§ 16. Colonel YATE
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, considering that soldiers who attested prior to the 1st January, 1916, were told at the time of attestation by the recruiting officer that they were soldiers as soon as they attested and drew one day's pay and ration allowance, and that, although not called up to join the Colours till a later date to suit the convenience of the War Office, these men consider that the authorities are not keeping faith with them in refusing to take their attestation into account for demobilisation under Army Order No. 55, of1919, and thus specially 1557 penalising them for their voluntary action in attesting, he will reconsider the question and permit these men to reckon their service from the date of attestation?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The men referred to did not join the Colours until after the 1st January, 1916. The test adopted by the Government to determine whether a man shall be retained for the Armies of Occupation is length of service actually given to the State and not the liability to serve. Although the men in question mayhave attested prior to the 1st January, 1916, nevertheless they did not join the Colours for immediate or continuous service until a later date, and I regret that, in view of the requirements of the Armies of Occupation, special treatment cannot be granted to this very numerous class. I regret it is not possible to depart from a system which is recognised in the Army to be based on principles of fairness.
§ Colonel YATE
May I ask whether my right hon. Friend realises the feeling that this breach of faith occasions amongst those men;and if this is not a question for settlement by the War Cabinet, but for a personal Order by himself, will he kindly reconsider this matter, and see if these men can be given priority?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I could only give these men release by finding other men to take their place. In whatever direction we advance, it is necessary to inflict hardship, and we have taken as a broad, simple line the men who joined for continuous service with the Colours after 1st January, 1916. If I had exempted this class who attested before, although they were not called up before, I would have had to put the date of the men retained back to an earlier period than 1st January, 1916, and that again would have caused other forms of hardship. I think, broadly speaking, the actual time spent with the Colours is the best test.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel W. GUINNESS
Could the right hon. Gentleman say the approximate number of men involved?
§ 44. Sir J. BUTCHER
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in the case of men not liable for service in the Armies of Occupation, priority of release is being granted to men who have been 1558 applied for by their pre-war or other employers in preference to proprietors of one-man businesses; and whether this state of affairs can be put right?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
F I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Walsall on this subject yesterday. Proprietors of one-man businesses, for whom recommendations for special release were received by the War Office from the Ministry of Labour before the 1st February, 1919, receive the same priority as pivotal men registered by the War Office before that date; those not so recommended, but for whom release slips have been forwarded by the Ministry of Labour, receive the same priority as "slip" or "contact" men provided they are not liable for retention in the Armies of Occupation.