HC Deb 18 April 1957 vol 568 cc2080-2
3. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Labour what proposals for selective compulsory service he has under consideration; and if he will make a statement.

12. Mr. Allaun

asked the Minister of Labour how far he intends to advance the age of call-up between 1957 and 1960; and if he will announce immediately the age groups to be called up so as to avoid further uncertainty and unsettlement among youths.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I would refer the hon. Members to my statement in yesterday's debate.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Minister aware that the plan, at great length, involves a quite arbitrary kind of selectivity in the next three years with equal liability in law but unequal sacrifice in the call-up? Further, is he aware that public opinion will not stand for such arbitrary selectivity without a definite date to end conscription? Has the Minister noted that most newspapers today report that he gave a categorical assurance that the 1940 class would not he called up? Would the Minister make quite plain that according to the Government's White Paper on Defence, all this is quite conditional on the results of voluntary recruitment to the Armed Forces?

Mr. Macleod

Of course. Any prudent Government must make the reservation that if voluntary recruitment does not come up to expectations—and we did this in paragraph 48—then a new situation would arise which we must consider. As far as the 1940 class is concerned, what I said is perfectly clear. I said that the 1940 class remains legally liable but we are not planning on the basis that it will he called up. In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, I would say that there is, as I explained exactly to the House yesterday, no new element of selection involved in this separation of the registers into two.

Mr. Allaun

While 1 am delighted that the curse of the call-up appears at last to be on its way out, may I ask the Minister to state exactly how many of the 570,000 men are to be called up and when otherwise the uncertainty about their domestic and industrial life will produce out of a fine body of men a fine crop of spivs?

Mr. Macleod

That is quite untrue. The statement I made to the House yesterday on these matters could not have been clearer. Briefly, I said that the 1940 class was liable but those in it need not expect to be called up. Some of the 1939 class would be called up. It should be remembered that these plans start on 1st April, 1958, and we have time to consider the views of the House and the country and the Press, which I will be very glad to do; but I am quite certain from my own very detailed study of this matter that the plan I put forward yesterday is the correct one.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Far from being a curse, has not the call-up done a considerable amount of good to a great many young men, for which they have expressed their gratitude in the past?

Mr. Ede

Arising out of the first phrase in the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the first supplementary question, what evidence is there that this is a "prudent" Government?

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