§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 5, line 45, after "if," to insert:he has not attained the age of thirty-six years and is.This is really a drafting Amendment. We moved an Amendment on the Committee stage to put this limit in an earlier Clause. I think it is desirable that it should appear also in this Clause to make it absolutely clear that the liability to be called up shall not continue to exist until a man reaches his century and perhaps beyond.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Alexander
I beg to move, in page 6, line 2, to leave out "and paragraphs 2 and 3."
This and the following Amendment are drafting Amendments which I promised to introduce on the Committee stage. They are designed to make the Bill fit the concessions we made to the House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 6, line 4, leave out "they apply," and insert "it applies."—[Mr. Alexander.]
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 6, line 7, to leave out Subsection (2), and to insert:(2) No person who has been entered or enlisted under the National Service Acts before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and is serving in the armed forces of the Crown under those Acts at the commencement of this Act shall be required to continue to serve therein after the commencement of this Act.After the success with which our last two Amendments have met, I should like to think that in this respect, with this more important Amendment, we might score a "hat trick." I say that, because all we are seeking to do here is to put into statutory form a pledge which the Government have given already. That pledge is contained in Paragraph [...] of the White Paper "Call Up To The Forces in 1947 and 1948" Cmd. 6831. A 2454 White Paper has not the sanctity of the Statute Book and, although it may appear unusual in these days, Ministers do come and go—[Interruption]—and will go. We think it desirable that this pledge should be recorded in the most formal manner possible, that is, in an Act of Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman, having made the pledge, wishes to adhere to it, as I am sure he does, I cannot see what possible convincing arguments he can put forward for resisting the incorporation of that pledge in an Act of Parliament. Therefore, I hope that he will now accept this Amendment, which we discussed at some length when it was moved on the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I wonder if we might have your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Are we to discuss at the same time the Amendment in page 6, line 12, to insert:(3) No person who has been entered or enlisted for service in the Armed Forces of the Crown under the National Service Acts after the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-six, and before the commencement of this Act shall be required to serve therein under those Acts for a period longer than the appropriate period in accordance with the Schedule to this Act (Periods of service for men called up in 1947 and 1948).This Subsection shall come into force on the passing of this Act.If so, may I refer very shortly to the Amendment on the Paper—page 10, line 38, at the end, to insert:(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act male British subjects called up for service in the year nineteen hundred and forty-five or the year nineteen hundred and forty-six shall be released after a period not exceeding two-and-a-half years.This Subsection shall come into force on the passing of this Act.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member is seconding the Amendment, it might be for the convenience of the House to take the two together.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
On a point of Order. I did not refer to the Amendment in page 6, line 12. If it is convenient to discuss that Amendment at the same time, I should like to say a few words about it. I understood that I was dealing only with the Amendment in page 6, line 7.
§ Mr. Speaker
I thought the hon. and learned Member had connected his Amendment with the Amendment to line 12. If not, we had better deal with them separately. Perhaps some hon. Member will second the first Amendment.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I did not wish to disturb the learned Attorney-General any more than I could possibly avoid. I beg formally to second the Amendment.
§ Brigadier Low
I should like to add a point or two to what my hon. and learned Friend has said. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the arguments used on another occasion when this Amendment was pressed. On that occasion his only defence for his action in refusing it was that he thought it was undesirable to give statutory effect in the Bill to a pledge given by the Government. I can imagine that the reason why he thinks it is undesirable is because the Government would like to treat the age and length of service principle on an administrative basis. I cannot however understand why he should like to treat like that the amount of service which has to be put in by the man now in the Forces, when he was so very careful, right at the beginning of the Committee stage, to treat the length of service of those who were to be called up under this Bill on a statutory basis, even when he had the power to treat it on an administrative basis. It seems to me that the Government have used this argument entirely to suit their own ends. Here is a pledge which one would imagine the Government would honour. Why, then, cannot it be put in statutory form?
§ Mr. Alexander
I would say, with regard to both these Amendments—the one which has been moved and the other which has been referred to—that I regret very much that I feel unable to accept them. I am sorry that all the arguments adduced in the course of the Committee stage, resisting the suggestion which was then made, did not carry sufficient weight, and I will try to repeat the main points now. In the first place, with regard to the Amendment to secure the insertion of these words in the Bill, it is really irrelevant to the purpose of the Bill. This is a Bill to set up powers for national service in peacetime of men who will not be called to the colours until after 1st January, 1949, and this is an attempt to bring into the Bill certain specific provisions, with regard both to the men who are already being dealt with under the age and service groups release scheme, that is those who were enlisted before 1947, and also with regard to personnel enlisted in 1947 and 1948, special conditions in respect of whom have already 2456 been considered and accepted nemine contradicente by the House in the White Paper which has been quoted.
