HC Deb 18 November 1946 vol 430 cc594-643

Main Question again proposed.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add: but humbly regret that it is the intention of Your Majesty's Government to embark upon a peace-time policy of military conscription be- yond the date when the present transitional scheme comes to an end. I rise to enter the second political contest tonight. I trust that the atmosphere will be a little more clear than that which has prevailed in the last few hours. The Amendment which I seek to move relating to military conscription is one which, it has been suggested in the Press, differs from the previous Amendment we have just discussed, in so far as the claims of conscience are acknowledged. The Prime Minister, on 12th November, made a statement in that connection. He said: I am aware that some of my Friends have very strong conscientious opinions on this matter. I cannot argue. We have to face squarely the new conditions that are far different from those of the days before air power and long—range projected missiles.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th Nov., 1946; vol. 430, c. 43.] I want to say that my case does not entirely rest upon grounds of conscience, but upon grounds of common sense. I believe that the imposition of compulsory military service at this moment is an outrage against elementary common sense. I base my case, in the main, upon five objections.

First, compulsory military conscription cannot successfully defend this country against atomic bombs and long—range projected missiles, and in that connection it is the Prime Minister who is not facing squarely the new conditions. Why did the Japanese capitulate immediately the atomic bombs fell upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Because it was impossible, even with their great conscript army, to defend their nation from that new weapon. We might as well expect an umbrella to protect us from a shower of incendiary bombs as expect a conscript army to protect us from these atomic weapons. No battleship could stand a "near miss" from an atomic bomb, and no plane could last in a sky filled with atomic anti-aircraft shells. No, the future war—and we pray that it will never come—will be won or lost in the laboratories of the country. Mr. Brailsford, in a very admirable article in "Reynolds News" yesterday, made this statement: Modern warfare is a struggle of wits between scientists, technicians and highly trained mechanised troops. Numbers and massed formations are useless against either rockets or atom bombs. My second objection is that military conscription is an unpardonable waste of the precious energies of the nation. The Prime Minister has referred to manpower. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his speech last week attempted to influence the Government to accept a figure for the standing Army of 1,550,000 men.

Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)

Not for the Army—for all the Services.

Mr. Yates

I am sorry—a total for all the Services of 1,550,000 men. If we have Armed Forces of from 1,250,000 to 1,500,000, it will be necessary to have a similar number to equip and maintain them, and I say that is a colossal waste. The Lord President of the Council came to my native city the other day, and asked the city of Birmingham to work harder and join in the production drive. If we are to have the new Britain, all our human energies must be employed. We cannot afford this colossal waste of manpower at this moment. We cannot hinder social reconstruction in this way. The Prime Minister has told us that in previous years, the chief recruiting sergeant has been unemployment. I do not know whether he feels consolation in the fact that a substitute for unemployment is to be military conscription. I do not think that is very satisfactory. In any case, I am absolutely convinced that this Measure would mean an intolerable burden upon our overstrained economy. In my view it would be a grievous error of statesmanship.

The third objection is that military conscription is likely to stimulate, rather than discourage, competition in military preparations. In 1939 the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, when introducing the Military Training Bill, made this statement: Nothing would so impress the world with the determination of this country to offer a firm resistance to any attempt at general domination as its acceptance of compulsory military service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1939: Vol. 346, c. 1151.] I think that is a delusion. I do not think that Measure, brought in at that moment, prevented war. I rather think it stimulated the military preparation. At that time, it was the Labour Opposition in Parliament that challenged the Government of the day. The right hon. Gentleman, now the Prime Minister, led his forces into the Lobby against the Government, and tonight I seek to do that for similar reasons to those advanced by the right hon. Gentleman at that time, and on principles which Socialists throughout the world have held in regard to this matter. I think it is ill-timed to introduce compulsory national service at this juncture. It is like thrusting a spanner into delicate international machinery, just at a moment when a measure of disarmament is being proposed, that we should reply that we are intending to add this Measure to our Statute Book. It raises a question throughout the world, "Against whom are we to have this conscript Army?" Is it Japan, at present disarmed? Is it against Germany, at present not only disarmed, but prostrate before the world, and helpless? Is it against the small nations? Can it be against America, or Russia? If it were against America or Russia, a war with either would mean the end of this country. I do not think we have had the facts upon which we can judge an issue of this kind. The Prime Minister and the Government ought to let us have the facts of our commitments and of every factor which has led them to the decision they have made.

My fourth objection is that military training inculcates a type of discipline which is the opposite of the self-discipline needed for a healthy democracy. It was very interesting to read the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) delivered on 12th November, when he said: No one can say there is anything undemocratic about National Service. The Prime Minister made this statement: there is nothing undemocratic in National Service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 25 and 43.] It was as though they had compared notes with each other on this issue. I do not think anything which denies freedom is really democratic. Conscription is a form of slavery—slavery to the State. I prefer the view that was held by our Socialist pioneer, Keir Hardie: Compulsory military service is the negation of democracy. That is despotism, not democracy. No liberty loving people will tolerate having these old forms of servitude forced upon them. Conscription is the badge of the slave. Hitler spent his life doing his best to make the soldier a man without in dividuality, without a will or a conscience, to make him a machine, a robot, willing to obey the wishes of his master. I believe that a generation subjected in youth to military training will find it much harder to play the part of good citizens than those who have been nurtured in freedom and trained in citizenship. I would like to quote from two letters I have received. One is from a headmaster of a grammar school. It is rather interesting to have his view, and I have received many similar letters. He quotes from a report he made to a parents' meeting: To take a boy of intellectual quality and drive him to mental stagnation over a period of years is sheer madness. In time of peace such tragedy should be avoided at all costs. He goes on: Life in the Forces constitutes much mechanised movement and very little real thinking. In leisure hours, men drift into the stream of looseness and idleness; all purpose vanishes and they merely wait for the day of liberation…I have spoken to many old boys in the past few years and all agree that the mental stagnation is appalling. It is heartbreaking to think that young men may have to pass through this purgatory in peacetime. In this morning's post I had a letter from a Royal Air Force man in which he said that he was protesting against conscription, and also about the slowing up in the rate of demobilisation. He wrote: Some of the men at my station have asked me to organise a petition of protest. Needless to say, in view of the complete absence of democratic liberty in the Services, I shall not risk six months detention. I have had many similar letters. In fact, I have never had such a postbag since I have been a Member of Parliament, a postbag from so wide and varied a public, but with similar opinions to those I have just read.

My last objection is on moral grounds. The freedom to direct one's own life is the inalienable right in all matters which affect human prerogatives, but it is denied by conscription. There are many more objections, but I mention these as the principal ones. The Leader of the Opposition has assured the House that the Opposition support the Government in this matter. He said it would be the duty of the Opposition to support the Government, and we shall certainly do so not only in this House but out of doors."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 25.] I warn the Government about that sort of support, out of doors. I am sure hon. Members will remember that the Leader of the Opposition was engaged during the General Election, not in supporting the Government, but in taking the opposite direction. In that, he was a far greater asset to the Government than if he embarks on a campaign stumping the country in support of the Government on this issue.

I would appeal to the Government to defer bringing in this Bill pending the international discussions which are taking place, for I believe that if this country can be persuaded to swallow this very bitter pill it will be to their ultimate regret, for it is not, and will not be, a solution of our international difficulties. I disagreed with my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) when he rather separated conscription from general policy. I think that the solution of our international difficulties depends, in the end, upon a successful foreign policy, because it is, after all, the' policy which shapes the level of arms.

When one reflects how many of our Labour leaders opposed conscription in the past, it is a regrettable thing that it should be a Labour Government which should introduce a Measure of this kind., The present Minister of Health, speaking in the Debate in this House on 4th May, 1939, said: We have lost, and Hitler has won. He has deprived us of a very important English institution—voluntary service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 4th May, 1939; Vol. 346, c. 2136.] I cannot see that anything has altered or that anything has happened to cause a change of opinion, and I cannot but feel that our own Socialist pioneers, Keir Hardie, George Lansbury, and others, would at this moment rise in their graves to see a Measure of this kind placed upon the Statute Book. So I move this Amendment tonight in an attempt to prevent the spirit of Hitler from being impressed upon any Act of Parliament that goes through this House. The Conservative Members of the Opposition have a strange conception of liberty. They keep us up late at night—

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)

The hon. Member is free to go home.

Mr. Yates

—they put down Prayers to annul regulations, which they say interfere with human liberties, which infringe human rights, but the greatest infringement of human liberty—military conscription—they accept without demur. What a strange conception of liberty. It would appear from the Press that the result of moving this Amendment will probably be to unite the Conservatives with the Government more strongly than they were on the previous Amendment. But there are others on the opposite benches, hon. Friends on the Liberal benches, who have a great tradition of belief in liberty. I appeal to all in this House to support the Amendment. I believe that future peace and progress depend upon the growth and the right adjustment of human personality. I appeal to my hon. Friends on this side of the House to stand by the principles, the Socialist principles, which we have held throughout the history of our movement

We have supported His Majesty's Government and the Socialist programme that has been outlined in the King's Speech, and we have often held before the House the programme we put forward at the last General Election, with the V sign on "Let Us Face the Future." But military conscription was not in that policy, it was not in "Let Us Face the Future," and my constituents never sent me to this House to support a policy of military conscription or military slavery. I am here tonight to protest at such a Measure and at this black spot in an otherwise fine programme. I yield to none in my support of the Socialist policy of the Government; but I am not prepared to support the Government in a Measure which is so much against every Socialist tradition. I cannot think it is necessary, it is politically futile, and I ask my hon. Friends to stand or fall with me by the principles in which we have faith.

7.47 p.m.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

I beg to second the Amendment.

