HC Deb 22 May 1940 vol 361 cc235-76

8.45 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for War (Sir Edward Grigg)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that persons shall not be exempted from liability under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939, by reason of their being members of the Local Defence Volunteers. The urgency of the Bill is, I think, self-evident. It is obviously undesirable that the Local Defence Volunteer organisations should detract in any way from the rapidly expanding field Army. It is equally undesirable that men of military age should be debarred from serving as part-time volunteers until being called up. It is in order to meet these two difficulties that I ask leave to introduce this Bill. I understand that there are many Members in this House who would desire to discuss the functions of Local Defence Volunteers, but that, I think, would not be in order under this Bill. With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would suggest that if we can get the Bill through, we can then discuss the broader questions on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, if that is agreeable to other Members. I hope that leave will be given to introduce the Bill.

8.46 p.m.

Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)

I am sure that other Members in the House must have seen that this Bill is very narrow indeed, and that it may be difficult to discuss the matters which many of us have in mind. I am sure that Members would wish to know the composition of the Defence Force, its relation to A.R.P. and its numbers and functions. After looking closely at this matter I am satisfied that we cannot have a proper discussion along these lines so we shall agree to the suggestion which, I think, is the only way out, namely, to discuss these matters on the Adjournment and to allow the Bill to go through as quickly as possible. On the Adjournment we could then have an unlimited discussion.

8.47 p.m.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)

May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in connection with this Bill? As I understand it, it will be possible to have a full discussion on the constitution, etc., of the Local Defence Volunteers on the Motion for the Adjournment. The point I had in mind and about which I am in some difficulty is that I do not believe that anyone ought to be in the Force who is already liable for service under the existing Act. What I wish to know is whether in the discussion that we shall have on the Adjournment on the constitution of the Force it will be possible, if the views expressed in the House support it, to move that men liable for military service under the existing Act should not be eligible for service in the Volunteer Forces.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am not quite sure that I follow the hon. and gallant Member's point. It would obviously be in order on the Adjournment to discuss the composition of the Local Defence Volunteer Forces and who could be members of them, but I am not quite sure if I am right in understanding that the hon. and gallant gentleman wishes to argue that there was no need for such a Force?

Sir A. Southby

My contention is that there is really no need for this Bill, because nobody should be able to be in the Local Defence Volunteer Force who is already eligible for service in the military Forces. Their duty lies elsewhere, but if it is decided, and we pass this Bill, that these young men should be able to go into the Defence Forces pro tem and that they should be precluded from joining the voluntary Defence Forces—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman can discuss that on the Adjournment, but he cannot discuss it on this Bill.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

I am at a loss to know why this Bill is necessary. I always thought that the Armed Forces had first claim on anyone. I would have expected that the demands of the Armed Forces of the Crown superseded anything else, no matter whether men joined the Local Defence Volunteer Force or not. I am rather sorry that the Under-Secretary of State did not give us fuller information as to why this Bill is necessary.

Sir E. Grigg

I propose to do that on Second Reading. This is only the introduction of the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Eden, Sir Edward Grigg, and Mr. Assheton.

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