HC Deb 14 December 1948 vol 459 cc1155-6

Lords Amendment considered.

CLAUSE 2.—(Occasion for and period of recall.)

Lords Amendment: In page 2, line 23, at end insert: Provided that notwithstanding anything in Section seventy-six of the Army Act or Section seventy-six of the Air Force Act any such person shall, if on his recall he so requires, be so enlisted for the said period in accordance with the provisions of Section eighty of the Army Act or Section eighty of the Air Force Act (which provide for the procedure on enlistment) as the case may require, and thereupon he shall not be deemed to have been enlisted by virtue of the foregoing provisions of this subsection.

10.49 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is not a matter which need detain the House long, but it is of interest and importance to the main concern of this Bill. The Bill relates to men who have been voluntary soldiers or airmen, and may require from them, in an emergency, a second term of service. There is no doubt that, should the emergency arise, the great majority of these men would volunteer to come forward and give that service, statute or no statute. It is, therefore, fitting that they should have an opportunity to express their willingness by entering into a second form of enlistment in the usual form of voluntary enlistment, instead of becoming simply men deemed to have been enlisted by virtue of the wording of this Bill.

It will give them the right to say that they have always been in fact and in law willing soldiers, and we have every reason to believe that that is not regarded by them as being a point of negligible importance. I mentioned, when this Bill was passing through this House, in reply to an inquiry by the hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), that it was the desire of the Government to make an arrangement of this kind. There was, however, a legal difficulty, in that the Army Act and the Air Force Act did not make any provision for enlistment of indefinite duration, such as the length of time of an emergency. The proposed Amendment removes the legal obstacle, and makes it possible to enshrine the Government's intentions in this Bill. It is an attractive and almost a romantic Amendment, and I commend it to the House.

10.53 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

I am sure that the House will agree with the noble Lords in this Amendment. It is definitely an improvement to the Bill, in that it gives a pensioner the right to carry on his service as a volunteer, as he originally served. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) will appreciate what the Government have done to carry out the intention, which, I think, he first put forward in the debate on this Bill in the House. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more, except to say that we welcome the Amendment, and hope that if this Measure is ever brought into operation, steps will be taken to inform the recalled pensioners of the option given under it. It may be that, in the absence of any instructions at that time, this provision will not be drawn to their attention to enable these people to avail themselves of it. If so, this provision will not avoid the irritation which will be created.

I hope it will be many a long year and perhaps never, before this Measure will be called into operation; I hope the circumstances will not arise that make it necessary. I cannot ask the hon. Member to give an undertaking that will bind him and all his successors for the years to come to insure that the information is brought to the attention of those affected, but I can ask him to take steps to see that when the pensioner is recalled he is notified of the option given him.