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Clause 13—(Rights Of Employees Called Up For Training)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

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I beg to move, in page 8, line 38, at the end, to insert:

"(2) For the purposes of any agreement relating to holidays with pay, the period during which employees are called up for training shall not he deemed a holiday."
This Amendment raises a matter of considerable importance and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has not put his name to it. I do not know what the reasons may be, because I feel that he is in favour of the point raised by the Amendment. It cannot be argued that it is covered elsewhere in the Bill; at least I have not detected it if it is. The point raised by the Amendment ought to be somewhere in the Bill for the avoidance of doubt, if for no other reason

The object is to make sure that the training period of any national service man in the course of his part-time service shall not be in any circumstances counted as a holiday under any agreement relating to holidays with pay. It is desirable for the sake of clarity that that should be provided in the Statute. I am not sure, in view of what we have been told during this sitting as to the operations of this Measure, that the wording of the Bill is quite pertinent, because we have had such a wide variety of description of training. We have talked about annual camps, week-end camps and drills. One would not for a moment suggest that a week-end camp would come under the category of being a holiday for the purpose of a holiday with pay agreement. On the other hand, what one wants to provide is that where training in a camp is for eight days, 15, or even 21 days, it shall not be treated as a holiday with pay and that the part-time reservists shall not be penalised in that regard. I hope that even at this hour of the day I have made the point clear and that the right hon. Gentleman will say that he will incorporate a provision to this effect in the Bill, if he is unable to accept this Amendment.

I only rise because I hope the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) might explain something in the Amendment which I did not understand when I read it, and to which he made no reference. I should have thought, if the principle was a good one—and I concede at once that it is a good one, and I share his hope that the Government will accept it—that it would have been equally good with regard to holidays as holidays, in any agreement as to holidays, whether with pay or without pay. In the form in which the Amendment is drawn, if an employee was outside the scope of an agreement for holidays with pay but, nevertheless, had a contract with his employer for holidays without pay, to which he was entitled as part of his terms of service, he would be excluded from the benefit of this, and his 21 days might be eaten up without a holiday, and he would be in a very much worse position than if he had an agreement for holidays with pay.

A further point has arisen in regard to the obligation on the employer to pay wages during the period of such service. It is difficult to see how it could be holidays with pay in any event. I should have thought the principle was to make certain that the days for which he has to do this service are not counted for the satisfaction of any entitlement to holidays which he has under contract with his employer, whether paid or not.

I should like to support the intention of the Amendment, although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) that it is rather limited in its phraseology. In fact, the previous Amendment, which was not called—in page 8, line 35, after "contracts," to insert:

"for the purpose of securing that such periods of training shall not be reckoned as holidays and."
—puts more succinctly and more definitely the intentions of some hon. Members on this side of the Committee. In order to make the position perfectly clear, I trust it will be made statutorily certain that in no circumstances will those who are called up for national service have to spend their holidays on that particular form of service and be denied what is their need and right. I hope we shall get an assurance, and a very firm assurance, on that from the Minister.

I have not the slightest hesitation in giving the Committee the firmest possible assurance that we shall take up the principle embodied in this Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said he was a little surprised to find that my name was not associated with the Amendment. I take it he means my name as Minister. I am happy to say that, as the hon. and learned Member knows, my name was associated with the earliest agreement for holidays with pay that was ever made, and that was in the printing industry. I was, in fact, in negotiation with the advisory council on this matter when these Amendments were put down on the Order Paper. Also, I could not put my name to either of these Amendments because they do not meet the Bill.

The point put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is worth looking at, namely, that we ought to look at the question of holidays generally. The Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for South Bristol (Mr. Wilkins)—in page 8, line 35, after "contracts," to insert:
"For the purpose of securing that such periods of training shall not be reckoned as holidays and."
—also does not meet the point. I can give an assurance that it is the intention of the Government to see that men who by their work and wages—because holidays with pay is deferred wages; it is part of the general terms—have earned holidays, shall not have to take holidays as part of the training. Also we want to be fair to those many employers who for a long time past, when the Territorials were operating, gave their staffs a fortnight's holiday to perform their Territorial service, in addition to their summer holidays. We want to see that everybody is treated fairly. I give the assurance that we will endeavour to move an appropriate Amendment on the Report stage.

