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Ex-Servicemen (White Feathers)

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 17 June 1942

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asked the Home Secretary whether he will by legislation take powers under which action can be taken against senders of white feathers to ex-Servicemen who have been discharged on medical grounds?

Everyone will sympathise with the desire of my hon. Friend to put a stop to this mischief, but, in my view, the remedy is to be found not in legislation creating a new criminal offence but by educating public opinion to a realisation of the fact that in this war in which the whole energies of the nation are engaged, a man's patriotism and courage cannot be gauged by reference to the clothes which he wears. Civilians, whether ex-Service men or not, are required to perform the work for which they are best qualified and in which they can best serve their country, and I hope that the publicity which has been given to this matter will put a stop to this stupid and objectionable practice.

While I appreciate the nature of that reply, and quite apart from the harm and the suffering which are caused to the recipients of white feathers, has the hon. Gentleman no legal means at his disposal for dealing with something which creates despondency and alarm?

I think that legislation on this matter would be very difficult to frame in the first place and impossible to enforce in the second.