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Ex-Service Men

Volume 148: debated on Wednesday 9 November 1921

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Admiralty

8.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what steps are being taken to replace the temporary writing assistants by ex-service men; and if it is the intention of the Lords of the Admiralty to retain women who qualified as writing assistants, to the detriment of ex-service men?

The number of posts which will be filled by writing assistants in the future complements of the Admiralty will be greater than the number of women who have passed or qualified as writing assistants, and who are at present serving. They are not, therefore, being retained to the detriment of ex-service men, and it is not proposed to replace any of them.

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider first offering these posts to the ex-service men who are under notice of dismissal before giving them to women?

The question of men under notice of dismissal is being considered, and we are dealing with it in the most sympathetic spirit; but these posts are not really work for men at all.

May I press my hon. and gallant Friend at least to give these ex-service men an opportunity of taking these posts?

The record of the Admiralty with regard to service men is a very good one indeed. These posts provide very lowly-paid work and do not provide work for men.

Are the Admiralty carrying out in the spirit as well as in the letter the Lytton Report?

I can give the House some figures. The temporary staff at the Admiralty has been reduced from 5,696 to 1,828. The ex-service men during that period have been increased from 732 on 1st July, 1919, to 1,156 on 1st November, 1021. There are only 300 temporary non-service men now employed at the Admiralty, and this number is now in process of considerable reduction. The remainder consists of women employed in non-substitutable posts, such as shorthand typists, and that sort of thing. In the Accountant-General's Department, the largest Department at the Admiralty, about 90 per cent. are ex-service men.

Training

17.

asked the Minister of Labour whether men of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Royal Irish Constabulary, and auxiliaries disabled in action or on active service in Ireland are entitled to enter Government training establishments?

I regret that only ex-service men disabled during the late European War are eligible for industrial training under the Ministry of Labour.

If I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright, does his answer, in effect, debar a man injured on active service during operations in Ireland against the rebel forces? I know a case where a man has been refused training. Cannot such men get anything?

I have said that under the regulations, which I have to carry out, industrial training under the Ministry of Labour is only for men disabled during the late European War.

18.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the average number of applications from ex-service men received by the Appointments Department for training and for appointments; how many men altogether have completed training and how many are still being trained; and can he say what percentage of those who have completed their training has been placed?

The average number of applications for appointments from ex-officers and men of similar educational attainments received by the Appointments Department during 1921 was 680 per week—the total for the year being 29,235. For training the average weekly number was 49—the total of the year being 2,093. 11,585 men have completed their training and 6,229 are still being trained. 83 per cent. of those who have completed training have been placed in employment. All these figures are quite apart from training under the Industrial Training Scheme for Disabled Men.

Appointments And Civil Liabilties Departments

19.

asked the Minister of Labour if the Appointments Department and the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department are to continue to look after ex-service men; and what is his policy as regards these Departments in the future?

Of course, so long as our obligation to the ex-service men remains unrequited, we shall require machinery in order that it may be accomplished. But, again, of course, the expenditure upon official machinery must depend upon the volume of work to be accomplished; and it is certainly not prejudicial to the interests of the ex-service man to economise as closely as possible, on purely official administrative expenditure. I cannot say at the present time when it may be possible, in view of the interests involved, to dispense altogether with the machinery of the Appointments Branch or of the Civil Liabilities Department.

May we take it that these two Departments will continue, as long as there is any need for them, on behalf of ex-service men?

Will the machinery of these Departments be extended to men disabled in Ireland?

Re-Settlement

20.

asked the Minister of Labour what is the number of applications received by the Military Service Civil Liabilities Department from ex-service men under the re-settlement scheme up to date; in how many cases have grants been made; and how many cases are at present under consideration?

The number of applications received by the Civil Liabilities Department from ex-service men under the re-settlement scheme up to the 31st October, 1921, is 282,239. Grants have been made since the Armistice in 110,024 cases, amounting to 3,250,000 of money; there are at present 5,115 cases under consideration.

Diamond Cutting

21.

asked the Minister of Labour if he can now make a statement of what he has done and intends to do in giving men unavoidably displaced from the diamond-cutting factories at Brighton and elsewhere some alternative training?

As I have already informed my right hon. Friend, the men may be given alternative training in another trade provided they remain eligible. Each man who requires such training has already been invited to apply to the Divisional Director of his home area. Every endeavour will be made to place the men in fresh training with the least possible delay.

I cannot say without inquiry. I shall inquire and let the right hon. Gentleman know.

Ministry Of Labour

24.

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the great number of ex-service men now unemployed, he will give all those under notice and/or on the pool at the joint substitution board an opportunity of being employed on work of a casual nature in Employment Exchanges or in place of the writing assistants in his Ministry who have no responsibilities in life, until such time as this House has had an opportunity of deciding as to the best means of dealing with the problem of ex-service men in the Civil Service?

