§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Sir Walter Monckton)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the National Service Act, 1948 (Duration) Order, 1953, a Draft of which was laid before this House on 3rd November, be made.In commending this Motion to the House, we are not proposing any change of policy, nor breaking new ground. What we are asking for is the continuation of a policy which we inherited from the previous Administration, and we are doing this because in our judgment conditions today do not warrant any departure from it.
When National Service was reintroduced after the war by the National Service Act, 1948, the legislation covered a period of five years ahead, ending with 1st January, 1954, but it was also enacted that a later date could be substituted by Order in Council. The National Service (Amendment) Act in the same year required a draft of the Order to be laid before Parliament and an Address to be presented by each House praying that the Order should be made. It is in pursuance of that provision that I move this Motion today.
The draft Order proposes the substitution of 1st January, 1959, for 1st January, 1954; in other words, we propose an extension of the scheme for a further five years, which is the same period as that originally decided upon in 1948. I should first like to point out to the House that there is ample scope for flexibility within the extended period. The question of the period of full-time service was the subject of yesterday's debate, and I do not return to it, except to remind the House that in the principal Act I have cited, there is provision for flexibility in that a reduction from the two years' period can be made by Order in Council.
Similarly, apart from the period there is the question of numbers, and I would point out that here also there is flexibility. It is perfectly possible—indeed it has been done on occasion—administratively to alter the number of registrations 1574 in any particular year. Ordinarily, there are four registrations. If we were to drop one, the effect would be to postpone the age of call up from 18 to 18 and three months, and the effect in figures as the figures move today would be a diminution of something like 37,000. There is that to be said about flexibility both in regard to period and numbers in the extended period for which we are asking.
The arguments for the continuance of National Service in present circumstances were fully developed yesterday and, having told the House about flexibility which remains under the Act, I have no need to go over that ground again, but can summarise the arguments in a few sentences. There are hon. Members who object, for reasons we can all respect, to any form of compulsory service. But most of us, I think, would agree with what the Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister, said in this House on 29th January, 1951, when he introduced the re-armament proposals. He said:The Government do not believe that war is inevitable. Their purpose is to prevent war. But they believe that peace cannot be ensured unless the defences of the free world are made sufficiently strong to deter aggression."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 579.]On 2nd October last, the right hon. Member, writing in the "Daily Herald," used these words:We had to prolong National Service, not because we liked it, but because conditions in the world obliged us to keep many troops overseas.Conditions in the world today still oblige us to keep many troops overseas, and not until our obligations and commitments have been reduced can we contemplate altering the conditions of National Service. There is the truce in Korea, but we cannot withdraw our Forces. This is not a moment when we can reduce our Forces in Egypt. The requirements of Malaya remain; Kenya and British Guiana are added to our burdens and there is an over-all unsatisfied requirement for a strategic reserve in this country. In those circumstances which I have endeavoured to summarise, we have as a matter of first necessity to find the men for the Forces.
In providing those men, from every standpoint economy is imposed upon us. The cost in money of National Service is in itself an important matter, but over 1575 and above that there is the problem of finding the men required with the least possible disturbance to and interference with industry—in particular with the manufacture of the latest weapons, with exports and with agriculture. All these considerations illustrate the necessity of avoiding waste of manpower in the Services.
As we heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War last night, the Services are constantly seeking economies in manpower. He illustrated some of the inquiries that have been made and gave us some of the results from them. But, quite apart from the economies in the total of manpower required, there is the special problem to which he referred—the best use of the capacities of the men who have to be taken.
This, again, is no new problem, nor is it easily soluble. As long ago as 1941, a Committee on Skilled Men in the Services, which was presided over by Sir William Beveridge, as he then was, made an interim report to Mr. Bevin which made it clear that there is inevitably some waste—that the adjustment in the Service life cannot be a perfect adjustment. One cannot eliminate the waste, but must constantly seek to reduce it. Some things come to one's mind at once as inescapable difficulties; a number of dreary jobs have to be done and someone has to do them, such as packing stores in ordnance depots, cooking and staff for training schools. That cannot all be done by the Regular half of the Service.
At the selection stage, when the National Service man is provisionally assigned to a branch or to a unit, every effort is made consistent with the man's choice of service and the needs of the respective Services to ensure that he is posted where full use can be made of his skill and knowledge.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I remember this Report and investigation very clearly. There were Sir George Bailey and Mr. Jack Little, both of whom had great experience in industry, and their experience proved that there was a large amount of skilled labour and experience which was not being used to the best advantage. There is an evergrowing belief that that still applies. In 1576 view of the fact that we are calling up boys in this serious economic situation, has not the time arrived for a similar investigation?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I used the example of the report of 1941, and it led, as the hon. Gentleman rightly remembers, to a fuller report a few years later. This showed two things. The first was that this was no new or easily soluble problem. The second was that the distinguished men who prepared the report reached the conclusion that, however much we might from time to time try, and ought to try, to improve the position, we shall never get a perfect adjustment whereby a man gets a job in which his civilian skill is wholly employed over the whole field.
Efforts are made, but I do not think they can wholly succeed, to try to put a man into a job in which his skill and experience will be most useful. It cannot always be so. After all, a man may have special civilian qualifications, technical or otherwise, which may not be able to be utilised in his "line of country" in the Service. The man may not always want it, or he may not always have the necessary skill for that task; and there may not be vacancies for his particular trade, or there may be only a few. In those cases the best that the Services can do—and they try to do it—is to attempt to use the man in some other capacity in which his talents can find scope.
I come to the other matter which I know the hon. Member had in mind, a matter of particular importance to my own Department—how to interfere as little as possible with industry, in particular with the types of industry to which I have referred, and agriculture. There is, as the hon. Member reminded the House, a shortage of skilled labour—I know that well enough—with the result that if we must have the men required for the Forces; we cannot have complete lack of interference with the industries of which I have been speaking. I would say in parenthesis that I would much rather find myself faced with the problem of finding men for the jobs than of finding jobs for the men.
The Department sets about its task in the best possible way. The task which is laid upon the Department is not in any sense a static one. The conditions are 1577 constantly altering. New weapons, new strategical requirements, new economic circumstances mean that the problem has to be regarded as constantly changing. Therefore, deferment policy, about which a little was said yesterday, has to be kept continually under review.
I will return to that, saying only for the moment that strategy, modern weapons and inventions and their use are factors in the study of the right use of manpower, but they are not subjects which are apt or suitable for public inquiry. It is, however, the constant task of my Ministry to consider and take into account, and it was so under my predecessors, the needs of industry and agriculture so far as they are compatible with the task of finding the necessary men.
These needs of the different industries and agriculture are constantly pressed upon me by those interested in them. I make no complaint about that, but I have to remember that, so far as possible, one has to retain, while National Service is here, universality of service and as much fairness as possible in the system. That we are trying constantly to do.
In the course of yesterday's debate in the House, anxiety was expressed by some hon. Members on both sides of the House about certain aspects of the machinery of the National Service scheme. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) raised the question of anxiety about medical boards, not, I think, with the intention of attacking the Ministry of Labour for this Administration in particular, but in order to point and illustrate the anxiety which may exist over this matter. The hon. Gentleman referred to the question of the medical examination of young National Service men. He then went on, saying—I am paraphrasing—that he was doing this in a responsible way:I have brought down with me the papers of a young man—again, I am quite prepared to give the Minister particulars—who was called up for medical examination. He told the medical board that he suffered from T.B. and showed the operation scar on his back, but they would not listen to him. I have the actual Ministry of Labour grading here;—the hon. Gentleman was good enough to give it to me afterwards. He continued:he was graded A.1, although he told the board he had this tubercular kidney. After 45 days in the Service he was discharged. He is now dead.The hon. Gentleman then told us that a pension had been refused. 1578 I asked the hon. Gentleman, who was good enough to give way to me, for particulars of that case. I thought I should have known of so startling a case had it been in my time as Minister. I found that it was not in my time, nor in the time of my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) or even in the time of his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan); it was in 1948.
I think it is fair to say that if one is considering the position of medical boards today, one should remember that the instance given was one of five years ago. I hope that it illustrates the value of the steps that we have tried to take to meet just that sort of case. I know that the hon. Gentleman will welcome them if they succeed. We have said that, in future, every possible document and every possible piece of medical history shall be brought forward and be available for the medical board. They have been especially told to consider it. We have done what we can to ensure that that takes place.
We then say that if there is a case in which the parent or the boy himself feels that on some medical ground a mistake has been made by the board, we will have an appellate piece of machinery. I submit to the House that that is the right way to allay alarm about medical boards. I am sure that when the facts are disclosed no one will feel alarm about a case which occurred before this system was introduced. We have constantly to improve the system. If we find—and we are still examining the matter—that the steps which we have taken to make the medical board machinery safer—I think it is proving so—are insufficient, we will most certainly try again.
Apart from that, the hon. Gentleman said that he was troubled about the National Service grants and the men's knowledge of them, and he said:The administration of National Service grants has got into the most unholy muddle. It starts off with the Minister of Labour. When the man first reports he should be fully instructed as to his rights regarding a National Service grant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1444–5.]The hon. Gentleman then detailed what ought to happen if the man exercises his rights.
I have been guilty of many errors in my present office, but I have been assured that when a man is summoned to 1579 his medical board he receives a pamphlet, a very short and simple one, which sets out clearly what his rights are to a National Service grant. I inherited that system, and I see no reason to alter it. If the man does not read the pamphlet, it is rather hard to blame the Minister for the "unholy muddle." I do what I can at the appropriate moment to make sure that the information is given, and if the man reads it he will easily understand the position about National Service grants.
Those are the two matters about which anxiety was expressed. There remains the question of agriculture deferment—
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I hope that the Minister will not just pass from the question of National Service grants and feel satisfied that, because the young man has been given a leaflet, that meets the case. A great deal more should be done. When the man reports to his unit he should be told immediately he joins, and if there is any evidence at all of hardship either for his wife or his dependants, it should be the responsibility of his commanding officer to see that the man is fully acquainted with his rights. That has not happened.
§ Sir W. Monckton
I do not feel inclined to take on too many surveys without further consideration. There is plenty in hand. I introduced this subject because it was suggested that the 'unholy muddle "began with me, and I wished to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that, after all, I had done what it was proper for a Minister of Labour to do to bring this to the attention of the person concerned. After he gets out of my hands into the Services, whether they carry it out in each case or not—human nature is frail and maybe it does not always happen—there is no doubt an obligation on the commanding officer to present this to the notice of the man.
1580 As I was about to say when the hon. Gentleman intervened, there is also the problem of agricultural deferment, which was raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), who expressed the hope that there would be no more special pleading on behalf of agricultural interests. The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) also introduced this subject and maintained that there ought to be no blanket deferment for farmers' sons or farm workers, but that they ought to play their part in the national defence.
I agree with that. I agree that in attempting to safeguard the manpower requirements of agriculture we must not lose sight of the principle of universality of service and fairness and equality of dealing as between man and man. I think that, so far as I understood the hon. Gentleman to whom I have referred, I had them with me that far. But the hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South wanted to know the figures of the contribution of agriculture to the Services and I think I can help him about that.
If we take one age class, there are at present, in round figures, about 17,500 men from agriculture. Of those, about 8,000 will be granted deferment; some 3,500 will be lost for medical and other reasons; and what is available at the end of the day for National Service is something like 6,000 men. If there is to be any reality in the agricultural contribution to the Services, as, like the hon. and gallant Member, I think there should be, I do not think we can reduce the figure contributed below that. After all, including farmers and their families, there are something like 900,000 people working on the farms. The people who are employed on farms number about 600,000 in rough figures, and the contribution to the Forces is about 1 per cent. of that figure. I feel, therefore, that so long as it is considered that a contribution ought to be made, that contribution can hardly be reduced if a substantial level is to be maintained.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that point, can he give a reply to the special point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for 1581 Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) on the question of men who leave one farm and go to another? I am not deprecating his general argument, but that point is of great interest in Wales.
§ Sir W. Monckton
I am obliged to the hon. Lady for raising the matter. It is the question of what used to be called hiring fairs, which raises great difficulties, and I have to answer some questions on it in the House on Thursday. But I would say this now, as the hon. Lady has invited me to do so. The difficulty arises largely because a farmer says he wishes to get a young man deferred because he is a stockman, for example, and the farmer has no other stockman. The young man is considered for deferment, he goes through the machinery and he is deferred. He then leaves that employment. If he wanted to, he could leave the employment to do his National Service. He is not exempted; he is deferred. But he goes away and the proposition is that because of this system of hiring fairs he ought to be allowed to go to another farmer who has demonstrated an equal or a similar need for a deferred man.
The difficulty about that is that great unfairness would be created in the case of a man exempted because of a previous deferment, as contrasted with a similar man who has not previously had deferment and is employed on a larger farm, in respect of which no deferment is possible. The difficulty has to be faced and I shall be facing it on Thursday. All I wish to say now is that the problem is not capable of a simple answer. The primary call for a man, if he leaves the employment in which his deferment was given, is to do his National Service, and if I say that, because he has been deferred, he is to be in a specially privileged position, why should he be left if the farmer on a large farm cannot get deferment for a man? That is one of the problems. The hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not go further into the matter now, but I shall be dealing with it on Thursday.
I have left to the latter part of my speech a no less important question, that of the individual National Service man. The period of National Service may no doubt be and is no doubt to some of them an unwelcome interruption in industrial life. But many others have found that once its inevitability is accepted, once we have compulsory National Service, in 1582 many ways it can be a valuable experience. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged it yesterday. He said:I do not believe that the great mass of our young men suffer from National Service; I believe a great many gain …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1411.]I suppose that what he had in mind was that the young men get an opportunity of leading a corporate life with others of various types and different backgrounds. They have opportunities of developing initiative and of exercising leadership. They experience as good a comradeship as they are likely to get anywhere. They generally benefit a great deal in health and physique and put on weight. They have an opportunity of travel certainly in Great Britain and possibly overseas.
With all those advantages, however, there is the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out yesterday, the difficulty about the year before the man is called up, which introduces real problems. It is not a problem which is being ignored. The King George's Jubilee Trust has undertaken to inquire into the wider influences affecting young people between the ages of five and 20. Working parties under the chairmanship of Sir Harold West and General Sir Bernard Paget are hearing evidence about young working men and young conscripts respectively. It is true that their reports cannot be expected in the near future, but it is an inquiry which is receiving not only official encouragement but official help. My Ministry has its liaison officer for the purposes of helping in that inquiry.
