I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I desire, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), to move this new Clause, because I feel that a man with a one-man business deserves consideration. I am sure that every hon. Member in this House is well acquainted with scores of cases of men having suffered heavily because they own a one-man business. If a man is allowed to go into Civil Defence he will, to a great extent, be able to supervise, whereas if he is put into the Armed Forces the likelihood is that he will be far away from his business, he will not be able to supervise in any shape or form, and his business will be lost. Furthermore, I would like to put to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a differentiation in treatment between the owner of a one-man business and a departmental manager. There is a strong feeling that the latter is put in a preferential position in comparison with the former, and I should like to ask the Minister, in replying, to consider what can be done to give better treatment. I would ask for a fairer treatment for the man who owns his own business than is being given to-day. I understand that my hon. Friend had in mind merely the possibility of enabling a man with his own business to supervise it better while rendering good service to the nation. He desires that such a man shall enter the service, but that he shall not be too heavily penalised.
I should like to support the new Clause. Because of many cases that have been brought to my notice, and in response to urgent appeals from people in responsible positions who were acquainted with very hard cases, I appealed to the Secretary of State for War as to whether he could not, in these particular cases, permit men who owned a one-man business to leave their posts in the South of England and be transferred to work contiguous to their businesses in the North. It was with some diffidence that I made such a request, but it concerned a case of such extreme hardship that I did so. The Minister was very sympathetic, but, as one might have anticipated, he found the services of this particular man so urgently necessary where he was that he could not see his way to making this exception. Here then is a principle which would enable the military authorities to act generously in the cases of men who, with their families and dependants, are suffering so severely by permitting them to transfer to Civil Defence. It is not as though this proposal asks that the persons concerned should be put in a favoured position, because many of them would be in a much worse position as far as personal safety is concerned. We are just asking that cases of distinct hardship should be dealt with in this sympathetic way, according as the Minister concerned may think the justice of the case dictates.
It seems that the purpose of this new Clause is to endeavour to provide some means whereby the proprietor of a one-man business can look after that business, and it presumes no doubt that that would be possible because people in the Civil Defence services would be near their homes. But that is not so at all, because under this Bill people who are taken for Civil Defence would be moved to those parts of the country where they were most needed, and it would be unlikely that they would be engaged near their homes in more than a limited number of cases. So far as possible, and so far as the interests of the services and the qualifications of the men themselves permit, this preference will be taken fully into account in allocating men to the different services and localities. But it is clear that there might be men with one-man businesses in rural areas where there would be no full-time Civil Defence service established, so that there could be no question of posting them there. Where it can be done, however, I will give an assurance that full consideration will be given to these cases.