As regards the additional work which is now falling to Employment Exchanges, ex-service men only are being appointed for the work on the men's side of the Exchanges. The women staff, graded as writing assistants, who are employed in the Ministry of Labour are permanent civil servants, and, as such, are not substitutable by temporary ex-service men. My hon. and gallant Friend may be assured that the staff of the Ministry of Labour has been again and again reviewed, in order that ex-service men may be substituted for women, married or single, liable to substitution under the terms of the Lytton Reports and not dependent on their earnings for a livelihood.

Is it not a fact that in spite of the unsatisfactory conditions associated with the work of writing assistants, numbers of ex-service men would prefer to take these positions rather than remain out of employment, and will the right hon. Gentleman consult the ex-service men's associations on this matter?

Already a review has been made of the work which is being done by women at Kew, and a great many of the posts are paid at a rate which is considerably less than the lowest amount paid to men clerks—

Owing to the different character of the work. I do not know whether I could offer ex-service men wages at such a low rate, but I should like to discuss the matter with my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. Raper). I gave an undertaking, which I carried out, that I would review this matter from top to bottom once more, as I had done many times previously. There are posts which men might possibly take; these posts, however, are paid at such a low rate that I doubt very much whether men would take them.

Outdoor Relief

34.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the guardians of the Brentford Union have fixed a maximum scale of outdoor relief of 9s. per week for a man, a similar amount for his wife, and 5s. per week for each child under 16 years of age, with a maximum gross grant of 50s. a week; whether, in many cases, the recipients of outdoor relief are unemployed ex-service men residing in the Ealing and Hanwell districts; if the local branch of the British Legion Unity Relief Fund recently received a small grant from Lord Haig's Fund in order to help acute cases of distress among families of ex-service men; if the head office of the British Legion Unity Relief Fund strongly advise local committees that the fund should apply only to exceptional cases of distress of ex-service men and their families; if a grant of 3s. each was made for two weeks to a number of unemployed ex-service men and their wives, each case being carefully investigated by the local committee; whether, in the following week, the guardians of the Brentford Union reduced the amount of outdoor relief to a number of unemployed ex-service men on account of the small grant received from Lord Haig's Fund; if on 2nd November, after receiving a deputation from the Ealing and Hanwell unemployed ex-service men, the guardians of the Brent-ford Union, by the chairman's casting vote, decided that in future cases the full amount of grants received from the British Legion Unity Relief Fund and the United Services Fund should be deducted from any outdoor relief paid to unemployed ex-service men; and, since Lord Haig's Fund was voluntarily raised to deal specially with urgent cases of distress amongst ex-service men, will he call the attention of the Brentford Union to the matter and ask that the small grant received from Lord Haig's Fund to ex-service men shall not be taken as a cause for the reduction in the scale of outdoor relief and that the same principle be applied to any grant made to cases of acute distress among unemployed ex-service men from the United Services Fund, which is used solely for exceptional cases of hardship amongst ex-service men and their families and cannot in any way be taken as applying to ordinary outdoor relief cases as dealt with by the guardians?

In view of the law on the subject, I have no authority to give any such directions as are suggested, but I will see whether it is possible for any arrangement to be made for meeting the difficulty referred to.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the case of private contributions which are raised in the locality for the relief of the unemployed, and request the guardians not to take such subscriptions into account in granting relief?

I have no power to instruct the guardians, but I dill consider the question.

In view of the widespread complaints that have been made about these grants being taken into consideration, and having in mind that they are only given in selected cases of destitute ex-service men with large families, will the right hon. Gentleman specifically issue instructions that in these exceptional cases the grants be not taken into account?

I have already pointed out that I have no power to give instructions. The boards of guardians are by law compelled to take into consideration all sources of income and to exercise their discretion. I have no power to give instructions to the boards of guardians in the direction indicated. I will see, however, whether some arrangement can be made.

Huts, Hanwell

37.

asked the Minister of Health whether he will state the purpose to which the Central London District Schools intend to devote the huts in Framfield Road, Hanwell; whether he will make further representations to secure this accommodation for the housing of ex-service men, some of whom are now living in single rooms with families of six and seven; and can he say when these huts were last utilised?

The Central London District Schools propose to use these huts for hospital and other purposes in connection with their adjoining schools. In these circumstances the huts are not available for housing purposes, but I may add that I have recently authorised the Hanwell Urban District Council to obtain tenders for an additional 36 permanent houses. In reply to the third part of the question, the War Office evacuated the huts in November, 1920, but owing to negotiations over the termination of a lease the Central London District Schools only resumed possession at Michaelmas last.

Government Departments (Dismissal Notices)

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the large number of non-service temporary staff, he will cancel the notices of dismissals to ex-service men in accordance with pledges given and in accordance with the recommendations of the Lytton Committee until such time as the spirit of the Report is carried out by His Majesty's Government?

The recommendations of Lord Lytton's Committee in regard to the employment of ex-service men in Government Departments are being carried out in letter and spirit. For the reasons for the retention of the non-service temporary staff which continues to be employed, I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply on the 20th October to questions on this subject.

