HC Deb 28 March 1956 vol 550 cc2144-5
35. Mr. Allaun

asked the Minister of Defence how many additional men he requires to be recruited to the Forces before abolishing National Service.

The Minister of Defence (Sir Walter Monckton)

I regret that I cannot give any accurate estimate. A number of factors must be taken into account, including the size and nature of our commitments, the rate at which men are recruited on Regular engagements, and the average length of time for which they serve.

Mr. Allaun

Does that mean that if the Minister fails to secure the desired increase in volunteers, conscription must remain indefinitely? Is he aware that West Germany proposes to cut her call-up from eighteen months to twelve months?

Sir W. Monckton

I was asked for an estimate of the number I wanted. We trust that Regular recruitment will improve as a result of the pay improvements, which take effect on 1st April next. It is premature to give an estimate at present.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the two principal factors determining the level of our Armed Forces are the strength of the Russian armed forces and the activities of Russia in promoting Communism in all parts of the world? Does not he agree that our level cannot be reduced until Russian visits, words and smiles are followed by deeds?

Mr. Shinwell

Arising out of the original Question and the original Answer, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that only a few weeks ago his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War explicitly stated, in reply to a question during a broadcast, that he required 300,000 Regulars before being able to abolish National Service? Has that figure been revised or has the right hon. and learned Gentleman not been informed about it?

Sir W. Monckton

I have been informed. That figure was given against the background of our present commitments. In the matter of Regular recruitment for the Army—and only the Army was under discussion—to get the figure up to 300,000 would mean the intake of another 100,000 men, and I thought it premature to base any estimate upon that assumption.