HC Deb 24 November 1958 vol 596 cc33-52

Order for Second Reading read.

3.32 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill deals with the Services' last line of reserves, the men who, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he was Prime Minister, "will only be called out in a state of the gravest war emergency".

It may be helpful if, very shortly, I outline the story of these reserves since: he end of the last war. On demobilisation, the great majority of men who had been in the Services during the war were placed in an inactive Reserve—in the case of the Army, which had by far the largest numbers, this was known as Z Reserve. Men who had been demobilised and those who had served in the forces immediately after the war, on completion of the active part of their service, were transferred to that Reserve.

Hon. Members will recall that at the time of the Korean War, when there appeared to be a serious danger of a third world war, many of the Z reservists were recalled in 1951 for a fortnight's training—under legislation, specially passed for the purpose, which is now spent—so that they might be fitted into units which they would be required to join in the event of mobilisation. Apart from that, no other Service requirement has been placed on them.

In 1953, with the end of the war already eight years away, it was clear that it would not be right for the Government any longer to rely on emergency legislation passed at the outbreak of war as a means of retaining reservists, many of whom had, in any case, reached an age at which it would not be reasonable to expect them to keep a Reserve obligation.

The Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves Act, 1954, laid down that any men who had served in the forces since the outbreak of war, including those who had completed their service under the National Service Acts, should be members of the Reserve until they reached the age of 45, or until the 30th June, 1959, whichever was the sooner. The only peacetime obligation placed on such a reservist was to notify his name, address and occupation as required by the appropriate authority, according to whichever Service it was. Again, the undertaking was given at the time that they would be called out only in case of the gravest emergency.

When the 1954 Act was passed, our mobilisation plans still envisaged the mobilisation of very large forces on the outbreak of a third world war. At present, there are about 3½ million men who are members of the Reserves of the three Services, those Reserves created by the 1954 Act. In the intervening five years, the conception of events likely to take place in the opening stages of another major war has been fundamentally changed by the vast increase of destructive power provided by thermonuclear weapons and the improved methods of their delivery.

If the opening phase of a world war was a nuclear exchange, we would have neither opportunity nor need for mass mobilisation on such a scale, but there would still be a requirement for several hundred thousand men to be available in this country to help to cope with the situation. It is our duty to make preparations to deal with such a situation, should it arise, and with whatever task those men might be called upon to face, whether the restoration of some semblance of order from chaos, or steps to repel an invasion. There can be no doubt that the presence of a disciplined body of men would be essential at such a time.

The Territorial Army is gradually building up its volunteer strength, but it does not yet have anything like the numbers needed to cope with such a situation. It is for that reason that we have decided to prolong the provisions of the 1954 Act, but only in respect of those men who joined the Services after the beginning of 1949. We do not need the large number who came before, people who were members of the Regular Reserve or auxiliary forces, whether as volunteers, war-time Service men or National Service men. Those who joined before 1st January, 1949, will be relieved of all compulsory reserve obligation on 30th June next.

Those who joined the Services after 1st January, 1949, whether as National Service men or as Regulars who would have had to do their National Service if they had not joined as volunteers, will remain members of the appropriate sections of their Reserve until 30th June, 1964. In terms of numbers, this means that on 1st July next, instead of 3½ million men now covered by the 1954 Act, there will be about 650,000 affected by the Bill. In five years, when the Bill is spent, that number will have risen considerably as more National Service men complete their service. About two-thirds of the total will have served with the Army and about one-third with the Royal Air Force. The Royal Navy figure is very small, 17,000 now, rising to 42,000 by 1964.

The Bill will mean that with the exception of men who entered on National Service later than the normal age because of having been deferred for apprenticeship or professional training, the oldest men in the Reserve, in 1964, will be about 34 years old—that is, a man who was called up at the beginning of 1949 at the age of 18.

Parallel action will be taken by the Service Departments under Royal Warrant to release corresponding categories of officers. I am sure that hon. Members will share our satisfaction that it has been possible to remove this obligation, however tenuous and unlikely to be imposed it may have been, from the shoulders of so many people who bore the heat of the day thirteen or more years ago.

Hon. Members may ask what will be the situation in 1964, since the Bill makes provision for only five years ahead. By then, of course, it is expected that the last National Service man will have finished his whole-time service and the automatic flow of people into the Reserves will be ending. This is a question which will undoubtedly have to be faced by the Government of the day when the time comes, but it would he unreasonable to plan for more than five years ahead, especially in view of the vast changes which new weapons are imposing on our defence strategy, almost month by month, let alone year by year.