But we are trying to do more than that in order to bring about a constructive attitude towards National Service. We are trying to create a feeling that if there has to be National Service it should be made a period of opportunity, and not merely an unwelcome disruption of ordinary life. My Ministry, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence and the Service Departments, is preparing an explanatory booklet on the whole subject of National Service. Youth employment committees, well known to many hon. and right hon. Members opposite, have also been asked to advise young men before registration to discuss their call-up problems with officers of my Department. At the other end of the 1583 journey, I have been making arrangements for local offices of my Ministry to co-operate more closely than hitherto with Service units over the resettlement of National Service men on their return to civilian life.
That is just the work of the Government Department. It helps at one end and the other. I am glad to be able to add that, after discussion on the National Joint Advisory Council, the British Employers' Confederation and the nationalised industries have agreed to recommend to employers generally that they should keep in close touch with their men during their National Service and assist their resettlement on their return.
In going about the country, I have come across a number of firms, large and small, where that has been done. It has ensured the continuity of the interest of the men in their work during the time they are away. The Trades Union Congress, for their part, have agreed to recommend to the unions that they should take steps—for instance, through the trade union journals and otherwise—to ensure that their members do not break their connection with the trade union movement during their National Service.
The steps taken by the Department, in collaboration with other Departments, the inquiries in which we try to take a hand, and finally these efforts to be sure that the continuity of work and industrial life is not broken too much by the service, are all efforts in the right direction, and we will continue to make them. The problem is not a simple one which can be solved now and for ever. There is no easy answer. It is a difficult human question. What we must do—and a large part of the responsibility properly falls upon the Ministry of Labour—is try to tackle the problem resolutely and honestly, and constantly look for improvement, and that is what we shall continue to do.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks with such fairness, reasonableness, gentleness and absence of partisanship, that he is a little difficult to follow. One does not realise, when the matter is being put so reasonably, how enormous is the request which he is in fact making. He 1584 is asking for two years of the life of every male citizen in this country. That is a very big thing to ask and something which can only be justified by exceptional circumstances.
The Prime Minister yesterday drew attention to the danger in which we stood. Indeed, we do stand in danger. Europe, for the first time, is threatened by primary war—a war whose objective, if it were to come, would be the destruction of our civilisation and the enslavement of the survivors. The enemy are on the Elbe. They are there as a result of the Prime Minister's policy of unconditional surrender and by his invitation issued at Yalta.
They are indeed in roughly the same position as the enemy reached last time Europe suffered such a threat, which was in the 13th century. On that occasion the Mongol hoards returned to the funeral of their great Khan in distant Karakoram. On this occasion some of us hoped that history might repeat itself, but the funeral of the great Khan in Moscow has passed and they are still there. Indeed, contrary to our hopes, there seems to be very little change in the policy that keeps them there. There is merely a confirmation of the policy of delaying conquest until weakness and division appear.
That is a danger of which I need no persuading; nor do I need any persuading as to the necessity of Europe uniting and arming. But when the Prime Minister exhorts the Labour Party not to abandon the defence programme which we initiated, I must say that I admire his sauce. We certainly initiated a defence programme. It was a programme which, was described as the £4,700 million programme. It was a programme which the Government were pledged up to the hilt to perform, not only to the electorate at home but to their allies at Lisbon.
They repudiated that defence programme unilaterally and without discussion among their allies. Suddenly overnight the Prime Minister became the hero of the "New Statesman" and the "Tribune." The Labour Government had rejected the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, 1585 South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), but they suddenly found that they had a convert in the Prime Minister. Yet it is the Prime Minister who comes and asks us not to abandon our defence programme. It is indeed a little saucy.
I raise this matter because I think that we should consider why that defence policy was abandoned and why we have seen the whole Lisbon programme disintegrating before our eyes over these months. Once we started to default, everybody began to follow, including the Americans, who are now not sending the fifth division to which they were pledged. This is a serious matter. It certainly was not because that programme was impossible. As the "Economist" pointed out, it was only half of what we had actually achieved when we had four million men under arms.
The reason was that it could not be fitted in with a programme of business as usual. Let us realise that if liberty is to be defended it can only be defended by the sacrifice of some liberties. It is always a question which liberties should be sacrificed. The Government took their choice. If they were to perform their arms programme they could not do so within a peace economy. They had to do it within a war economy. They could not carry out that arms programme and de-nationalise steel and transport and provide for business as usual. They could not get the arms in 1952 by doing precisely the reverse of that which the Government did when they wanted arms in 1940.
That was the problem with which they were faced, and they preferred business as usual to performing their defence obligations. When they had to choose which liberty should be abandoned, the liberty to make money was the liberty which they chose to retain. Now they come to us and say, "The liberty of young men—that has to be sacrificed: but the liberty of our supporters to make money—that has to be retained."
Let us realise that the question before the House is not the need for defence. It is not the need to sacrifice liberties in order to defend ourselves. It is primarily a question of priorities among these liberties.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Gentleman is getting a little wide of the 1586 Order. He has told us what is the question before the House but, if I may presume to correct him on that, the question is whether this Order shall pass—or not—so that National Service shall be prolonged. Unless the Order is passed, National Service will stop at the end of this year. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will address himself to the specific question before the House.
§ Mr. Paget
With respect, Mr. Speaker, is not the question before the House whether certain ordinary liberties shall be taken away from a number of young men for a further five years? I would respectfully submit that that is the question, but perhaps I may come a little nearer to it by referring to a statement made by the Secretary of State for War in his winding-up speech yesterday when he said that the need for a number of these men arose from the fact that to provide machines would be expensive. That precisely sums up the sort of choice which we face. It is open to us—and I shall elaborate this later—to consider whether we are going to afford the money and afford the industrial controls which are essential to get this war-time production, or whether we are going to take the men. That is the question which continually arises, and I shall develop it over certain other matters.
But let us for the moment ask this question: what are these men required for? What is the defence programme today? Is it 70 divisions, as the Prime Minister once stated to be the need for N.A.T.O.? Is it 50 divisions in immediate readiness, as the Secretary of State for War stated in a very able pamphlet which he wrote? Is it still the Lisbon programme of, I think, 30 divisions in immediate readiness—I am speaking from memory—and 20 more at 30 days' readiness? Is that the programme, because, if so, there seems to be no sign of it?
Again, has the need for these men been altered by atomic artillery? Does the Army, which operates as a screen in front of atomic artillery, require the type of mass formations which conscription produces? This is where I would urge upon the Government the proposal which appeared in "The Times" yesterday. There appears to be the opportunity for pause. It is tremendously important that we should not simply drift into conscrip- 1587 tion for two years because we did it last year and because we did it the year before.
We should consider what our defence policy is and what its demand, both on manpower and on machinery, amounts to, and one of the things which will have to be considered is whether the mass organisation, which alone can be supported by conscription, is in the least suitable to reorganised and necessarily much smaller forces operating in front of atomic artillery, where dispersion becomes so vastly more vital and where it becomes absolutely necessary to operate in much smaller packets. Further, because the packets are smaller, there is need of a much higher degree of training.
Another question for the Army is this: in so far as conscription is required to man a standing Army, is it ever possible to have less than two years? Would any shorter period than two years involve having too high a proportion of partially-trained men with one's units at any given time, because if we are to say that everybody must do two years because we must have some people doing two years, that, to my mind, would be egalitarianism run mad? What we have to consider is this: if the Army must have people for as long as two years but does not require the full call-up, upon what basis—perhaps by ballot, perhaps by raised medical standards, perhaps in various other ways—can something in the nature of a selective call-up be devised? That is a matter which a commission can and should consider.
Next, there is the question of the RA.F. What is the position of the R.A.F.? Do they really need National Service men at all? I believe that a vast amount of the work at present done by airmen could be done by civilians and that it would be very easy to get those civilians—highly trained civilians—in Italy. Italy faces a situation in which she has not the access to the raw materials necessary to employ her people. She has always exported some of her citizens to work. The places where they went have now been closed. To provide this field of employment might be of tremendous value not only to the economy of Italy but to the organisation of N.A.T.O. Those are the sort of considerations which need deep thinking.
1588 Finally, I turn to the problem of the period between leaving school and entering the Forces. For the public schoolboy and the grammar schoolboy, 18 is obviously the right age. He goes from school to his service. But for the boy who leaves school at 15, I am very doubtful whether 18 is the right age for call-up. It is extremely difficult to find an employer who will take any interest in a boy whom he is going to have for such a short period. I think we should seriously consider whether, for the boys who leave school at 15, either 20 or 21 would not be a better age for call-up. That would give them the opportunity to establish themselves before they went for National Service, and they would have something to come back to after their National Service. From the boy's own point of view, six years at that age is a very long time. He would not be unsettled in seeking his career in that period. Equally, it is quite a long time for the employer, who will take an interest in a boy whom he is going to have for that length of time.
Those are the sort of questions which I think ought to be considered by a commission or whatever other form of inquiry appeals to the Government. To conclude, this is a summary of my speech: do not feel that this liberty is something which can be taken as a matter of course. If it is to be taken, the need and the manner of its operation need inquiry. We on this side of the House are by no means satisfied that it is operating in the right way or in the best way at present, and we are doubtful whether what we have had for the last five years is right for the next five years. We ask for an inquiry and we beg the Government to consider that request seriously.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
I think the last point made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is a valid one and I would commend it to the attention of the Government, who should consider the age at which men should be called up. It is very important indeed that, as far as possible, there should be equality of sacrifice between individuals when they are endeavouring to serve their country in this way, and I think there is a case for considering whether certain boys, in 1589 certain circumstances, should not have a later call-up.
Yesterday we decided by a considerable majority that we were going to continue this Act for a period of five years. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am entirely in agreement with that decision, but I think that if it is not to be reconsidered every year it places a considerable obligation on the Government to see that the mechanism of the call-up is overhauled from time to time.
I was glad to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service say that it was possible and desirable that the position could be continually under review. He has to spread the net, and, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, those who are caught in it may be varied according to the circumstances of the time. I think it is important that there should be a continual review of all those circumstances to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, and I am myself going to refer to two particular cases.
I do not think the House could accuse me of bringing up special cases very often, but these two are exactly similar and they raise a considerable principle. I live in a remote country district, and at the present time two boys have been called up while the fathers of both were permanently ill. There was no question about the facts. It was the case that both the fathers were very ill and could not carry on with their businesses, which in fact were being carried on by the sons. These were small family businesses, one a bakery and the other a blacksmith's shop. Anybody who lives in the country will realise that these are vital and key businesses in the country.
What shocked me about these cases was that, when one of these boys went to the tribunal, he was told, "If you cannot get anybody else to take your place, your parents will have to sell the business." We all know that a small country business takes a lot of building up. I was even more shocked by a letter which I received from the Parliamentary Secretary, who said that, if they could not find anybody else to run the business, then they must sell it. I put it to the House that it is quite impossible sometimes for the owners of 1590 these small businesses to find a man who is completely capable and ready to run a business in circumstances like that, but who must expect to be sacked in two years. To start with, there are not the blacksmiths or bakers ready to take the jobs, and secondly, one could not possibly expect a man to take on that job in the knowledge that, at the end of two years, he must go somewhere else. I make no excuse whatever for bringing up these special cases.
§ Commander Maitland
I think my hon. Friend will do a lot about them before I have finished with him.
It is most important that, as far as possible, there should be equality of sacrifice, and it is not happening today. These compassionate cases must be considered most carefully. It is most important—and I say this as an ex-Service man myself—that the net should not have unnecessary holes in it, but that all who are available for service should serve. The net should be drawn tight and there should be no scrimshanking, but we should take particular care over these special cases.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene, because I think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) is being less than fair. It is the duty of my Ministry to operate the 1948 Act, in which, quite clearly, there are no provisions for permanent exemption at all. If we are to operate that Act—and it is our duty to do so—it must be done within the provisions which the Act itself lays down, that exemption is not possible. Within this framework we are sympathetic as possible through the use of deferment and postponement.
§ Commander Maitland
If that is the case, what then becomes of the statement of the Minister of Labour when he opened this debate and said that the problem of how people should be taken from industry and so on was continually under review? It is under review at this moment; that is what we are doing in this House. We are reviewing this matter.
1591 I finish on this note. I am entirely in agreement, for the reasons given yesterday, that we should continue the call-up for two years, which I believe is almost certainly the right time. When we take this enormous responsibility on ourselves, however, we must see that the net is drawn tight and that everybody who ought to serve does so, while at the same time we must make absolutely certain that the people who should not serve do not serve.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I take it that all that the House really decided yesterday was not to review this matter, as the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested we ought to review it, every year. What we are considering today is whether we will renew it at all, and I should have thought that the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) was well within his rights, and certainly well within the rules of order, in citing two cases within his knowledge showing how the scheme has worked so far, when the House is being asked to extend it by Order in Council. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman specifically omitted to do—perhaps that is not quite fair, as he said that he was in general agreement with continuing it—was to say whether, irrespective of what happened to the class of case to which he referred, he was going to vote for or against the Order.
§ Commander Maitland
I most certainly shall vote for the Order. I think it is absolutely right, and I am merely exercising the duty of a Member of Parliament in bringing out what I consider to be weaknesses in the operation of the Act, which is the duty of every Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Silverman
So far from complaining about the hon. and gallant Gentleman, on the contrary I applaud him for raising his voice, though the facts lead him to a conclusion different from that to which they lead me.
I am inexorably and unalterably opposed to the making of the Order which is referred to in the Motion now before us. There will have to be an Address asking that the Order shall be made. I do not want the Order made, 1592 and I shall vote against the Address. I shall do so because it seems to me to be wrong in method, wrong in principle and unable to produce the desired results. I see that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), with whom I collaborate in so many things, has gone out. I am sure that he had to go—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has been explaining to me that his presence is necessary in a Select Committee of which he is a member, and he asks me to convey his apology to the House for not being able to remain here.
§ Mr. Silverman
We are all obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for that information. None of us who have known my hon. and learned Friend for as long as we have known him would think for a moment that his action in leaving the House was intended as a discourtesy to anybody. He would certainly have desired to remain if pressing duties had not taken him elsewhere.
I want to say for myself that I do not believe that, in the conditions of the modern world, liberty can be preserved by war. If a world war were unfortunately to occur, then there would be little liberty left at the end of it, whichever side won. We can lay the face of the whole world waste and call it peace; we can give that waste the permanence of the grave; we can fight for the third time a war with modern weapons, which might mean the wiping out from the face of this planet of all the human races, and the result will no doubt be to free human history from any further problems—but do not let us call the result liberty.
