HC Deb 15 February 1956 vol 548 cc2337-9
9. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Defence whether he is aware that the Federal German Government are introducing military training for a period of eighteen months for their conscripted personnel; whether he has considered the psychological effect this must have among British troops serving alongside their German counterparts in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and whether he will therefore now reconsider the two-year period of National Service for British nationals.

Sir W. Monckton

I am aware of the intentions of the Federal German Government to which the right hon. Member refers. It is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the period of military service adopted by the various member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation should be adequate to enable them to fulfil their obligations to that organisation. It is for each member country to determine its actual period of service in the light of its own circumstances. The policy of Her Majesty's Government towards National Service remains as set out in Command Paper 9608 last October.

Mr. Bellenger

Is the House to understand from that reply that Germany is free to assess what should be her responsibilities as a member of N.A.T.O.? If that be the case, and she has come to the conclusion that she can provide adequate support under her treaty obligations by eighteen months' service, why does Her Majesty's Government take two years as our adequate contribution?

Sir W. Monckton

I said that it was for each Government to assess how it could carry out its obligations in N.A.T.O. here and elsewhere. Her Majesty's Government have wide-flung responsibilities in other areas which they cannot leave out of account.

Mr. Stokes

I know, but may I ask the Minister whether he remembers the debate on National Service? Was it not made clear then that there is no reason why we should not reduce the period of National Service now, and is he aware that there is a deep suspicion in the minds of most people that the Government are playing politics in this matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, look at the by-election results today—and timing the abolition of National Service to match up with the next General Election?

Sir W. Monckton

One can only hope that the abolition of National Service will not be so long deferred, but I must make no prophecies. All I would say is that the attitude of Her Majesty's Government on two years' National Service was expounded, as best I could, in the debate to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.

Mr. Wigg

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the abolition of National Service is tied up with the abolition of the Secretary of State for War?

13. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Defence if he will make a survey of the manpower in the three Services, with a view to including proposals for ending compulsory National Service.

Sir W. Monckton

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) on 8th February.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that we were led to expect that he was a conciliatory and reasonable gentleman, and is he not prepared to take a new line on this matter?

Sir W. Monckton

Not all conciliators have to take a new line every time they are asked a question. I cannot go as far as that.

Mr. Beswick

Are we to understand from the supplementary answer given to the previous Question that the Minister of Defence expects to abolish National Service before the next Election?

Sir W. Monckton

I am not prepared to go as far as that.

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