I have tried to explain to the House the basis of our requirements which is very different from what it was when the 1954 Bill was enacted.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

I am very much interested in what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying. Is it the intention to call up, in the event of an emergency, what may be described as a global Reserve, or to call up men belonging to special categories, for example, the technical units? This is a very important point.

Mr. Soames

I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. That depends on what is needed at the time. We are here concerned with the two classes of Reserves affected—Group N and Group P of the General Reserve. Group N is being kept on and consists of specialists, as well as some soldiers and non-specialists, and Group P, which is not being maintained, also consists of a cross-section of the Army, both specialists and otherwise. It consists of men who have served before 1949.

Mr. Shinwell

Will this affect the Supplementary Reserve, which consists to a very large extent of technical units?

Mr. Soames

That is not affected in any way.

Meanwhile, there is a need in the years immediately ahead for these reserves to be available in the event of a very dire emergency, but I do not think that anyone will be prepared to go further than five years ahead at present. I hope that, with the Explanatory Memorandum, and the explanation which I have given to the House, the purpose of the Bill is now clear.

Clause 1 of the Bill extends for five years the application of the 1954 Act to those men who joined the forces after the beginning of 1949. Clause 2 repeals, with effect from the end of June, 1959, the provisions of the 1954 Act in as much as they affect the men who will then be released from the reserves. The Schedule to the Bill also contains certain consequential Amendments which have been made in other Service enactments as a result of the 1954 Act, which, since they relate to men to be released from the Reserves, can also be repealed. With that explanation, I commend the Bill to the House.

3.43 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

The Secretary of State has clearly explained the purposes of the Bill, which, as I understood him, is that, at the age of 45 or on the 30th June next year, whichever is the earlier, both classes of P and N reservists will cease to have any reserve liability at all. The Bill isolates the Class N reservists, those who began to serve after 1st January, 1949, and continues the reserve liability until the age of 45 or until the 30th June, 1964, whichever is the earlier.

Forty-five is certainly a magical age. The Service Departments write to tell you that your services are no longer required and that you are too old to be of any further use. Suddenly, young men start calling you "Sir," and seem surprised that you can cross the road unaided. Young ladies try to put you at your ease by asking if you really know Cecil Rhodes very well. I have found this myself, since becoming 45 this year.

I shall put one or two questions to the right hon. Gentleman. If that is the purpose of the Bill, the first question is whether the Class P reservists who have no longer a reserve liability will be free to volunteer for non-military duties in the home defence service, and, if so, for what services they may volunteer. The second question is what are the Government's plans for training or calling up those who now have this new reserve liability? I know that the Bill does not refer to any training liability, but this is directly relevant to the question whether it is desirable to impose the reserve liability, which is the purpose of the Bill. The use that is to be made of the services of these men is directly relevant to the answer to the question whether it is a good idea to have this Bill or not.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and others have pointed out that it is difficult today, with the changing nature of the reserves, to have at any given moment a clear picture of the categories of reserves of the Armed Forces, and particularly of the rôles assigned to them. Not long ago, in a debate in the House I referred to the Women's Royal Air Force several times, and one of the national newspapers quoted me as referring to the Women's Royal Auxiliary Air Force and another as referring to the Women's Reserve Air Force. Many people, who should have known better, appeared doubtful as to the title. It was clear evidence that there is today—because of all the changes there have been in the Reserve forces—a need for the public to get a clear idea what they are.

The Army Regular Reserve is divided into sections, lettered A, B, D, F and G. The Army Emergency Reserve is divided into categories—1a and 1b, and so on. We are discussing the Army General Reserve. We know a little about it from what is printed in the Estimates, but it is very scrappy. It is especially important that we should know the future rôle assigned to these various Reserves. I hope that we can be told something about the Reserves under two headings.

First, the specialist categories. The Suez adventure showed that there had not been maintained an organisation which would allow the categories of specialists to take on, in an emergency tasks which would be uneconomic for them to do in peace conditions—for instance, dock operating—and a proclamation was necessary in that case. As to the second heading of the General Reserve, which is directly related to this Bill, it does not make much sense to impose a longer reserve liability unless some thought is given to the rôle it is to play and to training. This is an immediate question, because of the new school of ground strategy which is being advocated on the Continent.