Our Armed Forces at the moment are of two kinds. There is the Regular, professional, voluntary Army, and there is the body of partially-trained men who are in the Reserves after having done compulsory military service for 18 months or two years. I do not know anybody on any side of this controversy who does not believe that the more effective of those two Forces, the basis of our defence Forces, is still the skilled, trained, professional, voluntary Army. In that we differ from all other countries who have compulsory military service. In most, and I think in all, of the other cases where compulsory military service 1593 is the rule, that service is relied upon for providing the country's defence Forces.
No one has ever claimed that for this form of conscription in this country. Nobody believes that we could make anything effective by taking a raw youth of 18 and keeping him in the conditions in which he serves today for two years. I am sure that the Minister of Defence does not think so either.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
They did good service in Korea.
§ Mr. Silverman
I dare say, and not merely in Korea. After a much shorter training they did magnificent work throughout the Second World War and in the latter part of the First World War. No one wishes to cast any discredit upon their performance. I have no doubt that all of them show great skill, courage, self-sacrifice and devotion to duty; but that does not mean, and I am sure that the Minister of Defence was not intending to say so, that we in this country rely mainly on our conscript Army. We rely much more upon the voluntary, skilled, professional Army, which has always been the backbone of our defence Forces. The Minister does not disagree with that.
With regard to the Regular Army, we have for nearly 300 years made it illegal to have one at all, but that has not meant that we have done without one. It has meant that the legislative authority under which we have it is an Act of Parliament which remains in force for only 12 months. Throughout that time no one has ever thought it necessary for the defence of this country to extend the Army Act beyond 12 months It has worked extremely well. There has never been a year in which the Army Act has not been passed, but the effect of the rule that we must have legislative authority only for one year at a time for maintaining a standing Army at all was to give this House the opportunity every 12 months to review not merely the general question of principle as to whether we should have a standing Army—about which there has never been on any of these occasions any doubt—but the actual working of the Army Act in all the details which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had in mind when he cited the two cases this afternoon.
1594 When I first came to this House, and for many years afterwards, the Committee stage of the Army Act was a regular all-night sitting, and every question of policy, practice and detail was open to review throughout that night. All sorts of questions were raised, some important, some not so important and some about which individual Members had some idiosyncrasy, as well as questions of wider general importance. It was a valuable thing to have that review every year. What an anomaly it is that although we cannot have the main part of our defence Forces for longer than 12 months at a time, subject to Parliamentary review every 12 months, we are now in the position when conscription for the rest of the Armed Forces can be had for five years at a time by Order in Council, which precludes any kind of detailed review or amendment of the conditions of service, or of the way it applies, or of any other matter which Parliament might usefully consider.
Surely that is not only an anomaly but an unnecessary anomaly. It is not less important but more important that the conditions under which a conscript Army works should be subject to annual review than in the case of the Regular Army, and not merely because more men are concerned or because they serve by compulsion. One reason it is important is that we are dealing with something wholly new. We have never had conscription in peace-time before. When we were invited to have it, and agreed to have it, in 1947, it was held out that this was a temporary thing designed to deal with temporary circumstances. We were invited to pass it for only five years. There were many questions and anxieties expressed in the debate then on both sides of the House as to how the thing was going to work.
Much has been said this afternoon about universality of service; but it is not universal. The miners do not serve. I am not complaining of that. I think it was a right decision to be made then, and I certainly would not want to alter it. There were people at the time who said, "Why only miners?" There were Amendments designed to exempt agricultural workers altogether, just as miners are exempted altogether. I myself moved an Amendment to exempt textile workers altogether. There was a special reason for that. It was not only a question of 1595 the comparative value of the industry of or the impracticability or undesirability of draining men away from it. The textile industry needs people when young. It cannot train them for some of the jobs unless they begin young, and there are some jobs which can be done only by young people.
I am not complaining about the decision of the House. I am saying that it was reasonable enough to say: "Let us try it for five years, and at the end let us review the position to see how the experiment has worked, what lessons we have learned and whether to continue it exactly as we have had it or decide that alterations, modifications, amendments and improvements should be made." It should not be done under an Order in Council.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
National Service is covered by the Service Estimates, and, surely, by a simple Amendment to the Service Estimates, the whole of the question which the hon. Member is raising could be debated each year.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that if the hon. Member made an effort, he would find it possible to follow the argument. If he uses the experience which he has intelligently derived during his membership of the House, he will remember that on an Estimate one cannot legislate at all. What I am pointing out is not capable of controversy; I am stating it as a fact. What is capable of controversy is whether hon. Members would like it that way or some other way. The fact that an Order in Council cannot be amended is, surely, common ground.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
If the hon. Member does not like my hon. Friend's suggestion, what about this one: that it is perfectly open to him in 12 months' time to move a Motion for an Address to the Crown in precisely the opposite sense?
§ Mr. Silverman
The noble Lord is missing the point. What we are concerned with in the Address today, and what we would be concerned with in an Address in the contrary sense, is the general question whether we want this thing at all or whether we want not to have it at all. I am not concerned with that in this part of my argument, though 1596 I hope to come to it. I am concerned with the much more practical question whether we want to continue it in one form or another, whether we want to continue it with or without amendments.
In the case of the Regular Army that can be done every year, because the statute is before the House every year in a form which is capable of legislative amendment. What I am saying is that it is an anomaly not to have the same right when dealing with the vaster numbers of men who are subject to compulsory service at an early stage of their lives. This is not a new point as far as I am concerned. The original Act was carried through by my right hon. Friends who formed the Labour Government at that time. I moved an Amendment to leave out the Clause which permitted of the renewal of the thing as a whole by Order in Council. I said then, and I see nothing in what has happened in the last five years to make the argument less valid than it was at that time, that at the end of five years there might be many things that the House wished to alter. We might wish to review the age of service and to review the industries which should or should not be exempted?
It was said that the Minister would do that—and I am sure he would do so openmindedly, objectively, fairmindedly and reasonably—in a departmental way, administratively; but that is not the way it is done with the Army Act and it is not the way it ought to be done. If there are to be alterations of these matters, it is Parliament which ought to decide them and not the Minister or the Department, and certainly not the Service Ministers.
§ Mr. Wigg
Next year my hon. Friend may be quoted against me. He is confusing the debate on the Army Estimates with the debate on the Army Act. Obviously, it is competent—indeed, I hope to exercise the right when we come to it—to vote on Vote A. It is at that point that we could, if we wished, bring the Government down. We could have an all-night sitting and examine conscription on the Army Estimates, and not on the Army Act.
§ Mr. Silverman
What I am saying is not that it can be done on the Army Act, but that it cannot be done and that there ought to be an Act which would enable it to be done. We ought not to be forced back upon the Estimates when we cannot alter anything. We ought to be able to do with this Act what can be done with the Army Act: namely, change it in detail, change this or that aspect of it, have the review that the Minister says—I am sure he is right—the Department makes continuously, and bring it into focus once a year in the House of Commons so that the House can consider whether it will make any changes. It is an anomaly that we should be able to do that with the voluntary Regular Army and not able to do it with the compulsory National Service.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
As I understand it, the conscript as well as the Regular is included in Vote A. [HON. MEMBERS:"Yes."] If a majority of the House came to the conclusion that the condition for the conscript was so intolerable that it ought to be altered, it could reduce Vote A by the number of people in the conscript Army.
§ Mr. Silverman
No doubt the House could do that. That would be a very cumbersome and unpractical way, however, of considering, for instance, whether the age of call-up ought to be 18 or 21; of considering whether agricultural workers should have the same statutory exemption as miners have, and all the other things that are in the Act and which can only be changed by an amendment of the Act. The Act cannot be amended on an Estimate and it cannot be amended on an Order in Council. The only way in which it could be done would be by having an annual Act dealing with compulsory National Service, exactly as an annual Act deals with the professional Army. I see no reason why there should not be an annual Act. It has worked very well in the one case. It is not less necessary, but more necessary, in the other case. I do not know why it was resisted in 1948, and I do not see why it is resisted now.
§ Sir W. Monckton
The hon. Member will find that the miners have no statutory exemption. They simply have not been called up administratively by my predecessor and myself.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the House felt that anybody else ought to have statutory exemption, the only way it could be given would be by amending a statute; and there has to be a statute before it can be amended.
My second point is that this procedure is wrong in principle. I admit at once that I am probably pleading a lost cause. So far as I know, there is no party in the State today who are prepared to make it part of their political programme to oppose compulsory military service in peace-time.
§ Mr. Silverman
No: I think not even the Communist Party. So far as I know, all the Communist countries have compulsory military service, and in this respect it is the hon. and gallant Member who is the fellow traveller, not me.
§ Brigadier Clarke
The hon. Member said that there was no political party in the country which opposed compulsory military service. I am saying that the Communist Party in this country oppose it. Possibly the hon. Member knows better than I do.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am prepared to accept the hon. and gallant Member's superior knowledge on the subject. If he assures me that he has inside information that the Communist Party are opposed to compulsory military service in peace-time, I will accept it from him as an expert authority, with whom I should not attempt to compete. But if the hon. and gallant Member is right, this is the only point on which the Communist Party of Great Britain differ from the Kremlin, and I congratulate them upon doing so. One of the things that prevents others from being members of the Communist Party is that the Communist Party are opposed to military service, but that is different from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's view. I repeat that there is no political party which is prepared to make this a plank in its platform—not even the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Silverman
Of course, I was speaking of the present time. I know there was a past time when they thought differently, 1599 but I doubt very much whether there will be any future time. One has only to look at that party's history since 1945. The Liberal Party, in 1947, opposed the National Service Bill and, having advised that there should not be compulsory military service at all, voted unanimously in favour of increasing that service from 18 months to two years.
§ Mr. Wade
Before the hon. Gentleman goes on, I should like him to consider this point. If compulsory National Service had been abolished after the last war, and the Regular Army had been built up with the aid of very much better pay and conditions, it might well be that compulsory National Service would not have been required at the outbreak of the Korean war.
§ Mr. Silverman
I think the hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. He and I agreed about this, in 1947, and both voted against the Second Reading of the Bill; but I remained of that opinion in 1950, whereas he had changed his opinion. I think it was just as true in 1950asin 1947. But I do not want to make a party point against the hon. Gentleman, because I think all the parties are in the same boat about it. I think all the parties are pretending about it, and that they are deceiving the country about it.
I quite agree that hon. Members on the other side, or most of them, have always liked the principle of National Service. There are some exceptions, I know. The great majority of my hon. and right hon. Friends, again with some exceptions, have always disliked the principle of compulsory military service. But, whether willingly or unwillingly, with liking or dislike, it is quite plain, from speeches that are made on both sides of the House, that there is no party in the State which will really assert that they can foresee, at any rate within any foreseeable future, any circumstances in the modern world in which they would be in favour of repealing the compulsory military service law in peace time.
Perhaps when the conditions are different, when the tensions are less, when arms are differently conceived, there may come such a time, but do not let us toy with it now. We do not know when it will be, how it will be, or whether it will be, but, sometime or other there may possibly be a time, or conditions, which 1600 it would be safe to dispense with compulsory military service.
I say that if that is all they can say, it would be better to tell the country, frankly, "We believe that the world is now so constituted that we cannot do without this thing." If that is what is meant, that is what should be said. For my part, I still believe that military service is not the first, but the last, thing with regard to which the State should use its compulsory powers. We call it, euphemistically, "National Service." I am not for a moment saying that it is not service to the nation, but the term ought not to be used. National Service is a much wider thing than military service. I could conceive, in any democratic State fighting for its economic existence, its economic footing and its independence in a difficult world, the justification, the legitimacy, of saying that the community must use all its resources, including its labour resources, in the way most conducive to the benefit of the community. If that were being done, then I suppose the objection to making it apply also to military service would be less.
But I deny, as strongly as I can, the validity of the argument which says that the State may go to boys—and perhaps some day to girls—of the age of 18, and compel them for two years to do what the State wants them to do on the military side of the community's necessities, and yet not be prepared to use the same powers and the same authority to achieve the real independence of the community in a difficult world; that these boys should be compelled by law to die—perhaps less important than compelled by law to kill—but that everyone should seem to think that there is no justification for compelling people to work, or directing their work, or organising it in the general interests of the community.
I think it is quite wrong, and that all those arguments which may have led the majority of my friends, throughout a political lifetime, to oppose the principle of compulsory military service, at any rate in peace-time, are even more valid, not less, today than they were throughout those years; and I stand by them. The suggestion that by those methods we can really preserve either peace in the world or the peace of this counrty, I feel cannot be maintained.
1601 The Prime Minister has moved a long way over the years. I certainly prefer the Churchill of Westminster in 1953 to the Churchill of Fulton in 1946. He tells us that today Russia is not aggressive, that it is more concerned with building up its internal prosperity than its means of external attack, so that on that basis we may build our policy. He tells us what a very good thing it is that Russia, as well as we, now have the atomic bomb, and a variety of other matters of the same kind. I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman must take care or, before he knows where he is, he will be a successful candidate for a Stalin Peace Prize. What is definite is that, unless peace can be preserved, none of the things we hope to preserve can be preserved by war, because, in the conditions of modern war, either nothing survives at all, or only those things that we most wish to prevent.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I am of the same opinion as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), that it is always difficult to oppose a Measure which is introduced so graciously by the Minister of Labour. However, on this occasion I not only wish to oppose it; I wish to oppose it on principle with all the vigour that I can muster.
I believe that this Order is based on a fundamental fallacy, and that it would be entirely improper if it went through without a voice being raised in this House to point out the nature of that fallacy. I am sure that it is the duty of one of us, in the interests collectively of the House as a whole, to make this protest so that the underlying fallacy in this Measure may be clearly exposed.
The object of conscription is accepted as being to make the Armed Forces of this nation stronger. I would myself agree that the probability is that we shall never, except in certain circumstances, be able to avoid this necessity of making our national Army stronger by conscription, so long as we continue to have a national Army. The object of having a national Army, of making it stronger and of using conscription so to do, is assumed to be a means of obtaining security for the citizens in the community. There can be no other reason, except for ceremonial purposes, in having armies at all.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
Does my hon. Friend think that a change of Colonial Secretary might reduce the need for conscription?
§ Mr. Usborne
There could be reasons, which I might be persuaded to consider, which might reduce the need. But I still think that if national armies are retained, even if the Government were changed, conscription would be necessary.
Perhaps I should interpolate a point which I intend to make later. It is this. I happen to believe that the world which we inhabit is such that we shall be obliged to have conscription and continue it for all time, until and unless two alternative events occur. They are these. The first possibility of escape from conscription is that a Government of the calibre of the one now in power produces sufficient deflation in the economy as to create so much unemployment that people in this country will sell their labour to the recruiting sergeant because they cannot sell it anywhere else.
