HC Deb 30 March 1955 vol 539 cc365-6
39. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Defence whether he will move for the setting up of a Select Committee of this House to inquire into the working of the National Service Acts.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The conclusions reached by Her Majesty's Government on the present National Service arrangements were set out in paragraphs 67 to 69 of the recent Statement on Defence. Various aspects of these arrangements have also been discussed in recent debates in this House. I doubt whether any useful purpose would be served at the present time by an inquiry of the kind suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bellenger

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted that, quite recently, the Ministry of Labour has agreed to defer up to 2,000 police cadets, and does not he think that that and other indications go to show that the National Service Acts are now not working in the way in which they were intended to work when they were passed by this House?

Mr. Macmillan

I have noted the first point because I naturally was aware of it. I should have thought that was not a sufficient reason to justify this suggested wide review of the actual working of the Acts, but I have the point in mind, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising it.

Mr. Dugdale

Quite apart from the question of the length of service, will not the right hon. Gentleman consider further whether there is some method by which the number of people called up each year can be reduced, as it is quite plain that the three Services cannot absorb them?

Mr. Macmillan

All these questions are reviewed and considered by the Government from time to time. It is one of their duties to do so. All I was referring to was whether this particular method was likely to be useful.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Would my right hon. Friend consider some of the more limited inquiries into the operation of the National Service Acts that some of us on these benches proposed during the recent debate on defence?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, Sir, but the Question dealt with a Select Committee.