I refer to the idea of an old-fashioned war of Regulars with mobilised reservists, under the umbrella of the mutual deterrent. It is a fact that on the Continent today many politicians and soldiers have been converted to this rôle of Reserve forces. I believe that it is up to the Government to give us some more idea of how they see the rôle of our reserves in the event of this new ground strategy being adopted on the Continent. The very fact that the Government have introduced this Bill and have asked Parliament to pass it places an onus upon them of saying something about that.

On the general point of the Reserves, we can all accept, even if we are not converts to the new conception of ground strategy, the importance of Reserves of all kinds, because as we move to smaller and smaller Regular forces, Reserves become more and more important. Apart from that, we need a clear statement from the Government, perhaps in a White Paper of a few pages, to present their ideas on the future of our Reserves. I hope that we shall be given some such assurance from the Government, because this is directly relevant to the purpose of this Bill.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing) rose

3.49 p.m.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

The Government are in a hurry to reply, but not a great deal has been said about this important matter. Although this is a very small Bill, and, I believe, is acceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House, it nevertheless denotes what might properly be described as a revolutionary change. Some years ago, when I had to deal with the question of building up our Reserve forces, I recall that all the military experts—and, generally speaking, we are in the hands of the military experts—

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

Field Marshal Montgomery.

Mr. Shinwell

—not only the Field Marshal—claimed that it was essential to build up a formidable Reserve force, and they talked not in terms of hundreds of thousands, but of millions. At the time their claims were questioned by many people in the War Office and the other Service Departments; nevertheless, their views carried the day.

Now a change has come over the scene. The right hon. Gentleman has come to the conclusion that, instead of many millions of men, a comparatively small number will be required to deal with an emergency situation. Even more significant is the fact that, in the course of his speech, the Minister made quite clear what is the Government's future military policy. He said, "We shall not require so many reservists in the future, because our intention is to rely not so much upon conventional forces but upon the nuclear deterrent and the nuclear weapon"—which, he said, would be forthcoming. He added that we also had the means of delivering it. I am not quite sure about that. I say that with some caution but, I make the statement because the situation changes so rapidly. In the course of a few years we have come to the conclusion, as witness the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that we no longer require a formidable mass of reservists, but that 600,000 or so would suffice for our purpose.

The right hon. Gentleman went further. He said, "We are looking only five years ahead." That is quite right, because it is impossible to plan a long time ahead, since the situation changes so rapidly. It may well be that the present military strategy, which is apparently acceptable to the Government and is endorsed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its constituent elements—which is that we must rely in future more upon the nuclear deterrent and, if it fails, upon nuclear weapons—will be falsified. We may find that, in the unhappy event of a major war, we need to deploy conventional forces in large measure, either because the situation demands it or because of the natural reluctance to deploy nuclear weapons.

Therefore, while accepting the Bill, we must preserve a good deal of caution and watch events. We must not wait for five years and then come to a decision; we must deal with the situation annually, in the light of events.

I welcome the Bill because in one respect it will be acceptable and agreeable to everybody concerned. It absolves a vast number of men from reserve liability. From what I know of Service men, from my experience at the War Office and the Ministry of Defence, I can say that they will be very glad to be absolved from that commitment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) referred to an interjection I ventured to make in respect of the categories which are required. From 1947 to 1951 we had a great deal of experience of the need for building up special categories. We discovered that the foot soldier, however important he might seem, was less important than the Service man who is deployed in a technical unit, because the Service is becoming more and more mechanised, and requires greater mobility. It is, therefore, desirable to have special technical categories for the purposes that we can foresee for the future. I am not satisfied that the Minister has gone into this matter as carefully as he might have done—

Mr. Soames

I must have explained myself very badly. The Bill does not say in any way that the defence policy of the Government is to rely less upon reservists than hitherto. It is taking off the top of the General Reserve and its equivalent—the men who have served in and since the war and have completed their time in the Colours and in compulsory war service. While we have the general pool of the General Reserve, on top of that there are about 3½ million men who served during and after the war, who will no longer have any liability. That is what the Bill provides.

Mr. Shinwell

I accept that, but that is not my point. It may be that I have explained myself badly. [Interruption.] If I left it to the noble Lord the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) it would no doubt be explained much more intelligibly, but since I have not the high scholastic ability that has been made available to the noble Lord, I must rely upon my slender resources.

