope I have made the point perfectly clear.

It may be, as I have said, that there are actuarial arguments that can be used in favour of such a thing, but all that concerns me to-night is to prove the injustice to the young man whom you are asking to prepare to defend this country of thus increasing his burden and decreasing his assets. This is being done literally behind his back; it is being done without adequate discussion and without adequate knowledge. I never remember in all my public life a major Measure of great complexity being introduced into this House without some Sunday newspaper being able to give an explanation of it; but last Sunday not a solitary newspaper in this land could produce a writer who could attempt to explain the complexities of these Orders. Yet in a brief period of four or five hours we are asked to approve of regulations which definitely impose taxable burdens upon the men whom we are asking to serve the country. I beg the President of the Board of Trade, who is representing the Government here, when his amending Orders require to be redrafted, as we are assured on high legal authority they will require to be redrafted, at least to see that, if a burden does arise from their operation, the nation shall bear the burden, that we shall all share it, however it is to be met, and that we shall not be so mean and so miserable as to multiply the arrears of indebtedness incurred during a man's period of service in the way that it is proposed in this Order.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

We have been supplied with no fewer than four documents for our information. I do not complain of the volume of matter. I have done my best to read, mark and learn, but I must admit that I have not found it easy. I cannot complain of the ambiguity of the language because it is legal, and consequently it is necessary that there should be some ambiguity to the lay mind, and admittedly mine is a lay mind. I am not complaining of that— it may be my fault or my misfortune— but I still have the right of putting questions to right hon. Gentlemen of the Front Bench who will, I hope, be able to enlighten what I cannot understand. I am not concerned with what is stated in these papers but with what will be the practical result of what we do. I have always understood that the basic principle of these Acts was equality of service and sacrifice in the national interest. I sincerely hope the Government can tell me what would be the difference between the employè of a local authority and the employè of a private; individual or a small company. In White Paper 3151, Article 7, it is stated that what can be done for those in the first category I mentioned is voluntary. This does not apply to the administrative staff in the offices but to all those employed by the authority, down to the roadman; in regard to education authorities, not only the teachers but the school cleaners and all those employed by the authority and paid out of the rates.

With regard to the private individual, there are those who are unable to provide contributions towards making up the wages to the sum that their employès were normally drawing. There will be great hardship with regard to superannuation. I find it is permissive; it may or may not be done by the local authority. But we know that when a thing is permissive it becomes compulsory. One authority may do it and another authority may not, on the merits of the case, but authorities will say that if some authority is putting its servants in this position they cannot stand out. Once started it becomes compulsory. If it is permitted for any local authority to give this differential treatment to its servants it will become compulsory on all local authorities to do the same, or they will be charged with treating their servants differently.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogwr

The Minister made it clear that so far as the militiaman is concerned the local authority would have no authority to make up the allowance to the salary paid. It would apply only to persons in the Auxiliary Services or the Territorials.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

That is so, and that is why I am asking a question. It is not at the expense of the Government but at the expense of the local authority, which means at the expense of the ratepayers. Who is the private individual but the ratepayer? How can you expect a ratepayer, through the medium of his local authority to pay for the local authority's servants what he cannot afford to pay for his own employès? It is not only unequal as between the men serving, but it is unequal and unjust to the person who is the employè of both, only in a different capacity. There is a burden undoubtedly resting on the men who are called up for service. Not all of them will be in a position to meet these liabilities, and I say definitely that it is the responsibility of the State to help to meet a liability which the individual is unable to do when his service is given in the interests of the State. I do not think it is right that we should attempt to pass on to the individual a liability which should rest with the State. I cannot sit here and agree without asking the questions that I ask— where is the equality of sacrifice and service in the regulations we are asked to approve?

8.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

In a pamphlet issued a little while ago by the Secretary of State for War in connection with the Military Training Act he made an appeal to all those serving to endeavour not to use the wealth some of them had, because of the poverty of others, and urged that there should be as far as possible equality of status and sacrifice between all the men called up. The Government have set an extremely bad example in regard to the men employed in their service. There is a deplorable differentiation in the treatment of these men. I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury asking specifically whether his attention had been drawn to the fact that local authorities were considering the question of the payment that should be made to men called up under the Act, and whether he would; help: them by stating what was the Government's policy. I asked further whether he would state specifically what it was proposed to do in regard to permanent civil servants, temporary civil servants and industrial employés of the Government. The reply I got was an evasion. The Government do not now appear to be clear what their policy is and what the answer given to me implies. I was told that the payment would be made in regard to all civil servants. I happen to know that practically every Civil Service organisation in the country was waiting for the reply to that question, because they did not know what their position would be. They all went away under the impression that when he said "all" civil servants he meant what he said, those who were established and those who were not.

Judging by the replies of the right hon. Gentleman, who had such a difficult time in opening to-day, it applies only to established civil servants. When a responsible member of the Government like the Secretary of State for War talks about equality of sacrifice would he honestly say— or can anybody honestly say— that between the established and the unestablished civil servant there is to be equality of sacrifice when one is to be paid his full salary and the other is not? A remarkable thing in the reply I was given was that no attempt was made to say what would be the position of industrial employès in Government establishments. I know some men, particularly carpenters and joiners, who have worked for the Government practically all their lives. They may be called on to serve as Territorials, and, if they are, their treatment will be entirely different from that of civil servants. They will get nothing except their ordinary pay as members of the Territorial Army. Under the new Act, if they are young conscripts, they will get nothing from the Government, but if they are in the Civil Service their pay will be made up to their salary. What is the use then of talking about equality of sacrifice?

The Walthamstow local authority were considering a little time ago what they should do, and waited for a time until they were given a lead by the Government. They had a lead when my question was answered, and they decided that they would make up the salaries of all their employès. But now they have received a circular from the Minister that they must not do it, and they are prevented from being generous and from treating their employès in the same way as the Government are treating established civil servants. I cannot see any equality of sacrifice in matters like that. In regard to the insurance limit there are many young men who enter into business, particularly in East London, and who go to the bank for an overdraft. If they have no security the bank manager suggests that they should insure their lives, and that after two years the policies will be accepted as security. There are hundreds of such cases in East London. I could give a dozen illustrations of such cases from my own personal experience. These people get an overdraft in that way; then, when they come out, the overdraft may have been used, and even their business may be gone. I ask that that £25 limit shall be withdrawn.

With regard to the protection that is given to people who have bought things on the hire-purchase system, I agree that, to some extent, protection is given, but only to the extent that it permits them to carry over their debts. It does not abolish the debts. But, to the very extent that it continues the period, this may do a very grave injustice to the persons to whom they owe the money. There are plenty of cases in which quite a poor person owns one house. When a person in that position has a tenant called up for military service, he will not be able to take action to enforce the payment of rent for a period of, roughly, 12 months. That may be a much greater hardship on the owner of the house than any hardship that might be suffered by the conscript. Some financial provision should be made by the Government to relieve people in such circumstances. Take the case also of a little shopkeeper selling bicycles, for example, on hire-purchase. The shop may be his only source of living, and 25 to 30 per cent, of the people to whom he has sold bicycles on hire-purchase terms may be called up. The Act will give protection to the buyer, but none to the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper cannot go to the manufacturer of the bicycle and say that he is not going to pay him until the man who bought the bicycle comes back from his training. Such will be the consequences of these very badly drafted Orders.

The Government have misled people— I will not say they have done so de- liberately; perhaps it has been done as much by little notices in the Press as by anything else—into the belief that when they are called up, if they have bought things on hire-purchase, if they have mortgages or rent which they cannot meet, the Government will give them full protection for the period of service and for six months after. Actually, they are given no real protection. They are told that they need not pay during that period; but when the period is over all the creditors will be let loose. It is all very well for people with plenty of money to say that that is protection, but if a man comes out of the Militia with arrears of instalments which have accumulated for six months and which will have to be met in addition to the current instalments, he will be faced with a very big debt. That will financially cripple some people for life, and, in many cases, prevent a man from buying the house to the purchase of which he has already devoted all his savings. To talk about equality of sacrifice under such conditions is playing with words. I would like some explanation with regard to the last paragraph of Command Paper 6043, which says: Provided that in the event of the applicant's death during his service a grant maybe continued for a period not exceeding four weeks. I assume that the grant might be to his wife and child, if he has one, or to a parent, a sister or a grandparent who is dependent on him. If he dies during his service, the grant may be continued for four weeks. Suppose he dies as a result of an accident while he is in the Service; will he have the rights he would have had as a civilian under the Employers' Liability Act or the Workmen's Compensation Acts? The Government will be employing him during the period of his training and if he is to lose the benefits that he would have had as a mechanic or a labourer under the Employers' Liability Act, the common law, and especially the Workmen's Compensation Act, he may incur very grave loss. There does not appear to be any protection in regard to a man's normal position under these Acts in any of the Orders, or in the White Paper to which I have drawn attention. If that is so, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider whether it is fair to take away the rights of the conscript under workmen's compensation, rights which are extremely valuable. I hope that we shall be assured that should an accident occur to him when serving in the Army none of his privileges or rights in respect of compensation will be taken from him.

A municipality may, in regard to their superannuation scheme, pay the contributions of their employès during their absence for the period of six months, but there are a number of private employer superannuation schemes which operate altogether differently from the other type of scheme. In connection with that words are used which are rather disturbing. It is stated that the employer may, if he has the power under the scheme, pay the contributions of any of his employès who are called up, and that they shall not lose any of the benefits that would have accrued to them normally if they had not been called up, but it goes on to say: subject to such adjustments as appear to them necessary in consequence of any failure to pay contributions in respect of that period. Really the employer seems to have no liability at all, because any liability he may appear to have as a result of the previous part of the document is taken away by these words. The employer may do almost anything as a result of those words. If a claim is made or becomes necessary during that period he may say, "I will deduct the whole of the money you have not paid in the form of contributions," or "I will reduce the amount of benefit to which you would otherwise be entitled," or "I will not grant you any benefit at all." He has complete powers in the matter, and he ought not to be allowed to have such powers even though a scheme may be very largely financed by the employer himself. I hope that, if a revision is being made, these words to which I have called attention will be reconsidered, and that something will be put into the new Order when it is made that will deal more fairly with the serving man who is injured.