If I can prove to the hon. Gentleman a number of cases where neither the letter nor the spirit of the Lytton Committee's recommendations are being carried out, will he look into them?

Mental Treatment Institutions

45 & 49.

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he is aware that treatment allowances upon which some 6,000 ex-service men depend are paid strictly upon the condition that these men consent to being confined in lunatic asylums, whereas the allowance is refused in respect of patients being treated, and anxious to be treated, in certain private institutions approved by the Board of Control, but to which the stigma associated with lunatic asylums is not attached; and why the allowance is not paid in the latter class of cases;

(2) if he is aware that, according to official figures, on the let January, 1919, 2,507 ex-soldiers were confined in lunatic asylums; that the figure had risen to 4,673 on the 1st January, 1921, and to 6,435 on the 27th October, 1921; if he is aware that bitter laments are continually emerging from the men so confined; and if, in view of the increase in the number of men so confined, he will consider the advisability of setting up a Commission comprised of Members of the Houses of Parliament to hear complaints and investigate any possible amelioration of the conditions governing the detention of these men?

I have been asked to reply. The Lunacy Law requires that every person who is certified as insane shall be sent to an institution approved by the Board of Control; save that under certain conditions a single patient may be placed in a private house not specifically licensed for the reception of lunatics. Treatment allowances are granted, and the necessary cost of treatment defrayed by my Department in respect of all certified patients whose insanity is due to war service, and who are receiving treatment in institutions, whether public or private, which have been approved by the Board of Control and by the Ministry.

I cannot, of course, speak for the ex-service men in asylums, the origin of whose unfortunate condition does not entitle them to the benefits of the Royal Warrant, but as regards certified "service" patients, it is certainly not accurate to suggest that any large number of complaints are received as to the conditions of their treatment. On the contrary, the number of complaints received is few, and, on investigation, they have invariably proved to have been made on unsubstantial grounds, or to have been of minor importance. When a complaint is made it is the practice for the institution to be inspected and the whole circumstances investigated by officers of my Department either alone or jointly with Commissioners of the Board of Control.

Perhaps I may inform my hon. and gallant Friend, and the House generally, that under an arrangement with the Board of Control, asylums are now visited by medical inspectors of my Department and the service patients personally interviewed. By these means I am kept in close touch with the conditions of asylums, and I do not consider that there is any ground for adopting my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion to set up a Commission of the House. I may add that I do not accept my hon. and gallant Friend's statement of the numbers of ex-soldiers in asylums in January, 1919, and January, 1920, as accurate. At the latter date the number of certified service patients was approximately 6,000.

Is there any single institution approved by the Board of Control other than lunatic asylums to which his Department can send ex-service men; and if I can produce tangible evidence to show that lunatic asylums, or some, at any rate, are highly unsuitable for ex-service men, and I succeed in making out a strong primâ facie case, will he then consent to advise the setting up of a Commission?

No, I think not. I should be glad if any individual Member of this House would visit any institutions under my control. I have taken the greatest interest myself in this particular branch, and, so far, I must honestly confess to the House that the complaints I have received are always on unsubstantial grounds, and I would beg the House to remember the unfortunate condition of the mind of the man who makes the complaint. Very often he thinks he has a grievance when, in reality, he has none.

Is it not a fact that to place large numbers of patients in these private institutions would cause a large drain on the financial resources of the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Yes, that is true. The State, in my judgment, is behaving very generously, and quite rightly, but I have consistently refused to mix a patient who has been certified with one who has not.

Why is the allowance not paid to ex-service men other than those in lunatic asylums? Why is any distinction made?

That is not so. If a service patient—by that I mean a patient whose mental illness is due to service—has been sent, with the consent of the Board of Control, to a private institution, then the Ministry of Pensions pays an allowance.

May I ask whether the private institutions approved by the Board of Control are not also periodically inspected by the Department?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that his own Department has definitely refused to recognise certain private institutions approved by the Board of Control?

I shall always be glad to hear of any particular case. I know the case that my hon. and gallant Friend has got in mind. If I may say so, he is frankly obsessed by this particular case. The house in question is a small building containing about 16 people, with very little garden and no workshops of any sort or kind. Here I am asked to send patients of mine to mix with certified lunatics. I refuse to do so.

Does my right hon. Friend know that he has never been asked to do anything of the kind?

Payments (Armistice Day)

(by Private Notice)asked the Minister of Labour if he can state the arrangements which have been made to advance or defer the usual payments of unemployed pay to ex-service men on the occasion of the Armistice celebrations on Friday next, the 11th instant, in view of the fact that a large number of the men desire to be present at gatherings throughout the country?

My hon. Friend will, I am sure, appreciate that in order to be able to pay benefit to many thousands of men and women I have had to make arrangements at each Exchange whereby the claimants are asked to attend in an order notified to them beforehand. It is only in this way that I can avoid the presence of long queues. I am, however, going into the point raised by my hon. Friend, and am in communication with the Exchanges locally. Of course I view his proposal with every sympathy.