With regard to the Amendment which refers to men called up in 1947 and 1948, the actual terms fixed for their service were two years, tapering down to 18 months, and the conditions are clearly set out in the Command Paper. In respect of those personnel, I have given a specific pledge than no one called up in 1947 and 1948, shall be retained to serve a period which will continue after the end of the first period of service of men called up on 1st January, 1949, under this Bill. I am unable, I am sorry to say, to accept what would be the logical outcome of the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member and which would be put into a Schedule for that would impose fixed dates as set out in the Schedule.
In the current interim period it is impossible with the rapid run down of the Forces and especially of the Army to put these things down month by month. I gave the pledge and I repeat it that with few exceptions all these men will be so treated that their service will be tapered off so as not to require any of them to serve after the end of 1949. In the tapering process, which we ask the House to leave to the Government in the interests of the needs of the Services, men called up in 1947 and 1948 will benefit to some extent by a shorter period of service than they expected to be called up to perform. If they are still not satisfied about that I would remind the House in addition that none of these men will be called up for compulsory part-time training in the following six years as those who are called up after 1st January, 1949, will be. As regards the men referred to in the first Amendment—
§ Mr. Speaker
I have called only the first Amendment, and I have decided to take the second Amendment separately.
§ Mr. Alexander
I give the assurance to the House that the pledge will be carried out, and I also want to assure the House that it is absolutely essential in the interests of the Services that the matter be left to those performing the administration who will arrange for the tapering off of the service of these men. I feel certain that hon. Members will 2457 accept that decision and will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hollis
I am at a loss to understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument when he says he is unable to accept this Amendment. I cannot see how the word "unable" can be used in this context. The right hon. Gentleman has argued that this Amendment is irrelevant to the purpose of the Bill, but with all respect, if you, Mr. Speaker, saw fit to call this Amendment I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman can argue that it is irrelevant to the purpose of the Bill. As for his further argument about the fixed periods and the Government being unable to commit themselves to the release of people in the present state of the world, I cannot see what bearing that has upon the Amendment. The Amendment does not lay down the precise amount. It lays down that no manshall be required to continue to serve after the commencement of this Act,which is precisely the time for which the right hon. Gentleman has given his pledge that the men will not be required to serve. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he seems to be ignorant of the meaning of the word "unable." He did not attempt to mislead the House, but when he said he was "unable" to do this, it is simply something which is untrue.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), I am astonished at the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I do not think I misrepresent him when I say that he said he accepted the purpose of the Amendment, and indeed that the Government would carry it out, but that it was irrelevant to the purpose of this Bill, to put in this provision. He supported that view by saying that this Bill dealt with people called up after 1st January, 1949. If the right hon. Gentleman had the most rudimentary knowledge of this Bill he would know that it is full of detailed provisions affecting the people at present serving, and people who will be called up between now and 1st January, 1949. The right hon. Gentleman can look at Clause 15 which, as the Bill provides,shall come into force on the passing of this Act.That is the provision dealing with people called up at the age of 17½. Or he might 2458 look at the detailed and elaborate amendments to existing legislation contained in Clause 17, all of whichshall come into force on the passing of this ActWhen, by this very Bill, the right hon. Gentleman is amending the existing law under which people are being held and called up at this moment, he cannot get away from this Amendment by saying that it is irrelevant to the purpose of the Bill because it affects people called up before 1st January, 1949. The right hon. Gentleman is doing a rather dangerous thing. If he resists, as he is apparently doing, the attempt to put his Government's own pledge into statutory form, on grounds which I would describe as "piffle" and "poppycock"—I understand those are Parliamentary expressions—he will inevitably give rise in certain quarters to doubts as to the good faith of the Government in carrying out their pledge.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
I would like to clarify two points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence, because I am not sure that I understood him correctly. I understood him to say that he had given a pledge, but that, for various reasons, it was not possible to include it in statutory form. As I understood him, the pledge was that the service of certain people would be tapered off so that nobody who is now serving or is going to be called up under the present provisions will be serving after the end of 1949. That is very interesting, but it is an entirely different situation from what is considered in this Amendment.