I am trying to explain that if we decide to abolish the present Reserve, namely, the 3½ million men who are liable to serve in the Reserve forces, and are to rely in future upon about 600,000 men, we must ensure that within that number there are sufficient technical units, because they will be needed much more in the future than they were in the past. There should be a break-down of the 650,000 which the right hon. Gentleman hopes to secure, to ensure that we have the right type of men. It is not sufficient merely to rely upon a global Reserve.

Is it likely that the men who are absolved from reserve liability will be permitted to join the Territorial forces and help to build up that auxiliary arm of our defence forces? This is an opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman and his military advisers to secure what they have been trying to secure for many years. We have always had difficulty in building up our Territorial forces. When I was at the War Office our target for the Army was 150,000 men, but we never reached that target, and I would guess that at present the right hon. Gentleman has no more than 60,000 in the Territorial Army. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to correct me he may do so. We ought to build up that force, because a voluntary auxiliary force is far more satisfactory than a Reserve force, particularly if a large element of the Reserve force comes from National Service men. I hope that the Government will deal with that aspect, because I believe it to be extremely important.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I wish to make some observations about the Bill with reference to its effect upon the Royal Navy. I understand that it extends liability for service in the Reserve to certain persons who are to be used, as was said by the Secretary of State for War, in the case of grave emergency. This does not altogether tie up with the attitude of the Admiralty, which has recently decided to scrap a number of ships. No fewer than six carriers, nine cruisers, 46 frigates, 24 ocean minesweepers, 13 submarines and 14 destroyers are to be scrapped. If there are to be fewer ships, I should have thought that there ought to be fewer men, but that does not appear to be the case.

How many of these men will man ships in time of war? I know that it can be said that many men in the Royal Navy spend their time ashore and not afloat, but it still seems to me that the proportion of those ashore will be very high indeed. I wish the Secretary of State to tell me what proportion of men in the Royal Navy now serve afloat, what proportion serve ashore, what the figures were, say, ten years ago, and what is the figure in the American Navy? It may well be that in the American Navy there are more men ashore.

Mr. Soames

That figure would be difficult to get.

Mr. Dugdale

I think that the right hon. Gentleman might have some difficulty, but he should have an idea of the proportion before asking the House for more reservists, because those reservists are needed for certain purposes. They are to man ships or shore stations and we ought to have some idea whether it is the future intention of the Government that there shall be more and more sailors ashore and fewer and fewer afloat. That would appear to be what is to happen.

I do not know whether the Admiralty will build new ships, replacing those to be scrapped, in which these men will serve. If that is the case, we ought to know. If it is not, we should also be informed, so that we may know what duties they will perform.

4.5 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

I cannot help thinking that the House finds itself in some difficulty, not because the Secretary of State for War has failed to master his brief but because that brief was inadequate. As, therefore, the Secretary of State for War failed to explain the purpose of the Bill, perhaps I may assist him.

The return of Reserve strength is in the Vote Office. On the date of the last return there were 613,000 men with a reserve liability. This covers all the Regular Army reservists, plus National Service men who have completed their Colour service. Over and above this figure there are a number of men in the General Reserve who are affected by the Bill and who are not reservists in a strict sense at all.

Therefore, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) congratulates the Secretary of State on his liberality in releasing a number of men from their reserve obligations, he is, in fact, thanking the Government for nothing. If these reserves were ever called to the Colours, it would be done as part of a general Proclamation which could be issued in a couple of hours following emergency legislation. The Executive has all the power it needs, so that the Government are not being very generous in introducing this Bill.

Reservists belong to a specific category and they are organised into units or jobs on mobilisation. These men do not belong to that category at all. They are men who have worked out their National Service liability of two years with the colours and three-and-a-half years on the Reserve.

Having failed to make up their mind on their Reserve policy the Government are faced with the problem that the legislation under which these men are enrolled—they are not even enrolled, their names are recorded—expires in the middle of next year, and they have to do something about it. Had our defence policy any contact with reality they should have worked out a Reserve policy and come to the House with a new Measure to supersede the Bill introduced in 1950 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington. But, faced with the choice of doing some constructive thinking or making the sort of speech the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon, the Government chose to allow that speech to be made. Accordingly, the House finds itself in a state of confusion.

If this amorphous mass of men were recalled they would not constitute an addition to our military strength. The men would be merely an addition to the ration strength. There would be about 3½ million men with no units, and all they possess is a Service number. They have no identity and many do not even know that they have the liability to be recalled.

