HC Deb 24 October 1949 vol 468 cc1084-8
Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to move, on page 12, line 33, after "out," to insert "for overseas service."

As the Committee will be fully aware, the absence of these words is due to a pure inadvertence, because without them there would be no point in this paragraph. The Committee will remember from what was said on Second Reading of this Bill, that the whole object of subsection (2, b) is to make it possible to place a man, when he is due to be transferred to the Army Reserve, into what is known as Section A of that Reserve for the first year of his Reserve service. The general principle of doing that was discussed fairly fully on Second Reading.

As the Committee is aware, there is a problem, if we are to rely merely on those who volunteer to undertake this Section A liability, of getting the requisite number as well as getting the kind of reservists with the necessary skill to make up the Reserve which we need. It is generally accepted that it is desirable for the proper defence of this country that the Reserve that could be called out speedily in time of emergency should be greater than it is at present. This was one device to that end—that a Regular soldier transferred to the Army Reserve should have the first year of his Reserve service in what is known as Section A of the Reserve, if he is one of the designated men. I trust, therefore, that the Committee will be willing to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to move, in page 12, to leave out lines 35 to 47, and to insert: (c) without prejudice to the provisions of the last foregoing paragraph, any man of the army reserve, whether he entered the reserve on transfer or re-engagement or on being enlisted or on being deemed to be enlisted, shall, if he has entered into an agreement in writing to be so liable at the time in question, be liable at any time during his service in the army reserve to be so called out for overseas service. The Amendment, in effect, takes paragraphs (c) and (d) and compresses them into one. In doing that it makes certain minor alterations in the actual sense of the paragraphs. The alterations which are produced are three in number. The first is that the category of men who may voluntarily undertake the liability for overseas service is extended from those who are transferred to the Reserve to those who re-engage or re-enlist as well. The second effect produced is that a man might voluntarily undertake this liability to be sent overseas, not merely at any time during the first five years of his service in the reserve, but thereafter as well. The effect of these two alterations is simply to widen the field from which the volunteers who accept this liability may come.

The third alteration is that the phrase whose character on transfer was good is removed from the Bill, because on the whole it is more convenient to enforce conditions of that kind by administrative. action than it is by legislation. Except for those points, the Amendment merely tidies up paragraphs (c) and (d) and causes a new paragraph that takes their place to refer both to the Reserve and to the Supplementary Reserve. As a result of that, some further abbreviations and greater tidiness are possible in certain later parts of the Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

Brigadier Head

I beg to move, in page 13, line 1, after "not," to insert: without his consent in writing. The object of this Amendment is to assist the Government, and in our opinion the necessity for it is due to what one may call a consequential omission. Under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, there is a provision that a militia man—that is to say a man who voluntarily enlists in the Regular Army Reserve without having served in the Regular Forces—if he agrees in writing, shall be liable to be called up and serve overseas for the whole period of his reserve obligation without any proclamation.

Under the Amendment which has just been accepted the militia man is transferred from Clause 12 (2, d) to Clause 12 (2, c) and as a result of that alteration in the succeeding paragraph the liability of the militia man to serve for a period exceeding 12 months overseas is cancelled. If the Amendment is accepted it will ensure that in the event of a militia man consenting in writing to this obligation, which hitherto every militia man has done, he would be able to serve for the full period of four years and would be liable for the whole of that period for service overseas without proclamation. This Amendment, if accepted, would remove an anomaly which results from the previous Amendment.

Mr. M. Stewart

We shall be very happy to accept the Amendment. The previous Amendment had the result that the hon. and gallant Gentleman describes. We considered that the circumstances in which we should require a man with the militia to serve overseas for more than 12 months would in all probability be an emergency of such a character that special legislation would be introduced. There is the possibility that, for one reason or another, one might require their services for a period totalling more than 12 months, even if special emergency legislation had not been required. The number of situations in which the Amendment would have effect seems likely to be small. Nevertheless, the position might conceivably arise, and in that case we should be glad of the power which the Amendment confers.

Amendment agreed to.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to move, in page 13, line 19, to leave out subsection (5).

This Amendment is consequential upon the rearrangement made in a previous Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 13, line 23, leave out subsection (6) and insert: ( ) The number of the men liable to be called out by virtue of agreements made for the purposes of paragraph (c) of subsection (2) of this section, being either men of the militia or other men—

  1. (a) deemed to be enlisted in the army reserve for part-time service under the National Service Act, 1948, or
  2. (b) enlisted in the army reserve (whether in pursuance of section two of that Act or otherwise) for service in lieu of part-time service under that Act,
shall not at any one time exceed fifteen thousand. ( ) The aggregate number of the men for the time being designated under paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of this section and men (other than such as are mentioned in the last foregoing subsection) for the time being liable to be called out by virtue of agreements made for the purposes of paragraph (c) thereof shall not exceed thirty thousand."—[Mr. M. Stewart.]

Mr. Stewart

I beg to move, in page 13, line 40, after "re-engages," to insert "or enlists."

The reason for the Amendment will be apparent to the Committee. As the subsection stands it lays down that a man who re-engages in the reserve after the Bill comes into force will be subject to the new liabilities which the Bill imposes, for the obvious reason that he does it knowing what the liabilities are and with his eyes open. If this is so, with the men who re-engage, it is clearly more so with the man who enlists, who has been in the Reserve and has come out of it for a time. It is clear that he should be treated in the same way for these purposes as the man who re-engages in the Reserve.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

I would congratulate the Minister of Defence upon doing what he has always been advised from the other side not to do—to yield to the advice from his own benches. Hon. Members on the other side, after advising the Minister not to yield, have been able to congratulate him on not doing so. This Clause carries out a reform which has been pressed from this side since the beginning of this Parliament, and to do them justice, by hon. Members opposite, after about a year from the beginning of this Parliament. It is an excellent reform, upon which I congratulate the Minister.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.