As I understand it, this Amendment deals with those people who entered or enlisted before 1st January, 1947, and seeks to relieve them of national service from 1st January, 1949, and not from the last day of January, 1949. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman meant to mislead the House, but he has not answered this Amendment in any way. He is considering an entirely different class of people. I think I know the class of people whom he is considering. He is considering those who are going to be called up in January, 1948, which is dealt with in the next Amendment. Therefore, he has not answered this Amendment. If he is prepared to give a pledge that people who entered or enlisted before 1947 should be demobilised before 1st January, 1949, 2459 he ought to give that pledge in addition to the one which he has given in relation to the next Amendment, and if he is prepared to give that pledge he ought to put it into statutory form.
§ Mr. Alexander
I think it is only right that I should reply to that last point, with the permission of the House. I was going on to deal with the second matter, when you, Mr. Speaker, pointed out that I was dealing, perhaps, with the wrong pledge, and perhaps I had got the two Amendments inverted. I would only say with regard to the people who were enlisted before the beginning of 1947, that they are covered by the age and service group procedure laid down in a White Paper which was presented to the House and which has been faithfully observed. I am unable to accept the Amendment proposed on their behalf, because it would not be to the benefit, but to the detriment, of the Services themselves. I have already explained that the run-down of the Forces already is so rapid that if we are to avoid completely unbalancing the organisation, we must adhere to the age and service groups scheme as it is now operating. Every one of the men covered by this Amendment knows which age and service group he is in. In the best interests of the Services themselves, I must ask the House to accept my advice, and not to accept this Amendment. I hope the House will accept my assurance that I am doing this in the best interests of the Services.
§ a slight difficulty. I think we have got confused between the Amendment we are now discussing and an Amendment which Mr. Speaker will call subsequently, because not only the first argument of the right hon. Gentleman but even his second argument seemed to be devoted to the Amendment we shall discuss later. This Amendment simply lays down what I understood, and what I thought the whole House had understood, was a pledge which the right hon. Gentleman had given. It asks for no change. It is not a question of tapering off or running down too quickly. It simply says that everybody who was in the Services before 1st January, 1947, will be out before 1st January, 1949. That, I understand, was the pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman. That being so, I do not see the relevance of his last argument, that he could not accept this Amendment because it would be against the interests of the Services. How can it be against the interests of the Services to accept an Amendment on the exact lines of the pledge he has already given? Even if he cannot accept this Amendment—and we propose to divide on it—will he at any rate make quite plain that nothing he has said tonight in any way detracts from the pledge, in the terms of this Amendment, which he has already given?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 206; Noes, 92.2461
|Division No. 223.]||AYES.||[10.13 p.m|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pt, Exch'ge)||Delargy, H. J|
|Adams, W T (Hammersmith, South)||Bramall, E. A.||Diamond, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Debbie, W.|
|Allen, A. C (Bosworth)||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Dodds, N. N|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brown, George (Belper)||Donovan, T.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Buchanan, G.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Burke, W. A.||Durbin, E. F. M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Champion, A. J||Dye, S.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs B||Chater, D||Ede, Rt Hon. J. C.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Chetwynd, G. R.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Baird J.||Coldrick, W.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)|
|Balfour, A.||Collindridge, F.||Evans, John (Ogmore)|
|Barton, C||Collins, V J||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Colman, Miss G. M||Ewart, R.|
|Bellenger, Rt Hon. F. J||Comyns, Dr. L.||Fairhurst, F.|
|Berry, H.||Cook, T. F.||Farthing, W J.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Corvedale, Viscount||Field, Capt. W. J.|
|Binns, J.||Crawley, A||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Blackburn, A R||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Blenkinsop, A||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Blyton, W. R||Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)|
|Boardman, H.||Deer, G.||Gibbins, J.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Gibson, C W.|
|Gilzean, A||Lipton, Lt.-Cot. M||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Logan, D. G.||Sharp, Granville|
|Gooch, E. G||Longden, F.||Shawcross Rt Hn Sir H (St Helens)|
|Gordon-Walker, P C||McEntee, V La T||Shurmer, P|
|Greenwood, A. W J (Heywood)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||McKinley, A. S.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||McLeavy, F.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Gunter, R. J||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Smith, S. H (Hull, S W)|
|Guy, W. H||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Haire, John E (Wycombe)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F|
|Hall, W. G.||Marquand, H. A||Sparks, J. A|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R||Medland, H. M||Steele, T.|
|Hardy, E. A||Messer, F.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Harrison, J.||Mitchison, G. R||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Moody, A. S.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Morgan, Dr. H. B||Swingler, S.|