That is the first and obvious possibility that we must envisage, whereby conscription would become unnecessary. However, that need not be considered seriously, because I am equally convinced that if that happened, the electorate would assert itself in no time at all, would change that kind of Government and would put into office a Labour Government which would have no difficulty at all in at once relieving that economic gloom. Therefore, I do not need greatly to bother with that possibility.
Apart from that event, there is otherwise a certainty in my mind—I know it is always rash for a politician to prophesy—that conscription is now a permanent feature of our national life, until a supranational federal Government is created which can take away from the nation the hopeless business of trying to defend itself. If I am told that that idea is Utopian, I must add that it is the more Utopian unless people constantly draw attention to the fact that it is desirable.
Now, the principle that security is attained, not by the maintenance of national arms, but by the maintenance of government, law and order, has always been valid. The significance of the age in which we now live is that for the first time in history, this principle can now be carried out. It is practicably possible, 1603 if enough people so desire it, to create the proper supra-national institutions of government. It is not only possible but it is very desirable, and until that system is created the people had better face the fact that conscription and national armed service will be with us always.
I am sometimes told that the world government that I advocate is quite absurd and that the United Nations can do the job. Indeed, a great many ordinary people, and people who profess to speak for ordinary folk, tell me that the idea of world government is crack-pot anyhow. They add that the United Nations could keep the peace if only its member States would use that organisation for that purpose instead of using it as a forum for power politics. But that, to me, is a little too much like saying that no human community would need government or law or police if only the people in the community would draw up the rules and if everybody would agree to obey them.
I doubt whether the town in which I live could even handle parking in that way, let alone theft and murder. Once my fellow townsmen lost the protection of the courts and of the police, they would start carrying arms to protect themselves. In no time at all they would have created a few first-class blood feuds. That is precisely what the national sovereign State is comparable to in these days. That is the situation in the anarchic world community of today; and it is carrying more and more arms each year that passes.
Therefore, to draw attention to the alternative—in my view, the only practical alternative—to continued national armed service, I believe it is my duty to oppose this Motion and to divide the House. I propose to do that this evening. I have been told by many of my hon. Friends that this is not the appropriate occasion on which to do this kind of thing, for two reasons. The first reason is—and, quite frankly, I agree—that the circumstances prevailing in the world today necessitate the acceptance of this Order.
There is, therefore, the difficulty and the dilemma that I am in, that whereas, to draw attention to the underlying fallacy in this Order I feel that I should oppose it, nevertheless if I were able to persuade the majority of hon. Members 1604 to agree with me and go into the same Lobby with me, I should be preventing the passage of a Measure which I believe to be necessary now.
Nevertheless, that seems to me to be one of the anomalous situations which so often arise from the rather illogical but delicately perfect instrument of Parliamentary democracy. I propose, therefore, to take this opportunity of dividing the House, although I admit that the alternative which I am advocating is not instantly practicable. However, the sooner it becomes practicable the better, and the more people who advocate it the sooner it will become so.
Then I am told that even if I wish to divide the House in order to generate public opinion—for that is what I am doing—this is not the appropriate occasion and there should be some other occasion in the Parliamentary calendar when it would be more fitting. I have waited nearly 8½ years to discover what is the appropriate occasion. Everybody I know is able to tell me that an occasion is inappropriate, but few people have ever warned me in time of the occasion that is appropriate. If, therefore, I have made a blunder this time I am sorry. I shall have learned from any mistake and I shall discover the more appropriate occasion. If and when I discover it, I hope that I shall then be given the same opportunity to oppose in order to draw attention to what I believe is the right thing to do.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I do not intend to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne) in his excursion into the future. I make no apology for carrying on the discussion which we had yesterday on the subject of this Order, which seeks to extend the National Service Act for a period of five years, because I take the view that the Government were very unwise yesterday in refusing the offer made to them by the Opposition for an annual review of the conditions and terms of National Service.
In their efforts to discredit the Opposition Motion yesterday, the Government spokesmen proved far too much in trying to show that we could not have this annual review. Each speaker from the benches opposite proved quite conclusively, to his own satisfaction, that a 1605 period of National Service for two years was absolutely indispensable, not only now but for as long ahead as we can see. It is because of that rigid attitude on their part—refusing to see that a time may come when a period of less than two years may be possible, or when no service may be necessary—that we must face up to the problem today. That is one of the main reasons why I cannot support this Order.
The issue we are discussing is a very serious one not only from the point of view of national defence and our security in an insecure world, but because we have a duty to protect the best interests of our youth, who are unable to speak or vote for themselves, but who, nevertheless, in most cases willingly and cheerfully accept National Service and agree to make the best use of it. I know that although most people dislike National Service, once they know they are to be called up they usually shrug their shoulders and say, "I am going to make the best of it, and perhaps it will not be too long before I am out."
Throughout the country, however, there is a genuine dislike of it as a principle and practice. I must make my own position clear. Although I dislike National Service in peacetime I have no objection to it at present, or, indeed, so long as a real difficulty exists. I have always supported the idea of National Service when the subject has been before the House on previous occasions. But in the present instance we have to bear in mind two main issues which are involved and which, although for the purposes of the moment I shall keep them separate, are nevertheless completely interwoven.
The first is the question of the period of National Service. My argument is that it ought to be subject to annual review by Parliament. We all know—it was made quite clear yesterday—that the period was increased from 18 months to two years because of one specific fact, namely, the Korean situation. We all know that before that situation arose there was no complaint from either side of the House that the period of 18 months was insufficient to produce a trained soldier. Yet, with the advent of the Korean war, we agreed, as a temporary measure, to an extension of this period for a further six months.
1606 We know that the war in Korea is not finally settled. Although there is a truce there is no peace. But we must admit that the fact that there is a truce means that there is a lessening of the tension and strain, both with regard to supplies and the replacement of casualties, and there really must be an easement of our manpower position. I am quite certain that if there had been no trouble in Korea in 1950 there would have been no two-year period of National Service. Although the issue is not settled, it seems to me that we can look forward, within perhaps a year, to a settlement of that position, and that is a major argument for a review of the period of National Service.
Then there is the vexed question of the Suez Canal Zone and the 80,000 troops locked up there. If that question were solved—as it must be within the next 12 months; the present position cannot continue—it would mean an easing of the manpower situation there, and, whether we used the troops thus made available as a strategic reserve at home, or to bolster up our forces elsewhere, it would mean one less commitment to be fulfilled.
For those reasons we must persist in our endeavours to get this annual review. We are told that we can have it at any time by raising the question on the Estimates, or in a debate on a defence White Paper, or whenever we wish to, but the onus is on the Government to prove their case for a period of two years, and not upon the Opposition to prove that this period is too long. It is the duty of the Government to prove, at any given time—not less than once a year—that we need two years' military service from our young men.
There is a whole mass of technical reasons why, at this stage, the period of National Service must come under review. I do not want to go into these in any detail, but we know that this is a problem which, in the main, concerns the Army. The Navy is not concerned to any great extent. The Air Force is concerned to some extent, but not so much as the Army. The main reason for National Service in peacetime was to give us an adequate reserve. At the beginning of next year I believe that we shall have an adequate trained reserve of about half a million men. With that reserve behind us—a reserve of people 1607 with a knowledge of modern weapons—it seems to me that it is now time to review the period.
Again, there is the question of Regular recruitment. Within a year, or perhaps two or three, we should have made advances with Regular recruitment, with better housing provisions, better conditions of service, and so on, sufficient to bring in a flow of Regular recruits ample for normal purposes. The other main reason why we should have this review is because of the economic effect of two years' National Service upon this country. For the last three or four years we have been trying to maintain a very precarious balance between the needs of the Forces and the needs of industry.
My belief is that on too many occasions the industrial potential has been strained to breaking point by the demands of the defence programme. Now that we can see a slackening in the need for that great defence programme, it is time to consider the effect of this two years' loss of real productive work by a vast number of our young people.
We must also consider the social implications of National Service, which are being studied very closely by different research organisations at the present time. There is the question of the misuse of time before call-up and the wrongful use of manpower. The immoral effects of National Service have been overstressed. On balance, I believe there is a gain to the recruit from his National Service, but I do not want to go into that question now.
Have we reached a time when it is appropriate to have an immediate reduction, either of three months or six months, in our period of National Service? I believe that the answer must be" No." It is not possible at the present time. No one who spoke yesterday really made it a part of his argument that at the present time we can reduce the period of National Service by six months. But we must take up the point that, if the present trend goes on, within the next six or nine months we should be reaching a point when a reduction is possible. Therefore, I contend that it is up to the Government to prove their case, and prove beyond all doubt that a period of two years is absolutely vital for our preservation.
1608 Yesterday, we heard the argument that it was inconvenient for the Armed Forces to have changes in the period of service—that it was upsetting the military planning, and so on. That argument of convenience just will not do today. If we have to continue to choose between the convenience of the military planners and the convenience of those to be called up, together with their families and employers, it is high time that we gave the last-named priority of consideration.
An argument which has been put forward—a very specious one, I think—is that the two-year period of National Service is an inducement to people to take a Regular engagement of three years. That seems to me to be a very negative and, indeed, a very immoral way of getting Regular forces. We all know that when the young man who specifies that he wishes to do his National Service in the Royal Air Force goes to the recruiting centre for his medical examination strong pressure is put upon him to join for three years instead of two. He is told, "If you want to get into the Royal Air Force the only way you can do it is by signing on for three years. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that you will get into the R.A.F. You will go into the Army." If he wishes to join a specific corps in the Army he is told, "The only way you can ensure getting into that is by a voluntary enlistment for a minimum period of three years."
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Will my hon. Friend make the point that once the young man has been accepted in that way he loses the right of reinstatement in his job when he comes out?
§ Mr. Chetwynd
My hon. Friend has made the point for me.
I think that that is a very wrong way of getting recruits. If the Army wants to get recruits to stay on it should make the period of National Service so attractive that the young men will voluntarily wish to stay on at the end of their two-year period of service, or 18 months, whatever the period may be. I think that that is just as satisfactory a way of getting the Regular Army as the other.
As to the principle of National Service, we accepted it with two main reservations, I think; first of all, that it was not to be permanent, and secondly, that it was to be as universal as possible in its appli- 1609 cation. If this Order gets through, and National Service is renewed for five years, we shall have had conscription in peace and war for 20 years, and we shall have had it in peace for 14 years; and young people affected by the call-up will not have known any other form of service who are now over the age of 12. People now 12 who will be called up in 1959 will have known no other form of service than National Service, and there is a real danger that it will become a permanent feature of our life.
"The Times," in an editorial yesterday, spoke of renewing it for five years, another five years, and another five years after that, and then for as far ahead as it could see. The arguments we had from the Government benches yesterday made it quite clear that, although the Secretary of State for War gave us an undertaking he would review it, and said he did not want to keep it a moment longer than necessary, they thought that the minimum period of service for adequate defensive arrangements was two years. We must protest against that outlook, otherwise we shall be in danger of having permanent National Service and the two-year period permanently.
I come now to the question of universality of application. It is no longer true, if it was ever true. There has never been universal National Service. I agree that it could never have taken place. The miners, for instance, have exemption, and we could make out a case for the exemption of merchant seamen, and a case has been made out for the exemption of people engaged in export trades, and so on. By exemptions, deferments, reservations, and so on, we have reached a selective call-up. The Minister of Labour gave us startling figures for agriculture today. I think he said that about 8,000 were called up, but of those only 3,000 were finally put into the Army, the other 5,000 being left out for medical reasons, or for one reason or another.
§ Sir W. Monckton
I said that 6,000 were available for National Service out of an annual figure of about 17,000.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
Some of the 17,000 got deferments. Out of those, 8,000 are left, and of those 6,000 are going into the Services, leaving a fair number to be put on one side for medical reasons. That applies throughout the whole range; in fact, we are getting a selective call-up.
What is the position of those who are deferred? There are large numbers deferred for one reason or another. Would the Minister tell us the position and say whether, when their deferment ceases, they take their place in the Armed Forces? There is a strong feeling in the country that many of those deferred people actually avoid their military service. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence will be able to give us an assurance that there is a rigid check on all those deferments, to make sure that those deferred do their term of service when their deferment is over.
The reason why we should have this review and not insist upon this period of five years at the present time is the change in the nature of the dangerous situation which faces us. There is some dispute between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War about this. The Prime Minister thinks that things are on the mend, that there is an improvement. The Secretary of State for War said last night that things are a little more difficult. It is hard to reconcile those two points of view.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
In the context of his speech, what the right hon. Gentleman said was an indication that he did not accept that there had been a sufficient improvement in the situation to warrant any change.
The Prime Minister himself thinks that the danger is less imminent now. We all know that 1953 was to have been the danger year, that we were to have a short, sharp heave to get our defences in order to face a possible danger in 1953. We know now that that danger is not here in 1953. It is not imminent. We know now that it is spread over a period of from 10 to 20 or 30 years in the future, and instead of having a short, sharp heave we 1611 are faced with a long, steady pull in our defensive arrangements for many years to come.
My view is that in the next year we must, in the light of that situation, change our approach towards it. We shall have to concentrate more on a short period of training and more time in the Reserve, with efficient Reserve training year by year, and we shall have to put more emphasis on the Regular Forces and pay more regard to strategy based on the effective use of modern weapons. The Government have been most shortsighted in refusing to agree to an annual review of both the period and the principle of National Service.
If their case is sound, and if they were to come to the House and base their case upon sound reasoning, then the House, I am quite sure, would give them the period of service they wish, year by year, without any difficulty. I firmly believe that we should not act in any way irresponsibly in this matter. I warn the House that on no account must we relax our vigilance and give the Government a blank cheque for the next five years. We ought not to accept the period of two years' National Service as a permanent feature of our national life.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) was, I think, a little illogical. He told us just now that as there was an easing of the world situation, and tension has become a little less, that was a very good reason why we could, in effect, relax our own defensive effort. If it be true—I think it is true—that the world situation has become less tense in the last 18 months, then it is precisely because we ourselves, with the other N.A.T.O. countries, have become so much stronger. The hon. Member said that my right hon. Friend had adopted a rigid attitude. I do not think he could have listened to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour today, or to the speeches which were made last night. I detected no rigid attitude in them.