(Bury St. Edmunds): Could the Minister say if it will be possible to put in the voluntary T.A, side in any form?

No. I will look at that, but it is rather placing a burden on industry, for which we have no responsibility. Of course, there are many who have done it. I should not like to give any assurance on that point, although we will certainly look at it.

Does that mean in substance that the employer will be compelled to pay the man called up during his training period?

I want to raise one point with regard to the Territorial Army. I know from experience that this holiday with the Territorial Army in camp is not the popular holiday it is supposed to be, and in view of the fact that the Territorial training is going to be increasingly important in view of the curtailed period for conscripts, I hope the Minister will do all he can to get the Territorials that extra service in camp which will be of the greatest value.

I want to reinforce the points which have been made by my hon. Friends. All of us who were familiar with the Territorial Army before the war know that to a great extent its numbers were influenced by the difficult question of holidays every time we were training in camp. That happened simply because the Territorial Army before the war was composed largely of two main sections—what are known as black-coated workers whom enlightened employers paid while they were at camp in training, and the unemployed to whom that did not apply. I have vivid recollections of the difficulties of recruitment in the Territorial Army for this reason. I hope that the Minister will be able to pursue sympathetically the inquiries which are recommended to him in order that the Territorial Army in the future may escape some of the difficulties of the Territorial Army of the past.

There is some difference of opinion as to what we are trying to make this Bill cover—compulsory payment for the holiday or applying to the employer to do it. I raised this question with the Joint Industrial Council and the employers representatives agreed to recommend to their organisations to let the Territorial Army men do their training without any loss of their annual holiday. I am most anxious to see the Territorial Army succeed because I am a volunteer myself and also I am a member of a Territorial Army organisation.

The interesting discussion which we have had on this Amendment shows what an important question is involved, and I am sure the Minister of Labour welcomes the suggestions that have come from both below the Gangway and from the other side of the Committee. Two questions appear to me to arise quite apart from the distinction between holidays with pay and training with the Army in camp. With regard to the volunteers in the Territorial Army, I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman will find great difficulties in putting an obligation of this sort into the Bill and I welcome his assurance that he will go into the matter with the representatives of employers.

With regard to those who are Reservists under this Bill, whether those in the Territorial Army, the Army Reservists, the Royal Naval Special Reserves or the Auxiliary Air Forces, there ought to be a common rule that no matter what Reserves a man may be in, he should know what his actual position is. I suggest that there is the strongest case for putting that in the Bill in the clearest possible terms. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we could have an assurance that this will be included in the Bill. If he can do so I will welcome it. My observation that I regretted I did not see the right hon. Gentleman's name to this Amendment was due to the fact that there have been several Amendments raised from this side in the course of the Debate, which have been adopted sometimes without acknowledgement, which was done by an error, and I hoped that this one would not meet the same fate. If the right hon. Gentleman says that it will go in the Bill, then I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

10.15 a.m.

In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 8, line 39, to leave out Subsections (2) to (4).

I ask the Committee to agree to leave out these Subsections because we shall submit a comprehensive new Clause to take their place.

I should like to ask what is the reason for leaving out these Subsections. I have spent a considerable time in going through them, and, as far as I can see, they contain no defect. They are almost a model of draftsmanship, and now they are being thrown away without a word of explanation. When I say they are almost a model of draftsmanship, I would point out that they are almost a copy of the provisions of an Act passed by the Coalition Government. There is really no difference in them, except n the penalties in connection with reinstatement. It is a little difficult to discuss this without mentioning the new Clause. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could tell us what is wrong with these Subsections, and why they have been dropped without any reasons being given. Has any frightful defect been discovered?

I was in very much the same dilemma as the right hon. and learned Member, as I, too, felt that I should be out of Order in discussing new Clauses. As far as Subsection (2) is concerned, we considered that the old Clause failed, because in it a man is liable to be called up for whole-time service, and we want to make some variation in the penalty. I will see that a statement in detail is made when we deal with this again at a later occasion, as it is difficult to do it at this stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.