HC Deb 04 December 1950 vol 482 cc103-5

Where any person on or after the fifteenth day of July nineteen hundred and fifty, voluntarily undertook to serve whole time in or with the regular forces whether for the period of the present emergency in Korea, or for a period of eighteen months for service in Korea, that person shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be a person who has entered upon a period of whole time service in the Armed Forces of the Crown in pursuance of a notice providing for the calling out on permanent service of a reserve force.—[Mr. Low.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Low

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Clause seeks to bring within the ambit of the Bill men who volunteered, at the request of the War Office at the beginning of August or the end of July, for 18 months' service with the colours or for such period during which they might be required. The Committee should be aware of the sort of men who were involved. This 18 months form of short-service engagement was not open to everybody but only to men who had served previously for at least 18 months. They had to be below the age of 30 and to have been released or discharged since 1st January, 1946, that is to say during the four and a half years.

7.15 p.m.

They were asked to put in this extra service on the ground of national interest at a time when we were perilously short of manpower. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary would agree with me that it was hoped that by getting these men to come forward it would be possible to expedite the despatch of men from the United Kingdom to Korea. The men answered the call in a patriotic spirit, and the Committee should be very careful to see that we treat them with true fairness and at least as well as we treat men who were called up at that time.

We may have to consider once again the difference, as the right hon. Gentleman has put it to the Committee, between one type of short-service engagement and another. I noticed with regret that the Parliamentary Secretary during the Second Reading debate indicated that the Minister had decided not to make any provision in the Bill for these men. Having referred to Korea and the 18 months' short-service men, he said: We considered this position but found, on balance, that we could hardly include in this Bill this and other types of short-term engagements which were not fundamentally different from other short-term engagements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 378.] I hope that the argument on an Amendment to an earlier Clause in the Bill will have convinced the Minister that it is possible to distinguish between one type of short-term engagement and another. At any rate, so far as these men are concerned, we can distinguish purely by length of service.

Here is an engagement of only 18 months. There is no question of three or four years. There are no engagements of a Regular type for such a short period. One should also remember, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, that these men were ex-Service men and that when they volunteered for an extra 18 months they accepted the obligations of Regular reservists who are covered in the Bill. They were voluntarily extending their reservist obligations at a time when we wanted men very badly. I beseech the Minister to see what he can do to get these men within the ambit of the Bill.

In regard to the difficulties to which he referred at an earlier point this afternoon. I am sure that a period of 18 months will not really worry patriotic employers at all, because they will willingly accept a reinstatement obligation in cases of that kind. I have stated the case for these men as I see it. I would express my regret, and I do it in no partisan spirit, that the right hon. Gentleman has not found it possible between the Second Reading and now to put in a Clause of his own to bring these patriotic men within the Bill.

Mr. McCorquodale rose

Mr. Isaacs

I think I can save a good deal of time for the Committee. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low), will not expect me to follow through his arguments when I tell him that I accept the principle of his proposed new Clause and what he has in mind, and that I shall have an Amendment drafted to put into the Bill.

Mr. McCorquodale

I am very grateful to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. The consciences of all of us were a little unhappy after the Second Reading when we realised that men who had volunteered for service to the country when there were all sorts of harrowing tales about the fighting in Korea were being deliberately excluded from what others were getting. It seemed a little incongruous, to say the least of it. I was a little unhappy on that point, and therefore I am delighted to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Low

I was also delighted to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said. I would beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.