§ 22. Mr. Wyatt
asked the Minister of Labour the approximate age and service group for demobilisation that will haw been reached in each of the three services on 31st March, 1948, if the target of 1,087,000 men in the Forces announced in the White Paper on Defence of 14th February is reached; and what the maximum length of wartime service will be among those still not demobilised on 31st March, 1948.
§ 24. Brigadier Low
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is now in a position to announce the release programme up to 31st March, 1948.
§ Mr, Isaacs
The rate of release from the Forces does not depend only on the reduction in their total strength. It depends to a large extent on the rate of intake both of men called up and of volunteers. It is not possible, therefore, at this stage to give the information asked for.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have only asked him for an estimate? He must have a fair idea of how many people are likely to be called up. It should be perfectly simple to make the necessary calculations and to give an answer, because there are many people in the Services who want to know.
§ Mr Isaacs
I do not know much about mathematics, but I do not think that I can make mathematical calculations on a guessed estimate. The real point is that we do not know how many men will volunteer, and the extent to which they volunteer will make a difference in the number which we can release. Until we know that, I cannot give any figures.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
Will the Minister make it clear that it is still the policy of the Government that all people who served before 1st January this year will be released before the present conscripts are released from the Forces?
§ Mr. Isaacs
I can only repeat the answer which has been given on several occasions—that that is the hope of the Government and that we will carry it out if possible.
§ Brigadier Low
Will the Minister reconsider his answer, and if he cannot give a programme up to 31st March, which I admit is difficult, will he give it up to the last date for which he can foresee it? Does he not realise that if he cannot make these mathematical calculations, there are tens of thousands of members of the Forces concerned who can and do make these mathematical calculations, which often, result in great disappointment to themselves?
§ Mr. Benn Levy
Will my right hon. Friend attempt to make an estimate on the basis of the present rates of volunteering for the Services, with the proviso that if the rate varies, his estimate will, of course, vary accordingly?
§ Mr. Isaacs
We will give the figures to the end of this year as soon as it is possible to do so with accuracy. It would be wrong to make a guess as to what will happen after the end of this year, because that might only lead to disappointment.
§ Mr. Swingler
Will my right hon. Friend give a definite assurance, rather than express a hope, that men called up before 1st January this year will be definitely released before those called up later?
§ Mr. Isaacs
I understand that hope springs eternal in the human breast. I can only say that that is the intention of the Government. Untoward things may happen over which we have no control, but subject to that, it is the intention of the Government to keep that pledge.
§ Mr. James Callaghan
Is it not possible to say, quite frankly, that in no circumstances will a conscript called up after 1st January be released before men called up before 1st January?