If hon. Gentlemen really want to see how a Reserve force works and how a mobilisation plan should be operated, they should go back to the years before many of them were born and read the first volume of the Official History of the First World War. There they will find a mobilisation plan. In 1914, there was mobilisation on the Tuesday after the August Bank Holiday, because the then Liberal Government did not want to upset the holiday excursion trains.

In 21 days an Expeditionary Force was put across the Channel. The overwhelming majority of that force were reservists. Sixty thousand horses were impounded, and the Expeditionary Force was in contact with the Germans at first light on 22nd August. Our forefathers could do something then because they thought from first principles. Then the Government would not have dared to come to the House of Commons with such a Measure as this, knowing that they would have to face informed criticism.

If we are to fall back on an assumption of 165,000 men, and contract that figure to the very edge of safety, thought should have been given to what is to be done should we ever need to expand again. But the Government have not even thought about the problems of contracting, never mind the problem of expansion, so we are presented with a half-baked piece of nonsense which has been trotted out as if it is an excuse to get rid of men who have a legal liability of which they are completely unaware.

I say that we should let the Government have their Bill today, but that long before the expiry of five years—unless an angry electorate has done its duty long before then—we shall expect that the Government will do some hard thinking. We shall expect them to have thought out a reasonable policy, not in terms of the estimated General Reserve but embracing all the categories of reservists of all three Services so that we may have a reserve policy related to a mobilisation plan which at least has some contact with an overall defence policy.

4.8 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

It is rare for a Government to bring before the House of Commons a Bill affecting reservists without having, or even pretending to have, any policy plan. It is an astounding state of affairs. We are contracting from a conscript Army to a volunteer Army. We are contracting to quite a new organisation, and I should have thought that the essence of a volunteer professional Army was quick power of mobilisation. We are asked to accept a Bill dealing with reserves without the Minister who introduced it even suggesting the existence of a mobilisation plan.

4.10 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

I think I might ask a few questions as well, since we have a minute or two to spare. I would first thank the Minister for his opening remarks and for the history which he gave us of the Bill. As he explained, the Government are not asking for new powers; the Bill is an extension of existing powers contained in the 1954 Act for certain categories of men. In the main, the Bill will result in fewer reserves and not more.

Perhaps we might hear from the Government how the 1954 Act powers have been used. For instance, what is the number of occasions on which it has been necessary to use these powers? Can we get information about the number of men actually called up and the length of period which they had to serve? Can we have information about the problems arising in the calling up of men and their return to civil life and how effective the mobilisation machinery has been?

When the Minister introduced the 1954 Bill, he was very specific about how it could be used. He laid considerable emphasis on the matter and he said, in effect, that the call up of these men would only take place in the case of actual or apprehended attack upon the United Kingdom. I understand that no proclamation would be necessary for such an event, but would only be necessary if the men had to go overseas. The other thing was that the men would be called up if there were imminent national danger or emergency, after a proclamation. The Prime Minister himself, in a prior debate, said that the Bill would be coming along and gave a promise that it would be used only in the greatest war emergency.

We gave our support to that Bill, which became the 1954 Act. We did so because, it should be noted, during the introduction of the Measure it was said: In a national emergency we shall all be in it together."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1654.] That we understand. I do not know on how many occasions the powers have had to be used, apart from the Suez operation, and I am not so sure that the Suez operation was something in which we were all in together. That is an example of the kind of thing that can happen. It shows that, whatever the good intentions of the Government may have been when a Bill is introduced, when they get the powers something different may happen. It should be made clear that the Suez operation was not the kind of thing that we visualised when we supported the Measure in 1954.

We welcome the Bill in so far as it releases the liability of the men who served between 1939 and 1948. I do so for one very personal reason. One of the most persistent hecklers at all my meetings has been a man who has been in that category, and he has taken every opportunity to pester me about this liability. He agrees that in 1954 something was done to ease and share the responsibility and he is still very conscious of his liability; but he has not been satisfied. After this Bill becomes law I can see that I shall have one satisfied constituent on that matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only one?"] I am saying that he is satisfied only on this particular point.