It is with great sorrow that I rise to do so. I think the greatest blow I ever received was when I was told by the Prime Minister that the Labour Party was bringing in compulsory military service in peacetime. When I was a young man, a member of a very religious family, I became a convert at the feet of James Keir Hardie I studied the gospel which that man preached, and accepted it. It meant cutting off family traditions and ties that were very dear. One of the things which he taught in those days, along with Bruce Glazier and others, was the evils of conscription and compulsory military service. I listened carefully to what the Prime Minister had to say last Tuesday. He said: Our present position has been dealt with up to 1948 by the present provision for national service. It is extremely difficult to prophesy just what forces will be needed in the future. We cannot look ahead. Later he said: The Government's decision to continue compulsory service is not due to a failure of recruitment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 38-40.] If it is not due to a failure of recruitment to what is it due? He then went on to say that it was due to the commitments we had today. One of these commitments—he did not put it in these words but he implied it—was that the United Nations organisation was already accomplished, and that we had to face the fact that one of its demands would be for a quota of militarily trained services. I wish to say to the Prime Minister, and to those who support his view, that I only wish that the United Nations organisation was an accomplished fact. I am afraid that he is far more optimistic than I am. When I look at the Press—it is only the Press we have to take for it—and watch the planning, grouping and manoeuvring that is going on in the United Nations organisation, I really begin to wonder if it is not going to die, like the League of Nations, except that it will die more quickly.

I want to know what our commitments are. I have looked at every important speech that has been made, and no one has told us what are our commitments. I hope that whoever replies on behalf of the Government will tell us exactly what they are. When I was a young man, and a follower of Keir Hardie, we had to fight a campaign against an organisation in this country called the National Service League. That was before the 1914–18 war. Many of the younger generation here will not remember that, but many older Members will recall the existence of that body. What was the aim of the National Service League? If hon. Members care to read HANSARD and consider the outline which the Prime Minister gave of the new National Service scheme they will find, on comparing that with the aims of the National Service League, that they are driven to one conclusion. That conclusion is that the brass hats in the War Office, who were unable to shove this over in 1912, pigeon holed their plans and, when the Labour Government came into power, the same brass hats have again brought out this proposal. Here we have it in a new guise. Where did it come from? When inquiring into the matter to see exactly what pressure had been put upon the Socialist Government, I had recourse to the White Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence. In it I find: The appointment of a Minister of Defence will relieve the Prime Minister of that part of his general responsibility… Then it goes on: There remains, however, the organisation for National Defence in its broader aspect, including both current questions of high policy in the sphere of defence and also the preparation of plans over the whole field of Government activity, both civil and military, for mobilising the entire resources of the nation in a major war. Is it not obvious when one reads this Defence White Paper, when one discovers that the military, naval and Air Force heads are on the Council—

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

Will the hon. Member give the date of that?

Mr. Scollan

That is a quotation from paragraph 21, page 7. The date is October, 1946. Is it not obvious that what we have here, is similar to what they had in France when Napoleon was a successful general? In 1798, Napoleon introduced conscription for the defence of France. In 1813 Prussia introduced conscription for the defence of that country. In all countries when generals or admirals have been successful in a war, the one thing which they absolutely detest is to see their beautiful machine broken up by peace. Of necessity, that machine is not a thing which is simply designed. Circumstances create a military caste who are a danger to the civil population. We know how it works. One of the things which must have interested many hon. Members, and which certainly interested me, was the way in which the Russians behaved towards their most successful generals. "Uncle Joe" was taking no chances that anyone would become a Napoleon. When a successful general in Russia caught the headlines for a few moments, we soon heard that he had been eliminated and that someone else was coming up. Uncle Joe shoved them into the background.

Colonel Wigg (Dudley)

That was good for promotion.

Mr. Scollan

We did not do that. We pushed our fellows right to the top. The newspapers sent special reporters to wait for words of wisdom to fall from their lips. What do we expect of a successful general? Do we expect him to build up a Socialist State? Obviously, he wants a military State. Obviously the military caste are the people we have to watch the whole time. We had this fight in 1912, and the people won. Now the military caste bring out from the pigeon-holes and present to our Government, a plan for the old fashioned National Service League kind of conscription. In 1912 this is what they wanted: That every lad between the age of 14 and 18 shall undergo military training in the school or in the cadet corps. The schools were to be for the working classes who were to be the common soldiers, and the cadet corps were for the better—off class of people, who were to be the officers. Every fit young man between 18 and 21 years of age shall submit himself for training each year. If hon. Members compare that with what the Prime Minister told us, they will find it is the same scheme, for a full time voluntary Army with a full time staff and, over and above that, a conscript Army with special training every year after the initial training: Every fit young man between 18 and 21 years of age shall submit himself for training each year in turn. That is what the Prime Minister wants—

Mr. E. P. Smith

Would the hon. Member say from what he is quoting?

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

He has told us already.

Mr. Scollan

Thereafter, until the age of 30, he is to remain liable to be called up for service at any time. This compulsory training and service, so the National Service League said, was to be for home service and defence only. The point I am trying to make is that Governments may come, and Governments may go, but the Service heads remain with their plans. Much depends on the strength of the Government as to whether or not the Service chiefs get their way. I understand my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to reply for the Government. I hope when he does so the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that this step has been taken on the advice of the heads of the Services. I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is possible to justify the introduction of compulsory military service in 1946 in view of our commitments. I am putting our commitments—not knowing them—at the very worst. Our commitments are that there are certain parts of Africa in which we are still interested and which must be protected. There are certain commitments in the Middle East, which we have not yet given up, and, assuming that the United Nations organisation is successful, we may have to give a certain amount of military, naval and air force aid in that direction.

Are these commitments as heavy as they were in 1912 when that scheme was brought forward? In 1912, in Germany, under the Kaiser, there was the biggest and most efficient army in Europe. There were a conscript army and navy in France and a conscript army in Russia. We must not forget that Russia was always a potential enemy. Who fought the Crimean war? Were not our commitments in 1912 greater than they are today? I think anyone who knows anything at all about this subject—

Mr. Asterley Jones (Hitchin)

Would the hon. Member like to say how this strategic situation of this island has changed since 1912?

Mr. Scollan

If the hon. Gentleman had been present and heard the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) he would have known that my hon. Friend told the House that half a dozen atomic bombs would simply blot the country out, and no conscript army could prevent that. All that it needs are three atom bombs on London, one on Birmingham, one on Sheffield, one on Manchester and one on Glasgow, and the rest could go. I want my right hon. Friend to deal with that point.

The next point that I want to make concerns the campaign of hate that has been going on recently, and I am wondering if the Government have become "jittery" about it. There are a large number of newspapers in this country that have not been at all helpful to this Government in their foreign policy. A large number of newspapers are continually picking out some little point with regard to Russia, or with regard to America, and are deliberately creating an anti-Russian feeling amongst the people. I have no time for the Communist Party, and every Communist in Glasgow knows that. I never had any time for the Communist Party. At the same time, I never lost my sense of proportion with regard to the Russian people's struggle to build up their own country. I wonder why, when the newspapers of this country tell us about the Russians roping in all the technicians, they do not tell us that, in the war, a special corps of Americans deliberately went out to catch the technicians, and take them out of the country. Of course, hon. Members may read about it in "Time," the American magazine, if they doubt it. They did not want reparations, or indemnities; they wanted brains, and they took them over to America, paying considerable sums of money for them.

The main ground of my objection to compulsory military service is a religious one. I frankly believe, deep down in my own heart, that it is an evil thing to hand over the youth of the country to the militarist people, to be trained in the Army. I believe that, and I am not the only one who believes it. There are many people who believe it. Let us take the case of von Papen. Here is Captain G. M. Gilbert, United States Army official psychologist at the Nuremberg trial, who interviewed von Papen. This is what he said: Von Papen, baring his teeth and twisting his eyebrows, as lie always did when angry. continued: This evil suppression of individual freedom of thought. this contempt for everything that does not agree with the militaristic concept, this rigid attention to superior officers, this degradation of human dignity, this perversion of our youth—the people must be re-educated, entirely reeducated.' That is von Papen, when he had had time to reflect on and consider the evils of conscription, and the brass hats. I do not blame Hitler for all these evils. When Hitler, the scapegoat, came in at the beginning, the militarist Jingoists did not realise that they had reared up a boss who was far too strong for them. For Heaven s sake, do not let this country fall into the same error.

Let us take today's "Glasgow Herald." Professor Einstein and a group of prominent scientists yesterday appealed for £350,000 subscriptions for education. This is what he said:

  1. "(1) Atomic bombs can now be made cheaply and in large numbers. They will became more destructive.
  2. (2) There is no military defence against the atomic bomb, and none can be expected.
  3. (3) Other nations can rediscover our secret processes for themselves.
  4. (4) Preparedness against atomic warfare is futile, and, if attempted, will ruin the structure of our social order.
  5. (5) If war breaks out, atomic bombs will be used, and they will surely destroy our civilisation.
  6. (6) There is no solution to this problem except the international control of atomic energy, and, ultimately, the elimination of war."
I want to ask my right hon. Friend, when he replies, to say if he considers it is fair, because we have a Socialist Government with a Socialist programme set out in "Let us Face the Future,"—and, when this Socialist programme is complete, we shall still only be 20 per cent. Socialist— is it fair to expect to create a 100 per cent. obligation, such as might be put on a nation that was 100 per cent. Socialist, when we are only 20 per cent. Socialist? I know that my right hon. Friend is an economist, and that this will appeal to him, because he does not believe in that sort of thing.