8.29 p.m.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

May I ask you a question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to the course of the Debate? A number of questions have been asked, and the points that have been raised are of two classes. Whether the fears that we express as to what will happen to these men are justi- fied, only experience can show. But hon. Members have also asked for the elucidation of specific points or for a statement to be made as to the intention of the Government. Would it not be more convenient if some Member of the Government were to clear up these points as we go along? Otherwise, when we come to the end of the Debate, we shall have a speech from some Minister who will not be able to clear up the points that have been raised. The Prime Minister said that every Department would be represented to-day, and it would be very convenient if points like these could be cleared up here and now. It would shorten the Debate, and certainly make it more effective in elucidating the matter.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

If the right hon. Gentleman is putting the question to me, I am unable to answer it. This is a matter for arrangement through the usual channels.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

I do not think that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would shorten the Debate, but would make it an extremely ragged one. A number of different points have been raised and they affect different Departments, and if we had every Minister jumping up at the end of every speech to deal with something that affected his Department, the Debate, as I have said, would become extremely ragged. The Government are taking a very full note, and a very full answer will be given.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

The right hon. Gentleman says that it would become a ragged Debate, but the position is as if we were really in Committee. The reason the Prime Minister said that the Ministers of the Departments would be present was in order that we should have an expert answer on the different points which cover 10 Departments. It is unsatisfactory for the Secretary of State for War to get the notes, however full, from other Ministers. What will happen at the end of the Debate? He will say, "So-and-so said so-and-so, and as I cannot deal with this, perhaps he will see me privately or write to me and I will give him an answer." That will not suit our purpose.

Photo of Hon. Oliver Stanley Hon. Oliver Stanley , Westmorland

My right hon. Friend will give a full answer to the questions which have been raised.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Cannot we have a statement from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury clearing up the point raised earlier to-day in regard to established and non-established civil servants?

Photo of Mr Terence O'Connor Mr Terence O'Connor , Nottingham Central

That point is being investigated at this very moment so that an answer may be ready.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

The Regulation is made, and yet the Government do not know.

Photo of Mr Terence O'Connor Mr Terence O'Connor , Nottingham Central

An answer to the specific point made in the Debate is being prepared, and that answer will be given.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Take the position of men in training. Surely that can be answered by the Solicitor-General?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is it not clear from what has been said that all Ministers ought to be required to be present in order to deal with the matter? Should not there be some consultation between Ministers as to whether they should accept the suggestion to postpone the matter for a week.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

We cannot consider that now.

8.33 P.m.

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

I have just returned to this House after an absence of some eight years, so that I cannot say that this is a maiden speech. It is perhaps more the speech of a grass widow than of a maiden. I have come back after a by-election which was contested in a very poor district in London where questions relating to the Military Service Act were very much in the forefront. Many of the questions put to me as candidate during that campaign related to provisions in this Act, such as the pay of conscripts, and so on. The people in that district are very poor and very decent people. My object in speaking is not so much to wander through the labyrinth of these Orders, but to try and put the point of view of people who stay at home rather than that of the men who are called up. When the election campaign started it was proposed by the Government to pay the militiamen is. a day, but during the campaign it was increased to is. 6d. and that gave a little satisfaction, but it did not give complete satisfaction. Next we heard rumours that allowance scales were to be prepared, and constituents whose suffrage I was seeking said, "Let us see these allowance scales." When the allowance scales were published they found that they were relying on a broken reed, and that there was not much satisfaction to be got from them. Next came the news that hardship committees were to be set up. The hardship committee regulations were issued, hope deferred disappeared and in its place there has grown up a strong feeling of disgust.

In those parts of London they are in the habit of expressing themselves in blunt, vigorous language, which I will not repeat here. Some of the language is a little involved. The other day a widow, whose son was to be called up, said to me—I do not know whether an interpreter will be needed—"When the bloke comes round on Monday for the ' dook o' Kent,' where do I get the bees and honey?" When the landlord's agent goes for his rent, where do these people get the money with which to pay it? It is that which is worrying them. The average working-class family has a real horror of owing anybody anything. They hate debt. To be county-courted is for a normal working-class family a slight on their respectability, and the serving of a summons is a terrible affair. It is their life's' struggle at the end of each week to meet their obligations out of one week's wages. If they lose their job, then at the end of a week they are almost on the verge of destitution and have to seek the various reliefs that are provided for them. A young wife whose husband is called up and a widowed mother whose son is called up have to choose between keeping their heads above water and paying their debts or malnutrition. This talk about relief from the landlords will not trickle through to them, and if it did they would say: "We would rather pay the rent." They will pay the rent, meet their instalments on the furniture and suffer in their personal needs rather than get further into debt.

It is one of the fixed principles of the ordinary artisan and working class in this country to pay for their goods as they buy them. They are not the kind of people who run up bills with their trades people. They pay as they go. We know from the tradesmen with whom we have any sort of contract that it is not the ordinary working class who owe them bills. There are some people who do not mind being in debt and being summoned. They do not mind not paying their rates until they get what is commonly called the "blister," and then they pay. They have an idea that the longer they can keep their money in their own possession the better it is for them, and they do not pay until they are compelled.

The vast mass of people who will be affected by the calling up of these militiamen do not like debt and prefer to pay as they go. It is perfectly obvious to those who represent constituencies such as mine, who are daily in contact with these people and know the struggle under which they are living, that the calling up of the militiamen will mean hardship. The struggle of these people to keep out of debt is a really high principle. Whatever may have been their struggle in life, and it is a struggle all the time while the man is at home, when he is called up they will make a still bigger effort to carry on, so that the man who is away will not be troubled by the trials of those at home. But debt will come, however much they may struggle to avoid it. With the debt will come the summons. Then there is the shock of the delivery of the summons. When a woman opens the door and finds a policeman standing there it gives her a shock. I do not know whether it is the policeman who delivers a county court summons or whether it is somebody else, but the fact remains that for one of these women to open the door and find somebody there with a summons, is a shock.

The shock of the delivery of the summons is only the beginning of the trouble. There is the worry about the appearance at court. Hon. Members who represent working-class constituencies know that many people come to them not for guidance as lawyers but for advice as to what they are to do about the summons, where they are to go and what they must do about it. There are days of worry before they appear at court. Then there is another very great fear, and that is the fear of publicity; the possibility that the local Press may publish the news that a certain person has been county-courted and an order has been made against them. If these summonses are due to the fact that their man has been called up for military service, I hope that the Press which prints so much about freedom and, incidentally, takes a great deal of liberty with freedom, if they give publicity in these cases will place the blame on the proper shoulders, and say that these people have been brought to the county court because of the meanness of the Government which makes these Orders.

The trade unions have set a good example to the Government. The great majority of the trade unions— and I can speak with definite assurance for all the trade unions in the printing industry— have relieved their members who are called up for military service under the Military Service Act, or as Reservists and Territorials, from the payment of all their dues to the trade union, and they maintain them in full benefit all the time they are away. If trade unions can do that, and it is a pretty big burden, then surely the State should come into line in a similar way, and be equally willing to do the right thing, because they are better able to do it. I have already said that it is not my intention to quote this, that or other section of the Orders or ask questions about them, but I would ask hon. Members, especially those on the Government Benches, to remember that these Orders will mean a number of hardships. When we asked that the pay of the militiaman should be 2a. a day instead of is., the Government gave us an extra 6d. making it is. 6d. An extra 6d. would make it up to 2s., and I suggest that if the Government would agree to that the additional 6d. for every militiaman called up would cover all these risks. I suggest, therefore, that they should withdraw the Orders and adopt a scheme of civil liabilities such as that which was adopted towards the end of the last War, so that the men who are called up could go away with the feeling that the people at home would not suffer.

8.43. p.m.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I suggest once again, in view of the character of the discussion that has taken place, from the introductory speech of the Minister, that we have arrived at a time when there should be consultation between the Ministers present and the Prime Minister with a view to considering whether the discussion on the Orders should not be postponed for a week. In that case, instead of having a discussion in which questions asked are not answered, there could be an effective discussion from the various sides of the House as to the best way to deal with these problems. When the Minister was speaking he said that we are all of us concerned with the militiamen. I am not prepared to accept that statement. If we were all concerned with the militiamen, we should not have representatives of the Government coming in and saying: "Push through these Orders; there is so little time. We recognise that the Orders may not be very good, we recognise that in experience the Orders may turn out to be very bad but you must push them through. We had better have a jerry structure than nothing at all." Why should there be a jerry structure, when we have time to produce a structure that could be of value to the militiamen, if we were all concerned with the militiamen? We are not all concerned about the militiamen. If the Government had been concerned about the militiamen there is a very simple method of dealing with most of these problems, and that simple method would be to allow the militiamen, through the Government, full wages, with allowances for working away from home. Then most of the problems would be solved.

The Government are not concerned with the militiamen, except to have them for their particular purposes. But when they are faced with the necessity of calling up these militiamen for the service it desires that they should render, they come up against a series of problems in connection with which we are not, as the Prime Minister has said, without experience. It is nonsense to say that we have no experience. We had experience of every one of these problems during the last War. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) dealt with some of them. In the years 1915 and 1916 we had to have great industrial strikes in order to get some of these very problems considered. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirk-wood) got a locus in the courts. I believe he was one of the first outside the charmed circle of solicitors to get a locus in the courts to deal with a number of these problems, and I believe that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has also a locus in the courts for dealing with problems of this character which arose in the first instance out of military service. We have all the experience if the Govern- ment would accept the assistance and guidance of those who are qualified to give advice in connection with these matters.

The Government when they are calling up these men would not trouble themselves to think about these problems but for the fact that if they did not do something about them they would never get the militiamen to serve. That is what concerns the Government— the fact that they would never get them to serve unless they do something about these problems, and so the Government face these problems from the point of view of doing as little as possible and of getting the most expeditious way to put these problems out of the way, getting the services of these men and then leaving them to deal with the results later. That is not a fair way to deal with these men, and it is not going to work. Apart from the masses of these young lads who are associated with the Labour movement there will be some thousands of young Communists coming in. Many of these lads have experience in agitation. They are going to leave in some cases wives and in some cases mothers, and they are not going to stand for a worsening of the conditions while they are away. During the War when men were out on the battlefield their wives find dependants were thrown on to the streets. The will not stand for that when they are doing their service. And so the Government are making an effort to try and save themselves, not the militiamen, from the possibility of agitation within the Army and outside the Army, and they provide these Orders to deal with the problem.

