HC Deb 28 July 1955 vol 544 cc1348-9
52. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the shortage of manpower, and the need for increased production, he will confer with representatives of industry regarding the effect of the continuance of two years' compulsory National Service upon the productive capacity of the nation, and issue a White Paper.

Sir W. Monckton

So long as the defence of the country necessitates the continuance of the present period of compulsory National Service, I can see no useful purpose in the hon. Member's suggestion.

Mr. Yates

In view of the serious economic situation which has been revealed this week, and also the better international situation revealed by the Prime Minister yesterday, does not the Minister think it would serve a very useful purpose to have representatives of industry and the trade unions confer together and advise the Ministry on the use of manpower and the effect of this unnecessary two years' period of service on our productive capacity? Is he aware that there is very serious objection to this period on the part of employers in cities like Birmingham, and that we could make a much greater contribution to the export drive if further consideration were given to this matter?

Sir W. Monckton

We constantly confer—yesterday was the last occasion—about shortages of available labour that appear where we should like to see jobs taken up. The question of the necessity for the period of National Service, from the point of view of defence of the country, is not one that I can answer as Minister of Labour.

Mr. Shinwell

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman read this morning the leading article in the "Daily Herald," the official organ of the Labour Party, calling for reconsideration of the call-up and drawing attention to precisely the substance of the Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) about the effect on the economy of the country? In the circumstances, would not the Minister give some consideration to the views expressed by this very influential organ?

Sir W. Monckton

In order to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman, I can say that I agree that there was an article on this matter, which I think was the second part of the "Daily Herald" leader to which he referred. We are constantly considering shortages, but the Question that I was asked was whether we would have a special conference with a view to issuing a White Paper. The decision rests on the necessity of the continuation of the period of National Service, and we do not need a White Paper on the use to which labour could be put if that necessity receded.

Mr. Lewis

Is it not a fact that among trade unionists and the management side of the industry, on both sides of the House, and amongst those who have military knowledge, there is no doubt that there could be a saving in manpower? Will the Minister not agree to the appointment of a committee of investigation, without tying the Government, and have an impartial investigation and report on which the House could decide whether there is anything in the claim made in the excellent leading article in the "Daily Herald" this morning?

Sir W. Monckton

I do not think that there is need for a Committee of that kind. The effects are known but the decision must be the decision of the Government.

Mr. E. Johnson

Would my right hon. and learned Friend not agree that however wise it may be to consult the leaders of industry and the trade unions about the effective use of manpower, it is not for either industry or the trade unions to decide the foreign policy or the defence policy of Her Majesty's Government?