HC Deb 01 March 1951 vol 484 cc2488-99
Mr. Low

There are two Amendments to this Clause on the Order Paper in my name, Major Milner, and perhaps it would be convenient to take both together.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman should move the second Amendment. If it were approved, the first would follow as a matter of course.

Mr. Low

I beg to move, in page 11, line 28, at the end, to insert: and (b) in 1951 and in every year in which Part I of this Act is in force following a direction under section twelve of this Act, to one period of continuous training of not less than fourteen or more than twenty-one days undertaken by volunteer members of His Majesty's Auxiliary forces, whether under a legally enforceable liability or not. The object of this Amendment, together with the one in line 25, at the end to insert "(a)," is to give the same protection as is given to the Z men and the G men to the volunteer members of the Auxiliary Forces and, in particular, to volunteer members of the Territorial Army. I and my hon. Friends want this protection to be given mainly in order to assist the Territorial Army to get the extra volunteers which it so badly needs. We consider that this will not be possible unless this Committee is fair to volunteers. It is clear, as some of us pointed out on the Second Reading, that it really is ridiculous that the War Office should be inviting Class Z men, whom it is now calling up, to join the Territorial Army as volunteers and at the same time be saying to them. "If you do volunteer, you will lose the protection which we give you in this Act," the protection of paid holidays and the protection from dismissal from their employment. I think the Committee will agree, as indeed the Under-Secretary of State for War implicitly agreed in his Second Reading speech, that if it is not ridiculous it is anomalous.

Mr. M. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman will realise that I said it did appear to be anomalous, but I did give reasons why there was not much more than an appearance.

Mr. Low

I am sorry to have misquoted the hon. Gentleman, but I think the Committee will see that I did not do him much damage. There are really two quite separate questions here, and I think the Under-Secretary, when he addressed his remarks to the House on the Second Reading, was dealing with the wrong point. There is the general question whether it is right in ordinary circumstances to impose upon an employer a duty because a voluntary act of one of his employees, such as joining the Territorial Army, has caused that extra duty to be put upon him. That is a general question that applies in any year and is not the specific question which is raised by the Amendment which I am now moving, because if the Committee will look at that Amendment they will see that the Amendment explicitly applies only to the year 1951 or to any other year in which Part I of this Act is enforced.

So the point to which the Under-Secretary addressed himself on the Second Reading, was not exactly the same point as that with which we are now concerned. What is the exact position as it stands? As I understand it, during this summer one in four of the members of the Army who do 15 days training for one reason or another, will be a volunteer. The other three will be Z men or National Service men. There out of the four, all serving together, will be given protection under this Bill or under the National Service Act as to their right to paid holidays and freedom from dismissal from employment. One out of the four will have no protection at all.

That seems to me to be quite unjust, if nothing else, and it seems quite absurd if, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the Government are intent on getting more volunteers into the Territorial Army. I see the Secretary of State for War below the Bar; I wish he were listening to the arguments I am putting, because he ought to be interested in getting more volunteers into the Territorial Army and it would be much better if he would come on to the Floor of the Committee and listen to what is being said.

The Under-Secretary used two arguments in his speech on Second Reading, one of which I have mentioned—the general question whether it is right to impose this duty upon employers in the case of volunteers. I shall return to that point in a moment, because I believe the hon. Gentleman is wrong. On the second point I think the hon. Gentleman quite unwittingly misled the House. He said: Nor is there by any means unanimity among the men in the Territorial Army. Indeed, I should think it is probable that the majority opinion among them is that they do not want to jeopardise the very good relations which usually exist between them and their employers and possibly end up in a position which, although legally stronger, would in practice not be so satisfactory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1878.] I tried to make inquiries before Second Reading, and I have done so again since the Second Reading, to find out what was the feeling in the Territorial Army about this and I have not heard one person object to the protection in the form of the words which I have placed on the Order Paper. That protection applies only in the years in which Z men are called up-1951 and any other years in which Part I of the Bill is enforced. No one has objected, and I have had a number of letters from and conversations with people who ought to know the Territorial Army very well. They indicate that there is a strong feeling that this protection should be given.