What is to happen about rent and about all the other obligations? This is something which hon. Members opposite should make a serious effort to try and understand. These lads, whom you are taking, live from week to week on their wages; they do not: carry cheque books and hand in a cheque for £5 or £20 or £100 when they want spending money. You are taking them away for six months, and apart from the obligation of rent and instalments and insurance, there are other liabilities of a small character which we all have to meet every day of our lives, which will be accumulating, and when the lad comes back after six months, what is going to happen? He will have to start afresh, his life for that six months has been cut, and when he comes back to his own area he. will not only have to face the heavy liabilities which have grown up, but all the innumerable small liabilities, the 2d. a week and the 3d. a week, which have also been accumulating. I have been called up on two or three occasions, and while I have been away on service my wife has been getting my wages, but after I came back I have found a whole series of obligations which have accumulated, and it has taken me months before I could get on my feet again. It will be the same with the lads who are taken away for six months. Suppose the rent is paid all the time they are away; suppose their insurance was met and their instalments were met all the time they are away by the Government —

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I have listened to the hon. Member for some time putting the general case, and I think it is about time he came to the regulations themselves. I have no objection to his putting the general case, but I think he should not overdo it, and that he should now deal with the regulations.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I think it is necessary I should make the point clear. I want to come to rent and insurance, but I am anxious to make it clear that even supposing full payment was made for rent and insurance and for instalments, the lad when he comes back would still find himself faced with a whole series of obligations which would take him a long while completely to clear away. Take the question of rent. We are told that the regulations lay it down that they can be absolved from paying rent for the period in which they are in service, and that if it is a particularly hard case a grant can be made. How is it possible for hon. Members opposite to say that they are only thinking about the militiaman when the maximum amount, including allowances, is only 2? That is not going to help very much, if there is rent and insurance and instalments to meet. I am sure that as far as concerns the general mass of these lads the rents will accumulate and the instalments will accumulate, and when they come back they will sooner or later be faced with a heavy accumulation of debt which will have to be paid somehow or another.

The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) has already referred to the action which his trade union has taken. That is a very good and desirable action. There may, however, be some trade unions whose rules do not allow them to take such action. The Minister said that where they are faced with a situation in which health benefits and other benefits are associated with the trade union, the union should change its rules. I am certain there is not a union in the country that would not be ready to take action similar to that referred to by my hon. Friend, but it may take time, for some of the unions can change their rules only in certain circumstances, and if the rules are not changed it may not be possible for those unions to take that action and absolve their members from making payments. In such cases, the Government should have taken the responsibility of seeing that every union in the country has the opportunity of being indemnified for any action that it may have to take. It is not enough to refer simply to industrial insurance and to say nothing about friendly societies or trade unions, and the position in which those societies and unions may find themselves. Surely, if we had had the sort of discussion that is necessary on a matter of this kind, those who have experience in the working of friendly societies and trade unions could have provided the necessary information as to how to frame regulations to fit the case.

I am very deeply concerned about the position in which thousands of these young men and their families will be, even while the men are away. I know very many who will be in the position of not knowing whether to refrain from paying rent and to accumulate debt, or whether to pay rent and risk all the possibilities of going short of food and suffering from malnutrition. An Order of this kind, which simply deals with the question of rent and other liabilities in this offhand manner, is not of the slightest value to any militiamen or dependants. Therefore, if the Government are not: prepared to take the course that ought to be taken, that is, to pay full wages with an allowance for working away from home— and they are not prepared to take that course — then the sort of Orders that are wanted are Orders that would make the Government responsible for meeting the rents and the instalments of those who are called up for service. When the question of a Select Committee was raised this afternoon, the Prime Minister told us that there were objections to the Orders not only from the side of the militiamen, but from the side of the insurance companies, and so on. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) put the case,, quite obviously, from the point of view of the insurance companies and the almost impossible position in which they will be placed as a consequence of the Orders. If the insurance companies, with all the finance behind them, will be put in a serious financial position as a result of these Orders in so far as they deal with insurance, I ask hon. Members what will be the position of the militiamen who have no capital, but who, according to the Orders, are going to face an accumulation of rent and instalments, who are to be taken away for six months from their ordinary surroundings and connections, and who will then come back to face all these liabilities?

I am certain that the most bitter feelings will be aroused in every part of the country in connection with these Orders. The provision relating to insurance completely ignores the large number of militiamen who are insured through friendly societies and trade unions. In answer to a question that I put, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that we can depend upon the trade unions to do the fair thing by their members. It is very fortunate for the Government that they can depend upon that, and it is a significant thing that hon. Members opposite should pay such a high tribute to the trade unions; but it is a very bad thing that the Government should bring forward Orders and not know that there are so many militiamen affected by such an insurance question. It is clear that the Minister who was put up to speak for the Government had no knowledge or understanding of the question until it was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and the Minister's first answer, which he had to retract later on, made it clear that he had not the faintest understanding of the question. Yet the Government are desirous of pushing through these Orders. Very many of the militiamen are affected in their insurance by friendly societies and trade unions, and when the Minister was given to understand that there is such a problem, his only answer was, "Thank God for the trade unions; they will look after their members."

Is there any hon. Member opposite who would justify Orders of that kind, or such an attitude towards them, or such a lack of knowledge of the question that is being dealt with? Is that the way to deal with the militiamen? Let hon. Members opposite remember the experiences during the War and the treatment which the men's dependants got while the men were at the front. Let them remember, when they are considering the provision relating to rents and the accumulation of rents, that the Government are steadily removing the Rent Restrictions Acts and that rents are going up, and that these militiamen may come back not only to an accumulation of rents, but to increased rents. Do not let us have any illusions about the attitude that the landlords will take. They have no hesitation in exploiting the needs of the poor and the needs of the nation. Not only do the Orders allow for an accumulation of debts for rent, but they do nothing to deal with the question of increased rents.

These Orders will create the utmost bitterness, and there will be all sorts of agitation in the country. Let there be no mistake about that. The Government will not get away with these Orders any more easily than they got away with the unemployment Regulations. In view of the very serious nature of these problems, which will be with the militiamen while they are serving— for the militiamen will know that their rents are accumulating, they will know what is happening with regard to instalments, and they will know the hardships that are being endured at home. In the circumstances I suggest that the Minister should accept the proposal to postpone this discussion for a week, in order to allow a Select Committee to go into the whole question and to produce Orders based upon the experience which we already possess in these matters. In that way it may be possible to substitute for the jerry built structure of these Orders a sound structure which will be a real protection for the men who are to be called up under this Act.

9.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

A great deal of the ground has already been very well covered by my hon. Friends on this side, but I must express my great disappoint- ment, first, that the Prime Minister did not see his way to postpone the consideration of these Orders, and, secondly, that the Minister in charge did not consider it expedient or wise to answer the specific points made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee). The Prime Minister earlier to-day said it would be better to wait and see whether there were any hardships, before we took action to remedy hardships. That seemed to me to be putting the cart before the horse. Why should we always have to wait for the bitter experience of hardship before we begin to remedy the defects in legislation or Orders passed by this House, out of which that hardship arises? Surely, it is better to anticipate hardships and to consider specific problems arising out of these Orders, such as those which have been brought before the House by my hon. Friends on this side. As it is, hardships are bound to occur. Even hon. Members opposite are, by now, impressed with the fact that hardships are bound to occur. When they do occur, I suppose some attempt will be made to remedy the situation, but that will not be much relief to those who have suffered.

I hope, therefore, that even at this late hour some statement will be made indicating that reconsideration is to be given to this large and complicated question. Only last night a very prominent Member of the Government admitted that these Orders were ambiguous and misleading. That in itself should have been sufficient to cause the withdrawal of the Orders. There are obvious signs that insufficient thought has been given to these matters. I may without offence suggest that hon. Members on this side of the House are more closely in touch with their constituents and know the lives of the humble people in their constituencies more intimately, on the whole, than hon. Members opposite. I am not accusing hon. Members opposite of neglecting their political or Parliamentary duties but I submit that we on this side know more particularly and more minutely the day-to-day experiences and hardships of working-class life, and that we are more competent to deal with these matters than the majority of hon. Members opposite.

The cases of four particular categories of people have been submitted to the House this afternoon. First there is the case of the wives of militiamen. I believe the number of these will be relatively small. A young man of 20 to 21, in my estimation should not be married, but some of these men are, and therefore there will be a category, though a small category, of wives who will suffer under these Regulations. There will also be— and this is probably much more important— a number of widowed mothers whose sons will be called up, and who may in many instances suffer severe hardship. Then there is the case of the shopkeepers with which my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow has very adequately dealt. There is another category consisting of landladies and people of that type who will suffer as a result of this ill-conceived and hasty method of dealing with this complicated problem. Apart from the position of these four classes of people, what I am most particularly concerned with is the fact that when these men have finished their training, they will return to civil life to find an accumulated burden of debt. That will have very unfortunate consequences not only for the men individually but for the future of the country. Perhaps, already, members of the Cabinet who, in the secrecy of Cabinet meetings, opposed the premature introduction of the Military Training Bill, are saying to their colleagues that they should have, thought twice before bringing in a Measure which may impose hardship out of all proportion to the value which can be extracted from it.

What will be the effect of these accumulated debts on thousands of conscripts not only in the first batch but in the subsequent batches? In the first place, it will mean that a large number of young men will postpone marriage. It is interesting to realise that to-day there is a Debate in another place on the question of marriage and population while here we are endorsing a scheme which, though it may have some military benefit, in a very narrow sense, will have the ultimate effect of postponing thousands of marriages. The task of many a young man when he gets back to civil life, will be to try to catch up on the liabilities which have accumulated in his absence, and whatever provision may be made in these Orders, it will not erase the effect of a large number of such cases. There is another aspect of the case which concerns many hon. Members. An indirect if not a direct result of the inadequacy of these Regulations will be that local authorities will strive to assist young men in their employment either by openly making up the difference between the Militia pay and the pay which they would have received if they had continued in the employment of the municipality, or in some other way. That will place an additional burden on the ratepayers of the country. This is but another of the many Measures by which burdens which ought to be borne by the nation are being shifted on to the shoulders of already heavily-burdened ratepayers.