I do not believe that any right hon. or hon. Member on either side of the House likes National Service for its own 1612 sake. We all accept it as a necessity, taking into consideration the facts with which we have to deal. Put baldly, the situation is that, without National Service and without a call-up for two years, we should be unable to fulfil our world commitments. Those who ask us to reduce the period of National Service now ought, to be logical, at the same time to tell us which of our world commitments they consider it is no longer necessary for us to fulfil. [AN HON. MEMBER:"What about Suez?"] We all hope that there will be a satisfactory conclusion to the negotiations with Egypt, but that situation has not yet arisen and we have to deal with the Order in the light of the position as it is now.
If a satisfactory conclusion were reached in the negotiations with Egypt, fewer troops would be required in the Canal Zone, but it would not mean that no troops were required in the Middle East. In any case, there is an overriding argument for building up in this country a strategic reserve, which is precisely what we have not got now, because of our widespread commitments overseas. I do not like the present position at all. We are so stretched out fulfilling commitments overseas, even with a two-year period of call-up, that we have virtually no reserves left in this country.
If I understand the position correctly, there is nothing whatever to prevent the Government next year, the year after or, indeed, at any time should conditions make it possible, from altering the period of National Service. We are not committed irrevocably to a two-year period of call-up for a further five years during which no one can think about it again. The period of service can be reduced by an Order in Council but it cannot be increased without legislation. I see nothing rigid in that.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees and, I think, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) talked about the war in Korea. They implied that, as there was now an armistice in Korea and no actual shooting was taking place, these circumstances, in some mysterious way, automatically made it possible for us to reduce our commitment there, which, anyway, is only one division. Although we hope that the talks will end satisfactorily, the political conference has not yet begun. All we are enjoying in 1613 Korea at the moment is a breathing space, and I can think of nothing more unwise than to make use of a breathing space, when there is no proof that it is anything more than a breathing space, to begin to reduce a period of National Service. If we reduced it to, say, 18 months, we should be unable to send any National Service men at all to Korea. Nothing could have a worse effect upon our relations with the United States.
There is another matter which was referred to in the debate yesterday, but neither the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne nor the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees mentioned it. If we were now to give the impression to our friends and allies abroad that we were wavering in our determination to fulfil the commitments to which we are pledged, the effect would be absolutely fatal. I can think of no way better calculated to create this impression than now to argue about whether, in present circumstances, we should have a two-year or an 18-month period of service. Once we start wavering on that, we should create uncertainty and give the appearance of weakness, at the very moment when what we need to create is an impression of determination and strength.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. There has not been an abandonment of our defence undertakings. They may have been scaled down slightly in the light of the circumstances, but there is a great deal of difference between scaling down over a longish period and not fulfilling commitments to which we are pledged by treaty, or a United Nations' resolution.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. James Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
If I am any judge, it appears from the contributions which have already been made to the debate that National Service is to become a permanent feature of our national life. Yesterday, I heard all the arguments for continuing conscription, and I heard from the Government benches the reason why we should extend it for five years. It was very vague. 1614 Whenever we discuss military matters in this House we never get down to details about the responsibilities of the Armed Forces. We have no idea where the Forces are operating. Everything is clouded by the attitude that if certain information was given we should be harming Service security.
We first introduced conscription in peace-time because of emergency. In 1947, the emergency was the running down of the Army and the dangerous world situation which arose out of the difficulties associated with our former allies. Subsequently, the emergency situation was intensified by the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. Today every hon. Member admits that the situation is not as intense as it was in 1947–48. Why do we therefore attempt to continue conscription for a further five years? We have stronger Armed Forces today than at any time in our history. At present, we have more than 800,000 people under arms, and we have also reserve forces of almost 500,000.
Also, much to the regret of many hon. Members opposite, we do not possess the Empire that we had formerly. We are out of India and Burma. Notwithstanding the reduction in our authority in those places, we have greater co-operation with the United Nations, and we have a closer link with the Commonwealth, through our Armed Forces, than we ever had. From the point of view of ordinary military strength, we have more armed force today with less responsibility.
Then we come to the great advance of the atomic age. I can remember the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, telling us that the only thing that prevented war coming from the eastern side of the Iron Curtain was the power of the atom bomb. I am quite satisfied that no country today can win a war. I am equally certain that it is possible to ease the situation today by this country making a closer examination of its conscription policy.
There was a tendency on the part of some of the authorities yesterday to suggest that if we altered the length of service from two years to 18 months it would create a very difficult situation with our allies, and create a bit of a panic in the international world. I have discovered in my study of history that it has always been the conscript countries that were 1615 finally reduced by the voluntary effort of the democratic countries. The most powerful conscript country in the world was Germany, and on two occasions the German army was wiped out. Therefore, I say that in facing up to the military commitments of this country we are not recognising the advance of the atomic age. Does anyone imagine if a war broke out today that the Forces which we have spread all over the world could defend this island community of ours?
We refused to have conscription in the past because of the power of our Navy. That was the only reason. The Continental countries had conscription, and we did not because we had a powerful Navy. Neither the Army nor the Navy today, in the event of a world war, would be of much account. We live in the atomic age. Eight years ago we dropped atom bombs in Japan. Those bombs, destructive as they were, are now out of date. I therefore say we should rid ourselves of the military machine by which millions of people are called up. If a world war breaks out the Army—the infantry and the artillery—will be of little account in the face of this atomic age.
Another factor of the call-up is the economic and social consequences. It is argued that when a young man goes into the Army he gets discipline and an ordered way of life which may be of help to him when he comes back into civilian life. I am prepared to admit that in many cases, because of that discipline and ordered way of life, a man may come out of the Army into civilian life with a greater sense of responsibility than he formerly had. But we have never made a serious examination of the social problem. It is all right for the people who come from our grammar schools at the age of 18. They know fairly well what their social life will be when they come out of the Army to return to civilian life; but has the Minister of Labour and have the chiefs of the various fighting Departments studied the reactions of the young boy who leaves school at 15?
In many parts of the country, where there is not the same social advancement as in other parts, a boy from 15 to 18 is in and out of one job after another, and he has no particular avenue of life at all. I have heard debates in this House about the bad conduct of the youth of our land 1616 today as compared with that of former years, and I have heard hon. Members talking about bringing back the whip and the rod to deal with these boys; but have we ever examined the statistics to find out how many of these boys have been driven that way because they realise that in two years they will be in the Armed Forces? They have not a settled way of life.
I heard the military experts on both sides of the House discussing this problem yesterday and so far as I know—I may be wrong—there was not an ex-private who took part in the debate. The military experts come from the grammar schools and the colleges. They are all ready equipped; they have got a place. The Minister of Labour said today that someone has to do the donkey work, potato peeling and all the rest, but it is always the chaps who come from the elementary schools at the age of 15 who do that kind of donkey work. In making my protest against this Order, I sincerely ask that some consideration should be given to the boy who comes from the elementary school and who goes into the Army at 18 years of age. In my view, those boys are not getting the kind of discipline and education to which they are entitled.
A former military expert said yesterday that these boys get education in the Army. What is the education? We have already been told that two years' conscription is too short a period to equip these boys thoroughly in military training. What is the type of education which they get during that same period? I am still of the opinion that if we want to build up our Armed Forces we have to give these boys the opportunity of making one of the Services a voluntary career and equip them in such a way that they have the possibility of obtaining promotion.
I remember that when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was on this side of the House he and some of his colleagues made a great fight against compulsory labour service—instructions being given to people to go into particular branches of industry. I think there is a stronger case for forcing people into industry than forcing them into the Armed Forces.
The final point which I want to make is the economic one. We are constantly 1617 being told that export markets are endangered because of competition. In the early days we built up our Army to save the trade routes. I can see us reaching the stage when we shall have a tremendously powerful Army with no trade routes. The President of the Board of Trade, at the weekend, made it known that two of our most powerful competitors in many of the world markets were Germany and Japan. That is the strange anomaly of the world today. Germany is not armed; Japan is not armed. My view is that this island has too large an Army for her economy.
Therefore, I say from the economic point of view that there is need for review of the whole question of the present Armed Forces. I feel that once we have established the idea of conscription we shall never get the Army authorities to reduce it; they will always ask for more. I regret to say the British House of Commons is now reaching the stage when it is making conscription a permanent part of the national life of this country.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
We are today engaged in deciding whether we shall continue National Service for another five years, and the results of yesterday's debate have made it clear that there will be no further opportunity effectively to discuss the fundamentals of the matter for another five years. Therefore, the House of Commons must take this discussion seriously.
I am glad that the debate has run over into a second day, though I think that it ought to continue beyond the point to which we have now taken it in order that we may have a further inquiry into matters which have as yet, except from one or two of my hon. Friends, and notably my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), received very much attention.
It is not merely a question of trying to make out that there is complete unity in the country, even though an appearance of unity has been simulated by the attitude taken up on both Front Benches. I accept the fact that both Front Benches, under the pressure of public opinion, quite apart from anything else, have felt the necessity to indulge in Armed Forces of a kind of which none of us would have dreamed a few years ago. At the 1618 same time, I believe that both Front Benches are in danger of believing that what is public opinion today will remain public opinion for all time.
I almost felt that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne thought that there was not much chance, in what he called the foreseeable future, of a change in the attitude of the public mind and of the steps we have to take in this matter of military preparedness.
§ Mr. Hudson
I am grateful for that correction by my hon. Friend because it gives me hope, and I trust that it will also give him hope. It is a pity that the parties should not be leaders of public opinion instead of being led by it, but the attitude of the parties will not always remain the same and things will not stay as they are for any length of time.
The general public knows as well as I or any other hon. Member that the nature of atom warfare and the progress made in science have made it possible not merely to choke and blast human beings into perdition but to vaporise, to liquidise them—" liquidate" is the word which the Russians prefer to use—literally to wipe them out in millions. They will not go on twiddling their fingers, waiting for the catastrophe which we, owing to our ability to devise a policy which would lead to a better situation, will allow to overwhelm them.
As I see it, public opinion today is changing very rapidly as regards fears of what goes on behind the Iron Curtain. I know that the fear of Russia is the main reason for our tendency to rearm, but the public is becoming very interested in what the Prime Minister has said during General Elections and, in particular, in this House on 11th May last about the possibility of a different attitude behind the Iron Curtain and of a willingness to try other methods in an endeavour to solve world struggles.
I think that the Prime Minister can be complimented on the fact that the public mind has been influenced, at least to some extent, by his belief that there is no need to consider Russia as completely hopeless in the matter of a change of attitude. I know that some hon. Members have said 1619 during the course of this debate that Russia seems to have drawn back once more into her old shell. But so do we, and so does the Prime Minister. The reference made by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday to what he hopes to do in Bermuda reflected to only a very small extent the hopefulness expressed in his speech of 11th May last.
The Prime Minister proposes to be extremely cautious. He talks about the whole country being united behind the what he calls "peace through strength." The country never has been united behind that idea. A large section of the population knows that in talking about peace through strength one is talking about military forces in which the law of mechanics operates and in which action and reaction are equal and opposite. If one wants peace through strength and builds up strength to the point where it will guarantee peace, those against whom the strength is built up will react by endeavouring to build likewise, and one is constantly in the position of fearing the enemy and driving forward to a situation which one can no longer control.
I deny that such a view unites this country. It does nothing of the sort. Though the views that I express are accepted by only a very small minority—
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Gentleman applauds that, but I am suggesting that the country may become more interested in my point of view as it sees the failure of the point of view indicated by hon. Members opposite.
I object to the proposal of National Service all round for the old reason, which has not been altered. Somebody reminded us just now that we have had it for nearly 20 years or will have had it for that length of time if this Order is approved. We are violating the fundamental liberties of the best of our people—the youth of the country—and we are violating those liberties in an area of the spirit, if I may mix the metaphors, in which the House of Commons has no power. A man must be free to decide between himself and his God, or the best that is in him, what line he shall take 1620 regarding a duty which the State may decide to enforce upon him.
A young man of 17 increasingly knows what is involved, because he learns of it in school; from reading the newspapers, and sometimes from listening to our speeches. He knows that he will be called up, and he hears what others who have been conscripted tell him about their training for the modern Army or as a modern commando. He knows that he must do things which reduce him from the highest state of a son of God to a mere animal. He knows that he must literally tear out the bowels of some other human being with his hands indeed, if he has not got weapons to do it. He is reduced in fighting to an outlook even lower than the fighting in the old days of feudalism.
I noticed the other day, in the "Manchester Guardian," a letter from a parent whose son had come home from training in the Army. The boy proudly told all that he did and what he would be expected to do in a modern battle in such a way that his younger brother of 13 listened to him, open-mouthed, in such a way that the father felt that here was a new, immoral force in his house which he had never thought possible. He sat down and wrote his protest to the "Manchester Guardian" against what was taking place.
The things that men today are asked to do by hon. Members in this House when we pass an Order such as this are as nothing compared with the things that will be done if another war comes. They will be done with weapons that we have provided in order to continue conscription, which we are here proposing for another five years. It is impossible to step in between a man and his God as to the decision he should make in any war situation.
The great Founder of Christianity said:Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.But it is left free for each of us to decide which is which. In every young man's mind in this modern world there ought to arise the question as to whether, despite the law, he should—and he has to consider this on the basis of what he owes to himself and to his God—obey 1621 the demands which we in this House make in this matter.
I will admit that the House of Commons has tried to be very fair when dealing with conscription. In the past allowance has been made for what is called conscientious objection. It has been argued in debates here that because there is provision for conscientious objection the very questions which I am again raising for the consideration of the House no longer arise. But they do. The type of conscientious objection permitted and the punishments which are still imposed on the conscientious objector do not leave him free, in the ordinary sense, to make a decision on this issue.
I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service in his place on the Front Bench. Recently, I asked him a supplementary question, which was whether we really had to ask a man to prove the validity of his conscientious objection by making him serve a month's imprisonment. He frankly replied that that was the condition. So, although imprisonments are not as long as they used to be in my day—I served two and a half years in gaols—a conscientious objector has still to serve a month in prison. A month is about as bad, to a young man, as anything I could have experienced in my day.
I say that it is a disgrace and it is a tyranny on him. He is away from his home and from his associates and he has to decide, in a miserable gaol, what step he should take. That period in gaol is a black mark against him which he fears to bear, and so he is not free to arrive at a decision based on pure conscientious convictions. He is driven by the punishment to a decision which, if he were free, might very well be different.
I am claiming, as I have claimed before in this House, that we ought not to proceed with this Order against the young men of the country, whom we are constantly placing in this impossible position of having to decide whether they will do the things that a modern war forces on them, or whether, acting under their conscience, they will not do them. Until we get rid of conscription men are not free, and cannot be free, to decide this issue for themselves.