Frankly, I am of opinion that what has happened is that deliberate chaos has been created in the Services and I am very disturbed about it. I watched the former Secretary of State for War standing at that Box, and being shot at, from all sides of the House, while he was trying to give satisfaction to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen with regard to what was happening on demobilisation and in the various theatres abroad. It was perfectly obvious to anyone who had eyes to see that he was simply a puppet in the hands of somebody else. We are watching exactly the same progress with regard to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and also in regard to the new Secretary of State for War. [Interruption.] Yes, if hon. Members will watch, they will see what will be the result. They will see that the people who determine the policy will be the brass hats. They are the people responsible for bringing in conscription, and, for that reason, I am going into the Lobby tonight against the Government. I am not very happy about it, but I would rather vote against the Government than sell the principles of a lifetime.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

I have had the good fortune to make some 36 speeches in this House, but, unfortunately, they have always been regarded by hon. Members as generally inaudible and, at the best, purely interruptions, so that the most that ever happened to them was that hon. Members assented to them without having heard what I said. I hope, therefore, that the House will bear with me if, in this new role of gamekeeper turned poacher, I say something which is both relevant and controversial, and, I hope, audible. The question has, at any rate, one great advantage, whatever its disadvantages, and that is that it will focus attention on the conditions in the Armed Forces, and it will call attention to the lamentable neglect of the Armed Forces which they have suffered under the regime of both the parties sitting opposite. I want to address myself principally to the empty benches before me, in the belief that what they lack in quantity they duly make up for in quality.

When speaking in this House on the Address, and later, I think, at a by-election, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) mentioned that he had done more for social legislation than many other Ministers. I think it is only right that one should pay tribute to what he did for the Navy. It is quite true that when he was leading, not the present party, but another, he did increase the pay of the Navy by 3d. a day. With the exception of this big social reform, there was no rise in the soldiers' pay for 117 years, and under the regime of both the parties opposite the soldier who fought at Mons was paid exactly the same as his grandfather who fought at Waterloo. At any rate, whatever the disadvantages of conscription, it will make certain that no such neglect is possible in the future.

Many of the evils of which my hon. Friend the Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) and another hon. Member spoke, are not evils of conscription, but evils of the Army as it is at present organised. Therefore, one is particularly glad to welcome the declaration by the right hon. Member for Woodford that, in conscription, he hoped there would be no distinction between rich and poor. That, after all, is a considerable advance from the party which sits opposite. I will just look back for a moment. I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is not present because he sat in this House when three or four hon. Members of the party opposite voted when the Conservative Party divided the House in favour of the purchase of commissions. We find that just two Parliamentary generations ago that was the policy of the party opposite. I commend that Debate to hon. Members opposite. It is a quarry of arguments in favour of private enterprise, but I will say for hon. Members opposite that they were, at that time, under some practical disadvantage because what they were defending was not the purchase of commissions as such, but the black market in commissions or, as it was rather more tactfully put, that longstanding and tacit agreement among gentlemen to pay rather more.

However, I did not rise to make this point; I rose to say one or two words on a subject which I feel is of sincere and deep concern to my hon. Friends on this side of the House—conscientious objection. I am very glad that our party is broad enough to embrace conscientious objectors. I have had a lot to do with them one way or another, and I was actually engaged in a certain amount of parachuting with some of them. I believe that if the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) were present, he would bear me out on that point. I consider that many of the conscientious objectors of this war were some of the most loyal, gallant and courageous people we have had in the service of the State. But it is not that type of conscientious objection about which I really wish to speak; I wish to speak about the other type, that which I understand was, at any rate, favoured by the party opposite. I feel that when we are on the subject of conscription and objection, it would be desirable for them to clarify their attitude. So far as I understand their attitude when the matter was last discussed, while it was possibly improper to have conscientious scruples, it was quite proper to have political scruples, and it was quite all right, possibly, to refuse to do one's duty if one was, at any rate, an officer.

Let me recall to the House the circumstances when this rather surprising declaration came to be made by the party opposite. In 1914 there was some trouble in Ireland, and the Government, of which the right hon. Member for Woodford was then a Member—I do not want to go into the rights or wrongs of these long dead controversies—decided that it was proper to give certain orders to the Armed Forces with a view to suppressing an armed insurrection, in which it was thought that certain hon. Members opposite were taking part. When this matter came to be discussed in the House, the Leader of the party opposite, at that time Mr. Bonar Law, said: The House knows that we on this side have from the first held the view that to coerce Ulster is an operation which no Government, under existing conditions, has a right to ask the Army to undertake…And, in our view, of course, it is not necessary to say it, that any officer who refuses is only fulfilling his duty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd Match, 1914: Vol. 60, c. 77, 78.] I do not know whether the House will appreciate this conscientious objection. What the then Leader of the party opposite was saying was that it was the duty of the officer to disobey the Government. I think it would be desirable that we should have from the two hon. Members opposite and from the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply, a declaration whether this, like so much of the Conservative policy, is a doctrine which has to be abandoned, or whether Mr. Bonar Law's declaration still stands.

Mr. Stanley

Is it not a little unwise to talk about parties abandoning principles just at this very moment?

Mr. Bing

I do not know; if one goes to that length, one might, perhaps, refer to what the right hon. Member for Woodford said on this occasion in regard to the party opposite. He said: There are those who say, 'We are Tories. No laws apply to us. Laws are made for the working people, to keep them in their proper places. We are the dominant class. We are the ruling forces of the State. When laws suit us, we will obey them. If they do not suit us so much the worse for the laws. We will not bow down to the rules appropriate to the common herd of British subjects. It will be time enough for us to talk about law and order when we have got into office… And then, as the right hon. Gentleman might have supposed, he was interrupted by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham. The right hon. Gentleman continued: It is an infinite encouragement to me that my words can produce a salutary impression, however superficial or transient, upon the Noble Lord."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1914: Vol. 61, c. 1578, I579.] I ought, perhaps, to apologise to the House for taking a little more time than I had intended, but interruptions have that effect upon me.

At a later stage we shall have an opportunity to consider the various questions in regard to conscription—the period for which it will be necessary, and the general conditions under which it will be necessary to impose it. It may well be that there will be those of us on this side who will make suggestions and even possibly criticisms. I believe that it is not really possible for Socialists to oppose the equal sharing of the "burden of national defence, and if this burden can only be shared through conscription we must accept conscription, but we ought to make it equally clear from this side that in accepting conscription we are determined to prevent it being used as an easy means to provide cheap manpower for a class Army. In saying that, I do not want to be thought to be making any criticism of the regular serving officers. I, like most who have played some part in the war, have known a great many regular officers, and there are many of them who have devoted themselves to their profession, with very little help, I may say, from the party opposite. I attempted to assess how much this assistance was, by looking through HANSARD of the years before the war to see which was the military topic which most occupied the minds of hon. Members opposite. I found, to my surprise, that it appeared to be whether or not the Royal Scots Greys should be mechanised. At a time when regular officers who could foresee the future were crying out for tanks and modern equipment, hon. Members opposite were concerned with horses.

We on this side believe that the new conscript forces should provide a career open to all the talents, and that it should not only be a period of military training but that a conscript Army should provide, as it were, a people's university. These are the aims of those of us on this side of the House, and when I look at the record of the party opposite—the prostitution of the profession of arms by the sale of commissions in public auction rooms, the subornation of the loyalty of the officer class to party politics, the consistent under paying of the Forces and the concentration on the picturesque to the exclusion of the practical—I hope we shall be allowed to shape the new Army ourselves without any help from hon. Members opposite.

8.23 p.m.

Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)

The hon. Member for Hornchuch (Mr. Bing) is, I understand, what I think one might term a "customary maiden." He has made a number of short but apparently most successful speeches to the House up to now, but this is his first main effort. It is customary on these occasions that he should be congratulated by the following speaker, and I "most certainly do so. I think, though, perhaps when next he speaks and no longer enjoys the protection accorded to a maiden speaker—

Mr. Bing

Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to say a word?

Mr. Stanley

No, I am not going to. When next he speaks, perhaps he will be liable to more interruptions. But he certainly has amused the House very much, and I am very hopeful of future speeches from him. After all, during his speech he got from 1870, where he started, as far as 1914, and it is quite possible—indeed, we all hope—that in subsequent speeches he will reach as far as 1946, and possibly even project himself into the future.

I must confess to having considerable sympathy for some of the hon. Members opposite who are supporting this Amendment, and who, I understand, will take it, unlike the previous Amendment, into the Division Lobby. I do not know whether that is because they have more courage or because they run less risk. These hon. Members are not the revolutionaries of the party; they are not young men in a hurry proclaiming new and frightening doctrines; not a bit. They are the Bourbons of the party. They are the Members who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, who have not forgotten that today they are only making, amid a frigid silence on the Front Bench, die same speeches which the Front Bench made in 1939 amid the frenzied cheers of their supporters. They may indeed be puzzled, as some of us are, to know what has caused this great change, because it is not only the war. The war, no doubt, has had an effect upon some of the leaders of the party opposite, and it is because of their experience then that they take this step now, but that does not apply to all. It does not apply to the Secretary of State for War who was in his place a little time ago. In Blackpool, in June, 1945, when the war with Germany was already over, he disregarded the advice of his leaders and, in what I understand was a great speech, he used all his eloquence, sincerity and authority on military matters which he had acquired in five years with the "Sunday Pictorial" to denounce conscription.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

Would the right hon. Gentleman forgive me? May I point out, first of all, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of War himself was on active service in both wars, and may I further point out that in the speech at Blackpool, although it is true that he expressed himself to be against conscription as a permanent measure in this country, he did say—and his words were used by the Foreign Secretary—that he was in favour of the continuance of the National Service Acts during the present emergency?

Mr. Stanley

I can quite well make my speech without the hon. Member's assistance, because I am going to quote to the House part of the speech to which I was alluding. The right hon. Gentleman said this: Are we going to have a continuation of compulsory military conscription? I hope that Mr. Bevin will give an indication of our long-term policy on this issue. Then, later on, he said: A unique opportunity arises for Labour to contribute a positive peace policy. Conscript military Forces foster total war, and total war will lead to total destruction', both spiritual and physical. Those were very ringing words. The right hon. Gentleman has since, of course, been converted. Somewhere on the road from the Winter Gardens at Blackpool to the Secretary of State's room at Whitehall, he has seen the light. We do not know how; we do not know why, and we do not even know when, except that it was not before the General Election.

Mr. Blackburn

It is quite consistent with what he said there.

