HC Deb 26 July 1955 vol 544 cc988-9
48. Mr. Allaun

asked the Prime Minister whether, as a result of the decisions reached at the Geneva Conference and in order to assist the relaxation of world tension, he will bring forward proposals for reducing the period of National Service.

The Prime Minister

I have no statement to make on this subject at present.

Mr. Allaun

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that meanwhile the lives of hundreds of thousands of youngsters are being upset and disturbed by the knowledge that at 18 they will have to leave their homes, their jobs and their sweethearts to serve for two years? Would not the ideal way of transforming the fair promise of Geneva into positive achievement be by means of a cut in the call-up?

The Prime Minister

I should have thought that the chief concern of the younger generation would be to hope that they would not have to take part in another world conflict. That is certainly the chief concern of the House, and it comes before anything else. What the hon. Gentleman asked me is whether I had any statement to make at the moment, and the answer is that I have not.

Mr. Shinwell

Although there is considerable controversy in many quarters about this matter of the period of service, about which I make no comment at the moment, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether during the Recess he will take the opportunity to consult the N.A.T.O. Powers in order to ascertain whether collectively it would be possible to reduce the period of National Service, both here and elsewhere?

The Prime Minister

I think that the right hon. Gentleman, who has wide experience, will know that there are other questions besides what the N.A.T.O. Powers are doing. They have to be considered. Other burdens which we bear, and which all N.A.T.O. Powers do not bear in this connection, have to be taken into account, and, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, are taken into account in our consideration of this matter.

49. Mr. G. Thomas

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the easing of tension in foreign affairs, he will now announce a target date for the complete abolition of military conscription.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Thomas

Would the Prime Minister explain why the optimism of Sunday has disappeared and there is not even a target date for the reduction in the period of conscription? Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that, as long as the Army is committed in Europe, it is likely that we shall have conscription?

The Prime Minister

I think that if the Army had not been committed in Europe we should not have got on as well as we have in international affairs.

Mr. Strachey

While appreciating that, may I ask whether the Prime Minister would agree that there may now be a case, strictly on defence grounds and in order to maximise our deterrent to war, for re-examining the period of National Service and ultimately, perhaps, its extinction?

The Prime Minister

The Question asked for a target date for the complete abolition of military conscription, and I am sorry that I cannot provide it.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my right hon. Friend aware that National Service men prefer his policy to that of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite?