HC Deb 13 March 1951 vol 485 cc1263-7
1. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements he has made or contemplates for setting up a committee or committees to deal with applications for deferment or exemptions from call-up by Z reservists.

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

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my statement during the Second Reading of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces Training Bill on 26th February, 1951.

Sir T. Moore

While bearing that in mind, may I ask if the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is quite a lot of doubt—widespread doubt, and even dissatisfaction—about some of the discrimination in the call-up as it is exercised at present? Does he think that the arrangements he has made are adequate?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir, I have no doubt that they will be adequate.

Sir Herbert Williams

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many communications have already been addressed to him about Z Reserve problems?

Mr. Stewart

Not without notice.

11. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for War in what circumstances will Z reservists 40 years of age or over be recalled for training this summer.

16. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for War why certain men over 40 years of age, demobilised prior to 1946 and without specialist qualifications, are being recalled as Class Z reservists.

18. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for War how far the shortage of Royal Army Service Corps drivers is so acute as to necessitate the recall in this category of Class Z reservists aged over 40.

Mr. M. Stewart

The units selected to train reservists this year will represent only a small proportion of the units which would be mobilised in an emergency. In selecting reservists for the units required in an emergency, the general principle of "last out, first back" has been applied. This has involved using the reservist's age and service group, and although this reflects accurately the date of his release, it does not, because of the Service element, bear any close relationship to his age. Moreover, there are certain arms and trades where the needs of mobilisation demand the recall of most, if not all, reservists trained in those duties.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

But does the Under-Secretary recall that, on 18th September last, his right hon. Friend the then Minister of Labour made a statement to the effect that Z reservists of 40 years of age and upwards were free to join Civil Defence, and does it not make nonsense of all those arrangements to call up for further training men several years above that age?

Mr. Stewart

If for the reason described by the hon. Member, or for any other reason, a man has good ground why he should not be called up, there is machinery for making representations.

Mr. Nabarro

Does the Under-Secretary realise that large numbers of men between the ages of 40 and 44, who are totally without specialist qualifications, and who were demobilised before 1946—such as batmen, orderlies, clerks and drivers—are now being recalled to the Colours? Are there not hundreds of thousands of younger men who, on the principle of "last out, first in," ought to be recalled first?

Mr. Stewart

When the hon. Gentleman speaks of specialist qualifications, he must remember that if a unit is to be made up it must contain men trained in certain duties. A man may be trained in certain duties without having what could reasonably be described as specialist qualifications.

Lieut.-Colonel Upton

Can my hon. Friend say why it is that age seems to be completely disregarded in the call-up of so many of these non-specialists? Is he aware that the information that the release number over-rides all considerations of age comes as a bit of a bombshell to those of us who are trying to understand the system which has been followed?

Mr. Stewart

I think that the relation between age and age service groups is well enough understood. Age is only one factor in determining a man's age and service group.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

How will this rule be applied in cases of men who are not 45 when they receive their call-up papers, but who are over 45 on the date at which they have to join up?

Mr. Stewart

If the hon. Gentleman has details of cases of that kind, perhaps he would bring them to my notice.

Mr. Gibson

Will my hon. Friend look into cases of men who are over 40 and who are engaged on highly skilled armaments work, such as tool making? I have in mind a man who is over 43 years of age. Surely this matter ought to be looked into with a view to considering whether men of that type cannot be more effectively used in industry?

Mr. Stewart

I endeavour to look into all cases which hon. Members send to me. I understand that the question of the value of the man's civilian work had already been considered by the Ministry of Labour before the call-up notices were issued.

Mr. Gibson

But why take tool makers?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the Under-Secretary bear in mind that it is not only a case of individual hardship to the men concerned, but a question of public policy affecting Civil Defence recruitment, and will he consult with the Minister of Labour in order to bring out an up-to-date and less conflicting statement?

Mr. Stewart

I will bear that point in mind.

Mr. Nabarro

In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter at the earliest opportunity on the Motion for the Adjournment.

13. Mr. J. Enoch Powell

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement showing how many Class Z reservists to whom notices of recall for training have been, or are to be, sent, had served one, two, three, four, five or six years before VJ Day.

14. Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

asked the Secretary of State for War how many Class Z reservists, to whom calling-up papers have been sent, were under 35 years of age; how many were between 35 and 40 years of age; and how many were over 40 years of age.

Mr. M. Stewart

This information is not readily available.

Mr. Powell

Does the Minister recall that, in announcing the recall scheme on 29th January, the First Lord of the Treasury said: … it may be that there are key men in certain places who will be required, and who have actually served."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 29th January, 1951: Vol. 483. c. 592.] Is he aware that the recall of large numbers of men with five or six years' experience of war service, who are getting on in years but who have no specialist qualification of any kind, is causing a rising tide of indignation throughout the country?

Mr. Mallalieu

Does my hon. Friend realise that there is a strong impression in the country that far too large a proportion of older men are being called up, and would it not therefore be a good thing to publish the facts, so that we can see exactly what the position is?

Mr. Stewart

I certainly agree that it will be desirable to have this information, but I am reluctant, at a time when the primary job of the record officers must be to see that the scheme is working smoothly, to impose this burden on them immediately. I think it might be desirable at a later stage to obtain this information.

Mr. Pickthorn

Would it be administratively very difficult to find out how many individual cases of questioning the notice of call-up have occurred up to date?

Mr. Stewart

No, that would not be difficult.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

In view of the statement of the Minister of Labour about recruitment for Civil Defence, did the hon. Gentleman's previous reply mean that if they volunteered for Civil Defence they would be absolved from call-up, if over the age of 40?

Mr. Stewart

No, not necessarily.

Mr. Chetwynd

Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the records of all men called up since 1945 have been sufficiently examined, and that, notwithstanding that fact, he still cannot find the specialists required?

Mr. Stewart

Yes. Sir. We have carried out the procedure which I outlined to the House on an earlier occasion.

Sir Ralph Glyn

if a man over 40 goes to the local employment exchange can he have his case specially considered?

Mr. Stewart

It is open to any man of any age, for the reasons that have been stated in the letter sent to him with the warning notice, to have his case considered.

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