That is the main reason for my Opposition to conscription, but there are others 1622 which I could quote to the House. Some of my hon. Friends think along these lines, "Well, we have got to do it because it is the only democratic way by which we can impose equality of sacrifice." I submit to them that the whole history of conscription proves that they have no ground on which to stand.
We have been told that the miners are exempt. Why are they exempt? Because their service is a greater national necessity than that of the soldiers. They are not called up to be soldiers; they stay in the mines. In the interests of necessity to the community exemption is granted in one case, and it is inevitable, either under this Government or some other Government, that we will find, when the miners are not so important in the economy of the nation as they are now, that there will be a demand for conscription for them, too.
We have been told today that because of exemption the State only takes 1 per cent. of the working population on the land, and there is exemption for the men in the Merchant Navy. I am glad of all these exemptions, but because there are these exemptions the ground for pleading that conscription is necessary to impose equality of sacrifice has very largely been taken away.
There is another argument which some of my hon. Friends put forward. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite may also share this view. I do not know, but I am trying not to make a party point at all. This other ground is that the nature of our commitments today is such that we cannot free our young men from conscription. We must have them. How many of my hon. Friends stop to consider that the boot is really on the other foot and that we make commitments because we have conscription? This happened in Napoleon's day, and when the French authority, for the first time, gave Napoleon the conscription he wanted he said, "Now I can spend 30,000 men," and of course he spent many more than 30,000. Conscription decided his policy.
For example, how many are trying to decide the issue of what our policy in Egypt should be because we have a system of conscription which gives us so many thousand men to keep on the Canal? I submit that the Conservative Party, in its present difficulties, has probably been driven, against the advice of 1623 its Front Bench, into an intransigent attitude about the Suez Canal because conscription enables it to think of the service of men it can call on for years to come in that area.
And is it not likely that the failure of the Prime Minister to keep to the proposals he made on 11th May last arises out of the fact that he knows that, after this Order has been passed by the House, he has conscription to play with for the next five years? Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman said that this was a bad time to alter the proposals and would be regarded as most dangerous to peace. He said that if we gave up conscription now—The Communist world might say, 'There, the N.A.T.O. forces are breaking up. The British have introduced the thin end of the wedge. Why should we make concessions when we have only to persevere to win? '"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November. 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1417.]The assumption is that the other side will be encouraged to persevere in strength—on which the Prime Minister thinks peace will be built—because we try to show a different attitude. On 11th May it was a very different story. Then the right hon. Gentleman said:It certainly would do no harm if, for a while, each side looked about for things to do which would be agreeable instead of being disagreeable to each other.If the right hon. Gentleman had had this thought in his mind yesterday, he might have suggested not peace through strength but peace through the offer of something agreeable which would be accepted as such by the other side and might even bring forth from them some response. I think it ought to bring this forth from them. I criticise the Communists here because they never pull their weight on this issue. The Russians ought to be told, as I tell now my own Government, that we should give up reliance on military force and the conscription of armed men. Both alike have their responsibility.
But let me go back to the statement of the Prime Minister as to what he hoped to do both in Bermuda and at the meeting which would follow Bermuda. He said:I am anxious that nothing in the presentation of foreign policy by the N.A.T.O. Powers should, as it were, supersede or take the emphasis out of what may be a profound movement of Russian feeling."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 895–896.]1624 The right hon. Gentleman was trying to get behind the Russian Government. He was saying that the policy we should put forward was a policy that at each stage should encourage the development behind the Iron Curtain of a feeling which, later, at any rate, should make it easier to find a way out of the impossible position in which we find ourselves.
I am objecting to the continuance of conscription, because it is a part of the weft and woof of our military minded-ness. I am objecting to it because I believe that in the world we are living we have to find the way out of a situation that was described very faithfully 200 years ago. I shall close with a lengthy quotation. I warn you, Sir, that it is lengthy, but not as lengthy as that of the Prime Minister yesterday, and it is not my own speech either. It is a quotation from a great thinker who has had a tremendous influence on Europe and on our country.
Montesquieu wrote "The Spirit of Laws" and it is 200 years or more since, living behind his own iron curtain in the day of Louis XIV and XV, he said this:A new disease has spread through Europe; it has seized on our sovereigns and makes them maintain an inordinate number of troops. It is intensified and of necessity becomes infectious, for as soon as one State increases its forces the others at once increase theirs, so that nothing is gained by it except general ruin. Each monarch keeps on foot as many armies as if his people were in danger of extermination; and this struggle of all against all is called peace.If Montesquieu had had the Prime Minister to help him, he would have written, "Peace through strength." He went on:Europe is poor with the wealth and commerce of the whole world; and soon, by dint of having soldiers, we shall have nothing but soldiers.Here is where, speaking as a prophet, he brings the thing right down to date—For that we need only make effective the invention of militias "—The militias were the beginning of the conscriptive process—established in most of Europe and carry it to the same excess as we have the regular troops.The view of that man in France has been followed by writer after writer both in this country and across the Channel. It is a view that everybody knows to be true. It is a view that should guide us to 1625 this conclusion: that all we do by military force at last, like a broken reed, will leave us helpless against the things we most fear; that we have to find something better. We shall not find something better, however, if we continue to rely on this hopeless process. With a view to helping the House to consider afresh its duties for peace, I beg of it not to give to the Government the power to continue this Order for another five years.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. J. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I am sure that every Member of the House, whether he agrees or not with the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), will feel the better for the high moral tone which my hon. Friend has set for the conduct of nations and eventually for the conduct of individuals in those nations. But I find that his speech was not as realistic as one would wish when applied to the modern world.
I have subscribed to the theory of conscription because I believed that it was the fairest way of dealing with raising a force. Whether I am wrong or right, I have always taken the view that since we have adopted the policy of the United Nations and found ourselves requiring to find strength to enforce peace and restraint on the world, this was the fairest way of doing it, instead of depending upon unemployed men forced into the armies, navies and air forces, and the dead-end kids who get tired of their jobs and who have to do the fighting for those who are economically better placed in society than they are.
In my estimation, the conscript citizen army enables every young man in the nation to play his part, subject to the necessary regulations which allow people with high moral and Christian views to claim exemption when they find it against their conscience to join. The raising of an army in the ordinary way of recruiting people who are at the bottom of the economic scale enables all those who have large vested interests and comfortable jobs to evade their responsibility and hand over the job to others. But, at this stage, I must say that we are witnessing an incomplete universal service in this country. It seems to me that to a large extent the conscription of the citizen Army has broken down. If we 1626 are going to refuse to call up miners, agricultural workers and specialist people, we shall reach the stage once more when only a section of the community have to serve.
Three points in particular were made in speeches from the other side of the House tonight. They concerned the forces in the Suez Canal, the easing of tension in the world and the period of two years' service. I believe that there is an easing of tension in the world. I am glad that when the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb were discovered they were first discovered by America and this country, because those two countries were the least likely to take advantage of them and use them to overawe and overpower the rest of the world. But I am also glad that Russia has discovered the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb, because that has brought the world to a stage where no country is ready to use these bombs and unleash the forces of war. I believe, therefore, that the development of these weapons has almost eliminated world war.
Like many other hon. Members who have objections on other grounds, I also strongly object to the Order which is now before the House. The Order should be submitted to the House in a proper manner. Every Member of the House should have the right to bring forward in a two or three days' debate all kinds of suggestions regarding the period of service—whether we should have one year, 18 months or two years. These things should not be the subject of an agreement across the Floor of the House between the two Front Benches not to disturb the process at this time and to put down a Motion, such as the one which we had on the Order Paper yesterday, that means nothing. In my estimation that Motion was an attempt to stall and to prevent the issue coming to a head and being the subject of a clash in this House.
I object to two years' service. It is far too long for young men. It eats into the period when they might be training for a profession or trade. It can be said that these young men can claim to have their call-up delayed until they have finished their training. That claim is often made by the parents, but young men feel that they have to serve and so in a spirit of adventure they say, "We will go and get the thing over and done with." 1627 They go for two years and when they come out of the Service they often make up their minds that they will not go into the profession which they originally intended to follow and will not finish training for their trade. That creates more dead-end kids than ever in this country.
I believe that the age of call-up should be such that when it takes place training for a profession or trade has been completed. The call-up should not be at 18 years of age. It should be left at least until these young men are 21. Those who are exempt from military service, such as miners or agricultural workers, should be called upon to do home training of some kind, to be ready in case of emergency, just as in the days of the old volunteers. Some young men should not feel that they have been picked out and sent for training whilst others have been left behind to earn high wages in their absence.
What reason is there for the great difference in the length of service throughout the Commonwealth? When I made a prolonged tour of Australia and visited many friends and members of my family I saw soldiers being trained there. They were trained for four months as against our two years. Has any effort been made to get all the members of the "Commonwealth together and ask them to pool their resources in manpower for military purposes and have agreement on something like an equal period of training for all members of the Commonwealth in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere?
If we have responsibilities in the Commonwealth, they should be shared by all parts of the Commonwealth. They should all take a part in meeting our commitments in any part of the world. In Australia young men have four months training and their pay is almost equal to wages in ordinary industrial employment. They have very intensive training and in four months they do more real soldiering than many of the troops in this country do in their two-year period in which time is to a large extent wasted. If we faced these responsibilities we could substantially cut down the period of service in this country.
As one who is not antagonistic to our developing and steadily handing over power in our Colonies, I say we ought to evacuate the Suez Canal by agreement 1628 and withdraw our men from that area. It is too much to expect that foreigners will not object to our troops being there for a long period of time. The only people who have not objected strongly to being policed are the Scottish people, who have always seen the joke of the Englishman as a pioneer and have never resorted to force to drive the Englishman out. No one thinks more of the English people than the Englishman. It is a great pity that people all over the world do not see them in the same light; we should then have a great many more friends.
I object to the length of service, but we are given no opportunity to debate or suggest an alteration in it. Usually the Government come with an Order for five years and we have to swallow it. Sometimes they go through the ordinary routine of allowing hon. Members to discuss the matter, but one sees resentment at the delay caused by allowing hon. Members to discuss it.
I have often heard it said what a grand thing military training is for the young men of the country. I have had a little experience of it in my early days. I was in the Navy for a short period. I was a Volunteer for four years, and I was in the local fire brigade. Then I joined the Labour Party. The discipline in the Navy, in the Army, or the fire brigade, was nothing compared to the discipline in the Labour Party. When the Government, and others outside, claim that it is a great moral force in the lives of young boys, I really must object. It may be a painful necessity to have armed forces and a painful necessity in our struggle and gradual evolution towards a perfect world to require these forces to prevent worse things happening to us.
I remember coming to Whitehall as a boy of 17; that was the first time I came to Whitehall. When I was in Whitehall and in Chatham Barracks for a period of five months I found I was being chased round the barrack lavatories and everywhere by men in the Navy who wanted to commit unnatural offences for which noble people have been charged in court in the last few months. I have seen young men packing and unpacking hammocks for five hours in the night because they refused to submit to petty officers' demands along these lines. Do not tell me there is any great Christianising and 1629 moralising force in this. That is why I object to boys of 18 years of age being conscripted. I would rather see men grown to greater experience and knowledge and able to defend themselves against the evils that the Forces have thrown up in this country by the collection of men together without a family influence, or the influence of women in the home.
I am not supporting the continuing of the two-year period, although I believe it is essential to have a force in this country to repel an aggressor. I believe that according to the commitments of the United Nations. But I shall go into the Lobby tonight because of the lack of opportunities given for presenting the case for a reduction in service, for moving Amendments and having the matter properly considered. I shall go into the Lobby against this Order because of the lack of opportunities presented to hon. Members.
Some hon. Members may say, "What would happen if you defeated the Government on this issue?" We know quite well that the Government will not be defeated, but suppose it were possible to defeat them, what would happen? The Government would immediately get together to devise ways and means for either limiting or reducing the service according to the demands of hon. Members. They would adjust themselves to the changed situation just as the Prime Minister adjusts himself to Tory rebels who say, "If you take our troops from the Suez Canal you can prepare for squalls and trouble in the House." If that were happening in the House there would be a change in the attitude of the Government and they would alter their lives accordingly.
Do not let hon. Members on either side delude themselves that there is any enthusiasm for conscription. If a plebiscite were to be taken on conscription the Government would be overwhelmingly defeated. An hon. Member said the other day that we did not have objections to it in the House; of course, that is the trouble. In the old days, before the Labour Party came to power, they were opposed to conscription as I was before I accepted the policy of the United Nations based on the philosophy of Labour Party policy. Supposing we had a Labour Party today which opposed 1630 conscription and stumped the country on it with the working class organisations behind them; they could defeat any Government on the issue of conscription in this country. There is no enthusiasm for it; there is only toleration.
The Communist Party was mentioned as a party opposed to the continuation of conscription. That is not true. The Communist Party are sending round pressure groups, literature and so forth asking for an end of conscription, but why? It is because a weakened Western world gives greater opportunities for those behind the Iron Curtain and in the Kremlin. Harry Pollitt said something which I did not accept, "You cannot train a soldier in less than two years." He published a pamphlet on it. Communist Party policy on military service was conscription for at least two years. They have changed the line now on orders because their job is to secure a weakened Western world.
There is no party in this country against conscription. I say frankly that if any member of any party cannot accept the policy of United Nations and cannot accept the policy laid down for the bringing of forces together to defend us against aggression, they have no place in the political life in this country at all. They must stand under some banner. It is no use people being elected who afterwards throw over every part of the policy upon which they have been elected.
After studying, as I have done, the period of service and the problems of the young men who have to serve, I would permit conscription only on a basis of one year. Proper use has not been made of the manpower in this country and proper stock has not been taken of the material available throughout the Commonwealth. On those grounds, and because no young man should be called up before he is 21 or before he has finished his professional training or his training for a trade, I shall vote against the Motion.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
I rise in response to a challenge. The voice of an ex-private should be heard. I cannot, of course, claim to be able to speak so learnedly about the disposition of troops as some hon. Members. I was never consulted about those things when I was a private. I had to go "Over the 1631 top" without being consulted about whether it was the right tactics or not. As a matter of fact on one occasion a group of us were sent "Over the top" to do a little job and we all got wounded, and one or two were killed, owing to the incompetence of a junior officer. So the point of view of the private is not purely the technical viewpoint about the disposition of troops.
I opposed conscription when I was in the Army. In the first World War I was a volunteer. I had been told it was a war for liberty and freedom. During the First World War, when the conscription campaign started in this country, I was supplied with literature by a friend. That literature was confiscated by the military authorities and I got into rather serious trouble for daring to think about problems of this kind as an ordinary private soldier.
