asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that the Southborough Committee in their final Report have made no recommendations regarding the treatment of disabled men; and whether, in order to give private firms a lead in more satisfactorily supporting the King's Roll, he will give an undertaking that all competent ex-service men shall be granted security of tenure?
The Southborough Committee, as the hon. and learned Mem- ber is no doubt aware, have recommended that 25 per cent. of the marks at the examination for ex-service men should be allotted on a departmental report as to the candidate's performance of the duties required of him in a temporary capacity, and in allotting these marks it is intended to give special consideration to cases of grave disability. With reference to the second part of the question, I would remind the hon. and learned Member that, while not more than 5 per cent. disabled ex-service men qualify an employer for inclusion on the King's Roll, disabled ex-service men in the Civil Service constituted as much as 14.54 per cent. of the total staff, male and female, permanent and temporary, on the 1st August, 1924.
The arrangements for this limited competition are well in hand and I could not agree to suspend them. But it is not anticipated that the examination can take place before the beginning of next year arid, as my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal already indicated, it reply to a question from my hon. Friend on the 2nd October, the Government are anxious that the earliest possible opportunity should be provided for discussion of the Southborough Committee's Report.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider the matter again, because of the great anxiety of which. many of these men, who have given efficient service—some of whom are over 40 years of age while others are over 50—and in view of the general feeling that it is not expedient to submit these men to examination, will he reconsider suspending these examinations until we can fully discuss the matter?
I think there need be no anxiety regarding the present position. About 18,000 ex-service men have applied to sit for this examination. There is no chance of it being held before the early part of next year, and there will be before that time a full discussion of the Southborough Committee's Report in the House.
Is there any reason why the hon. Gentleman could not allow these men, who are suffering very considerable anxiety, at any rate to realise that in the next three weeks this matter is being suspended until the new House meets?
Will the hon. Gentleman also considers these points—that the Deputy-Leader of the House promised a day for the discussion of this subject, and that these ex-service men were depending on a definite promise made by the Prime Minister that they should not be subjected to this examination?
It is impossible at the moment to name an exact, or even an approximate, date for this examination, but, I have no doubt whatever that it will be held in the early part of next year. That is really the reply to the other part of the question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman), because for all practical purposes this is in suspense, and the examination will not be held until next year. Of course, there is a promise of a day for discussion in the House.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are 30,000 men concerned and, on his own figures, 18,000 of them have entered for the examination, and are at the present moment spending money for the purpose of preparing for the examination. The vacancies available are only 5,000 according to the Southborough Report, less than a third of that number, and in view of that fact and of the desire of the House and the promise of the Ministry, which will be the promise of any Ministry, that there will be a discussion, does he riot think, in view of the services of these men, that it will be quite fair to say now that the whole thing is suspended until the House has decided?
I feel I could not add anything to the reply I have given. The truth is that the Southborough Committee was representative of all parties in the House, its Report was unanimous, and it has been adopted by the Government. There is nothing to be gained by suspending the arrangement. The position is protected by the discussion which will take place a good long time before any examination is held.