Incitement to Evasion.

Oral Answers to Questions — Military Service. – in the House of Commons on 9th July 1942.

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Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

asked the Home Secretary how many societies, such as the Peace Pledge Union, are actively assisting opposition to military service?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

If my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind assistance given to conscientious objectors in preparing and presenting their cases to the tribunals, I am not in a position to give a list of the pacifist or religious bodies which may interest themselves in this matter. If, however, he has any information to suggest that activities are being carried on in contravention of the provisions of Defence Regulation 39A, relating to endeavours to incite persons to evade their duties or liabilities under the National Service Acts, I shall be glad to receive such information and to look into the matter.

Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

Is it not true that a number of societies, including the Peace Pledge Union, are actively assisting conscientious objectors to evade their duty to their country? Does the Minister not consider that these societies do far more harm to the war effort than any of the many ex-Service men who are interned in the Isle of Man would be likely to do if released?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I think my hon. and gallant Friend is unwise to mix up two things. I cannot do that. As my predecessor indicated in answer to a somewhat similar Question, we do not regard it as illegal to give advice on the law and on technical points at the proceedings of these tribunals, and I do not think we should be justified in interfering on those grounds. The doubt is whether they are really discouraging people from undertaking military service, and, if there is any evidence of that, I shall be glad to look into it.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the Peace Pledge Union do not touch the problem until a person has declared he is a conscientious objector?

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

As sabotaging of machinery is subject to great penalties, does not the Minister think that attempts to sabotage man-power should be met by equivalent penalties?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

Certainly, that is the evidence for which I am asking, and, if there is any evidence, I shall be glad to look into it.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

Will not the Home Office make inquiries and produce the evidence required?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I get all sorts of accusations about the quasi-judicial procedure at the Home Office, and I think my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion is rather abnormal; it might open me to charges from other quarters.