May I digress to remark that it is a strange thing that so many members of ratepayers' associations, who are urging that the Government should bear a larger share of these burdens, still support the very party which is responsible for the present unequal distribution of the financial responsibility? It would be wise for the Government to realise the inadequacy of these regulations and to indicate that they are ready either to bring in supplementary regulations in the near future to cover the points raised by my hon. Friends, or else to withdraw these regulations, to think over the matter again in quiet wisdom and bring in at a very early date regulations that will deal comprehensively with the hardships to which attention has been so eloquently drawn to-day.

9.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

If I desire to intervene in the Debate at this stage, it is not because I have not had an opportunity of saying anything on this subject up to the present. I recognise that I made a number of interjections when the Minister was speaking and, indeed, one of my colleagues remarked that the Minister had had 30 minutes and that I had had 60. But these matters are very important and there are certain remarks which I would like to offer. I must say that there are times when this House of Commons almost makes me tired of public life. When the Unemployment Regulations were brought before the House there were only some 50 of us here and I will say this for the Conservative Members at that time, that they took a much deeper interest in those regulations than they seem to be taking to-day in these Orders. I frankly say— I am not, I hope, unduly critical of my colleagues— that on matters so fundamental to the human life of the common people, I would have thought that the Conservative party would have shown a greater interest than they are doing. To turn to the regulations, I think the point has not yet been made as to why they should not be approached in a different manner. To-day the Prime Minister, in answer to questions, said that if there were hardships—and he did not deny that there would be hardships— we should let experience show them. What a terrible answer for a Prime Minister to give. He could rise at that Box and give that answer to every Bill that is brought before this House. On unemployment insurance and on health insurance, Bills were introduced into this House, and the House set about avoiding hardships taking place, but here we approach the matter differently, and hardships must first take place—a fatalistic attitude.

Most of the points that I want to raise have been raised already, but I will mention one or two of them again. I make no complaint that the Scottish Office is not at the moment represented on the Treasury Bench, because I have seen the Lord Advocate here practically all day. I say that in common fairness to him, and I suppose he will come back, but I regret that at the moment there is no representative of the Scottish Office present, although the Minister of Health, who sits for a Glasgow seat, is here. I want to raise some points of Scottish application in regard to rent, hire-purchase, and the general debt question, and incidentally may I ask whether anyone can show me where in these Regulations a person whom we call a guarantor is safeguarded? Can the Secretary of State for War, who, I understand, is going to reply, point out where, in any part of these Regulations, the person who is acting as guarantor for a sum of money that has been borrowed is safeguarded, and, if so, in what way and in what part of the Regulations?

On the question of rent, the Chancellor of the Duchy said it would be the duty of the judge to say to any aggrieved person, "Are you a person affected by these Acts?" I interrupted, and he said that this was the normal procedure, and that the judge put certain questions to the person coming before him, but may I say that my experience of going to the courts is that the judge says nothing? What happens is that the pursuer comes along and says, "I take you to court because you owe me £10 for rent," and all that happens is that the debtor is asked, "Do you owe this sum?" If he replies, "Yes," then, automatically, a decree is granted fixing the instalments at so much per week. If the debtor does not make an appearance at all, then, automatically, there is a decree against him, because in a Scottish court no appearance is an admission of the debt, and the court has no option but to grant a decree. It may be said by the Lord Advocate that that is only one process, only the first part, and that the pursuer has then to get possession of the goods, to do which he must go back to the court again. He has a decree for the sum, granted in absence, but to get possession of the goods, he has to go back to the court. In one case that is true, but the pursuer having got a decree for the sum owed, that decree stands for all time against the person owing the money, and nothing ever wipes out that decree. The moment the man comes out of the Army, or six months thereafter, that decree can operate on the man, because, once having been granted, it cannot be set aside. I say to the Lord Advocate that there is nothing in these Orders that protects the position of the man in that case.

Now let me come to the position of the mother of such a man. I think the Government are putting the courts in a terrible position here. Under these Orders either a militiaman or a reservist has a right to go to what is called, not a hardship committee, but a civil liability committee, and to ask for help up to a maximum of £2 a week. The civil liability committee may say, for one reason or another, "We will not grant you anything," and what happens then when a man goes to the court? He has to show that he has dependants who are dependent on him, and if the civil liability committee has already decided that it cannot grant him anything, then, obviously, the matter is prejudged before the court, and the court will have practically no option but to grant the decree. Therefore such a man has really nothing like a safeguard at all. What is the position of the debtor, even when he does appear or even where his widowed mother does appear? I agree with the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) that the courts are difficult things. I have been attending nearly all my life before people's courts, and the more I attend them the more difficult I find them. The pursuer there may be a man of business, a moneylender, an owner of property, a hire-purchase man, and he has his law agent there. But what protection has the militiaman, with a widowed mother to keep, against a first-class lawyer? The lawyer comes in and says, "This widowed mother is not really dependent on the militiaman," and she is defenceless against the legal arguments.

I should have thought that one of the first things these Orders would have provided for was that every person called up was given a proper legal defence. As it is, a poor person goes to the court without any knowledge. He is usually tongue-tied and unable to speak, and I say that, while the courts may try to do their best, bad decisions are given because the facts are never known. I have seen the sheriffs in Glasgow give bad decisions for that very reason. The other day there was a debt collector sentenced in Glasgow for misleading the court in the case of a poor man who was inadequately defended, and time without number the judge himself is not fully informed of the facts.

I come to another aspect of the question, and that is the case of the unemployed person. The position is that all the militiamen who are called up will be credited with 30 stamps; the 26 weeks will count for 30. But that applies only to a young man who is normally in insurable employment. It would not apply to a boy who has never worked since he was 16 years of age. As everybody knows, one of the tragedies of unemployment among young men is that they are kept at work until they are 16 and then thrown out. When they are called up they have no stamps, or at least none since they became 16 years of age. Under the law at present they are not insured persons and are not credited with 30 stamps, while the man who is in steady work is.

Take, for instance, a man who has a small coal business and sells coal in the streets. As he sells on commission he is not covered by the Unemployment Insurance Acts or the Health Insurance Acts. He is normally not in insurable employment. Or take a man with a little fruit stall, or a newspaper stand. At the age of 20 he is called up for six months, and the little fruit sail or the little newspaper stand has gone, and there is no unemploment insurance, and the Government cannot add the four stamps for him. What is the reason? I listened to-night to what I frankly say was one of the finest performances of the Minister in this House, but he never gave us an answer. You can make the 26 stamps into 30 for those who are in insurable employment. Why cannot you do it for those who are not covered by insurance? I do not understand why in the name of common decency it cannot be done. If this had been a Bill going through Parliament, and this had been a Clause in it, this House of Commons would have decided unanimously against it.

Let me turn to the question of civil servants and employès of local authorities. I can quite understand why the Government will not make up the militiaman's pay to the full wages, because, if they had done that, all the local authorities would be likely to do it, and then big employers would do it. The consequence is that you would have got so many people left who would not have their pay made up, men who are unemployed, or men employed in small businesses, that the Government would have been compelled to grant everybody the amount of their full wages. But sooner than that, they have given full wages to nobody, and they have got the Militia on the cheap. Let us come now to the Reservists. If they are in the Civil Service their pay may be made up to the amount of their wages. But those who are not on the establishment are not to have that advantage. Every man who knows the Employment Exchanges knows that the Ministry of Labour, or at least the Unemployment Assistance Department is full of temporary clerks, some of whom have been doing their job for years. I ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office when he replies to say whether any of these temporary clerks will be paid their full wages. As far as I can gather they will not. They are already suffering a great disability because their time does not count for pension. The permanent man is guaranteed in his employment for the rest of his life and has a pension, and his wife is secured against want and poverty, but the other poor devil has got a temporary job, no pension, nothing. He is. not even to get his wages made up under this Order. Is there any possible defence for that? Why separate them? Why not say to the temporary men that as they are engaged on this service they shall be entitled to equivalent treatment?

On the general issue, my view is that if the Government had paid militiamen £4 or £5 a week that would have solved all these problems. Then we should not have had to ask about hire-purchase agreements and rents. The militiaman would have paid, as he meets his other obligations, if he had been paid properly. I say frankly that the House of Commons is passing Orders the real effects of which Members do not realise. I remember when the present Secretary of State for War was sitting on this side of the House and the right hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) sat where he is sitting there, and I sat on the benches opposite. It was in the days of the Labour Government, and I was fighting the Anomalies Act. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and I probably took a more active part over that Measure than anybody else, and I do not go back upon what I did. We fought the Government, and he helped us, and one of the things that he fought that night was the institution of Regulations to deal with the unemployed. He fought with us. Those Regulations were wrong, but bad as they were they were simple compared with what we are doing to-night. They did not cover the range we are covering now. And he backed us. Why should everybody in this country begin to feel that there is little honesty in public life? When a man sits on this side he acts differently from how he acts when he sits over there. Why is it that men who go to occupy Government posts cannot carry with them the convictions they had when they sat on this side of the House?

To-night, in dealing with militiamen and their allowances, we are doing things that will not redound to the credit of this House of Commons, and I say to the Lord Advocate, or whoever is to reply, that I can foresee the great hardships arising. Although 1he House of Commons may approve of these Orders, and I have no doubt they will, because I am more and more struck by the lack of independence shown by hon. Members opposite, I should not like to have the consciences of those men in the days that are to come, leaving aside any question of votes. Men who are comparatively rich and comfortable are passing regulations which in many cases will affect poor people and will, I think, give them many an uncomfortable night.

9.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Malcolm McCorquodale Mr Malcolm McCorquodale , Sowerby

I should like to join with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in adding my apprecciation of the remarkable performance of the Chancellor of the Duchy this afternoon. In the eight years I have been in Parliament it is one of the best speeches I have heard yet from the Government Front Bench when dealing with a complicated matter, and I think the right hon. Gentleman deserves, as indeed he has had, appreciation from all of us. I should also like to apologise for addressing the House to-night, as I had to go away for a couple of hours and so missed a great deal of the Debate; but there is a point, to which I shall refer later, which I did not wish to leave the Chamber without making, and that is my excuse for rising. I think the Government are to be congratulated on the comprehensiveness and the obvious thoughtfulness with which these Orders have been drafted in so short a time.

