HC Deb 08 February 1951 vol 483 cc1906-8
3. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement as to the occupations which he intends to treat as reserved occupations for the purpose of the recall of Reservists and in an emergency.

10. Mr. A. R. W. Low

asked the Minister of Labour what are the occupations in which men will be reserved for industry in the event of general mobilisation, referred to in paragraph 5 of Command Paper 8146.

Mr. Bevan

These lists are at present purely provisional and subject to change from time to time. Consultation on them with the two sides of industry is about to begin, and they could not at this stage usefully be published. On security grounds it is desirable not to publish them earlier than necessary.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

is it the right hon. Gentleman's intention to publish them before their effect indirectly becomes apparent owing to the selection of men for call up as Z reservists this summer?

Mr. Bevan

No. The hon. Member's Question refers to "an emergency" and it would not be desirable to let a potential enemy know the sort of occupations which are at the moment restricted.

Mr. Low

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is on the other side of the balance sheet, as it were, an enormous advantage to be gained by cer- tainty in this matter both from the points of view of the person concerned and of his own Department? The Service Departments may be guilty of counting men twice unless they know whether they are reserved or not.

Mr. Bevan

I think it is desirable, where we can speak about broad reservations, to give information as early as possible, and I will do that. But I think Members on all sides of the House will agree that there are some special kinds of reservations which it would not be desirable to publish.

4. Mr. Macdonald

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give an assurance that in occupations where there will be a selective call-up, Class Z reservists will, wherever possible, be given the opportunity of deferred positions in preference to those persons who were in these positions during the last war.

Mr. Bevan

No. Sir. This would be quite impracticable.

Mr. Macdonald

Why would it be impracticable in the case of certain reserved occupations in which there may be surplus manpower at present? If any have to go can it not be those who were able to dodge the last war?

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Member seems to have forgotten the purpose of the exercise which is about to be undertaken. It is to refresh the training of those who have already been trained.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could the Minister explain what is the position of Members of Parliament who are in the Z Reserve?

Mr. Bevan

That is entirely another question, but as I took part in a controversy on this matter during the late war I think I can inform my hon. Friend that His Majesty's commands take precedence over everything else.

8. Mr. Macdonald

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give an assurance that all men who are now less than 50 years of age and were in reserved occupations during the last war will be vetted to see whether their present jobs are such as to leave them free to be amongst the first to be called up for active service, in place of some of the Class Z reservists.

Mr. Bevan

No, Sir. Even if this were practicable, I have no power under the present law to do so.

Mr. Macdonald

Apart from the present call up of Z reservists, if men are called up at a later period for a longer term, or if hostilities break out, could not this vetting take place?

Mr. Bevan

As I said earlier, I would ask the hon. Member to bear in mind what is really being done. If he does he will then see that these Questions are not on the point at all.

Brigadier Head

Would the Minister bear in mind, nevertheless, that there are large numbers of skilled men in civil life, possibly not now in reserved occupations, whose occupation in civil life is closely similar to that which they could do in the Forces in war, and that special units of such men might represent a big saving of manpower, and be of great value to the Forces?

Mr. Bevan

They would also be a loss to their industrial occupation. We have to consider and balance the requirements of the Services and of civil occupations. It would be no use calling up men for the Services who would not have arms, because we would not have men in civil occupations to make them.

Mr. Snow

Is not this extraordinarily high rate of medical exemption proof positive of the rotten nutritional standards under the Tory Government before the war?

Mr. Bevan

I think the whole House will recognise the altruism of my hon. Friend.