Mr. Stanley

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will have a chance some time of explaining it to the House himself. I know the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) is more capable than any other hon. Member in this House of explaining not his own but other hon. Members' points of view, but we have a strange liking—no doubt reactionary in our case—to hearing those from the Members themselves. When we heard that, unfortunately, the Minister of Defence was unable, as I understand, owing to ill health, to be here tonight, we had hoped that perhaps we should have had this reply from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, but no doubt when the Bill comes before the House we shall have a chance of hearing and seeing whether he explains his actions as well as the hon. Member has done.

On this occasion—and I repeat, on this occasion—we on these benches support the Government. When the Division comes we shall go into the Lobby in their support. After all, we are not tonight discussing a Bill to introduce conscription into this country. All we are doing is, in a way, discussing whether the Government shall have leave to bring in such a Bill. I believe that this Amendment ought not to be carried, unless the Measure was so bad, so indefensible, that the Government proposing to bring it in ought to be forced to resign before they brought it before the House. While, of course, I agree with hon. Members in that conclusion, I dissent from them as to the occasion. I think, on the other hand, that if the Government believe conscription is necessary for our security, it is their right and their duty to bring it forward, they should give to the House of Commons and the country an opportunity to see the Bill, to discuss it and to decide its necessity or not.

There have been, I think, two main arguments against the principles of the Bill. I only refer to the principles of the Bill because its necessity, its expediency, and its practicability will be discussed, and must be discussed, at a subsequent stage, when the Bill is before the House. Of these two arguments on the principles there is one which I understand but with which I do not agree, and one which I can neither understand nor agree with.

Mr. Gallacher

The right hon. Gentleman cannot agree with them if he does not understand them.

Mr. Stanley

Unlike the hon. Gentleman opposite, I am not trained in a political school in which I am forced to agree with things that I may not understand. The first is the argument of the consistent opponents of military service, whether in peace or war, who believe that at any time the obligation for military service—as has been said, I think, by the mover of the Amendment tonight—is an infringement of human liberty which should not be tolerated. I understand their sentiments; they are at any rate logical.

Mr. Yates

I think the right hon. Gentleman rather misunderstood me. I did not refer to the objection to military service—

Mr. Stanley

Compulsory military service.

Mr. Yates

Many hon. Members on this side of the House performed military service, and were prepared to accept it a:; an emergency.

Mr. Stanley

Then I exclude the hon. Member from what I have described as the logical section of the opponents of conscription, those who oppose it in both peace—time and war—time on moral grounds, because it is at all times an infringement of the liberty of the individual. To them I can only say that, the fact they are able in this country today to express such views without pain or fear of intimidation or subsequent punishment is largely due to the fact that for 30 years the majority of the people in this country have taken a different point of view. The other argument—which I confess I do not understand, and therefore do not agree with—is that while conscription may be morally justified in time of war, there is something ethically wrong about it in time of peace; that as a remedy it is all right as long as you wait till the danger has already arisen, but it is all wrong if you adopt it in time possibly to avert the danger arising.

Mr. Scollan


Mr. Stanley

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. Here I must refer to a speech made last Wednesday by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I always listen to his speeches with very great pleasure. The natural rotundity of phrase, the habitual profundity of one, the occasional irrelevancy of theme, all unite to remind me irresistibly but pleasurably of Sandy Macpherson playing dance music on the B.B.C. organ. I studied his speech with great care and, as far as I can see, he does feel—because I know that in wartime he supported conscription—that, while it is morally right in war time, it is morally wrong to introduce it in peace. With that, I cannot agree. I agree, of course, that there are difficulties in the practical issue: that the onus on the Government in time of peace to explain the necessity, to prove the need, is much greater, obviously, than in time of war.

But I cannot believe that there is any difference in peace or war on the moral issue. If it is right that in war the State, if it is necessary for our security, should call on us to abandon that portion of our liberty, then, I think, if the State feels it is necessary in peace time for our security, it is equally entitled to call upon us to forfeit it. I do feel tonight that, at any rate, prima facie,the Government have a case for leave to introduce this Bill. I have been long enough in the House of Commons to know that Governments do not introduce Measures which are bound to be unpopular, bound to raise difficulties, especially with their own supporters, unless they very honestly believe that it is quite essential to have them. Therefore, on this occasion, as I have said, my hon. Friends will be prepared to support the Government.

But I must warn the right hon. Gentleman that when the Bill comes before the House of Commons we shall need a great deal more time for discussion, and a great many more facts for our information than it has been either possible to give, hitherto, or than it would have been right to demand. If I do not propose tonight to discuss these matters of detail, it would be only fair to give to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government some notice of the sort of questions that, in the discussion on the Bill, we should feel must be answered, and answered to our satisfaction, before we could then renew our support. The first matter on which we shall require information is, the total strategic requirements for our defence. We did have a Debate on this earlier in the year. I think most people will agree that it was unsatisfactory. The White Paper on which it was based was extremely broad, gave us no real indication of the specific strategic requirements, and no information whatever of the numbers that would be required to carry them out.

The second thing we want to know is the real effect of modern weapons upon our defence requirements and, especially, upon the numbers required for our defence. One can make easy generalisations about modern weapons, about rockets and flying bombs, and stress, and stress quite truly, the immensely increased dangers to which this country is now open. But it does not follow that those increased dangers necessarily support the particular remedies that one is proposing for them, and I confess that it is not easy to see the connection between the great dangers of the long range rockets and having another couple of divisions of infantrymen at Aldershot, or a great number of reserves in the depots.

The third point upon which we shall require satisfaction is, to be quite certain that the numbers required for defence are being reduced to their minimum by the use of maximum efficiency in organisation. Frankly, at the moment we are not satisfied that that is so. We have a large number with the Colours—somewhere, perhaps, in the region of 1,500,000; a far greater number, of course, than we ever had in peace-time before. And yet one does hear disquieting stories that, with that great number, there are, also, few ships in the fleet able to sail; that there are very few divisions in the Army on a mobile basis fully equipped for war; and that the air effort, for either the defensive or the offensive, if called upon at once, would not be of a very striking magnitude. We all realise, of course, that rapid demobilisation must cause temporary disorganisation, and that, therefore, in the first months of demobilisation, the efficiency of the Services was bound to be affected. But the peak has now passed, it passed some months ago, and we should be beginning to climb up the hill of efficiency again.

Here I do think there is some blame attached to the Service Ministers, or rather to the Prime Minister who has allowed the Service Ministers so little time to look after their respective Services. It would be interesting to know how many days in the last nine months there has been either a Secretary of State in the Air Ministry or a First Lord of the Admiralty sitting in the Admiralty. After all, if these Service chiefs are to be away nearly all the time, do we want them at all? If Under-Secretaries are to do nearly all the work, why should they not do it all? The Government could then save quite a lot of money which they could spend on P.R.O.'s or some other useful people. We take a different view. We believe that although the immense burdens which fall upon the Service Ministers during the war have been lightened, even now their jobs are of immense importance, and what they do in their Departments may not only affect the security of the country in the future but immensely affect the individual burdens which are borne by people in the present. We therefore beg the Prime Minister, next time he wants to send a Minister abroad on some job or other, to ask the B.B.C. to broadcast an S.O.S. for the Lord Privy Seal and, when he has got hold of him, he can send him and leave the Service Ministers in their Services.

The next point upon which we require information, and I am sure the whole House does, is whether it really is impossible to get the numbers required by voluntary means. We had this generalisation from the Prime Minister that it is impossible, in times of full employment, to get the numbers required by voluntary means. First of all, is that generalisation true? I know that at one period this year the recruiting figures were extremely bad, but my information is that in the last few weeks they have shown an immense improvement, and that in fact there have been recently a large number of reengage—ments and voluntary enlistments. Further, I am told that a scientific inquiry has been conducted, I think by one of the markets research organisations, into the difficulties in getting recruits, and what it is that prevents us getting the numbers. Certainly, when it comes to debating the Bill, thy House should have that report before it, and know what prospects are held out for the future. Even if it is true now that you cannot get recruits in times of full employment, are we really to sit down under that and believe that the opportunity of serving their country is never to be able to compete in the minds of individuals with other civilian kinds of jobs? Surely if that is so, we must try to find the terms and conditions, and above all the security of employment after release, which will attract the people we need.

Lastly, of course, we shall want the fullest information upon the details of the scheme itself, and to be assured not only that it is equitable as between all classes of the community, but, and this I think is very important, that it is equitable as between the people who will be called up under the new Bill and the people who are now being called up under the extension of the war—time arrangements. We do not want to leave them with a grievance in the intervening years that they are having a rougher deal than the people who are coming in in two years' time.

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

The grievance is there already.

Mr. Stanley

Finally, we shall want to be assured that it is possible to fit these people who are brought in under the new Bill into the schemes of the Services. Without having full details of the new organisation of the Territorial service, it is not easy to see how exactly that is to be done, and how during their period of service either with the Colours or in their training with the Territorials, the conscripts are to fit in with the volunteer Regulars. We shall require a reply to all these matters when the time comes. I am not asking for a reply tonight, because I do not think this is the occasion. The House and the country will demand the fullest information at a later stage, and all I can say at this stage is that when that time comes, we on this side shall certainly approach the subject in no controversial and party spirit, and that if the information given at the time convinces us that there is a national necessity and there is no other way to meet it, then however heavy the burden is, and it will be heavy, not only we, but we believe the country as a whole, will support the Government in getting it through.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)

The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has managed to convince the House that on occasions he agrees with right hon. Gentlemen on this side without at all understanding the reasons for his agreement. I imagine that the answers to the series of questions which he put to the Government cannot possibly be in doubt. In the matter of the relationship between the long-range rocket and the number of soldiers required to defend us, and the further issue of whether voluntary means of recruitment have been exhausted, he shows by his views that he has no understanding of the reasons for the imposition of conscription; yet he announced to the Government that his party is going to stand in on the proposals. Of course it will stand in because there are Bourbons on this side of the House as well as on the other, and the whole idea of the party opposite is to make this a vital issue of Toryism and to bring the Government up to scratch on an occasion like this when the Labour Party is in the difficulty of having to introduce conscription.