|Holman, P.||Morley, R.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)||Mort, D. L||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|House, G||Nally, W.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Hoy, J||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Hubbard, T.||Nicholls, H. R (Stratford)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E (Brantford)||Titterington, M. F|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Tolley, L|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Oldfield, W. H||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G.|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Oliver, G. H||Vernon, Maj. W F|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Orbach, M.||Walkden, E|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Paget, R. T.||Wallace, G. D (Chislehurst)|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Watson, W. M.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St Pancras, S.E.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|John, W.||Pargiter, G. A||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Pearson, A||Wigg, Col. G. E|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Peart, Capt. T. F||Wilkins, W. A|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Williams, J. L (Kelvingrove)|
|Keenan, W||Price, M. Philips||Williamson, T|
|Kenyon, C||Pritt, D N.||Willis, E.|
|Kinley, J.||Proctor, W T||Woodburn, A|
|Kirby, B. V||Randall, H. E||Woods, G. S|
|Lavers, S.||Ranger, J.||Wyatt, W.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Young, Sir R (Newton)|
|Leonard, W.||Rhodes, H||Zilliacus, K|
|Leslie, J R.||Richards, R|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Mr Hannan and Mr. Popplew|
|Lindgren, G. S||Segal, Dr. S|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Gridley, Sir A.||Peto, Brig. C. H M|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V H||Harvey, Air-Comdre A V||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Beechman, N. A||Head, Brig. A. H.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O|
|Birch, Nigel||Hollis, M. C.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells)||Howard, Hon. A.||Ramsay, Maj. S|
|Bossom, A. C||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C (Hillhead)|
|Bowen, R.||Hurd, A.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Bower, N.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Hutchison, Col. J R. (Glasgow, C.)||Ropner, Col. L|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Jennings, R.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Kendall, W. D.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Langford-Holt, J.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Byers, Frank||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Channor, H.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Studholme, H. G|
|Clarke, Col. R S.||Lipson, D. L.||Sutcliffe, H|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Low, Brig. A. R. W||Teeling, William|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Thomas, J. P. L (Hereford)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A F|
|Darling, Sir W Y||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Touche, G. C.|
|Digby, S. W.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Wadsworth, G|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W||Marlowe, A A. H||Ward, Hon. G. R|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Marsden, Capt. A||Wheatley, Colonel M J|
|Fox, Sir G.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||White, J. B (Canterbury)|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Maude, J. C.||Willoughby de Eresby Lords|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||York, C|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P M||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C E|
|Gage, C.||Nicholson, G||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Nield, B. (Chester)||Mr. Drewe and|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Noble, Comdr A. H P||Commander Agnew|
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 6, line 12, at the end, to insert:(3) No person who has been entered or enlisted for service in the armed forces of the Crown under the National Service Acts after the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-six, and before the commencement of this Act shall be required to serve therein under those Acts for a period longer than the appropriate period in accordance with the Schedule to this Act (Periods of service for men called up in 1947 and 1948).This Subsection shall come into force on the passing of this Act.This is an Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman has already directed a great many of his observations, and I am not at all optimistic about the effect that my arguments will have on this occasion. I do not think it is necessary to take up very much time in elaborating our arguments, but I want to put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. In the White Paper on call-up to the Forces, paragraph 5, there is set out a schedule showing the way in which service was going to be tapered down from two years to 18 months. It is quite clear, and the right hon. Gentleman has already said that he recognises the fact, that the alteration in this Bill of 18 months whole-time service to 12 months must affect that tapering down. We have put on the Order Paper a new Schedule which goes with this Amendment. In it we have sought to effect that tapering down. I am rather at a loss as to the precise difference in value between a pledge of this Government in a White Paper and a pledge contained in a Statute, but I do say that if the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to accept this Amendment, and the Schedule in which we have tried to put the tapering down in the right way, as we see it, at least he ought to give an undertaking that at the earliest possible moment he will publish a paragraph which will replace paragraph 5 of the White Paper, and will show to the public and to the men affected what the tapering down is to be. If he was able to do it in the White Paper when compulsory service was to be 18 months, surely there is no valid argument, unless those in the Forces are to be penalised as a result of his decision, for not doing the same thing now that the period of service has been reduced to 12 months.
