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Another debate on the position of the conscientious objector took place on the Vote of Supply to the Local Government Board.
Mr. Morrell wanted to know what steps the president of the Local Government Board was taking to see that the administration by the Tribunals of the second Military Service Act was more satisfactory than the administration of the first Act. After quoting various instances of maladministration by the Tribunals Mr. Morrell criticised the statement which had repeatedly been made by Mr. Long as to the satisfactory working of the Tribunals. “The facts show,” he said, “that over and over again, not in scores of cases, but in hundreds of cases, I venture to say even in thousands of cases, but certainly in hundreds, the Tribunals have utterly declined to acknowledge the genuineness of the objection held by the applicant before them, and they have not given him the relief which Parliament intended he should have. What is the reason of all the trouble? It can only be traced back to one thing, the mistake of the Tribunals before which the men were called. To-day a question was asked about thirty-four men who were condemned to death in France. Here you have thirty-four men, well known, of good education and hight character, who were taken over to France, and who, because they refused to obey military orders, were condemned to death, and afterwards to ten years’ penal servitude, which, presumably, they are now undergoing. Who is responsible? Ultimately it is the Tribunals who fail to recognise the genuineness of the conscientious objection of these men. What these men had suffered and are prepared to suffer is absolute proof that the Tribunals before whom they came acted wrongly. These men suffered over and over again what the Secretary of State called horseplay, but what most people would call torture and persecution, and all because their consciences prevented them obeying military orders. Who was responsible? Again, it can be traced back to the Tribunals who failed to discover the real conscientious objection that these men held, and failed to give them the relief which Parliament intended them to have under the Act. As a matter of obvious fact, this shows that we were right, and the right hon, gentleman wrong in saying that the Tribunals would act fairly in regard to this matter.