I am opposed to the Motion before the House, because I do not agree that there should be a period of five years. I believe the matter should have been brought before the House in the form of a Bill and not an Order in Council so that it would be capable of adequate discussion and amendment. I was in what was known as the Special Reserve. We were derisively called, "Six-month soldiers." We did six months' training, and then a month's training every year. When the call came in 1914 those "Six-month soldiers" took their stand by the side of the men in the Regular Army and they acquitted themselves as well as anyone else, despite the fact that they had had only six months' training. In my opinion that is a strong argument for a considerable reduction in the length of service demanded from our conscripts today.
This House must realise that conscription is a departure from the traditional British way of providing for defence. We are drifting in these matters. The danger is that, because of apathy and indifference conscription may become an established tradition. Under compulsory military service, National Service, conscription, whatever name we like to call it, the whole of the male youth of the nation is involved in one way or another. Their future should be the concern of us all, because, after all, the youth of this nation is its greatest asset. An annual review of the position as it affects these young men is not too much to ask.
1632 The churches, the social workers and the leaders of industry all have an interest in youth and there is by no means general agreement that conscription is a good thing as it affects the future of our young people. I have accepted conscription only under duress, because of the suggestion that this country was in danger and that conscription or compulsory military service was necessary for our defence. Yesterday I would have preferred to see a Motion putting more emphasis upon our opposition to military service in principle than excusing it.
It may well be that the very existence of conscription tends to influence our foreign policy in the direction of blocking or side-stepping approaches to truth. The very fact that we have this force to play with makes us—I will not say arrogant—more unbending when there are peace feelers thrown out from various sources. It annoys me that every time there is a sign of weakening or softening on the part of those we fear, there are voices raised in this country saying, "They cannot possibly be sincere." When I was a boy I used to hear people say, "We do not want to fight, but by jingo if we do …" Because we have this conscript force behind us the tendency is to subordinate the human side to what may become military necessities. Any nation with this obsession is bound to sacrifice far too much for their own idea of security.
I am now going to say something which will probably be unpopular. In my opinion Great Britain is "carrying the can "for all our Allies who have not faced up to military or defence obligations as we have in this country. There was a great Power which in two world wars stood cheering on the sideline until they were certain which side was going to win before they came in. They came out of both those wars stronger economically than we were, and able to dictate their terms to the rest of the world. Though they were stronger in the material sense, porbably we have been much stronger ethically and morally. We gained in character through the sacrifice of our nation. I know that what I have said is not popular, but we must say what we believe to be the truth. I recall the words:Think you truth a farthing rushlightTo be pinched out when you willWith your deft official fingers, and your politician's skill?1633 I do not think that truth is a farthing rushlight but something which really matters. We must face the facts about the commitments we have which make necessary this period of military service and its continuation for five years.
Having accepted conscription in peacetime, because it was said to be necessary for a time, I now ask for how long we should accept it. If those of us who detest the principle of conscription are to support its continuance, the Government of the day must be able to satisfy us of its necessity every year. They must come to the House. We ought not to be asked to give a blank cheque for five years for conscription.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the question of the annual review was decided yesterday. We are not discussing the same question today.
§ Mr. Simmons
I am referring to the five-year period. I say that that is too long, and I submit that if I say that five years is too long a period then logically I must say how long the period should be.
We have been told that if we do not have this five-year period there will be created a sense of insecurity among those liable to call-up, but the Minister of Labour in his very fine opening speech said that this had to be a flexible scheme and that the number of men called up in a year would be varied. Surely that is bound to create uncertainty. I am not so much concerned about the uncertainty of the brass hats. The more uncertain they are the better I like it. I want security for the youth of the nation.
I ask the Government to realise the vast implications of conscription upon the life of our country in many of its phases—its economic effect; the problem of National Service grants, which are far from satisfactory; the use of manpower; the effect of scientific progress on the mass use of troops, and matters of that nature. These are vast problems. I suggest that the Government might set up a Royal Commission to study the effect of conscription on the general life of the community.
I realise the difficulty. My conscience is most disturbed on the question of compulsory military service. I have never liked it. I have always been against it 1634 in principle. I think that the necessity for it is gradually passing and, as a protest against the five-year blank cheque for the Government which this Order in Council asks for, I shall go into the Lobby against the Motion.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Six and a half years ago this House discussed whether it was desirable or not that a Government should be able to prolong conscription by Order in Council. On that occasion the rôles in the House were reversed. It was the Government of the party now on this side of the House which inserted the Section in the National Service Act, 1947, which permitted conscription to be prolonged by means of Order in Council.
There were in the Labour Party only a few Members, of whom I was not one, who resisted that Section. One was my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Another was my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing. North (Mr. J. Hudson). Both have spoken today. It was Mr. Walter Ayles, the then Member for Southall, who put down a Motion to delete from the National Service Bill any power of a Government to prolong conscription by means of Regulation.
What is interesting today is that it was the Tory Party who officially in 1947 spoke against and voted against the power to prolong conscription by means of Order in Council. The present Solicitor-General was the official spokesman of the Conservative Party on that occasion. He said:We on this side have always taken the view that prolongation of Acts of Parliament by Orders in Council is wrong. We have expressed that view in Division Lobbies on a number of occasions, and no reason has been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman which would convince us that it would be right on this occasion to depart from the practice that we have followed up to date.He was followed by the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, who gave us one of his customary lectures on constitutional procedure and said:The Government may take the responsibility upon themselves of proposing conscription for one year, for two years, for five years, or for an indefinite period. But what it seems to me a Government cannot decently do is to impose conscription for a short period leaving it open to themselves, or their success- 1635 sors, in peace-time to continue that period by a process less serious, and less difficult, than the process of a Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 943–4.]I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary will vote for indecency tonight.
The present Government Chief Whip, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Leader of the House, the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence all went into the Lobby and said on that occasion that we should not prolong Acts of Parliament by Order in Council; that that provision should not go into the National Service Act, and that the period of National Service should not be prolonged by anything less serious than a Bill. Now they come along six and a half years later with typical cynicism and hyprocrisy with an Order in Council, and argue that conscription should go on for another five years without any opportunity of a Bill which could be amended and without any annual review or any kind of inquiry.
This is one of the factors which cause serious disquiet and widespread cynicism about conscription and the attitude of political parties towards it. Most of the people do not believe now what is said, and has been said during the last two years on both sides of this House, about conscription being merely a temporary expedient. We have been saying that now for too long. We have been saying that we think that very shortly it may be possible to reduce the call-up and that it will be reviewed at some unspecified future date. In fact, when people examine the reasons given by the Government today for introducing this Order, they realise that the Government regard conscription as part of a permanent arrangement for raising armed forces and that the arguments produced are arguments for permanency.
The time has arrived for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the way in which the National Service scheme has developed and the way it has been abused. Such a commission should inquire into three things. It should first inquire into the actual cost to the nation of conscription, the economic and moral cost to the young men themselves, having in mind all that is involved before and after the two-year period, and the cost in loss of production 1636 and loss of economic development to the country as a whole.
Hon. Members have referred to the fact that other countries, all our major Allies, and Commonwealth countries, have refused to adopt either conscription itself or the two-year call-up period. There is a great deal of hypocrisy about this. Both the Labour Government and the Tory Government have pretended to try to persuade Commonwealth countries to adopt conscription or the two-year period. In their heart of hearts, hon. Members really know that countries like Canada, which do not have conscription, have no intention of adopting it and that those in the Commonwealth or in Western Europe which have not got the two-year call-up have no intention of adopting it whatever this country may or may not do.
Those countries have no intention of adopting it because they intend to make their economies viable, and for economic reasons and in the interest of the financial state of their countries, they are simply not going to take the step which has been taken with comparative lightheartedness by this country. From that point of view, we ought to decide independently, on the basis of the viability of our economy and the treatment of our own youth, what the call-up period should be and what the system of conscription should be, without reference to what the Canadians or Australians may or may not do, or what we hope to persuade the Belgians or the Dutch to do.
We ought to have such an inquiry because this is the only major industrial country which has the two-year period at present. The inquiry ought to be made by independent people, and it should be directed towards ascertaining the cost to our country and the burden on the economy which results from our being asked to give the Government a blank cheque to continue the present system.
There is also the matter of Regular recruitment. It was thought not so many years ago that if there could be substantial recruitment to the Regular Army it would mean a reduction in the call-up period. There has been substantial recruitment for the Regular Army. The Secretary of State for War said last night that he was not ashamed about the rise in Regular Army recruiting figures. But the Secretary of State for War does not 1637 regard it, nor does hardly anyone else on the Government benches, as in any way an argument now for reconsidering the call-up period or conscription itself. That is another reason why many people now approach the subject cynically; they were told that if we got a lot more Regular soldiers we could have a reduction in the call-up period.
We need an independent commission of inquiry to determine how many more Regular soldiers are required before we can reduce the call-up period, when we shall arrive at that state of affairs and what measures are required to enable us to arrive at a state of affairs in which we have sufficient volunteers for the Armed Forces to permit a reduction in National Service. Ministers and chiefs of staff who have a vested interest in the present system of call-up and length of call-up are not likely to carry out a satisfactory inquiry along those lines.
The third matter for inquiry is the enormous wastage of National Service men which undoubtedly persists in the Armed Forces. Last night the Secretary of State for War was admitting—the Minister of Labour confirmed it today—that it was inevitably part of the system that some men should virtually waste their time in the Armed Forces doing menial Jobs. That in itself is a ground for further inquiry. It has already been the subject of many inquiries, and these inquiries have produced some results over the years.
Because of the enormous cost to us of conscription, as the only major industrial nation with this period of conscription, a cost which we can no longer afford, the waste of manpower in the Armed Forces and the fact that, although Regular recruitment has increased, the Government and the Chiefs of Staff no longer seem to regard it as a reason for reducing compulsory military service, and as the Government have refused to introduce legislation and the House has rejected an annual review of the call-up period, we ought now to demand a commission of inquiry into the whole National Service scheme if we are not to find it widely accepted as a permanent feature in our national life.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
The essence of the debate has been to decide whether or not a case can be made for having a periodic and shorter 1638 review of the provisions of the Order. The point has been made today, and was made specifically by the Prime Minister yesterday, that there are many occasions upon which the Opposition can raise the matter in the House. It seems to me that the whole question is begged by that type of argument. We are inevitably up against the question of governmental prestige. Every hon. Member knows that, on even the most unimportant matters which we have sometimes to discuss, if a vote is forced, Government prestige is involved and Government members have to troop into the Lobby in support of something about which they do not feel particularly strongly.
Practically every speech which has been made during the past two days on this serious matter has been in favour of a fairly short periodic review. The better informed public that we now have is coming to understand more and more the manpower call-up figures in relation to our overseas commitments, and the public at large is demanding that the circumstances of the times shall be reviewed at much shorter periods than five years.
For obvious reasons, I want to keep my remarks short, but I should like to mention the question of the colonial policy of the Government and the commitments involved. Not much of a case in terms of manpower can be made in connection with Kenya and Guiana, though I feel that if the Government had adopted a more liberal and human attitude in the early days of the Kenya trouble we need not have sent so many men there. But the economic mischief does not end there. I read recently that for the second, maybe the third, time in the last two years the Finance Member from Kenya has come to this country asking for money to be granted to tide them over. I mention that in passing because it has its repercussions on the economic state of the country.
The Minister of Labour this afternoon made particular reference to his sympathy with those people who complain about the dreary chores which have to be done by some who go into the Forces. We know that the Minister of Labour is a very sincere man, and we accept that he is sympathetic; but the public want something more than sympathy. It does not read well in the newspapers that a senior officer serving at Windsor has two 1639 batmen supplied to his household and that they take their orders from the officer's wife. I believe that the provision of domestic staff for serving officers is a means of getting round the problem of inadequate pay for certain officers. I am not certain that there is a very good argument for the standard of living which certain officers are encouraged to adopt, but if we have to accept that argument, we ought to provide a better rate of pay rather than overcome the difficulty by providing officers with free servants.
Then, before we rose for the Summer Recess, the Minister of Labour and National Service made reference to and accepted a plea made by myself that, in many cases where medical boards had operated, it was found that there had been a lack of psychiatric appreciation of particular cases. I think I quoted a very high figure to show that, of all those cases which had proved to be wrongly assessed, a very high percentage had been psychiatric cases. The Minister accepted the plea that there should be consultation with psychiatric opinion on these boards. My impression is that no innovations have been made by the Minister since we resumed our activities on this subject, and perhaps we may hear something about it on a later occasion.
I should now like to say a word or two about the Army. There is no representative at the War Office here at present, and I therefore address my remarks to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. There is a particular matter which I should like to bring to the attention of the authorities, because I think it should be inquired into. I do not propose to give specific names of persons or units in this case. I do not like the general story that I want to tell, and I think the matter should be investigated.
I understand that there is a custom in operation in the Army now whereby young National Service men, at the end of their preliminary training, which takes only a short time, are taken out by instructing sergeants and are "treated." That is not an expression with which I am particularly familiar, but I understand the idea is that these young men are taken on a sort of pub crawl, when many of them are encouraged to drink beer and 1640 other things. I think this undesirable practice should be stopped. I do not happen to share the opinions on teetotalism which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) holds, but I think that young National Service men should be protected. I suggest that the matter should be looked into, because I have taken the trouble to check the stories I have heard as far as I can, and I believe them to be substantially true. If the Minister is sympathetic, I shall be glad to give him the details.
One last point. I wish the Minister of Labour and National Service would look into the question of the call-up for reserve training of skilled face workers and others in the coal mines. I have drawn his attention in recent times to two cases in which skilled face workers were taken from the coal face and sent off for a period of training. Whatever may be the current regulations, it does not seem to me to be sensible to call up for military training a man vitally required in the mines, who, in the event of war, would almost certainly be retained in the mines.
Traditionally, the military commitments of this country are dictated by the military advisers of the Government of the day. It seems to me that that is really putting things the wrong way round. We have a certain manpower, which, for better or worse reasons, we may be able to make available for our military needs, but we should tell the military people what the available manpower is and not leave it to them to make demands and to the Government of the day to raise the necessary manpower. That is what has got us into this present trouble in overspending our strength. I personally believe that the five-year revision period is far too long, and, for that reason, I shall vote against it tonight.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
One of the great characteristics of this House has been that a succession of Speakers has exercised great wisdom and tact in allowing debates on many matters to be perhaps a little wider than were the terms of the original Motions we were discussing, and you, Sir, today have been sensing the feeling of this House in allowing the debate to run very wide. It has given an opportunity to many of my hon. Friends to express views which they hold very firmly and very sincerely, and it would be wrong 1641 for any of us who may disagree with those sentiments to condemn them for them. They are people who have held these views for many years, and they have a rooted objection to military conscription; indeed, to conscription of any kind. They have expressed these views on many occasions, and I am therefore glad that the opportunity has been given, in discussing the Motion which the Minister of Labour moved this afternoon, to express those opinions and to place them on the record.
