HC Deb 04 September 1939 vol 351 cc432-4

Order for Second Reading read.

6.19 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Victor Warrender)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This is another Bill which has come down from another place, where if has passed through all its stages. I think I can explain the object of it in a very few words. Under the Royal Proclamation of 1st September reservists, both of the Army and Air Force, were called up on permanent service, and soldiers and airmen who would otherwise be liable to be transferred to the Reserve have been ordered to continue in either the Army or the Air Force service. We have power under Section 87 of the Army and Air Force Act to hold these men for one year beyond the time at which they would otherwise be entitled to discharge, but only for one year. Under the Conditions of Service Act, a man can be enlisted voluntarily for the duration of the emergency and, under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, men who are compulsorily called up for service serve for the duration of the emergency. The object of the Bill which I am now moving is to authorise the retention until the end of the emergency of all men who might under the terms of their enlistment be eligible for discharge before that date, whenever it is.

There are only two points to which I would call the attention of hon. Members and the first of them is in Sub-section (1) of Clause 1. Reference is here made to the Army and Air Force Reserves, and the object is to cover reservists who may not as yet have been called up and who have not therefore become members of the Regular Forces. The Bill does not apply to the Royal Marines. I would also call the attention of the House to Sub-section (3) of Clause 1, which relates to men temporarily released from service under the Conditions of Service Act. The House will remember that this Act enables men to be temporarily released from service if their services are required somewhere else. The object of the Subsection is to make it clear that temporary release from the military or air forces does not exempt men from their conditions of service. Those are the contents of the Bill, stated briefly. I shall be glad to answer any question that hon. Members wish to put.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Ammon

Members on this side of the House are in agreement with the Bill. I have two questions to ask the Minister and the first of them is, what does "end of the emergency" mean? Does it mean the actual end of hostilities or the official ending of the war, which may be considerably different? The other point is, why is it definitely laid down that the Marines serve for another five years while there is a more less undefined term for the Army and Air Force?

Mr. Bellenger

I would like to add a question to those of my hon. Friend by asking whether the Bill will affect the pension rights of the serving soldier in any way by reason of the prolongation of his service? Will he get any increased pension at the end of his service as a result of the Bill keeping him in the Forces for longer than his original contractual obligation?

Mr. Lees-Smith

I notice that the Bill does not concern the Navy. What are the conditions of service of men who volunteer for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve? Is there any reason why they should be left out?

6.23 p.m.

Sir V. Warrender

I could not answer the last question because it does not concern my Department. We are concerned only with increasing the powers which we already have for carrying on the war, under the Army and Air Forces Act. As to the question about the official date of the expiring of the emergency, I wish I could say what it would be.

Mr. Ammon

I did not ask that.

Sir V. Warrender

I wish I could tell the hon. Gentleman. The time referred to in the Bill is the day upon which the emergency is officially declared to be terminated. In regard to the Marines, these are not in the Bill because they are not covered by the Army and Air Forces Act. As to pensions, I would not like to give a definite undertaking at this stage, and the question will not arise, of course, unless the emergency is prolonged; but if a man were held and continued in service for a longer period than he had contracted to serve—hon. Members realise, of course, that the Bill does not come into force for a year because we already have powers—and for which he had enlisted, his right to an increased pension would, I should think, be established.

Mr. Ammon

I should not like the hon. Member to leave the House under the impression that I did not know that the Royal Marines did not come under the Army and Air Forces Act. My question was upon another point.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[Captain McEwen.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee; reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed, without Amendment.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.