The general spirit of those who presented themselves for registration for the Militia the other day was, we understand, excellent. The few who had to be rejected on medical grounds expressed their keen disappointment, and those who were accepted expressed their satisfaction, and everyone in the country has been greatly cheered by the reports of the almost universally high standard of physical well being of these young men. All in the House, and those outside too, are anxious that this excellent start should be maintained, and that on completion of their service these young men shall return to their civil life having enjoyed their Militia training and having benefited, both mentally and physically, thereby. Anxiety over civil liabilities would obviously militate strongly against that desirable end, and therefore we should, as far as possible, endeavour to remove any anxieties that may arise. Generous treatment by the State will well repay itself in the case of these young men. To give them generous treatment is obviously the object of His Majesty's Government; and, contrary to the view of the hon. Member for Gorbals, I feel that in the great majority of cases these Orders will work out to the satisfaction of the men concerned.

There is one point on which I do agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals, and that is the reason why I have risen in this Debate. I refer to unemployment insurance. Young men who are at present in insurable occupations are being treated in the right way. They will get 30 stamps for their 26 weeks training, and that will keep them well in insurance. The young man who is not in an insurable occupation seems to be left out in the cold, rather unnecessarily and rather unfairly. One case in my constituency has been brought to my notice, and I have no doubt hon. Members in all parts of the House know of others. This young man has built up for himself in the last two years a small round in boot and shoe repairing. He goes to houses and collects boots and shoes, repairs them at home and takes them back. This young man is to be called up. He is obviously not in an insurable occupation, and when he comes back at the end of his 26 weeks he will find the goodwill of his business has gone and it will take time to build it up again. Looking at Clause 11 on page 17 of the Draft Order one reads: Subject to the provisions of this and the next following Article, a person under training who before the beginning of his period of training was normally employed in insurable employment. … shall, during his period of training, be deemed for the purposes of those Acts to be an employed person in the service of the Crown. I cannot see why the middle half of that sentence could not be left out. I cannot see why militia training should not be regarded as an insurable occupation; why a person undergoing training should not be deemed to be an employed and insured person in the service of the Crown. If he were so regarded, and we added the four stamps, as we are doing in the case of the insured man, the little bit of unemployment insurance benefit which he would be entitled to receive after he had finished his militia training would be a god-send to him while he was endeavouring to build up the goodwill of his business again. There are not a great number of these cases, and they would not cost a great deal of money, and to do what I have suggested would prevent an obvious injustice.

I hope that the Government, when they bring in their amended Order, will see their way to alter it in the way I have suggested, so that we can claim that service in the militia, one of the proudest services a young man can undertake, is an insurable occupation, that 26 weeks of service should qualify him. for 30 stamps and that, if he was unemployed or was not in insurable occupation before, he should nevertheless find himself, on coming out of the Army, under all the benefits of Unemployment Insurance. Apart from that point, I believe the Government have made a generous effort to face up to the difficulties of the obligations of these young men and I am satisfied that the very great majority of those who join the militia in this and the next two years will receive fair treatment from the Government, and that after their service they will be glad that they had the opportunity of serving in His Majesty's Forces.

9.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Sexton Mr Thomas Sexton , Barnard Castle

I cannot follow the hon. Member in his praise of the generosity of the Government. The Regulations are made and, in the words of the Prime Minister, we shall see after trial and error, especially error, what will eventuate. The family allowances are mean and totally inadequate. The allowance for a wife is to be 17s.; for the first child, 5s.; for the second, 3s.; for the third, 2s.; and is. each for any further children. I cannot see any generosity there. The allowances are despicably mean. The Government's policy was said to be that the conscript should not be any worse off. It may be that the young man in training will not take much harm, but what of the dependants? In their allowances they have to come under the means test, because on page 3 it sets out that, in general, households will be regarded as coming within this category where the income, after payment of rent, is less than 15s. a head, children of compulsory school age counting as a half. There is no mention of children under school age. I do not think they have to be reckoned at all as children or as dependants. The dependants are going to be considerably worse off in many cases.

I have in my constituency a case of a young man, married, with two children. I know there are some Members who will say he has no right to be married, and certainly at the age of 20 has no right to have two children, but that is his affair and not yours nor mine. After he is taken to the Army he is going to have 17s. for his wife, 5s. for the first child and 3s. for the second, together with 3s. 6d. allotment, or a total of 28s. 6d. He lives in a rural area and has a cheap house at 6s. a week. That is going to leave for these three persons a grand total of 22s. 6d., or an average of 7s. 6d. per person— truly a miserable allowance, because this young man is earning £5 a week. Surely his dependants are going to be considerably worse off.

We have heard a good deal about one-man businesses. I should like to draw attention to the case of a farm run by a young man of 20 to support a widowed mother 62 years of age. It is not a big farm. It is not an arable farm. It is one of those hill farms in the West of Durham from which it is very difficult to make a living. The mother writes to me that it will be impossible to engage anyone to take her son's place. She will be allowed 20s. 6d. a week to keep her and pay the rent of the farm. For a deputy to take the place of her son she would have to pay 34s. or 35s. a week, and the farm will not carry such a wage. She will have to give up her means of life and the young man will come back after his training with his home gone and his livelihood gone. He may have unemployment insurance but what is that? The farm where he was born and has lived all his life will have changed hands and he will be thrown upon the good will or otherwise of the world. I have another instance of a hill farm occupied by a cripple who can hardly get about. The farm is run by his nephew, 20 years of age, who is now being called up. The farmer is getting worse and it is impossible for him to go on the fells where the sheep feed. The farm is too small to pay wages for a substitute and so another farm will be vacated.

We sometimes hear from the other side of the House what wonderful encouragement the National Government is giving to agriculture. In this case the young man's uncle will not be entitled to anything at all, because the allowances are only due to grandparent, parent, brother or sister. In the cases that I have mentioned, as well as in the generality of cases, there is no such thing as equality of sacrifice. To bring about equality of sacrifice six months' earnings ought to be taken from everyone in the country, including Members of Parliament. I wonder what Members of Parliament would say if half, their salaries were taken away and they were granted enough to keep them, with is. or is. 6d. a day pocket money. There would be a big outcry. I wonder what the millionaires would say, and the people who draw dividends and interest and are reaping a harvest from armaments, if they were called upon to sacrifice half their income and were allowed is. a day pocket money. The sacrifice is all on one side— the side of the conscript and the dependants.

9.54 p.m.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

There is one small point that I wish to put under Clause 16, page 19, which makes provision for safeguarding the rights of anyone who before being called up for training is already the holder of a scholarship. It might arise through the accident of the date of birthday that a boy might be called up—to take an extreme case—between taking the examination for the scholarship and the award actually being published. I have no doubt that the intention is that in such a case the administration should be so managed that no rights would be lost, but I wish to put the point and to make quite sure that, both in administration and in any possible revision, it will be fully taken into account.

9.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

In the first place I should like to say to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) that he seems to be under a complete misapprehension when he says that the Government have dealt very generously with the militiamen and reservists in this matter. The Government are giving practically nothing to anyone. All that they are doing under these Orders is granting a moratorium to the militiaman. The Government say to the militiaman, "You have certain liabilities with regard to rent, hire-purchase and other matters, and for your period of service and six months thereafter we will excuse you from being proceeded against for non-payment in connection with those liabilities." But, after the period of 12 months, the militiaman has to find a way of meeting his liabilities, so that all he is getting from the Government is a moratorium. He has to be taken away from civil life and to undertake this military training for six months with all the discomfort and misery of it— there is ever so much humbug talked about what a fine holiday it will be —

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

I have always had more sense than to go and try it. I will admit that, when I was a university student and very hard up, I once thought of joining the Yeomanry, but, fortunately, my parents had more sense than I had, and they made it so rough for me that I did not join the Yeomanry. I am very grateful to them for that to-day. If it was going to be such a fine time, it could have been done on a voluntary basis; the young fellows of the country would have gone after the good things on a voluntary-basis, without being taken in under a press-gang system. This House ought to realise clearly and distinctly that the Government are not acting generously towards the militiaman. They are leaving the militiaman with all his liabilities; they are putting upon him a special tax that is being put on nobody else. A man with £4 a week has to go for six months on is. 6d. a day and his keep; he has to lose that part of his income for six months, and no other section of the community are being selected to make such a separate financial contribution.

Hon. Members defend the action of the Government in leaving this burden on the militiaman on the thesis that the young men ought to be delighted to serve their country. I heard someone say "Hear, hear." But those young men are not being compelled to undergo this period of military training to serve their country. If it were to serve their country, there might be something to be said for it, but, to put it brutally and frankly, they are being conscripted in order to protect the property of the friends of hon. Members opposite. They are simply being conscripted to protect the rent, interest and profit system of the country. If they realised that they were being caled upon to undertake this burden for the protection of rent, interest and profits, they would chase the Government and the supporters of the Government for their lives. I hope that my words will go out to them from this House, and that they will realise that it is not service for their country, but service for the profiteers who are carrying on their swindling operations and making the most out of the country's necessity at the present time.

I was perhaps too extreme when I said that the Government were not making any contribution to the militiaman. I will correct that a bit. They are making a contribution of four insurance stamps to the unemployed. They serve for 26 weeks, and they get a stamp, as they would get from any other employer, for their six weeks' service, as they would if they were working in their occupation; and so the one gift from the State to the militiaman is four insurance stamps. The employer's rate, I think, is 9d. a week, and so the contribution of the Government per militiaman, according to this Order, is 3s. He gives six months' service, and the Government give him a present of "three bob." That is all that there is in the Order for the militiaman— "three bob." But the militiamen who are not normally in insurable employment before they join up are not to get the 3s.; they are not to get anything. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), in dealing with this matter, seemed to me to go on the assumption that they are to be credited with 26 stamps. I wonder if the Minister will make that clear when he replies. My reading of the Order suggests to me that the militiaman who is not normally in insurable employment is not going to be credited with any stamps at all for the period of his service. I am not sure, and I am not really challenging my hon. Friend on the matter, but it has been made clear in the course of the explanation of the Minister, whom I, with others, congratulate on his performance to-day.

It has not been made clear to my reading what is the position of the militiaman who goes into his service without being normally in insurable employment, and whether he is going to be credited with any stamps when he comes out. The hon. Member for Sowerby gave us the case of a man in his division who has built up a little business in the repairing of boots and shoes. What he hopes for will not eventuate in any case, because, when he comes back, if he goes round and calls on his previous customers, I am afraid that, if he is being granted unem- ployment insurance benefit, the Ministry of Labour will seek to prosecute him afterwards, because they would hold that calling on his customers was doing work which ruled him out of insurance. It is one of the little difficulties in connection with the working of the whole of this scheme.

