§ Mr. WARDLE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Special Committee which was recently appointed to inquire into cases of alleged unfair release of railwaymen for the Army is competent to deal with the cases of men who were liberated before the issue of the instructions as to release of railway-men in June last; and, if not, what steps must be taken by the men concerned in order to remove the hardship of their release and to secure their reinstatement in the railway service?
The terms of reference to the Committee do not contemplate that cases of men who were liberated before the issue of the instructions referred to should be dealt with by the Committee. A large number of such cases have been dealt with by communication between the Board of Trade and the railway companies concerned.
§ Mr. WARDLE
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state under what circumstances and by whose authority the Railway Executive Committee have decided that railwaymen must be released for the Army according to the size of family and not in the order of age; whether he is aware that this method of release is out of keeping with the Derby scheme under which most of the men attested and with the pledges and assurances of responsible Ministers; and, seeing that this method is likely to result in the release of men bordering on the age limit and the retention of younger men who would be of more use in the Army, will he say what steps he proposes to take?
The recommendations of the Railway Executive Committee as to the order in which railwaymen608W should be released for military service-were made in order to secure uniformity of practice by the railway companies, and so far as I am aware the recommendations were regarded as being satisfactory by all parties. I may point out that they provide that in the first place unmarried men shall be released in order of age, and that as regards married men in cases in which the number of children in the family, under fourteen years of age, is equal the younger men are to be released.
§ Mr. THOMAS
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the diminution of the staffs on the railways is becoming alarming in certain parts of the country, and that, in consequence, railwaymen are having to work abnormal hours, even signalmen being retained on duty seven days a week of nearly ninety hours, with only a very occasional day off; and, in view of the danger of accidents when railwaymen are overworked, resulting in serious injury not only to the men themselves but also to passengers and troops, whether he will take steps to prevent this peril growing more serious, as it certainly will with any further release of men for military service?
It is the case that on railways, as well as in other employments, the release of men for military service has resulted in long hours being worked in many instances. I am not, however, aware that signalmen have to-work for ninety hours a week, and I should be glad to make inquiries in regard to any specific case which my hon. Friend may have in mind.