§ Brigadier Peto
I beg to second the Amendment.
2464 In the last few posts I have had letters asking exactly what terms the writers' sons or apprentices may have to serve during the coming two years. Whether they are called up in June or in March, the public have no idea whether they will be called up when they are exactly 18 years old or what terms of service they will have to perform. As the hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, it is high time this information was published in the Press so that every one may know what their obligations are and what will be the terms of service. I suggest that this Amendment should be agreed to as it sets out, month by month, exactly what shall be the terms of service.
§ Mr. Alexander
I very much regret I cannot accept the Amendment in the terms in which it has been moved. As I have said already, I have given a very specific pledge that, with a few individual exceptions, none of the men affected by the Schedule in paragraph 5 of the White Paper will be required, whatever the term laid down, to serve after December, 1949. That pledge has been given. Some of them might go in to the Service for a year and a half if they were called up in 1948, and they might under the White Paper go on well into 1950. We shall not now ask them to serve in any period which lasts beyond 1949.
§ Mr. Stanley
Is not the right hon. Gentleman speaking on the wrong Amendment? Surely he only gives that date for the call-up after 1949?
§ Mr. Alexander
No. I have turned up the actual pledge. I will read out the words of the pledge. It is as follows, and these are my own words:It will be the aim of the Government to ensure that so far as practicable all men called up before the new Bill comes into force on 1st January, 1949"—and it certainly, therefore, includes the two classes, 1947 arid 1948—will be released from whole-time service with the Forces before the first of the men called up under the Bill. But I should make it clear that it may not be possible to avoid exceptions to this aim in individual cases and for short periods:"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1947; Vol. 437. c. 447.]I went on to give the details of what the possible exceptions might be. That pledge we stick to absolutely. The Amendment would take us beyond that. It seeks to 2465 make us begin at once to lay down reductions of service for men called up after December, 1946. The Service authorities do not feel that they are in a position to lay down a detailed schedule of that kind at the moment, because of the needs of the Services. For the same reason, I am unable to accept the Amendment. I assure the House that the paragraphs in the White Paper are relevant to what we are now discussing and cover this matter; they cover the men called up in 1947 and 1948. The pledge will be strictly observed.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Paragraph 5 of the White Paper sets out a schedule tapering down the period of service to 18 months. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether, now that the period of whole-time service is reduced to 12 months, he will promise a new edition of that paragraph. We have had no answer, and no reason.
§ Mr. Alexander
I have said that, at the moment, the Service authorities do not feel themselves able to produce such a tapering-off, because of the needs of the Services in this transitional period. We are doing our best to try to release the men of longer service. On the other hand, we are trying to ensure that in carrying out the age and service group release scheme, men are called up in 1947 and 1948 for specific periods, to assist us in the carry over. Therefore, I cannot undertake to reduce substantially the periods of service of those who are called up in the early part of 1947. We will endeavour by a tapering off process to do something to help them. But I cannot at the present moment produce a schedule of the kind referred to.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I would like to put two points to the right hon. Gentleman. One is a very large point and one is rather small, and both can be put shortly. The large point—a point can be large even in mathematics—is that the right hon. Gentleman much too often this evening has said something to the effect that the Service authorities could not have this or that, and are unwilling to do something or other. That kind of observation cannot possibly be an answer in this House. We quite understand that the Minister must be much influenced by what the Service authorities say, but Ministers must give the arguments to the House. They 2466 cannot merely say, "The Service authorities cannot do this." That is not the way they treated us about the question of eighteen versus twelve months. The liner point I would like to put is this. In regard to both these Amendments the Minister has given us more than one assurance that there shall be a tapering off But the word "tapering" is not appropriate unless there is some continuity. By rejecting these two Amendments, the right hon. Gentleman is really making the thing into a series of bulges or steps rather than something which tapers. In particular, he refers to what he calls possible exceptions. He has asked us more than once to believe that the age and service group system would be worked equitably. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman to ask the Service Ministers to give special attention at a later stage in the Bill to this small point. In calculating age and service groups, I am informed that in the Services, the six months which many of these young men spend as cadets in university towns, although not doing university business, is not counted as service. I very much doubt whether it is legally competent for the Service authorities to take that line, but no one would be likely to challenge them on the point. I should like an assurance that this will be looked into carefully by the Service Ministers to see whether it is proper, in a system of age and service groups, that months spent in that way should be omitted from the calculation. There is no doubt that it is felt to be grossly inequitable. We ought to have some assurance—and it is best to have it from the right hon. Gentleman, because all three Service Ministers are concerned—that that will be looked into, with a real intention to arrive at equity, and not merely to do what the Service Departments want.