The other point I want to mention is the provision of age 45 in the Bill. Why should it still be 45? When the Minister moved the Second Reading today he explained that five years hence the age would be about 34, so it does not seem reasonable that we should still have 45 in the Bill. There may be some reason for its being here. There was, earlier on, some reluctance even on the part of the Minister to keep the age at 45. He hoped that it might be lower. The main purpose of the Act was to ensure that mobilisation would be speedy and that men who had the liability should know about it so that there would be no necessity for sending forms backwards and forward to see where the men were and to arrange that their skill and knowledge would be known with a view to our getting the right men in the right place at the right time.

With the general reduction of the powers, the speed of effective mobilisation is much more important that ever, Whether the Government will have the transport to take the men where they ought to be after mobilisation is another matter, which we shall no doubt come to in later debates. We are entitled to an assurance that the system is efficient and up to date and, if required to act speedily, would be able to take the strain and show results.

4.17 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

Perhaps I might deal, first, with the point raised by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), the age of 45. He himself said that he had passed that yardstick or milestone. I found myself passing it very shortly after I was appointed to this office, when I received a notice from another branch of the Air Ministry which said that I, having reached this advanced age, was no use to the Air Force from that day and might as well give up. It was nicely couched, but I remember thinking that it was rather a snap judgment. I informed them that I had been given, by the Prime Minister, an opportunity for an extension of service.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) asked why we were retaining this age at 45. There will not be many people held to have liabilities up to this age, but there are a few, particularly in the professional classes, like doctors, who came in very late, say at 26 years of age. Therefore, we want to keep this age, although there are not many people affected by it.

The right hon. Member for Easingtonton (Mr. Shinwell) underlined what was said by my right hon. Friend, that the situation has changed immensely as the result of the development of nuclear weapons, and particularly of the H-bomb. It is only right that the Government should have a flexible outlook, and that is why we ask for a five-year period during which to consider the realism even of the present methods.

It is perhaps not generally realised what categories will not be affected by this Bill. Perhaps I should underline that. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) brought out the point, but I think it should be underlined, that the Regular reserves are not in any way affected by this Bill, nor are the National Service reserves, who have a three-and-a-half year liability after National Service. They will continue to have that liability. Of course, all the auxiliaries, Territorial and volunteer Reserve forces will continue to have a liability and are not in any way affected by the Bill. The Bill deals only with the last line of reserves. As the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West said, the gravest national emergency would call on this particular category of reservists.

The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) asked how the Bill would affect the Navy. He asked for a number of figures, but I am unable to give them. As a matter of fact, many of them would not be affected by the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question he might have difficulty with regard to the United States Navy forces, but his ingenuity would be tested to the full and my right hon. Friend would no doubt do his best to reply.

Mr. Dugdale

That is an easy way of getting out of it. Can the hon. Gentlemn at least tell me one figure? How many men out of this total will be allotted to the Royal Navy? Quite apart from any other details and categories, he surely should know that.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I shall be delighted to tell the right hon. Member how many will be affected by the Bill, but he asked how many ashore and afloat and how many ships would be concerned. In the Royal Navy Special Reserve there will be fewer than 20,000 at this present time and that number will increase. I do not want to give hard and fast figures, but there will be almost double that number at the end of the period, in 1964. That is the sort of number which would be affected in the last line of reservists for the Royal Navy.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about certain ships. If he puts Questions on the Order Paper that may be a rather more apposite way of dealing with the problem.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that there were absolutely no plans for mobilisation. That really is not true. I should not wish it to go out from the House that there are no plans for mobilisation; of course there are, and for calling up exactly the categories I have enumerated, the categories with reserve liability, the National Service men, Territorials and volunteer forces. All those are meticulously categorised for mobilisation procedure and there is also procedure for this general last line of reserves. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not think that we would come to the House in these critical, dangerous days without having very exact plans for mobilisation.

Mr. Paget

With the new organisation of the Army taking place even in those categories which are not touched by the Bill at all, in a single general mobilisation how many of them would know where they are to go and for how many of them is equipment allocated and ready at a particular place for them to take on? That is what I mean by a mobilisation scheme.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I think that I should be testing the rules of order if I tried to answer for people who are not affected by the Bill. We are debating the Second Reading of a Bill for a quite different category. I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Member will have an opportunity of developing his argument on another occasion.

Mr. Paget

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is no mobilisation scheme whatever for any of the people affected by this Bill; and, as to the others, I believe that there is very little in the way of a scheme.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

However the hon. and learned Member underlines his words, there is a mobilisation scheme for these people. These are the people to be called up in the gravest national emergency, which might mean global war, and there are many categories to be called up before that during a period of tension. I wish it to go out from this House that the organisation of these reserves is very highly categorised, and very thoroughly categorised for all three Services.