I will refer now to another speech which is of greater moment just now, and that is the speech of the Prime Minister in opening the Debate. He referred to certain very important considerations, and he was thoroughly frank in the way in which he said that the Government were quite ignorant about the international military situation, and about the extent of the military commitments which they would be called upon to undertake. He said: It is extremely difficult to prophesy just what forces will be needed in the future, and again— We have got to make our contribution to the United Nations organisation. We do not know quite what that will be. We cannot foresee it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, J946; Vol. 430, c. 38.] When he got down to the question of military recruitment and length of service he said: I cannot insist too often on the tact that in all these matters we are dealing with a vast number of entirely unknown factors."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 38 and 41.] We are certainly bound to commend the honesty and diffidence with which the Prime Minister approaches this difficult problem. We expect honesty from him, and get it, and I congratulate him on the way in which he has put these issues so clearly before us. But surely he will not object to me saying that we cannot accept these blanks in the mind of the Government as an adequate reason or excuse for the crime—for it is a crime—by which they mean to impose on the youth of this nation the loss of liberty which is involved in the Act that is visualised. The young men who must sacrifice 18 months of the best period of their lives, and devote themselves to the requirements of the barracks and drill yards, have the right to claim that the Prime Minister should have been clearer as to the reasons why the consequences of the Act which the Government have in mind should be imposed upon them. The young men who must make these sacrifices—and I would put the period at two years, rather than 18 months, because there is the waiting time before call up, and the time spent on readaptation when they come out of the Services—are entitled to more definite reasons than any which the Prime Minister has been able to give for the proposed action of the Government.

We know what has happened. The experts have told the Government what they think ought to be done. I submit, with great respect, that the Government should have told the experts frankly that they could not give expert advice on this matter until they, the Government, could see more clearly what were the nature of the commitments required. Here is the stage on which the military experts ore playing, with the Government and the House of Commons blindfolded. Here is the stage where the military expert can win his way in the special situation which has been created.

I cannot forget—and I have said this before in tie House—that when conscription was first imposed on the country, just before the war, it was imposed for reasons which were ultimately explained to us by Lord Vansittart. He confessed, in an article he wrote to the "Daily Mail," that when he found the Government, his masters, unwilling to impose conscription he, a civil servant, the doyen of civil servants, used his influence with the French Government, who thought themselves free to judge an issue of British policy, to persuade them to tell the British Government that there would 'be a dwindling in the Entente unless Britain imposed conscription. This was the confession of Lord Vansittart. Although the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress thought they were free to decide the issue on its merits, they were not. The issue was decided by the experts, as it is being decided now, by the experts, behind the backs of Parliament. I suspect, as indeed the Prime Minister's speech has shown, totally inadequate knowledge on the part of the Government itself.

I want to ask a few questions upon this point. In the matter of the military forces—and it has been a reason suggested by many hon. Members on this side for giving their support to conscription—that force will be required to support the decisions of U.N.O. If this is the reason for its introduction, the thing to ask first, surely, is whether U.N.O., as an organisation for securing peace, is functioning at all. I agreed that the Prime Minister, when he came to deal with this matter in his speech opening the Debate, was very cautious. He referred to the police force necessary to prevent the rise of aggression, and went on to say that we were not making such good progress as we could have hoped at U.N.O., but that, perhaps, was because the world expected more than was possible.

While I agree with the Prime Minister, I would go further and say that unless we have, first, some clear indication that we have a world organisation that can come to an agreement—an accepted agreement—on the issue of law and how that law shall be carried out in the world, we have no right to give this enormous power into the hands of such an organisation, which has not settled the first issues which should be dealt with. We have the more reason to take that attitude when we remember that when conscription—I wish that I had more time to develop this, but I have to take the claims of other people into account—has been imposed at any time in history it has not prevented war; it has regularly been the cause of encouraging war. How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done! The presence of a conscripted army has always been a great temptation, first to the diplomat, and then to the commander, to waste the lives of men. Does anyone deny that? Let them remember the exclamation of Napoleon when the French first gave him conscription. "Now," he said, "I can spend the lives of 30,000 men a month." And indeed he spent them.

Brigadier Mackeson (Hythe)

Is the hon. Gentleman accusing the leaders in this war of deliberately wasting men's lives?

Mr. Hudson

I say that Napoleon wasted men's lives to the extent, on some occasions, of 300,000 men a month, and anyone who has read Mr. Lloyd George's explanation of what happened at Pas—schendael and in Flanders need not ask me the question of whether military commanders here wasted men's lives. Anyone who knows about the wasteful profligacy of the German leaders with their conscripted armies will agree with me on this point.

To return to the question of whether the support of U.N.O. is any justification for the imposition of conscription: I must ask myself the question, "What are the military arrangements which require all the men for the support of the United Nations organisation?" This question reminds me of an old story about a man who wanted to impress his neighbours with his prowess as a horseman but could not afford a horse. He decided to go swaggering round the village with his riding breeches, spurs, and riding crop, until finally the villagers asked, "Where is the horse?" I ask from these Benches, "Where are the military commitments under U.N.O., where are the arrangements which at this moment give any justification for the military dispositions now being taken in this matter?"

I admit that when I turn from the question of U.N.O. I find myself with the Government in the general contentions that they have made about military commitments. After the speech that has been made in reply to the previous Amendment there is every reason to suppose that in country after country there will be less need of men rather than more. Let the Government take courage from their successes and the success of their Foreign Minister. Have they not done well in Indonesia; is there not a new arrangement there enabling them to withdraw men from that country? Have they not done exceedingly well in India and Egypt where, we are hoping, there will in time be fewer men? In Greece and Spain, although much criticised for the method they have adopted, have the Government not refrained —from making war—and I thank God that they have done so—and at least saved themselves considerable commitments there?

The King's Speech says that the Government expect to reduce arms in Austria; they now have a treaty with Italy and are able to deal with the Italian people without reference to intervening British military forces. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) that we are hoping that when we once get down to this question of Germany and really meet the Germans themselves—who are the only people who can deal with the problems of Germany today—it cannot be long before we are able to make very considerable reductions in the military forces there. What, then, is the reason for embarking upon conscription? I think that the only possible reason that anyone can see is that the Government are falling into the error that they tried to prove in the speech made by the Prime Minister earlier today. It seems to be Russia which they fear. Yet when Russia comes with her proposals for disarmament to an international conference, we are beginning again to sneer at her just as we did in 1927 when, under Lord Cushenden's leadership, we superciliously rejected Mr. Litvinoff's proposals for disarmament.

I base myself tonight—and I ask the Government to face this—on the splendid proposal that was made this weekend by one of our leading publicists, Mr. H. N. Brailsford, who said that the time had come to raise the question of disarmament again. Of course it has. The Labour Party cannot be afraid of disarmament. Have they forgotten Arthur Henderson? Have all the fears the war created left their minds a blank about this also? Especially when Russia comes, to encourage us in this process, it is one of the greatest disasters to my mind that just at the moment when the proposal is made, we come forward with conscription and then leave the atomic bomb quite unregulated.

I have only one question to ask the Government on this matter. I will put it as briefly as I can under four main considerations. Can a Labour Government conscript the sons of fathers the majority of whom hated war and all that war called them to do, who hated Hitler because he loved war and all the infamies that grew out of it, who gave their lives to prevent the rise of monsters, and sealed with their blood the efforts that were made to rid the world of evil? Yet at the end they find themselves up against new monsters and against enemies but who were recently their friends and Allies. Can our Government impose conscription upon the youth of the country in such a situation? Can a Labour Government impose conscription on these men's sons at an age before their convictions have been made where they have not realised the relations between God and man, and have not worked out for themselves the central problems of life? Not only are they uncertain in their moral and spiritual attitudes, but their physical make-up has not become settled.

Can a Labour Government take every mother's son at 18 and put him into the barrack yard to train for actions, the central episode of which training is to teach the taking of life? Anyone can see the purpose of the training in the very exercises that these young men are given to do. Can a Labour Government that needs to mine the nation's coal, make the nation's steel, build the nation's houses and send up the nation's exports far above what they have yet reached, at least 75 per cent. above prewar levels at the same time carry through this conscription programme with its calls on the young manpower of the nation? In the document "Let us Face the Future" the Labour Government said nothing about conscription but now proposes to introduce such a proposal. I remember Keir Hardie, and George Lansbury who led the party in this House and Ponsonby who led the party in another place. I was with Lansbury and Ponsonby and the Lord President of the Council at a great meeting in the Albert Hall in 1927 which was held at the end of a campaign in which we were seeking to secure signatures to a statement that we would never take part in war again. This is what the Lord President of the Council said to the thousands of people who were listening to him: I ask you therefore to dedicate yourselves anew to the great cause of international peace it is for you to let the Government know and to let others know that as far as you are concerned that you are finished with war and you will take no part in it either collectively or individually. There are convictions clearly expressed. The Lord President was no boy when he said those things, nor was I. I was at the stage of life, as was the Lord President, when we could judge upon the nature of life's duties. He was asking that great audience to take its stand against war. We cannot throw off our convictions like a snake throws off its skin as it struggles and squirms its way to a new life. The convictions of men in the Socialist movement are of prime importance. I say to the Government, although conscription is in the King's Speech they should do what has often been done before and refrain, when it comes to the question of the introduction of this Bill, from going forward with the proposal they have foreshadowed.

9.12 p.m.

Colonel Wigg (Dudley)

I respect the views that have just been put forward by my hon. Friend. As I said the first time I addressed this House, I think no honest man could look at the commitments of this country and refuse to agree that conscription must be introduced. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Shame it may be. By making a few calculations with a pencil and paper for a very few minutes, the commitments which we have to undertake, not only in our own Colonies but also in areas for which we are responsible as the result of our winning of the war, the size of the Army we must have to carry out those commitments will be realised—and those commitments cannot be met without conscription.

