91. Mr. TYSON WILSON
asked the Minister of National Service whether apprentices to the engineering trade are being called up for the Army, leaving behind in the same workshops dilutees and Belgians of military age and fitness; if so, whether he has received any complaints in connection therewith; and whether, in view of the Government pledges, every effort will be made to ensure that men who have entered munitions work since August, 1915, and are of military fitness, shall be combed out before skilled men and apprentices in the various trades?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
All recruiting from the engineering trade is governed by the Schedule of Protected Occupations. I am not aware of the Government pledges to which the hon. Member refers, but it is the general rule that, other things being equal, men fit for general service, who-have entered the occupation since August, 1915, are released before those of longer experience.
A complaint has been received as to the retention of Belgians in one munitions establishment, and inquiries are being made into the circumstances. The total number of Belgians fit for service born later than 1879 employed in coded firms is only 250. Of these, two were born in 1898–99; fifty in 1895–96 and 1897; the remainder between 1894 and 1879. This 1027 small number of men is being retained in civil life for the time being on account of the importance of the work upon which they are engaged.
Could not the right hon. Gentleman give more definite instructions to his representatives in munition areas with regard to the combing out of men who have been sheltered in the shipyards and munition works before calling out the regular workmen?
§ Sir A. GEDDES
Possibly the hon. Member refers to the clean cut, which cuts right across the others.