There again it may be said that I was overlooking the contribution the Government are making in connection with the superannuation schemes, for example with regard to teachers. The Government are again "handing the buck" to somebody else. The contribution with regard to superannuation is made up roughly as follows: 5 per cent. from the teachers, 2½ per cent. from the local authority and 2½ per cent. from the State. I take it from what the Government are doing in this Order that they are maintaining the superannuation right of the teacher in those circumstances but are putting the cost of it on to the superannuation fund so that the fund has to bear the expense of providing the pension for the teacher, and the Government say, "Are not we a generous Government looking after the superannuation rights of the teachers by handing on the burden to the other teachers and the local authorities?" I do not know whether the Government in devising this scheme went on the basis of the old principle divide et impera— divide and conquer— because of the way in which they are seeking to divide up the various people who will be enrolled for service. You will have the militiaman employed by the local authority who will not have his salary made up to the amount normally paid to him by the local authority. Alongside of him is a Reservist working for the same local authority who will have his wage made up by the local authority to what he would normally receive from the local authority. [An HON. MEMBER: "It may be."] My hon. Friend corrects me and says that he may have it. I was really coming to that point. It will happen in some cases that one local authority will make up the pay of the Reservist. Another local authority will not, and so, working alongside, will be the Reservist who is employed by a local authority that has not made up his pay.

There you have three different classes, three men, two of them with a grievance against the other because he is being so much better treated than they are. The whole of the system in these Orders is setting one section against another by giving to one section privileges that are not given to others. I notice with regard to the making up of pay that in very many cases the salaries to be made up will be salaries of officers. Many of the Reservist employès who will be called up under the Reserve Forces Act are working men who are not on the establishment, who will not have their salaries made up and are not civil servants on a permanent basis. They do not belong very much to the officer class, and so the whole scheme is quite evidently framed on the basis of giving as little as possible to the people of the working class while preserving the rights as far as possible of the officer class. Very probably the Government are acting somewhat wisely in that, because the officer class would have the power, through the influence of their friends, to make it very rough for the Government if they were called up as Reservists and were treated to the loss of income.

The last remark I wish to make is to support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) with regard to the way in which the rent question is being dealt with. I do not know exactly what is the meaning of the phrase in the Order where it refers to a person having a dwelling-house "by the licence of any other person." I think the phrase needs a certain amount of explanation. I am quoting from the top of page 8 of the draft Order under the Military Training Act, Article I, Sub-section (3), which says: where a person was immediately before the beginning of his period of training residing in a dwelling-house or part of a dwelling-house, with any person wholly or partly dependent on him, and the premises were occupied by them or any of them by the licence of any other person … I do not know what is the meaning of that phrase.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It refers to the ordinary lodging arrangement.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

I was taking it that this was a phrase wide enough to cover the dwelling-house occupied, perhaps, by having been let as a dwelling-house. I take it now from the Minister that that is not so, but that it is only if they are in lodgings that they are to have this protection. The Minister shakes his head. I seem to be wrong again. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will make it plain to me. This Sub-section seems to me very deficient because of a lack of certainty as to the meaning of the words. I would like also to refer to the words, "any person wholly or partly dependent upon." If they are going into court it is obvious that in court a great deal will depend on what interpretation is given to "partly dependent." Our experience of the working of the Unemployment Insurance Act certainly does not give us any confidence in a vague phrase like "partly dependent." I might say, for instance, that if an individual was contributing a shilling a week, that would be partial dependence; but, under the Unemployment Insurance Act, that was ruled out completely. The Minister will have to see that this matter is cleared up and a ruling given, so that the courts may know where they are.

That makes all the more important the point raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals, that the militiaman or his dependants, in going to the courts, will be in a very weak position compared with the house owner, the factor or the property agent, who is able to spend money in getting the best legal advice. The whole procedure outlined here is such as to leave the militiaman and his dependants in an almost impossible position in regard to the courts. I am confident that in the future the dependants of many of the militiamen will be evicted from their homes, and that, especially in the great industrial districts, there will be many scandals in connection with this matter. I do not think that the working of the scheme will redound to the credit of the Government. I am glad that the hon. Member for Sowerby remarked that everybody was so pleased to discover that there was so high a percentage of fit men among those called up for the Militia. One of my hon. Friends commented to me that it was very strange, because men coming up from the Special Areas had had to be reconditioned physically before they were able to undertake a training course; yet now, by some miracle, those same men, when they are called up for service as militiamen, are found to be perfectly sound, and in no need of reconditioning. It appears that the passing of the Act has worked a miracle in connection with the physique of the young men.

Photo of Mr Malcolm McCorquodale Mr Malcolm McCorquodale , Sowerby

Is the hon. Member suggesting that the doctors examining them did not do their duty properly?

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

I am certainly suggesting that they could not do their duty properly, if they took, on an average, only five minutes to examine each man. I know the case of a doctor who passed a man with one eye as Grade 2. That doctor should be in a mental institution, or somewhere worse. Things of that sort have happened throughout the country. We are going to have the dependants of those militiamen evicted from their homes, and the Government all the time will be avoiding the financial responsibility which should fall upon them, and passing it on to others. They will be leaving the militiamen, after their period of service, burdened with impossible debts that are going to make their lives miserable in the years that follow, and that, not to serve their country, but to protect the rent, interest and profit of the greedy ruling class of this country.

10.20 p.m.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

I have no desire to collaborate with the Whips in suppressing debate on the Conservative benches, and I do not now rise in any sense with the object of bringing the Debate to a close. As to what the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway said about the way in which the publicity campaign on this matter is being run, if I may say this to a master of publicity, the right hon. Gentleman has rather over-egged the pudding. Last year he was rejecting recruits for the Army to the extent of 37 per cent., and now only 2 per cent, of these men are being rejected. Obviously something has happened. This is an attempt to make the thing go, and with the young men themselves we are all in the heartiest sympathy, but we object to the attempt to put over a revolution as if it were a great blessing. It is not a great blessing. It is the greatest blot that could fall upon the country to have to come down to the last resort, which is the conscription of the youth of the country.

There is all this talk about foreign countries and M. Blum's speeches, and so on, but those who have lived in foreign countries, as I did when at school, know well that in France and Germany and elsewhere it is regarded as a terrible burden which has to be borne. The conscripts that are called up walk about the streets, and shout and sing, but the fathers and the mothers do not shout and sing. They only conscript in foreign countries because there is nothing else that they can possibly do to raise the men at the price they want. That is the last ditch and the one to which we ourselves are now being driven. I recommend the Secretary of State for War to go piano a little on the publicity business. It is getting a little beyond what is reasonable, although I note that, with extraordinary self-restraint, he put not his own portrait, but His Majesty's on the front of the pamphlet.

As to the character of this Debate today, I believe that we should have done very much better if we had tried to do the job in a more business-like way and had had this matter discussed in Committee. The experience of to-day has amply borne out what I say. The remarkable performance of the Chancellor of the Duchy is proof of that. He himself, by giving way generously, and the Chair allowing him to give way, did a great deal to simplify the discussion. He answered questions as best he could as he went along, and this was positive proof that the way to do this job properly was to be in Committee discussing these things and having them cleared up one by one instead of having a mass of answers, which, no doubt, will be very ably given by the Secretary of State for War, but which cannot be satisfactorily given in that form because they are not susceptible of cross-examination. You cannot clear up all the various points of the Debate, including points as to the intentions of the Government. We have Schedules in these Orders which cover ten Departments. The Prime Minister, who has treated the matter with immense consideration, for which we are grateful, said the whole of the Ministers, this galaxy which we see before us now, would be present for the purpose of our discussion. We like to look at them, but we would much rather have the opportunity of hearing them speak.

There are a great many matters that have never been mentioned. If we were doing our job in Committee, a Standing Committee or a Select Committee— a Select Committee would be best, because we could have the officials of the Departments before us— we could ask: What is the precise application to Northern Ireland? Why are you making these adjust- ments? These are proper questions to ask, but not one has been mentioned. There is another very remarkable thing that has happened. I never knew of regulations coming before the House of Commons with the blight of the Lord Chancellor already laid upon them, as in this case. The Attorney-General will admit, because he is on that road himself, that the Lord Chancellor is a very important man. He. said that the regulations were not without ambiguity. When people learned in the law mean that a thing is ambiguous, they say that it is not without ambiguity. The Lord Chancellor went on to explain and excuse the extraordinary work of these professional men; but the only explanation he could give for the form in which the regulations are presented was that these people had had no sleep for days, and therefore it must not be expected that these regulations would be without ambiguity.

I should like to remind the House of the way we have been treated about these matters. This Military Training Bill is very important. It has made a very great change in our national life and it would have been well if we had an opportunity at each stage of examining it. The Chief Whip would have saved time for his precious programme if he had given us an opportunity of properly considering these matters. The first thing he did was to clap on the guillotine for the Bill, and he made us discuss whether we would have the guillotine in the time allowed for the guillotine in connection with the Bill. That procedure was, I submit, without precedent. After the guillotine, the next thing that happened was that we began to question the Minister of Labour. I suppose he is now at Geneva. I hear that he has been distributing some of his unsolicited testimonials at Geneva— [Interruption] — to himself. We said to him,;" You must have in mind what you are going to do. In that case, why not put it in draft. Tell what you have in mind." He would not do it. He made the ridiculous defence that although he had power under the Statute to make Regulations, he had not power then to put them in draft. The Ministers were primed as to the things they were to keep off and what they were to be careful never to say. The House of Commons was never told what was in the mind of the Government in regard to these Regula- tions. On the contrary, I and other hon. Members were, misled over this business. We asked what was going to be done about civil liabilities, hire purchase in respect of motor cars, motor bicycles and other things. The Minister of Labour left me, and I believe he left most of the House, under the firm impression that the Government were going to find some money for these things. The right hon. Gentleman said: The Clause is directed to easing the position of the militiaman while on service, to make his mind easy while he is undergoing his training. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was anxious to pursue the matter a little further. He said: May I ask whether the decisions arising out of this Clause would involve a charge on the Treasury? '

Mr. Brown:

' Certainly.' "—"OFFICIAL-REPORT, 15th May, 1939; cols. 1138– 40. Vol. 347.]