I wish to intervene in this Debate for only a few minutes, to protest against what I regard as the misguided, though sincere, views that have been put forward this evening. As I have said, I regard conscription as inevitable. What I want to do is to make the best of a bad job, if bad job it be. We have heard something of the horrors of Army life; of lads dashing along the roads stabbing at sacks of straw, and, during the process of time, becoming bloodthirsty monsters. Well, that is not what I have seen happen, though it may be that I am wrong. The point I want to make is that if the Army has got its horrors, so has civilian life. Let me tell hon. Members of one of the problems which the Army is tackling at the present time. In the intake absorbed into the Army in 1946, no less than 30 per cent. are partially illiterate and between one and two per cent, of the men entering the Army are completely illiterate. That is due not to any failure on the part of the teaching profession, but largely due to the effects of evacuation, and to the effects of illness. Although the Army must be essentially an instrument to carry out its normal functions it can also be adapted to making men better than they otherwise would be. The fact that we must have conscription gives us an opportunity to repair the damage that has been done to these young lads through lack of educational opportunity, and give them, while they are in the Army, an opportunity to equip themselves for the task of citizenship, and for the task of earning a living.

Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)

What are the schools for?

Colonel Wigg

The facts are that 30 per cent. of the men going into the Army at the present time are partially illiterate.

Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)

I do not believe it.

Several Hon. Members


Colonel Wigg

I will not give way. I will go even further and say that of that 30 per cent. who are partially illiterate—

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

Are these the officers to whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring?

Colonel Wigg

That, like most of the remarks from the hon. Member, is just cheap.

Mr. Stephen

My record in the Labour movement will compare with anything the hon. and gallant Member has done.

Colonel Wigg

I still assert that the hon. Member's remarks are cheap.

Mr. Stephen

So were the hon. and gallant Member's remarks.

Colonel Wigg

I was saying—

Mrs. Nichol

Will the hon. and gallant Member give the proof of his statement that 30 per cent. of the men in the Army are illiterate?

Colonel Wigg

I did not say that. I said that about 30 per cent. of the young men going into the Army at the present time are partially illiterate and that one per cent. to two per cent. of them are totally illiterate. The present proposal will give the Army authorities an opportunity to remedy that state of affairs.

Mrs. Nichol

Will the hon. and gallant Member tell us what "partially illiterate" means?

Colonel Wigg

It means that the man is unable to write a simple letter home or to read a Part I Order. My proof is my experience when I was responsible, up to the early months of this year, for education in one of the biggest Commands in this country. If the hon. Lady wants a little more information perhaps I may say that of the 30 per cent. of partially illiterates 60 per cent. are from rural schools, 35 per cent. from Church schools, five per cent. from council schools. There is the further fact that 40 per cent. of partial illiteracy is due to evacuation, 30 per cent. to illness, 10 per cent. to the fact that the parents were wanderers, and 20 per cent. to large classes. My point is that there is unquestionably a tremendous opportunity, not only in the Army but in the Armed Forces as a whole, to use the opportunity of conscription to do what the Education Act of 1940 will not do until after 1950 when county colleges are established.

While the young men are serving in this country or serving overseas there will be a tremendous opportunity to improve them, not only in the interests of the individuals themselves, but in the interest of the nation. I commend this fact to those who oppose conscription, and I would add that conscription has to be swallowed anyway and that if we have to swallow it we must make the best of the situation.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

Mr. McGhee.

Mr. S. O. Davies

On a point of Order. If an hon. and gallant Member addresses this House while you have been sitting here as Deputy—Speaker, is not another hon. Member in perfect Order in putting a question to the hon. and gallant Member to elucidate the meaning of his speech?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of Order. If the hon. Member desires to speak he must endeavour to catch my eye.

9.19 p.m.

Mr. McGhee (Penistone)

I am very worried that a Member of the Labour Party should take the view that it is necessary to draft men into the Army in order to teach them to read and write. I have always thought that was the job of our schools. However, I commend the statements of the hon. and gallant Member to the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education. I hope that she will look into them before the Government attempt to pass a Conscription Bill. I am confined to a very short time for my speech. I will not be able to make the speech that I hoped I would be allowed to, so I want to cut it down to one practical issue. This afternoon the Prime Minister admitted that we were carrying on staff conversations with the United States. I want to ask two ques- tions on that subject. The first is: Is this policy of conscription the result of those conversations? If it is, there are some here who remember that similar staff conversations were carried on with the French Government before the 1914 war.

We further want to know against whom these staff conversations are directed. It is no use the Prime Minister or anybody else coming to the House and telling us that we are just doing this for sheer defence reasons and not telling us against whom we have to defend ourselves. Is it Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Eire or some other neutral country? Surely it cannot be one of our Allies before we have even made the peace treaties. I warn the right hon. Gentleman who is replying to this Debate against the Imperial Staff. Seldom have I agreed with anything the late David Lloyd George said, but I do agree with him when he said that they are always wrong and always give wrong advice. As a matter of fact, they have always been a war behindhand. In 1898 they were preparing for the Crimean war; in 1914 they were preparing for the South African war; in 1939 they were preparing for the 1914 war; and at this very moment talking about using conscripts against the atomic bomb shows that they have no conception of present problems. In his speech the other day the Prime Minister said that we were taking the young men into the Army and giving them splendid teaching in citizenship. That is not the business of the Army. The Prime Minister also said that we were teaching the young men A.R.P. What will that teach them—to use stirrup pumps against atomic bombs? Is that a new scheme which the conscript Army has to face?

I want the Government to re-examine this problem. I ask them to defer this problem until we really know what our commitments are. To take such a high percentage of our young men out of production and to put them in the Army will help to delay this country's recovery from the devastation of the last war. I beg the Government to reconsider the whole problem of our commitments, realising that we are now under a new Government backed by a huge majority of the people of the country, and also realising that we are no longer a great Imperialistic Power jackbooting half over the world. I plead with my right hon. Friend to give those of us who feel deeply on this subject some hope that the whole matter will be reconsidered before the Government attempt to introduce a Bill.

9.24 p.m.

Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)

May I explain that I am not and never have been a conscientious objector; I do not intend in the future to be one, but that I object as a conscientious objector to every form of conscription. I have, as a matter of fact, in common with other Members of my party who have put their names to this Amendment, served as a volunteer in His Majesty's Forces, and if I had been young enough, I should have done so in this last war. My objection is not to military service of any kind, but the compulsion to send our young men—and our young women, I suppose, in time if this goes through—to undergo military service under State compulsion.

When an undistinguished back bencher like myself voices an opinion that is unpopular or says something that only corresponds to what a minority in the House thinks, it must not be assumed that he speaks for a minority in the country, because of one thing I am convinced—although I am speaking now for a minority in this House, I am speaking for a majority in the country. I am so convinced of that that I make bold to ask this question of the Government and of the party opposite. If they had said in their election addresses that they were going to back conscription or even allow conscription, would a single solitary one of them have been returned to his House by Labour votes? If they had been returned at all they would have been returned by Conservative votes. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said just now that the Tory Party would follow the Government this time into the Lobby. Really, that is not the case at all—it is the Government who will follow the Tory Party into the Lobby.

I read in the Press in more than one paper that the Government are not over—perturbed by the very large number of their Members who have expressed themselves against conscription, because they say that they do not mind the kind of rebellion that is based on conscience. I would like to examine this word "conscience" before I sit down. I had intended to say a good deal more, but I want to say this: conscience does not change. There are among the Members of the Government and the Members of their party people who were conscientious objectors in the past, but I do not see their names to this Amendment. The line from one of Shakespeare's sonnets his already been quoted in this House: Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds. —and conviction is not conviction which alters according to circumstances. I think there is an uglier side to it even than that. Am I to suppose—and I ask this question very seriously—that these gentlemen are conscientious objectors when they are young enough to serve in the Army themselves, but when they are over military age have no conscientious objection to forcing other people to serve? That is a serious question, seriously asked, and I ask them to put it to their consciences, and lay their hands upon their hearts and answer it in the only way it can be answered, and that is by voting for the Amendment.

I am asked—and this is the last thing I am going to say— "What are you going to do in the face of the difficulties of the country now unless we have conscription?" Many things have been said and I am only going to mention one or two. First of all, let us cease to behave as if we in Britain were the greatest Power on earth; let us cease to behave as if the fate of all other nations were in our hands. We are not the greatest military power in the world; we have long ceased to be that, but we are still, I am convinced, the greatest moral power in the world, and we shall only keep that moral leadership as long as we preserve the old ideas of freedom and humanity, Liberalism, alive, and they cannot be kept alive in a conscript country. When conscription comes in, and that conscription is coming in I make no doubt, for I know that I am speaking against the tide in this House anyway, conscription is coming in—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, you wait."] When conscription comes in, may I ask who is going to be conscribed? We cannot conscribe the mineworkers; there are not enough of them already. We cannot conscribe the building workers or the steel workers or the civil servant, particularly not them. We are going to conscribe the bank clerks, the teachers, the salesmen, and university students, the most unmilitary part of the population, because they are the only people who will be available at the time.

What is the alternative? It is to reform the Army, and the Army very badly needs reforming. Some suggestions have already been made, but I am now going to make some unpopular suggestions, something which no gentleman ever does. Take away the tyranny of the sergeant major, the sergeant major, who, to my own knowledge, has made life a hell for so many young men. That is one way. Secondly, take the padres in the Army out of the ranks of officers. Let them follow their sacred profession without being officers. Give them authority to inquire into the grievances of the men and to report sympathetically upon them.

Captain Marsden (Chertsey)

The hon. Member served in the Navy, and he knows, as he is talking of conscription generally, that in the Navy the chaplains have no rank at all.