I should like the Under-Secretary to tell me with whom he has consulted, and who has advised him on the lines indicated in his speech on Second Reading. Has he consulted the Territorial Army Council, has he consulted the chairmen of the Territorial Army Associations separately, has he consulted the commanding officers of Territorial Army units? How is it that he has formed this opinion, which I believe to be misguided? I must refer over and over again to the main point, as I understand it. The main object which the War Office have in this Z scheme is to get more volunteer N.C.Os. for the Territorial Army, without which the hon. Gentleman cannot keep the Territorial Army going.

I said I would refer again to the first reason which the hon. Gentleman gave for not granting this protection—the attitude of the employers. What good employer has indicated to him that it will make any difference in the employer's attitude to the Territorial Army if a subsection such as this is inserted in the Bill? Surely the good employer will want to help His Majesty's Government in their efforts to put the defences of the country right. Surely that will be so. Surely employers as a whole know that they are to have men called up under Class Z, and that these men will have statutory rights under the Bill. They must realise that if a particular employee is serving as a volunteer, he might just as well have been called up under Z Reserve had he not been a volunteer. It is only because he is a volunteer that he is not covered by the Bill, yet if he had not been a volunteer he might well have been on the Class Z list and might well have been called up in any event.

I do not believe that there exists this objection on the part of employers to the protection given in the words which I seek to insert into the Bill. I press this idea upon the Government, if not in the exact words which I have put on the Order Paper. I believe it is essential to the success of the scheme and to the success of the Territorial Army. I think it is not only essential, but is fair. I think that at this time, above all, we should try to be fair to those who volunteer as well as to those who have to serve because we have to call them up.

1.30 a.m.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I want to support this Amendment. I think there is a very great danger in this country that we will lose the whole concept of voluntary enlistment. It is hon. Members opposite who traditionally have been opposed to conscription, and surely the alternative to conscription is a voluntary Army. Therefore, it is somewhat of an anomaly that here we have a Socialist Government which is giving protection to the National Service man and denying it to the volunteer.

I ask the Member who is to reply whether it is from private employers that he has had this impression that these employers do not like it; or is it from the nationalised industries, which have notified their dislike, particularly the British Electricity Authority? I should like to have an authoritative answer to that question, if possible, because I have a feeling that this is probably the case. I urge the Minister to resist that with all the force he possibly can. We must get the voluntary spirit back into the Army of this country. This will be one way in which we can help to do so.

Mr. Wyatt

From this side of the Committee I would like to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low). It must be clear to everybody that it is utterly ludicrous to put the volunteer in a worse position with regard to holidays and other things as compared with the person conscripted. We must do all we can for the conscript person, because it is by no voluntary act of his that he is being brought into the military machine.

At the same time, somebody who feels so strongly about the matter as to answer the appeals of the Government and to go to serve in the Territorial Army or other Territorial Forces should have every bit as much protection as anybody called up under these Acts. I am sure my hon. Friends will see it in that light. I cannot see how you can justify on any basis of equity that a volunteer should be in a worse position than a conscript.

Mr. Ian Harvey

I am most grateful for that contribution, because it represents a point of view we have been trying to get across from this side of the Committee. When we discuss this matter, it seems to me that we do not entirely appreciate that the Territorial Army in the present state of affairs is altered from that of yesterday. I am well aware that there may be some people thinking of the past and saying that as the Territorial is a volunteer he knows exactly what he is in for and must accept it.

I think that is an argument which was quite tenable under the old conditions, but today the Territorial Army is an integral part of the whole system and if hon. Members want this system to work they must keep the Territorial Army in being. We will not keep it in being if it is penalized—is there any other word for it?—in this way. To meet the very considerable demands there is no doubt that the Territorial Army man must spend a great deal more time in learning the job and dealing with the new intake.

On Second Reading I pointed out that the conception of Territorial Army camps being a holiday is completely out of date. From what I have been told I am certain that the Territorials will have to put in a great deal more time at camp, and there is no question that many of them would far rather be spending their holidays in the normal way with their wives and families. If this principle is accepted they will, next year, spend their holidays with their wives and families, and the Under-Secretary will have no Territorial Army to train the Z men, who, I understand, may be called up then, and the whole structure of the present system will break down because of this unwillingness to make a very reasonable concession. I must say, I find it very difficult to believe, sustain or to prove the state- ment of the Under-Secretary on Second Reading that there is unwillingness on the part of the Territorials to accept this, and I join with my hon. Friend in asking him to give us proof that that unwillingness exists.