Therefore, I say that we were under the impression that when these concealed Regulations came before the House we should. find that there was a charge on the Treasury and that what the Government intended to do is what they should do, namely, assist with money these young men because they are depriving them of the wages they are earning. Then I come to the Civil Lord of the Admiralty two days later. He had been warned, I think, to be very careful of what he said on this point. My hon. Friend asked: May I ask whether it is proposed … to meet also contractual obligations? And the Civil Lord said: I do not think I could go as far as that. … Contractual obligations will fall to-be dealt with by Orders-in-Council. Then my hon. Friend put the question: whether, in addition to supplementary allowances contractual allowances, in part or wholly, would be made? Is that what the Minister means? To that the Civil Lord said: I understood the hon. Member to ask me whether the Government would undertake a. financial commitment or any or all of those contractual liabilities, and I said that I certainly could not give that undertaking … Some may be met in other ways. I have certainly not given any undertaking that the Government will put its hand into the nation's pocket and pay an undetermined amount of obligations. That suggested to my mind that they were going to put their hands in their pockets to pay some amounts of obligations. I am not accusing the hon. and gallant Member of wilfully misleading the House, but I do say that it was under the definite impression when he said that the Government would not pay an undetermined amount of obligations that he meant that there would be some financial contribution. At the end he said— and this is what made my heart leap with joy: If asked, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be able to give a reply." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1939; col. 1534–35. Vol. 347.] What does that mean except to lead the House to believe that these boys would get money enough to meet their obligations? What happened? These regulations were kept in reserve, the lawyers spent their sleepless nights in producing them, and now we cannot make any impression on the Government. The truth is that we are getting to the seamy side of conscription. Of course the boys like to go to camp; that is very natural. They will have a healthy time amid good surroundings, but what we have to deal with now is that we are taking away a wage capacity which may amount to £ 250,000 a week. What the boys have not discovered and what their parents have not discovered is that the Government are not contributing a farthing to this lost earning capacity. The reason they want conscription is because it is cheap and it saves the military people from thinking. There is a steady flow of recruits; it is not necessary to make any appeal, and I predict— I am sure I am right— that in time it will drive voluntarism out of our Defence Services. It is bound to do so, because there will be 1,000,000 reserve conscripts in three years, the Territorial forces will be filled up with militiamen, and there will be Army units of reserve militiamen. How can you go on paying better rates of pay to the Army when you get the militiamen in? Everybody knows that the reason France, Italy and other countries have a conscript system,. by which for a few halfpennies a day they get the militiamen in, is that it gives a great reserve of men and does not impose a very heavy charge upon the Exchequer.

If the Government will not pay— which they will not— who is being asked to pay? That is the question we have been discussing all day. The local authorities, that is to say, the ordinary ratepayers, will be asked to pay; the insurance companies— and when I say insurance com- panies, I mean the other policy-holders, because many of these companies are mutual companies and the burden put on the so-called company really falls on the other insured persons— the employers, and various small and big bodies which engage officials will be asked to pay. Then there are the boys themselves, and there are the dependants. On the worst things about this is that the people who will be hit hardest are the people who are the best sort. They are the people who are trying to make the most of their lives— the boy who has a scholarship, the boy who is starting, or trying to start, a little business, the boy who is contributing to help his mother and family. I am not arguing against the Army, for I regard the Army, especially in time of war, as one of the most honourable of all professions; but I say that it is incredibly mean to get an Army at the expense of these widows and boys, and leave them to heap up debt because the Government will not find the money.

Let me refer to the most tragic case of all, that of the woman who is a widow and who has one son. As the calendar proves many of these women lost their husbands in the War, for it is just 20 years ago. Such a woman, who has brought up her boy in memory of her fallen husband, has now to give him up, and what are the Government going to give her— 20s. 6d., including 3s. 6d. which the boy himself has to pay. There never was anything so mean or disgraceful in the history of this country. It is bad enough in the case of such a woman, for she will have to go to public assistance, but there is another case. What about the woman who is in a richer position, who has, perhaps, two boys and, say, … 8 or … 10 a week, who has a little villa and a little car, who belongs to the church or the chapel, and subscribes to the missionary societies? You are going to grab out of that family income. … 3 or … 4 a week. What is the woman to do? It is no good saying that if she has … 8 or … 10 a week, she can easily afford to economise. It is not easy to do so when she has been accustomed to having that sum. It is difficult for her to know what to give up.

These are the people who are being asked to pay, for the sake of the … 5,000,000 that would be involved— it could not be much more— in order to make this economy for the present, and especially for the future; because the 200,000 men are only the beginning of a larger scheme. Indeed, Lord Munster, the Government representative, when asked why the 20 to 21 age group was selected, said, "You must begin somewhere." Therefore, although we shall do our best to stop it, we fear that this scheme will be extended, and the Government feel that this money is worth having. But if they are going to take the money, for goodness' sake let them not commit the meannesses that are involved in these Orders. The Prime Minister said that the usefulness of this Debate was that it would give the Government information as to what the complaints are, and enable them to put those matters right. As my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) said, "We have never heard of such an extraordinary thing in this House." The Government produce these Orders, which they insist on passing to-night, and say, "We will read the Debate to-morrow and see what is the matter with them."

We shall have to press the right hon. Gentleman opposite for answers to our questions. It is no good merely reading over notes courteously and fully supplied by all the talent arrayed on the Front Bench opposite. We want answers. We are, in effect, in Committee. We are passing two great Acts of Parliament and we must insist on answers. One question which I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Has he made up his mind to change any of these Regulations? I am willing to give way to him if he will answer that question. Apparently he prefers to wait. That is why we object to this Second Reading type of Debate. We ought to have an answer on the spot to that question. We cannot have it, because the right hon. Gentleman will not give it now. We shall have to wait for his reply and then we shall not have the chance, if we desire, to press the question.

As I say, I regard this as a Committee discussion and here are some of the questions which still remain unanswered. For the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman's notes I want to be sure that they are all taken down. Has the right hon. Gentleman decided, first of all, what he is going to do about the university boys? Are they to be trained before they leave school, or between leaving school and entering the university, or after they leave the university? There are, as the comments in the newspapers show, very grave objections to any of these three courses. Then there was the legal point which was put by one of my hon. Friends. What is the position of a boy under training who is injured? There is another point. Is it the fact that a court can be appealed to at any time, on the ground that a man cannot pay his debt because some years previously someone on whom he was dependent, was undergoing military training? I thought that the protection extended only to the period of training and to the subsequent period of grace.

Is it a fact that two or three years hence a man can come to the court and say, "I have been in debt for years; I am in difficulties, but it is all due to the fact that in 1939 my boy was taken away for six months"? Is that so or not? Then, supposing a boy hears of a case that is being brought against his father. Suppose a boy is informed by his parents or dependants that a case is being brought into court and suppose he is many miles away from his home. Suppose, for instance, a boy from the Orkney or Shetland Islands is put into the Naval Reserve and is sent to Portsmouth to be trained. At Portsmouth he hears that his mother is being taken into court for the rent. Are you going to pay that boy's fare and provide him with any assistance in court in order to protect his interests?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Are you going to provide his mother with legal assistance?

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

We must ask these questions. These are no mere forecasts of gloom. These are not criticisms of the Government. They are factual questions to which we demand specific replies-There is another thing. Is there an appeal from the decision of the court supposing a magistrate gives a judgment which is obviously harsh and unconscionable? I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to say that there is. It is a marvellous thing to get one of them to speak. I gather from the Solicitor-General that there is, but apparently his view is not corroborated by the Attorney-General. Then I would like to ask, how far does this circle of moratorium extend? We understand that the boy who has a bicycle is protected in relation to his payments on the bicycle and that the bicycle cannot be seized. What about the agent who has sold him the bicycle? Can he plead that he cannot pay the manufacturer, because the boy who has been conscripted, has not paid him? Suppose the manufacturer has 1,000 bicycles out. Can he plead in the bankruptcy court that he cannot go bankrupt because the agent who sold them has been called up?

Here is another question: Suppose a man is in a building society. We know that he cannot pay his instalments, that his period of instalments can be prolonged, and that he remains in possession of his house, but suppose he is so much in debt when he has finished his service that he cannot pay his next instalment. What will happen then? We have a right to know, because we have been told that it is urgent to pass these things because the boys must know where they stand. Finally, the Prime Minister told us that he was pursuing this procedure, in defiance of the censure of the Lord Chancellor, in order to hear what we had to say, and more particularly to see how the thing worked out in practice. Will the Minister of Health undertake to ask every public assistance committee to report the cases of militiamen's dependants that come before them; will the Attorney-General ask every county court to report every case connected with a militiaman that comes to court; and will other Departments similarly concerned see that, in a scientific way, the evidence is collected and then laid before this House? Our great difficulty is that we get letters mentioning difficulties, and we bring them forward in all good faith and ask questions about them, and we are told that they are being investigated. It is a thoroughly unsatisfactory way of clearing up hardships, if hardships exist.

The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has come forward voluntarily and said, "I must ask you to pass these Regulations, and we will amend them, because they are bad." [Interruption.] Did I understand the President of the Board of Trade to say "No"? The Lord Chancellor says "Yes, they are bad," so what will he do about it? I have made a practical suggestion in order to get hardships cleared up. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that some such means will be set in motion, so that we shall have reliable information, in order that all of us may know whether or not these things are inflicting hardship? Is that an unreasonable thing to ask? Why cannot we have this information laid before us? If we do, we shall be able to see what amendments must be made in the Regulations. I make these practical suggestions and put these few questions, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will kindly reply to them, and if he will not take it amiss, I will then move the Amendment that stands in our name.

