HC Deb 20 January 1959 vol 598 cc26-7
47. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the observations made by a Cyprus coroner in relation to the conduct of British troops under stress of emotion, he will take the decision, in principle, not to use National Service men to combat insurrection in Colonial Territories.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is it not a bad thing in practice to use relatively untrained young troops for what is, admittedly, one of the most arduous, exacting and trying forms of duty for our troops? Is it not an abuse of the rights of the State over the individual, and wrong in principle, to compel men to kill or be killed for politically controversial and morally ambiguous questions such as repression in Colonial Territories?

The Prime Minister

Without going into the various allegations and imputations in that supplementary question, I would remind the hon. Member that it is the Government's policy to bring National Service to an end, and I have no doubt that we shall succeed. Meanwhile, however, most Members of the House would, I think, realise that it is impracticable to divide the troops into the National Service and the Regular until that final process of Regular forces has been brought about.

Mr. Paget

Is not the real trouble that troops are quite unsuitable instruments of civil repression in disturbances? Is it not high time that we developed a colonial police reserve which could be sent to areas of disturbance in a Colonial Territory without tying down our main forces?

The Prime Minister

That is another question. The police in Cyprus are, of course, being strengthened, but this is a question as to whether we should divide the Army, when it is used, into Regular and National Service. I was trying to say that that appeared to me to be impracticable.