Finally, I endorse what has been said about the danger of this anomaly which will exist at camp. If the morale on which the whole of this system is developed is to be built up it will certainly not be built up if there is any feeling of unfairness or injustice, or any suggestion that two people serving side by side have not the same conditions of service. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the Amendment.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

I have always understood that hon. Gentlemen opposite, for reasons which they sincerely feel, have always been rather against any kind of a privileged class, and I wonder how they expect the new Territorial units to have the enthusiasm we all wish them to have if they are to be divided into several different types of men serving side by side, some having privileges which the others do not have

I remember very well early in the last war, when we in the Territorials had the first intake of militiamen, the militiamen worked in very smoothly; they were welcomed and there was no trouble whatever. But there were just a few of the militiamen who put it round that the thing not to do in the Army was ever to volunteer, and I always felt that that was a very bad spirit indeed—the spirit of "Don't volunteer." If those who do volunteer are to be at a disadvantage compared with the others that most unfortunate spirit will have support given to it, and for that reason I think that this Amendment is a very wise one.

Mr. Lee

We had this discussion on Second Reading, and even more extensively last year on another Bill. I agree that at first sight quite a strong case can be made for the Amendment, but I suggest that the case itself is theoretical, and that, in practice, it does not work out quite in the way suggesed. I assure the Committee that this whole question has been most carefully considered with the one object of doing what we believe is to the advantage of the auxiliary Forces and what would be most likely to encourage volunteering, and the conclusion we have reached is that it is better for the volunteers themselves not to extend this protection.

Mr. Harvey


Mr. Lee

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put my argument; I did listen to his argument without interrupting. The fact is that in every section of industry it is, and has been for many years, the practice of employers to treat Territorials and other volunteers going to annual training a good deal more generously than is provided for in the statutory requirements. It is quite common practice, both in private and nationalised industry, for volunteers to be paid full wages in addition to Service pay for the period of annual training, or for employers to make up Service pay to civilian pay for the whole or part of the period of training.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Does this happen in the nationalised industries?

Mr. Lee

Yes, I will give details later. It is a typical practice in the Civil Service and the nationalised industries.

As regards private industry, the National Joint Advisory Council which is representative of the two sides of industry on national level, in July last, when we discussed this question with them, endorsed the principle that employers should continue, as far as practicable, to deal with volunteers in the future with the same generosity as they have done in the past. As regards protection against loss of employment, we in the Ministry do not hear of cases where the employer seeks to dismiss a volunteer because of his liability to annual training. There is also the fact that there is co-operation in the matter of evening training. The right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) will agree that this is an important point in the training of the Territorials, and is as important as the annual camp.

Mr. McCorquodale

The hon. Gentleman must not assume that I am on his side. I am strongly on the side of my hon. Friends.

Mr. Lee

I appreciate that fact from the right hon. Gentleman's recent speeches, but from his experience at the Ministry of Labour he will know that it is not merely a question of the annual training. Evening training is not, in fact, covered by the Amendment, and he will know that we get the utmost co-operation from the vast majority of employers in the country. We would be loth to do anything which would militate against that good spirit which we now have from industry.

If volunteers were given the same limited statutory protection as the national service men we should simply be providing something which is of far less value than they normally get under voluntary arrangements. While there may appear to be a good theoretical case for this, no real need for it has been shown by our experience. To give statutory protection to the volunteers would be to depart from the long-standing principle that this kind of statutory obligation on employers can only properly be applied to men the State has compulsorily taken away for training. Employers might well come to make no distinction between volunteers and National Service men. They might well consider the legislative proposals, if this Amendment were incorporated in the Bill, to be a maximum. That is the general reaction to legislation. Very much of the good will between employer and the auxiliary Forces at present would, in fact, break down.

The hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) asked me certain questions concerning our contacts with the Territorial Army. The decision which we reached to exclude this provision from the Bill was made in accordance with the advice given by the Director-General of the Territorial Army.

Brigadier Head (Carshalton)

But that is the War Office.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. Lee

The decision we reached was in accordance with the advice of the Director-General of the Territorial Army, and has the support of the Council of County Territorial Associations. Our investigations have led to the advice that I have outlined, and it cannot be said that we have not taken what steps were open to us to find out precisely what was the considered opinion of those in charge of the Territorials.