10.49 P.m.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) is pleased with the "cloud of witnesses" which he has brought forward, and he has said that if I do not satisfactorily answer his questions, he intends to put them to others of my colleagues. I will endeavour to answer the questions which he has put. Some of them, of course, were irrelevant to the draft Orders-in-Council which we are discussing, as, for instance, whether a. militiaman who was due to go to a university would ante-date or postpone his period of training. That is the question which is now being discussed between the Minister of Labour, the War Office, the headmasters of schools and the universities in an endeavour to come to an arrangement which will be most suited to the interests of the militiamen. The right hon. Gentleman next asked what treatment would be meted out to those militiamen who were injured in the course of their service. They will, of course, come for pension if disabled under exactly the same procedure as Regular soldiers. He asked another question, which was not precisely related to these Orders, but which may be considered to be pertinent— whether the Government Departments concerned would keep a watch upon the fortunes of militiamen to see to what extent they or their families were put to privation, or were compelled to go before the courts, and I take it in other respects also. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that as this is the first time, at any rate in peace, that such an experiment has been undertaken, all Government Departments will follow the fortunes of the militiamen and of their families with the very greatest interest.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

That was not the question. What I asked was this. Will the courts and the public assistance committees and other bodies be asked to make returns of cases of militiamen that come before them, and will those returns be laid before the House?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe that the Government are interested in these militiamen, and will pursue their own way of getting this information, but we shall obtain all necessary information, though I cannot say exactly in what form. If the right hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with such information as he can procure by Question and Answer, it will be open to him to move for a return.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Yes, and the Orders will be passed, but my chance of getting anything done will be gone.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

The right hon. Gentleman need not approach the matter with venom, but I hope he will do so with the same good humour which characterised the greater part of his speech. He asked me other questions, the answer to which I shall endeavour to incorporate in the general sequence of my speech. The Government realise, of course, that the House is placed in a certain difficulty by this procedure, but events are moving with great speed, and they have compelled us to act in the introduction of the Bills from which the Orders-in-Council arise, more summarily than we should otherwise have done. It was only on 26th April that the prospective introduction of these two Bills, the Military Training Bill and the Reserve Forces Bill, was announced. It was only just before Whitsun that these Bills were passed. Reservists have already returned to the Colours, and the militiamen will be coming up on 15th July. Hence it was necessary to resort to the procedure which was authorised by the House, and I am sure the House will realise that much labour and reflection have been involved in the preparation of these Orders.

I entered upon this Debate with some apprehension, because it was being suggested, as I understood it, that something was being taken away from the militiamen and the Reservists, that the Government were about to do them some injury from which it was necessary that the House should protect them. In reply to the hon. Member for West Waltham-stow (Mr. McEntee), I can give the positive assurance that no right at present enjoyed by a militiaman or Reservist is being taken away. No one who comes under either of these two Measures is going to be any the worse off in respect of his rights. We have already settled the age at which the Militia shall be called up. We chose the age of 20 because it was the age at which a man can serve with the minimum of hardship to himself. That in itself saves him from many disabilities which he would incur, perhaps, if he were summoned to the Colours at a later age. We have settled his pay, we have settled his allowances, and it is therefore quite untrue to suggest, as has been suggested from the other side of the House, that the Government are not paying a penny towards the Militia. That has been said— that the Government are doing nothing at all. In addition to pay and allowances for wives and dependants we have established, or are about to establish, a Military Service (Special Allowances) Committee, which can give assistance to a militiaman up to £ 2s a week in cash if he is suffering any hardship which he may be able to present to the Committee. That is not ungenerous treatment.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

I asked the Chancellor of the Duchy whether rent was included. Could a militiaman apply to the special allowances committee for financial assistance on account of rent?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

The White Paper speaks for itself in that respect when, after setting up the Committee, it states that it is to: consider applications for special monetary assistance from those who notwithstanding the special protection afforded by the Orders-in-Council made under the two Acts and any normal allowances which may be granted for families and dependants, are unable, by reason of undergoing a course of six months' training … or by reason of being called out for service under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Act, 1939, to meet their financial obligations, whereby serious hardship is caused. As to the circumstances in which they may be granted that assistance one is that they are unable by reason of their service to meet their financial obligations, whereby serious hardship is caused. Therefore, in a proper case the allow- ances paid by this Committee could be in supplementation of rent.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

In the case of a militiaman who is summoned to appear at court by a landlord for non-payment of rent— that is the kind of case it is expected those provisions will cover— could he, when a summons is issued against him or an order is given against him by the court— which is non-enforceable during the training period— could he apply to this Committee for a grant to enable him to meet his liability, and in those circumstances would the Committee make the grant?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

The White Paper states after the paragraph which I have already read: For the purpose of deciding the measure of assistance all factors may be taken into consideration, including the special protection given under the Orders-in-Council made under the two Acts. That is to say, including the special provision as to rent. Therefore, I think the hon. Member is completely met.

In addition to these aids which I have already described, the militiaman's job is kept open for him at the expense of the employer, who is under a severe penalty if he does not take him back. Apart from all these protections, we have looked around to discover what other disabilities men called up for service under either of these Acts might be expected to suffer in order that we could mitigate these wherever reasonably possible. I think the House, before proceeding to a Division, should not consider what we are not doing but should consider what we are doing, and what we are doing I think the House must agree is quite considerable. The first and most obvious difficulty with which a militiaman is confronted is his position as a householder. I ask the House to consider how elaborately we have endeavoured to cover his position in that respect, and whether or not what we have tried to do is reasonable.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

From what are you quoting?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

I am going to quote from Article I of the Military Training Order. I do not think the provision of this Order has been completely apprehended in some quarters. The Article says: Where any judgment or order has been given or made by any court for the recovery of possession of any premises of which a person was in occupation immediately before his period of training; or for the payment of any rent due … or for the payment of any money due under a mortgage … or for the payment of any debt incurred before the data specified no step shall, during the period of training of that person or within six months after the end thereof, be taken, by way of execution or otherwise, for the enforcement of the judgment or order except with the leave of the court. That is the first protection, that he remains in his house and, except with the leave of the court, which has to regard all the circumstances of the case, he cannot be dislodged. It surely would not be suggested that we should give the same protection in circumstances in which it would be abused. Hence the court must intervene. I take it that some of these men will be moderately well off. If a rich man is occupying a house it would not be reasonable that he should refrain from paying the rent due to his landlord, and hence it is for the court to determine whether or not it is fair that the landlord should be able to exact his rent. During this same period no remedy which may be available to any person for obtaining such possession or payment shall be exercised except with the leave of the court. That includes rent and money due under mortgages.

Supposing subsequently to this period the man still remains in a difficulty on return to his house or premises and cannot then pay his rent— the same applies to building societies— then he comes under Article 2 (1), which is enduring for all time, and if the person against whom a judgment or order was given for recovery of possession of the property or for the payment of any money or the enforcement of his security satisfies the court that by reason of circumstances directly or indirectly attributable to any person being or having been a person under training it is necessary for the avoidance of hardship that execution of the judgment or order should be stayed or provision made for payment by instalments of any money payable there under, the court may make such order as it thinks just. There is the man— this covers more than what I am going to say— who has paid no rent during his Militia service, and has accumulated a certain debt to his landlord and finds it difficult to discharge that debt at once because he is not completely restored in earning capacity. He comes under Article 2, and he goes to the court, who can make any order it thinks fit, including an order for him to pay by instalments. Therefore, the man has a very extended protection for all time. It is for the court to decide —

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But the court does not know these facts. The man himself is not legally defended; it may be that he is not there; how does the right hon. Gentleman know that the court will be fully informed?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

That is another point, on which I shall say a word. The point I am making here is that very adequate protection is given to the man who is doing his service. It is for the court to decide what is his position, in relation, not only to the period during which he is on service, but for a period afterwards. I described it as being for all time, but, of course, it must be a reasonable period. [Interruption..] It must be remembered that this is after six months' service, and he will not require the whole of his life to discharge a debt which he may have accumulated in that period of six months. It will be for the court to decide.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

Surely, that debt is incurred by his serving the State, and no man should be worse off for giving service to the State. Surely, any debts that he incurs in that period ought to be discharged by the State?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

When we were dealing with the burden to be put on employers, I did not notice the same attitude—

Photo of Mr Benjamin Smith Mr Benjamin Smith , Bermondsey Rotherhithe

The debt should be discharged by you, not by the employer.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

If that be the universal principle, it should apply to employers also. Hon. Members opposite wished to put a greater burden on employers in connection with this Act, and we accepted their position. The protection in the Article relates, not only to the militiaman, but to any other person, and, just as the sins of the fathers are, I under stand, visited on the second and third generation—

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

So the man who is put in a difficulty by not receiving his rent can go to the court for exactly the same protection as the militiaman.

Photo of Sir Frederick Messer Sir Frederick Messer , Tottenham South

In the event of the landlord not receiving his rent, and therefore not paying the rates, the local authority can levy distress without resort to the courts. Is that position covered?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

That matter is completely covered by Article 2 (2). Just as with rents, so with debts.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

May I ask the Minister whether he is aware what it means to a militiaman if he has to pay rent and on top of rent to pay instalments on a debt? Can he give us a case where they would take over an industry from an employer for six months and leave the employer with debt as a result of taking over?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

It is the safeguards to the militiaman in that respect which I have been endeavouring to describe to the House. He may go to the Special Committee, which has power to assist him where circumstances warrant. He has allowances for his dependants. In addition he need not pay any rent during his period of service, and, if it be not convenient, for another six months, and if, even after that, he still finds himself in difficulty, the court may make an arrangement that he may pay by instalments. Those are very adequate provisions. As I was about to say when the hon. Member intervened, just as with rent, so with debts. If the militiaman has given some security for a debt before 15th June, the date of these Orders, the security cannot be disposed of without the leave of the court. All those provisions cover the militiaman, as I have said, not only during his period of service but for six months after, and if necessary, even further.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Surely he can only apply to a hardship committee while he is serving as a militiaman?

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

I have said that the militiaman can go to this committee. I was talking about the militiaman. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not try to misunderstand me.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

Hon. Members have put a lot of questions to the Minister. They have asked him to reply and now that he is replying they should give him an opportunity to do so.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

The right hon. Gentleman said, speaking about the militiaman, that he was covered for his period of training and for six months after. That is not so.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

That is correct in relation to the provisions which I have described and which I have actually read out to the House. He is covered for six months and for an equivalent period of six months after, and I said that if he was still in a difficulty he can go to the court, which can give him some further protection. I have stated the position accurately. If his house was in process of being purchased through a building society, the period of his service is void and he pays nothing during that period, and, therefore, the extent of the time over which the purchase was being made is advanced by a further six months.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question which I put to him? It is obvious that we must ask questions. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was going to deal with it.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

I thought I had answered it once, but I will answer it again, although, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind, not precisely at this point. I was just rehearsing what we were in fact doing for the militiaman, because we have heard a great deal about what we are not doing. The provisions of Sub section 2 (2) —