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Conscientious Objectors

Volume 523: debated on Tuesday 2 February 1954

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asked the Minister of Labour how many cases have occurred of two or more prosecutions of young men refusing to take their medical examination for the forces in 1951, 1952 and 1953, respectively.

:Does the Minister agree that it is not the practice in this country to sentence people more than once for the same offence, and is it fair that persons should be prosecuted two or three times for the same offence?

The difficulty here is that when a man has been prosecuted he has, of course, not evaded his liability for National Service. Therefore, he has again to be served with his call-up notice for medical examination, and if he refuses that call up, once again the whole machinery goes into action.

Is it not clear from the figures that the Minister has given that there is no relaxation, and would he consider cases like that which I have where a National Service man has been fined £10, £21 and then was given six months in prison? In that case the threat of court proceedings has overshadowed his life for the last two years, and does it not seem contrary to our sense of justice that that should be so? May I ask the Minister to give it reconsideration?

:Does not the hon. Member realise that we have had this argument over and over again for many years and that the House and the country are not content with the technical answer that a man commits a new offence every time he disputes a new notice to attend for medical examination; that, in fact, the offence is the same every time, whatever the technicalities may be; and does he not think it is contrary to British justice to go on hounding a man in this way?

:It is the duty of the Ministry of Labour also to preserve the general fairness of our National Service scheme.

:Would it not be grossly unfair to all the men who fulfil their obligations if a man, by paying a fine on one occasion, could purchase for himself exemption from military service?


asked the Minister of Labour the numbers of conscientious objectors registered unconditionally by each tribunal during 1952 and 1953, respectively.

:As the answer contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

:As my information is that the overwhelming proportion is covered by two tribunals in Scotland, would the hon. Gentleman confirm whether that information is correct, and if so, is it not strange that conscience should be decided on geographical grounds, or is it something to do with the constitution of the tribunal?

:It is not quite like that. The two largest areas are Scotland and Wales, but I think the hon. Gentleman had better look at the figures first.

:Could my hon. Friend say how many separate figures there are in this table?

Following are the figures:

Local Tribunals




Appellate Tribunal