§ Mr. KING
asked the President of the Local Government Board whether Ernest Batten, of Old Sodbury, Gloucestershire, a farmer, was refused exemption, his case being heard before the Pelham Committee was formed; whether at the Bristol Appeal Tribunal on 28th April a market gardener named Hugh Williams was given exemption while he remained at his present employment; and when E. Batten will be allowed to appeal to the Central Tribunal, so that the inequality in these two cases, which has given offence locally, may be rectified?
§ Mr. LONG
Mr. Batten appears to have applied for exemption on conscientious grounds. In such a case the tribunal is justified in granting exemption only if satisfied that the grounds have been established; the man's occupation is beside the point, though, if they have decided that exemption should be granted, it may be important in determining the conditions of exemption. The Pelham Committee is simply an advisory body; the decision of cases rests with the tribunals. Appeal to the Central Tribunal can be made only by leave of the Appeal Tribunal. I have no information of the case of Mr. H. Williams.
§ Mr. KING
asked the President of the Local Government Board whether he is aware that the Pelham Committee for placing in work of national importance certain men attested under the Military Service. Act, 1916, was only inaugurated when the cases of many conscientious objectors had been decided by tribunals; and whether he has arranged, or will arrange, that men who have been compelled to enter the Army because they failed to get work of national importance will now be allowed to make application to the Pelham Committee?678W
asked the President of the Local Government Board if a list of men who on conscientious grounds have been granted twenty-one days' exemption to find work of national importance is kept and, if so, whether that list may be made available to employers whose industry is being seriously hampered by recruitment of their employés; and whether, in view of the necessity of the land producing the maximum of food, such men may be in the first instance made available to assist farmers where a case is made good for replacing the labour of men taken for the Army and the channel through which such persons may communicate?
§ Mr. LONG
No list of the kind is available. The individual cases are being decided by Local Tribunals, Appeal Tribunals, and the Central Tribunal. It is for the tribunal dealing with the case to determine the work of national importance which will be accepted as a condition of exemption. But I would suggest that agriculturists who are in need of labour might communicate with local tribunals in their neighbourhood with a view to seeing whether there are available any such men as are described.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
asked the President of the Local Government Board if he is aware of the chaos into which the decisions of the Manchester Appeal Tribunal have been put by the action of the chairman in referring appellants on the ground of conscientious objection to the Pelham Committee; that in some cases he has omitted to make any reference to the Pelham Committee on the form handed to the appellant, although he has marked the forms retained by the tribunal to that effect, and that he has endorsed both forms as though the appellant had been passed for non-combatant service instead of certifying that they were exempted on condition of being employed in some work of national importance; that this practice has naturally led to confusion and injustice, and that a number of men who have been referred to the Pelham Committee by Judge Mellor have been arrested and fined as deserters, though the military representative admitted at the Police Court that the chairman of the 679W Appeal Tribunal had by word of mouth referred the men to the Pelham Committee; that the Pelham Committee refuse to assist men referred to them by the tribunals; and, in view of the serious misunderstanding by the tribunals, appellants, and the military, will he at once issue instructions on the matter pointing out that men given non-combatant service and willing to undertake work of national importance are exempt from military service?
§ Mr. KING
asked the Home Secretary, having regard to the fact that the law does not allow for any sentence of penal servitude of less than three years, whether he is aware that conscientious objectors under the Military Service Act, 1916, have been sentenced to two years' penal servitude; and whether he will bring these sentences under the notice of the Prison Commissioners or take other steps to prevent illegal sentences being carried out?