§ Mr. Byers
I think the House, before it leaves this Amendment, should be clear that there is a difference between this Amendment and the pledge which the Minister has given. The Minister read out that pledge, and I think it was a good idea to refresh the memory of the House. By putting this Amendment in the Bill, as I see it, we put a statutory obligation on the Service authorities to release certain people at a certain time. The Minister said he would do his best, and would give also a guarantee that these people would 2467 be released, except for certain individuals. There is a big difference between that pledge and the Amendment on the Order Paper. I feel that from the point of view of the individual—and after all the Debate on these two Amendments has been a battle of the individual against the Service Departments—it is right and proper to have this Amendment included in the Bill. I was a little surprised that the Minister, in answering the arguments for this Amendment, dealt only with what I might call the straight cases, those about whom there is no query and who are called up on a certain date, and who do their service. But I have had a number of inquiries recently about the case of a person called up in 1947 or 1948, whose service is then postponed for two years. Is is not necessary to clarify in this Clause the point as to whether a person called up registered under existing legislation, has to do his military service under the Bill we are now considering. This is an opportunity for clarifying that issue. This Clause is going to affect a number of people whose service is postponed for a year or eighteen months and I should be glad if the Minister could say a word or two about that matter.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
There is one other question arising out of what the right hon. Gentleman said, when he quoted his own guarantee to those who are called up before this Bill comes into operation. That is the matter of Service requirements. Some weeks ago I put a Question to the Secretary of State for War, and got an assurance, certainly in the case of the particular trades about which I asked him, on this subject. It is obvious that the Minister's decision to reduce from eighteen months to twelve months the period of call-up has put the Service authorities in an extremely difficult position. He comes down to the House tonight and says that the Service authorities simply cannot produce the tapering-off scale—the exact dates at which men will be released between 1947 and 1949. It seems to me that the Minister is directly responsible for that and being directly responsible, he owes it not only to the House but to all men who are going to be called up in that grade to give them some indication of two things. The first is whether they are going to be retained for a period 2468 which will carry them into the period after the first year of National Service under this Bill. The second is—and I think he should give an assurance of this as soon as possible—that he will produce a schedule on the lines indicated by this Amendment, giving the exact dates. The least the Minister ought to do tonight is to give some idea to the House that he can produce figures which will put these people's minds at rest. The hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) raised the matter of correspondence which he had received. I can assure him that I have had more worries expressed about this particular aspect of the Bill than about any other issue arising out of the Bill. I warn the Minister that if he does not do this, he is going to cause a great deal of uncertainty throughout the country and a great deal of unnecessary discontent. It is up to him tonight if he cannot accept a plan in the Schedule consequential on this amendment, at least to give us some indication that he will be able to release the date.
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not want to appear discourteous in any way. I think that I can confine what I have to say to a very few words which will really cover the point which the hon. and gallant Member has just made. It is this: that every one of the men to be called up in the years 1947, 1948 that is, men covered by this Amendment knows specifically, at present, that his total service will not be more than the figures set out in the White Paper. It is a period of fixed service. I have given a pledge to the House and therefore to the men concerned that in view of the introduction of this new Bill to deal with new classes of men to be called up after January, 1949, none of them shall be called upon to serve after the period covered by the first twelve months service under the new Act. Therefore, I have already made them a substantial concession. In the interest of the Service I have already said that we cannot at the present time do more than promise to taper their service down so as to give them the advantage of the pledge in the best possible way we cap to fit needs of the Services. I would say further that we will endeavour, with regard to particulars, next time we issue a White Paper, to bring the position up-to-date, and to give the firmest information 2469 we can of the position of these specific classes of men.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Could the Minister promise at least that some consideration be given to my point about the Y scheme, and other similar cadets, and their age and service group, which I gather is not fairly considered at present?
§ Mr. Alexander
I thought that point was out of Order on this Amendment. But I promise that the record in HANSARD will be examined specially from that point of view.
§ Amendment negatived.