Professor Gruffydd

If the hon. and gallant Member had allowed me, I was going to hold up the Navy as a model in that respect. I think I have probably said enough to show where the Liberal Party stand in this matter. The Liberal Party stand, as they have always stood, against tyranny of the State over the individual. The worst tyranny of all which the State can possibly exercise over the individual is the tyranny over the soul which comes from unwilling military discipline and conscription.

9.33 p.m.

Brigadier Head (Carshalton)

In the very short time afforded to me, I would like, curiously enough, to do what I can to help the mover and seconder of the Amendment. I believe that the solution of the problem we are discussing tonight would be to get more voluntary recruits to the Army. In the two minutes which is the time you have allowed me, Sir, I cannot range very widely over this subject. But to take one parochial point only, we have today in the British Army, for instance, the Brigade of Guards. At the moment they are the only formation in the British Army which can get all the recruits they want and more. But what is His Majesty's Government's policy? It is to reduce the Brigade from 12 to eight battalions. They stick a large steel pin into the only balloon they have in the British Army. That is the only point on which I support the mover and seconder of the Amendment. If we pursue such a policy in relation to the part of the Army in which we have recruitment built up on the conditions of esprit de corps,and fail to support something which is a going concern, we are doing everything possible to ensure the necessity for conscription during the next 20, 30, or even 50 years.

9.35 P.m.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)

My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, the Minister-designate of Defence, would have replied to this Debate, and had prepared himself to do so, but unfortunately, as I think the House knows, he has been taken ill and is unable to be here today. Therefore, it falls to me to speak in his place. Many questions of detail on this matter will fall to be discussed later on. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) quite reasonably said that when the Bill came before the House later, there were many questions of detail on which he would like to raise questions, and on which hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House would like to raise questions. That, we fully concede. I shall not tonight discuss any of these questions of detail. I shall present only the general argument against the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Lady wood (Mr. Yates).

My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee), speaking later, asked me to give an assurance that the whole matter would be reconsidered. I give him an assurance that when the Bill is brought in, all the details will be open to consideration, debate and discussion. I give that assurance, and I hope that will suffice. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] If, that will not suffice, we will go to a Division, and see who wins. I am endeavouring to be conciliatory to my hon. Friend, but if he will not respond in the same spirit, it must be settled in the Lobbies. I repeat that all the details will be for consideration and discussion when the Bill is brought in.

Mrs. Florence Paton (Rushcliffe)

It is the principle we are against.

Mr. Dalton

Exactly. It is on that we shall vote, those against the principle on the one side, and those for the principle on the other. I am arguing for the vote in favour. I am making this abundantly clear I think my hon. Friends will agree that I always endeavour to state the case clearly, whether or not they agree with me. I am asking my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and the House at large, to vote tonight in favour of the principle of the continuance of compulsory military service for a certain period—[Interruption.]—let me finish—not yet able to be defined, beyond the date of 1st January, 1949. That is the issue; I am stating it with great precision. The issue is just as simple as that. Shall compulsory military service continue for a further period, which we are not yet, any of us, in a position to define, beyond 1st January, 1949; for a certain period which, for reasons which I will endeavour to give, will be determined by certain events, to which I propose to refer before I sit down?

Mr. McGhee

Will that be in the Bill?

Mr. Dalton

— I am not in a position tonight to discuss the details of the Bill. My hon. Friend, having voted tonight to enable the Bill to be brought in, will have an opportunity, when the Bill is brought in, to move any Amendment, which is ruled by you, Sir, to be in Order, as to the duration of the Measure.

Mrs. Paton

Will my right hon. Friend promise that so far as the Government are concerned, there is no idea in their mind of making this a permanent institution?

Mr. Dalton

"Permanent" is a difficult word to which to give a literal interpretation. There is an old saying: I do not ask to see The distant scene, one step enough for me. What the House is being asked to agree to tonight, I will state once more and then pass on to the reasons, is the continuance of compulsory military service beyond 1st January, 1949—how far beyond we will determine and discuss when the Bill is brought in. We shall be committed tonight, if this Amendment is defeated, to the continuance of compulsory military service beyond that date. For how long beyond that date, we are open to discuss later. Why do we ask for this continuance? We ask it, first, because, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said when he was speaking in the earlier Debate today, the future of international relations is as yet obscure, uncertain and, in some respects, dangerous. Who will deny that? This is no age for flinging down all arms and all defences upon the altar of credulity. The time has not yet come—

Mr. S. O. Davies


Mr. Dalton

No, I will not give way.

Mr. Davies

I am rising to a point of Order.

Mr. Dalton

I have given way on many occasions. It is only fair to my hon. Friend that I should give him the reasons why he should support the Government.

Mr. Davies

Why use the word "dangerous"?

Mr. Dalton

Because the word "dangerous"—

Mr. Davies

It is most ominous.

Mr. Dalton

Because the word "dangerous" describes the situation. It is a quite simple and short word.

Mr. Davies

Surely that describes nothing: it is sheer rhetoric.

Mr. Dalton

I will have a talk with my hon. Friend another time, but today we are dealing with realities. I will compete with him in rhetoric in Wales in his constituency. That is a promise. I will come down and speak on his platform This is still a dangerous world in which we live. All those who have spoken of the new developments of science have underlined the fact that it is dangerous. All those who have spoken of the difficulties of getting all the nations to march arm in arm, and in step, have, thereby, admitted that it is a dangerous world. We hope to diminish the danger and avoid any evil explosions which that danger may cause; but that it is a dangerous world only a credulous dreamer would deny. Therefore, we must be strongly and powerfully armed. In addition to this, we have a duty to the United Nations organisation. We are going to try to make that a success. We will do our utmost to make it a success. It will succeed only if we have a strong reserve of force behind it with which it can suppress any evil doers and any aggressive Powers, whoever they may be. We must make our contribution to this common pool. We cannot sponge upon the Red Army for our defences, neither can we sponge upon the American Fleet or Air Forces—nor can anybody else. We must be strong in our own strength to make a contribution to the common strength of all of which we shall be a part. This is a common doctrine of international comradeship which no Socialist will find difficult to understand. If it be that the United Nations organisation should not succeed, then it will be all the more necessary for us to be strong in the world that would result. But our hope is that it will succeed.

Now I will adduce another argument addressed particularly to my hon. Friends behind me. The Government are asking for the rejection of this Amendment because we hold that it is more democratic that all should take their turn than that large numbers should leave the duty of defence to a few. The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) has asked me what would be the view of our constituents on this matter. Yesterday I happened to be in my constituency in the railway town of Shildon, where I addressed a public meeting. Before going to this public meeting one of my friends, a leading trade unionist in that town, said to me, "I hope you will speak this afternoon about conscription and I hope that you will tell the people that the Government desire to continue conscription as long as it may be necessary. We will all back you up…" "—and he is a leading personality in the National Union of Railwaymen in my constituency— "we will all back you up because we believe that it is only fair that all should take their turn." This is an answer to the hon. Gentleman who represents a sequestered and not very numerous electorate. I think he represents some 4,000 electors who are taking degrees at the various Welsh colleges, and I am answering his question. I made a statement, as was requested by my friend, at the public meeting, and not a voice was raised in criticism or in opposition to what I said. There were present miners and railwaymen, and the wives of miners and railwaymen, and not one of them, man or woman, raised a voice of criticism against what I said. The County of Durham has long rendered much more than its quota under voluntary enlistment to the Army, and the County of Durham does not see why others should not do their bit as well. I make that reply to the hon. Gentleman who challenged me about what my electors would say about this.

I have said that, in our view, it is more democratic that all should bear their share rather than that it should be left to a few, many of whom, in prewar years, went into the Army because they could not get into anything else through unemployment, and were exiled and outlawed from the land of their birth. It is because that is not going to happen again, and because that source of recruitment is finished, that it is only fair, right and democratic that all should take their share. That is our intention, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), who spoke of education and other matters in the Forces, and other hon. Members likewise interested in these matters, including a number of my hon. Friends below the Gangway. We do intend that the Armed Forces shall be made truly democratic, and that is going to involve a number of changes. Let us have no doubt about that.

Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)


Mr. Dalton

I am afraid I have not time to give way. It is going to involve a number of changes in the existing state of affairs. It is our intention, following upon the passage of this Bill for the continuance of compulsory service, to make sure that all those who enter the Armed Forces, whether as conscripts or as volunteers, shall have an equal opportunity of rising by promotion and advancement to any level to which their abilities entitle them. Our Forces are not truly democratic now, but it is part of my case for this Measure that we shall take whatever steps are necessary to see this plan carried out to the full degree which we desire to see it reach.

Mr. Cobb (Elland)

Does that apply to all three Services?

Mr. Dalton

Yes, I said all the Forces.

Mrs. Nichol


Mr. Dalton

The hon. Lady has come to this House because she knows that we have got a job to do, and she wants to help us to do it. I give that pledge quite deliberately on behalf of the Government, and I go on to say that, equally, we reject any suggestion of favouritism or privilege in regard to those called to take this service. The hon. Member for the University of Wales is quite wrong in thinking that, if he had been a coalminer instead of a university teacher, he would have got off. As a matter of fact, we do not propose that there should be any favoured classes —neither colliers, nor railwaymen nor university graduates.

Professor Gruffydd

I did not say there would be any favoured classes. My suggestion was that economic circumstances would compel the creation of favoured classes.

Mr. Dalton

We do not believe that circumstances will compel us to do anything of the kind. All sections of the community —all men— [Interruption.]

Mrs. Nichol

Why not women?

Mr. Dalton

Because they are not going to be in the Bill; that is why not. The hon. Lady will have an opportunity to move an Amendment to that effect, but the conscription of women will not be prescribed in the Bill. I have already said that all these details will be open to reconsideration and debate. Conscription, however, will apply to all men. [An HON. MEMBER: "Civil servants?"] Certainly. There will be provision for conscientious objectors, as has long been the case in our law, but not in the form to give a conscientious objector an advantage over a person who does his service. The conscientious objector will be excused military service, but will not be excused from some alternative form of peaceful service for the community, details of which we will work out.