Mr. Shinwell

I should not expect the hon. Gentleman on this or any other occasion to furnish details to the House of the actual details of mobilisation plans, but perhaps he will answer this question, which emerges from what he said previously. If the intention is to call up the last line of Reserves, amounting to about 600,000, at some future date, in addition we shall have the Supplementary Reserve, plus the Regular Reserve, plus the Territorial Army and the Auxiliary Force and the National Service Reserve, which will go on for some time. Will he now say what the Reserve will be? It will not be 600,000, but much more than 1 million. Has he any idea what it will be?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I could not give the exact figures straight off the cuff, but the right hon. Member is absolutely right. It would be substantially more than 600,000, because we have all the reservists of a high priority. Above this line of reservists the number will build up until, at the expiring of the term of the Bill, it will be more than 1 million; it may be 1.2 million. Above these figures are the trained reserves, the ex-Regular and Territorial Army reserves category.

Mr. Dugdale rose

Mr. Orr-Ewing

May I now discuss matters in the Bill? We have been discussing things which do not arise from the Bill.

Mr. Dugdale

This does arise from the Bill. These men are to be called up in the event of an emergency. Am I correct in saying that the hon. Gentleman maintains that we have a plan for men who would go in the case of a local war, but no general plan in the case of a global war, and these men are to be affected if there is a global war?

Mr. Wigg

It is true that the Bill imposes a liability upon X number of men. The hon. Gentleman has not the foggiest notion of any possible contingency under which they could be called up, and even if he could visualise such a contingency he would not know what to do with them when they were called up.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I cannot accept the implication of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich and I do not think that the House would expect me to. The Territorial Army is ahead of this reserve and Territorials would be the first called up. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said, it would be in a grave national emergency that we would call on these people and they might be used, in the first instance, to bring the Regular Army up to strength.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West asked a number of pertinent questions about the way in which we have used this Reserve. That, to some extent, illustrates the matters we have been discussing. This Reserve has never been used. He asked when it was used, but it has never been used. He asked what numbers had been used and the answer is that none has been called up. He asked what problems had arisen in resettling them; none has arisen. That covers the hon. Member's questions about the Suez crisis. Numbers of the Regular reservists in the prior categories were called up, but they are not the reserves we are debating this afternoon.

I should like to deal with one or two points which have arisen and to make one announcement to the House. The hon. Member for Lincoln asked whether these Reserves would be free to join some Civil Defence forces. That is a point with which I shall deal in a moment. Connected with that there has been some doubt as to training for fire defence duties. The scheme for training National Service airmen for firefighting duties will end at the end of this year. With the rundown of the Air Force, sufficient manpower will not be available to continue beyond that date.

However, the effect of the Bill will be to ensure that more than 24,000 ex-National Service airmen already trained on fire-fighting duties will be available for such duty for five extra years. The expiry of the 1954 Act, together with the Bill, will free from reserve liability nearly 3 million men. I am sure that many of these men would still wish to serve their country in some form or other, and from the passing of the Bill they are released from their reserve commitments.

The right hon Gentleman asked me whether men would be free to join the Territorial Army. These men have always been free to join the Territorial Army or other Reserve forces, but on joining them they cease to be members of this particular category of Reserve. There is no extra freedom there. There is freedom for the category who have had a reserve liability and who previously had not been free to join our home defence services. They would be most welcome in the Civil Defence Corps, the Industrial Civil Defence Service, the Auxiliary Fire Service, and the National Hospital Service Reserve and one more, allied with the Royal Air Force, the Royal Observer Corps, which is another home service in which men need to be free from reserve liability and will be very welcome indeed.

The House, I think, would wish to thank the 3 million men who are shortly, to be released from all reserve liability. We hope that they will find an opportunity either in the voluntary forces or in the Civil Defence Service to continue to serve the country. I hope, therefore, that the House will now give a Second Reading to the Bill.

Mr. de Freitas

Would the Under-Secretary look at this point; will particular incentive and encouragement be given to those men who have been trained in specialised Civil Defence to encourage them now that they are free to join?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I was referring to them when I said that 24,000 were trained in the fire-fighting service for the Civil Defence rôle will continue to have a liability. They are National Service men and will continue to have a liability for a further five years.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]

Committee Tomorrow.