I thought the Secretary of State for War yesterday expressed the view of everybody in the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the whole House disliked conscription, and I believe that to be true. He also said that he would be glad, and he felt sure the whole House would be glad, when it was no longer necessary to have conscription. I heartily endorse that, as I believe everyone in the House would do. However, there is this regrettable but nevertheless real necessity for continuing conscription, and what we are asked to do today is to agree to an Order which enables conscription to go on for a further five years.
I promise not to go wide, but to keep what I have to say related to this Motion. This is a very serious Parliamentary matter, and it goes outside the bounds of party politics, because in this House we are the guardians of the liberty of the subject and any Measure brought in by any Government which in any way encroaches upon the liberty of the subject should be scrutinised very carefully. We should never in this House take action which involves the liberty of the subject unless we have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely inevitable in the public interest that we should do so.
Our objection to this Order is not that it continues conscription, because, in our debate yesterday, the position of the party for which I am now speaking was made perfectly clear, inasmuch as we accepted the regrettable necessity for conscription. Our objection is that the Executive is seeking the powers for a further five years, and our view is that these powers should be sought from Parliament each year because they touch upon the liberty of the subject. It may well be said that, when the original Bill came in, we ourselves did not raise the question, but the reason was given yesterday in the necessity at that time to build up fairly large trained reserves.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
That is a very clear exposition why the Labour Government wanted a continued period of five years in the first place, but how does it explain the Clause in their own Bill which demanded powers to increase it for five years at a time by Order in Council, when that was not necessary?
§ Mr. Robens
It may well not have been necessary, but the fact is that, at the moment, this Order substitutes another date for the one which completes conscription at the end of this year, and, therefore, it would have been perfectly easy for the Government, if they so desired, to put in a date which prolonged this Section for a further 12 months and so give the House the opportunity of debating, each 12 months, the necessity for conscription at all. It would also give us the opportunity for discussing within the particular framework of the necessity for conscription what the length of the period of service should be.
The Minister of Labour has two very heavy responsibilities. He has to provide manpower for industry, and in that direction he has a very closely-knit and efficient organisation, both at headquarters and in the country, for guiding manpower into those places where it will be best used in the public interest. His Notification of Vacancies Order is one aspect of that. The highly trained and skilled people who operate employment exchanges throughout the country are all the time trying to persuade—not to force or conscript—individuals who are not working to go into those industries which will best help the national interest. Therefore, the Minister has that responsibility, and he has carried it out efficiently and effectively. Under his guidance, his Department has at all times tried to meet gaps in the national industries and to persuade manpower to go into them.
His second responsibility is to provide the manpower for the Services. He does this on the basis of Service requirements. Having got the numbers of people whom the Services want, he thereafter loses all control over the men he has been responsible for directing into those Services. He is in no position to exercise the care in that field that he exercises in the industrial field. It is left entirely to the Service chiefs to determine how that manpower is used.
1643 If the Services were as well organised on the manpower side as the Ministry of Labour is on the industrial side it would probably be found that there is a great waste of manpower in the Services. One must face up to that possibility. I doubt whether any Member of Parliament does not receive letters from time to time from those who are serving and who complain about that very matter. I hope that the Minister of Labour, who is a Member of the Cabinet, may be able to use his influence there to ensure that what he is doing in civilian industry shall be done on the military side also.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) raised a point which I regard as very important. I hope that the Minister of Labour will look into it extremely carefully and will come to some conclusion upon it that will aid a solution of the problem. My hon. Friend, who is himself an engineer and craftsman and understands his trade thoroughly, has held very important positions as shop-steward and an official of his union for many years. He is very concerned about the problem that faces the craftsman.
I have always regarded it as important—I did when I was Minister of Labour—that the craftsman coming into the Services should follow his trade as far as practicable, so that when he has finished his Service training he has not had that terrible break and is able to go back into his job. He may even have had beneficial trade experience. My hon. Friend put the case of the young men who are craftsmen and who are naturally anxious to follow their trades. It is the Royal Air Force which, in the main, gives them the best opportunity of so doing.
When they are being interviewed, they ask particularly to go into the R.A.F. to follow their trade. They are then told, "You could come into the R.A.F., but not on this two-year basis. If you would elect to come in for an extra year and give us three years, we could find a place for you in the R.A.F. for you to follow your trade. You would be useful there." The individual has to be content with that. That is not too bad, because many of the young chaps are quite prepared to do three years if they can follow their trade.
The worst feature is that, having completed three years to the advantage of the 1644 R.A.F., they lose all their rights of reinstatement into their former occupation. I know the administrative difficulties, but I should like the Minister of Labour to look at this problem and to see whether or not the case of men following their trades—which is very good both for them and for the country—should not carry the right to reinstatement in their jobs when they are doing that extra year.
Many of my hon. Friends have indicated their resentment against conscription, and they have mentioned among other things parental anxiety, which is very real. It is true that some distinguished gentleman the other day talked about conscription as something that would "knock the rough edges off chaps." That may be so, but it does not knock the rough edges off the sensitive and emotional young man and it can have very bad results. Many parents have a natural anxiety about the welfare of their sons called up at 18 to go into the Services. That should be understood.
I hope that the matters to which my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) referred will be investigated as closely as possible. They seem to indicate that proper attention has not been given to the personal welfare of the men in their charge by the people concerned.
The next problem is that of young men aged 15, 16 or 17 getting employment in anything like reasonable industry while they are waiting for call up at the age of 18. The Minister made a reference to this matter and indicated the difficulties. These are difficult cases. The young man who has done well at school and has been able to go on with his education gets an automatic deferment, and when ready to go into the Services he is very well qualified from an educational point of view.
Younger boys who have not been so fortunate for one reason or another, and have failed to make educational advance enabling them to have deferment, are the most difficult to place in industry in any case. We therefore have a double difficulty. Employers are reluctant to take on young boys of this kind, knowing that they will lose them for two years and then have to re-instate them and face the very difficult situation of boys coming back at 20 years of age without much training.
1645 This means doing a good deal of educational work while the boys are in the Services, and it means that the Minister of Labour will have to take every opportunity, as I am sure he will, of persuading employers that they must not push these young boys around but should, as a part of their own national effort, take these boys into their employment and see that they are guaranteed a job when they come out.
These are some of the matters to which I felt I ought to draw the attention of the Minister, and of the Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply to the debate. I have done so in, I hope, a constructive way, meant to help the situation rather than to hinder it. Yesterday, the view of this party was expressed in the debate upon the Motion which was voted upon last night. We find ourselves in some difficulty with the Order that is before us now. If we vote against this Order and were that vote to be successful, conscription would end at the end of this year. We know that is quite impossible and that the situation would not permit us to end conscription at the end of this year. At the same time, were we to vote for this, we should, in fact, be saying that we agreed that the Executive should have these five-year powers which is something with which we do not agree. Therefore, if there is a Division on this matter, we shall abstain from voting.
Some of my hon. Friends, to whom I referred at the beginning of my speech, have a very genuine conscientious objection to military service, and we must respect that objection. If they carry that conscientious objection into the Lobby it will be because they wish to express quite clearly their feelings on this matter. I hope that we shall not object to that in any way, but will allow the free conscience of the individual to have full play in this most democratic of political assemblies. But, for ourselves, as I say, we can neither vote for the Order nor against it for the reasons I have stated, and, therefore, if a Division is called we shall abstain from voting.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) has made a number of interesting points. He is naturally prejudiced in 1646 favour of the office of which he was such a distinguished incumbent, and I thought he was rather suggesting that my right hon. and learned Friend ought to run the Ministry of Defence in addition to his own Office. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend is much flattered by the suggestion, but whether he is grateful for it, I do not know.
My right hon. and learned Friend tells me that he is particularly interested in the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion about the reinstatement in civil employment of men who opt for the three years' engagement, and that he will certainly look carefully into the suggestion.
I do not think it is altogether reasonable to complain that in this House there is no opportunity to talk about National Service. This is the fourth time that I have wound up such a debate in the last year. We had a full-dress debate yesterday, and there has been a number of occasions, on the Estimates and at other times, when hon. Members have been able to speak on the subject. Some hon. Members complain that they have been unable to put forward their ideas as to how long the period of National Service ought to be. But both today and yesterday we had every suggestion from nothing to something which looked like three years, and, therefore, I do not think that hon. Members have been curtailed in any way.
At this late hour in the debate, I do not think that the House would want me to hack through all the very familiar arguments which have come up again and again, and which have been answered from both sides of the House, and to give all the figures. What I would like to do is to sum up the arguments.
In submitting this Order to the House, we are seeking to renew an Act which was passed by the late Government under powers which, as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) rightly reminded us, are contained in that Act, and we are seeking to renew it for the same time as that provided for in the original Act. We still, of course, possess the powers under the Act to reduce the period of service at any time by Order in Council if the situation is such that we are able in the national interest to do so.
The main burden of the Opposition's case has simply been that the time has now come when some change can be made in the system. It is gratifying to my right hon. Friends that so many 1647 people think that there is an improvement in the international situation. I believe that there is an improvement, and, certainly, wherever we sit in the House of Commons, we must all hope that that is true. At the same time, we ought to think for a moment why the improvement has come about. I believe that the improvement in the international situation has come about because of the unity of the N.A.T.O. alliance and its growing strength.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) praised the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 11th May last, but said that my right hon. Friend was now running away from that speech and altering his whole policy. I will quote one sentence from that speech because it bears out the point I am trying to make. My right hon. Friend said:This would be the most fatal moment for the free nations to relax their comradeship and preparations. To fail to maintain our defence effort up to the limit of our strength would be to paralyse every beneficial tendency towards peace both in Europe and in Asia.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 898.]Those were my right hon. Friend's thoughts and those are our thoughts upon this matter. The object of our policy is to bring about a radical change for the better in foreign affairs. The fatal thing to do would be to act as if that radical change had come about before, in fact, it had done so. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, if we are to pursue negotiations with success, the one fatal thing to do would be to show weakness before entering upon them.
Commitments have been the burden of this debate, and, of course, we are
§ anxious to reduce our commitments wherever we can. But some hon. Members talk as if it were we who created the commitments. No one accuses the late Government of starting the war in Korea or of starting Communist banditry in Malaya. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said some tough things about our military advisers, but I do not think that he would accuse them of creating these commitments. The truth is that the matter is not entirely in our hands, and that is why it is so necessary that as we get out of one commitment we should, in the first instance, rebuild our strategic reserves, because it is always in the power of the Communists all over the world to stir up fresh commitments for us. Therefore, we must have a reasonable reserve in hand.
§ As I have said, we believe that the late Government were right to bring in their Bill for a five-year period, and, in all the circumstances, not only right, but courageous, because, as the hon. Member for Shettleston reminded us. National Service is not popular, and no politician who is looking for votes is going to have a longer period of National Service than he can help. The late Government decided on the period of two years because they thought it was their duty to do so. We are seeking to prolong the powers contained in the Act because we believe it our duty to do so, and all we are asking the House to do is to support us in something which I believe the great majority of the House regards as the duty of any Government in power at the present time.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 288; Noes, 38.1651
|Division No. 7.]||AYES||[7.38 p.m|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Bullard, D. G.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bennett, William (Woodside)||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Campbell, Sir David|
|Arbuthnot, John||Birch, Nigel||Carr, Robert|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Bishop, F. P.||Channon, H.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Black, C. W.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bossom, Sir A. C.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Cole, Norman|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Braine, B. R.||Colegate, W. A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Banks, Col. C.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Barber, Anthony||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brooman-White, R. C.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Crouch, R. F.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Prior-Palmer, orig O L|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L W||Profumo, J. D.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kaberry, D.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Keeling, Sir Edward||Rayner, Brig. R|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kerr, H. W.||Redmayne, M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C E McA||Lambert, Hon. G.||Rees-Davies, W. R|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Lambton, Viscount||Remnant, Hon. P|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Renton, D L M|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Langford-Holt, J. A||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Leather, E. H. C.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H-||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D M||Lindsay, Martin||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Linstead, Sir H. N||Russell, R. S.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||Llewellyn, D. T||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D|
|Fell, A.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longden, Gilbert||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W|
|Fisher, Nigel||Low, A. R. W.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Fleetwood Hesketh, R F||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Shepherd, William|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W)|
|Fort, R.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. 0.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Foster, John||McAdden, S. J.||Smithers. Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||McCallum, Major D,||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Snadden, W. MoN.|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Soames, Capt, G.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Gammans, L. D.||McKibbin, A. J.||Speir, R. M.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spence, H. R. (Abardeenshire, W.)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Mai. G. Lloyd||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Glover, D.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Stanley, Capt Hon. Richard|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St Albans)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R E.||Storey, S.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Marples, A. E.||Stuart, Rt. Hon James (Moray)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Studholme, H. G|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maude, Angus||Summers, G. S.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maudling, R.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L C||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Teeling, W.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Mellor, Sir John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harvie-Walt, Sir George||Molson, A. H. E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hay, John||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Heath, Edward||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Neave, A. M. S.||Tilney, John|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholls, Harmar||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Turner, H. F L|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemonuth, E.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Noble, Comdr. A. H P||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hope, Lord John||Nutting, Anthony||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Oakshott, H. D.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P||Odey, G. W.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Horobin, I. M.||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, Charles fan (Hendon, N.)||Watkinson, H. A|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Orr-Ewing Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Wellwood, W|
|Hudson, W R A. (Hull, N.)||Osborne, C.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J||Page, R. G.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Peake, Rt. Han. 0||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W)||Peto, Brig. C. H M||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Peyton, J W W||Wills, G.|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Pickthorn, K W M||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Pilkington, Capt. R A||Wood, Hon. R|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||York, C|
|Jennings, R-||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Sir Cedric Drewe and Major Conani.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Kenyon, C.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Bence, C. R.||McGhee, H. G.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||McInnes, J,||Snow, J. W.|
|Carmichael, J.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Stress, Dr. Barnett|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Manuel, A. C.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Monslow, W.||Timmons, J.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Oswald, T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Finch, H. J.||Padley, W. E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Forman, J. C.||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Yates, V. F.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Richards, R.|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Mr. Usborne and Mr. McGovern.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
Question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the National Service Act. 1948 (Duration) Order, 1953, a draft of which was laid before this House on 3rd November, be made.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.