HC Deb 28 November 1944 vol 404 cc2388-90
46. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the official figures issued by the Canadian Government that 86 per cent. of the Canadian Army have volunteered for general service anywhere in the world; and whether he is taking steps to prepare plans for the recruitment of an Army on voluntary terms for post-war purposes.

The Prime Minister

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's Question is that my attention was called to these precise facts by the terms of his Question, although I had, of course, realised the magnificent character of the Canadian war effort. Plans for the reconstruction of the Army after the war are under active consideration in the War Office, and these include such matters as terms of service and the means of attracting men to enlist under regular engagements. The question of national service as the foundation of our military system is also being examined.

Mr. Bellenger

While I am glad to hear that active consideration is being given to these matters, may I ask whether the Prime Minister knows that the Secretary of State for War said in this House, only a week or two ago, that the British Regular Army was in process of disintegration by effluxion of time in their contracts? Is not the matter very urgent for our postwar Regular Forces?

The Prime Minister

We went through all this difficulty at the end of the last war. As the war progressed the terms of men's service reached their conclusion, especially in the Regular Army, with men who were already under arms when the war began. But, on the whole, the matter is being, I will not say studied, but thoroughly surveyed. Undoubtedly a great change-over takes place when war comes suddenly to an end but in this case the change-over will not be so violent, because there is another war which will open with greater vigour at the other end of the world, when the present one in Europe is finished.

Mr. Petherick

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that a great volume of recruits to the Army comes in only when a war has started, that they have to be trained and that in the meantime this country may be in very grave danger? Is it not, therefore, far better to adhere to the Conscription Acts, so that we may be fully prepared, if any war breaks out, from the moment of its outbreak?

The Prime Minister

I am not prepared to agree to words being put into my mouth, even by my hon. Friend.