I do not quite understand the significance of the hon. Gentleman's point when he asked whether there was pressure from the nationalised industries on this issue. As a matter of fact, there is no pressure, so far as I am aware, from the nationalised industries to do anything of the kind.

One can outline the attitude taken by several of them. If one may regard the Bank of England as a nationalised undertaking, they give one week's additional paid leave. The British Electricity Authority was quoted by the hon. Gentleman: they give additional leave (a) to those with two weeks' holiday or less, one week on additional pay and one week unpaid; and (b) those with two weeks' holiday or more get one week on full pay and one week unpaid to bring the total annual leave up to four weeks. The Transport Commission: two weeks' additional leave, and Service pay be made up to the standard of civil pay for one week. In the case of members of the R.E. Transportation Unit, the Commission will make up the balance of civil pay for the whole period.

I assure the hon. Member that this is the attitude the nationalised industries are taking. I agree at once that, theoretically, there is a point in what the Amendment asks for, and if one felt that it was, on balance, of greater advantage to the volunteers, or if it would lead to a greater incentive for volunteers. I would take a very different attitude. But we believe that, in practice, it is far better to give them the co-operation which has lent itself financially to better inducements from employers rather than to limit it to the point where they do not differentiate between the Territorial and the National Service man. It is only because of considerations of that kind that we suggest it is better to leave the Bill as it is, rather than to accept this Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 82; Noes, 84.

Division No. 49.] AYES 1.50 a. m
Alport, C. J. M. Heald, Lionel Pickthorn, K.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Heath, Edward Powell, J. Enoch
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Prior-Pajlmer, Brig. O.
Birch, Nigel Higgs, J. M. C. Profumo, J. D.
Bishop, F. P Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Renton, D. L. M
Boles, Lt.-Col. D C. (Wells) Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Roper, Sir Harold
Boyle, Sir Edward Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Ross, Sir Ronald (Londonderry)
Braithwaite, Ll.-Cmdr. Gurney Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Russell, R. S-
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Low, A. R. W. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard (N. Fylde)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Channon, H. MoCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) MacLeod, lain (Enfield, W.) Studholme, H. G.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Macmillan, Rt Hon. Harold (Bromley) Teevan, T. L.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E Manningham-Buller, R. E. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
de Chair, Somerset Marshall Douglas (Bodmin) Thompson, Lt.-Cmdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Deedos, W. F. Marshall, Sidney (Sutton) Turner, H. F. L.
Digby, S. W. Maude, Angus (Ealing, S.) Vosper, D. F.
Fisher, Nigel Mellor, Sir John Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Fraser, Sir I. (Morecamba & Lonsdale) Nabarro, G. White, Baker (Canterbury)
Gomme-Dunean, Col. A. Nicholls, Harmar Williams, Charles (Torquay)
Grimston, Robert (Westbury) Oakshott, H. D. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Harden, J. R. E. Odey, G. W. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Head, Brig. A. H. Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Drewe and Major Wheatley.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Cullen, Mrs. A. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Gunter, R. J.
Bartley, P Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Hale. Leslie (Oldham, W)
Benn, Wedgwood Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)
Bing, C. H C Delargy, H. J. Hannan, W
Bowden, H W Donnelly, D. Hargreaves, A.
Brockway. A F Driberg, T. E. N, Hayman, F. H
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Tipton)
Callagban, L. J. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Herbison, Miss M.
Collick P. Evans, Albert (Islington, SW) Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Collindridge, F. Fernyhough, E. Hughes, Emrys (S Ayrshire)
Cooper, John (Deptford) Fletcher, Erie (Islington, E.) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Follick, M. Janner, B.
Crawley, A. Foot, M. M. Johnson, James (Rugby)
Cresland, C. A. R. Gibson, C W Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)
Kinley, J. Pearson, A. Sylvester, G. O.
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Robinson, Kenneth (St Pancras, N) Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)
MacColl, J. E. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Shawcross, Rt. Hon Sir Hartley Wallace, H. W.
Mallalieu, J. P. W (Huddersfield, E) Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C)
Moeran, E. W. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Moody, A. S. Simmons, C. J Williams, David (Neath)
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Slater, J Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Snow, J. W. Wyatt, W. L.
Moyle, A. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank Yates, V. F.
Nally, W. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
O'Brien, T. Stress, Dr. Bamett Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Sparks.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 to 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.