Mr. Ayles (Southall)

Industrial conscription?

Mr. Dalton

No, Sir. My hon. Friend must really rise above the level of those old catch phrases of long ago.

Mr. Ayles

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that if a man is not conscripted for military service, because he objects to it, that he is not then conscripted for industrial service?

Mr. Dalton

I said that such a man will be excused military service simply because he has a conscientious objection to such service; but he will not, for that reason, be given an advantage over his workmates in industry who are prepared to do their military service. I do beg my hon. Friend, once more, not to mistake catch phrases of long ago for the realities of today.

It was abundantly clear in the last war that the conscientious objectors were very small in point of numbers; that is because such men see things differently today from the way they used to see them long ago. We are building a Socialist Britain in which men are acquiring new rights, rights denied to their forefathers, and men understand that this is a thing worth defending. There is a much lesser reluctance to face obligations which arise from citizenship as we multiply and increase their rights.

Mr. Shurmer

Why did we not make it clear in "Let us Face the Future"?

Mr. Dalton

As I have just stated in relation to my own constituents, I shall have no hesitation or difficulty whatever in making that case good before any public audience on any platform in this country. It is well understood by the great mass of working people in this land —if it is put to them as I have put it now —that, with new rights, come new responsibilities and obligations. That is Well recognised.

I will say one word to my hon. Friend who moved this Motion. He has spoken to a similar Motion once before; he spoke to a similar Motion at our annual conference at Bournemouth at Whitsuntide, when the following resolution was moved: That this Conference declares its opposition to a continuance of conscription, and is of the opinion that by making service in the Forces an attractive career, all the country's needs in this respect will be adequately met. Almost the point of view of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) who united, for this purpose, with my hon. Friend the Member for Lady-wood (Mr. Yates). After some slight debate at the Labour Party Conference, this resolution was put to the vote and was overwhelmingly defeated. It was defeated so overwhelmingly that no one, not even my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood, demanded a card vote.

Mr. Yates

I would like to point out that the resolution was to end military conscription immediately; it was not to end military conscription at some period in the future. Further, I am of the opinion that it was not so overwhelmingly defeated.

Mr. Dalton

No card vote was demanded, and that at any Labour Party conference means that the majority was overwhelming. I am anxious to do justice to arguments from all sides of the House. It has been truly said—and this is a point on which I wish to comment—that this policy will mean the subtraction year by year from industry of a large number of men for the purpose of military service. It is true that this will impose a heavy burden on the country. It will impose a heavy burden in terms of finance. Surtax will not be able to be reduced quite so rapidly as it otherwise might have been. In addition to that it will also mean that there will be a subtraction from the manpower immediately available for industry. That is quite true. We hope that as the years go on we can gradually diminish that burden, but it is a burden which we cannot afford not to shoulder now, for the reasons which I have given. Let me remind the House that before the war we had, on an average, two million or more men unemployed. That time is over. Those days are now passed, and a large number of those men who, before the war, might have been unemployed, must, in any manpower budget which one might draw up, be set against the numbers who will be drawn for the purpose of military training now. We had, before the war, I am ashamed to recall, a large reserve of manpower which is now available in conditions of full employment for many alternative uses, including the manning of the Armed Forces.

It has been said that in the days to come we must aim at disarmament and at

greater international unity, and with that aim every thoughtful and patriotic person must agree. We must not only hope but work for a happier future, a better international relationship than has yet been brought about, and a stronger United Nations organisation. We must hope and work for that, and a part of that work will be the gradual reduction in armaments and armed preparations, and the reduction in the Forces which will need to be maintained. But until that comes, we who are building a Socialist Britain are not prepared to leave it otherwise than sufficiently defended, and it is for that reason that I ask the House to reject the Amendment, which is a proposition of principle, and which seeks to debar the Government from bringing forward, in due course, a Measure for the continuance of military service, in conditions in which it can be fully and carefully debated and discussed. All these particular problems remain open. Any hon. Member who has a view on any of them will be entitled to speak and move Amendments when the time comes, but tonight I ask that the way shall be kept clear for the Bill to be introduced which His Majesty's Government believe is indispensable to the safety of this country and the fulfilment of our international obligations in the years ahead of us.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 53; Noes, 320.

Division No. 7.] AYES. [10.0 p.m
Allighan, Garry Horabin, T. L. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Ayles, W. H. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Scollan, T.
Barstow, P. G. Kenyon, C Skinnard, F. W.
Bowen, R. Longden, F. Sorensen, R. W.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) McGhee, H. G. Stephen, C.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) McGovern, J. Stokes, R. R.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Manning, Mrs. L, (Epping) Stubbs, A. E.
Byers, Frank Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Cooks, F. S. Morley, R. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Cove, W. G. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Viant, S. P.
Daggar, G. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Wadsworth, G
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Watkins, T. E.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Murray, J. D Williams, D J. (Neath)
Forman, J. C. Nally, W. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Ganley, Mrs. C S. Paton, J. (Norwich) Yates, V. F.
Goodrich H. E. Rankin, J
Grierson, E. Reeves, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gruffyd, Prof. W. J. Richards, R. Mrs. Paton and Mrs. Nichol.
Herbison, Miss M. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Austin, H. L.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Awbery, S. S.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Attewell, H. C. Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Bacon, Miss A,
Baldwin, A. E. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Mack, J. D.
Balfour, A. Gage, C. McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Gaitskell, H. T. N. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)
Barton, C. Gates, Maj. E. E. Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Gibbins, J. McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bechervaise, A. E. Gilzean, A. Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)
Berry, H. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Gooch, E. G. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Bing, G. H. C. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)
Binns, J. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Birch, Nigel Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Mainwaring, W. H.
Blackburn, A. R. Grey, C. F. Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Blenkinsop, A. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Mallalleu, J. P. W.
Blyton, W. R. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Grimston, R. V. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Bower, N. Gunter, Capt. R. J. Marquand, H. A.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Guy, W. H. Marsden, Capt. A.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hale, Leslie Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Marshall, F. (Brightside)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Mayhew, C. P.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Hardy, E. A. Mitchison, Maj. G. R.
Brown, George (Belper) Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Molson, A. H. E
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Harrison, J. Montague, F.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.
Bullock, Capt. M. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Burke, W. A. Head, Brig. A H. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Callaghan, James Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Morrison, Maj. J G. (Salisbury)
Carson, E. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Moyle, A.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Naylor, T. E.
Champion, A. J. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Chater, D. Hewitson, Capt. M. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Chetwynd, Capt. G. R. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Nicholson, G.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Hobson, C. R. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Clitherow, Dr. R. Hogg, Hon. Q. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Cluse, W. S. Hollis, M. C. Noel-Buxton, Lady.
Cobb, F. A. Holman, P. O'Brien, T.
Coldrick, W. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Oldfield, W. H.
Collick, P. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Oliver, G. H.
Collindidgn F. Hope, Lord J. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Colman, Miss G. M. House, G. Paget, R. T.
Comyns, Dr. L. Howard, Hon. A. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Hoy, J. Palmer, A. M. F.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well. N W.) Hubbard, T. Pargiter, G. A.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Parker, J.
Corvedale, Viscount Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pearson, A.
Crawley, A. Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.) Peart, Capt. T. F.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Perrins, W.
Grossman, R. H. S. Hurd, A. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Pitman, I. J.
Cuthbert, W. N. Irving, W. J Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)
Daines, P. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Poole. O. B. S. (Oswestry).
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jay, O. P. T. Porter, E. (Warrington)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Davidson, Viscountess Jones, D. T (Hartlepools) Pritt, D. N.
Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, SW.) Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Proctor, W. T.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Pursey, Cmdr. H
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Raikes, H. V.
De la Bere, R. Keeling, E. H. Ramsay, Maj. S
Delargy, Captain H. J. Keenan, W. Ranger, J.
Diamond, J. Key, C. W. Rayner, Brig. R.
Dodds-Parker, A. D King, E. M. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Donovan, T- Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Drayson, G. B. Kinley, J. Rhodes, H
Drewe, C. Kirby, B. V. Robens, A.
Driberg, T. E. N. Lavers, S. Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Lee, F. (Hulme) Roberts, W (Cumberland, N.)
Dumpleton, C. W. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Durbin, E. F. M. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Robinson Wing-Comdr, Roland
Duthie, W. S Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Rogers, G. H. R
Dye, S. Leonard, W. Ross, Sir R.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Leslie, J. R. Sanderson, Sir F
Edelman, M. Lever, N. H. Scott-Elliot, W.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.) Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Lipson, D. L. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Erroll, F. J. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Shephard, S (Newark)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Logan, D. G. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Lucas, Major Sir J. Simmons, C. J
Ewart, R. Lyne, A W Skeffington, A. M.
Fairhurst, F. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Farthing, W. J. McAdam, W. Smiles, Lt.-Col Sir W.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) McAllister, G. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Foot, M. M. Macdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) McEntee, V. La T Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Snow, Capt. J. W. Touche, G. C. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Soskice, Maj. Sir F. Turner-Samuels, M. Wigg, Col. G. E.
Spearman, A. C. M. Ungoed-Thomas, L Williams, C. (Torquay)
Stanley, Rt Hon. O Usborne, Henry Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Stross, Dr. B. [...], W. M. F. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray) Wakefield, Sir W. W Willis, E.
Summerskill, Dr Edith Walkden, E. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) Walker-Smith, D. Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) Wise, Major F. J.
Teeling, William Warbey, W. N. Woods, G. S.
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie Wyatt, W.
Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.) York, C.
Thomas, John R. (Dover) Weitzman, D. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Wells, W. T (Walsall)
Thornton-Kemsley, C. N West, D G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Thurtle, E. Wheatley, Colonel M. J Captain Michael Stewart and
Tiffany, S. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Mr. Popplewell.

Main Question again proposed.

It being after Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.