HC Deb 25 November 1959 vol 614 cc347-8
19. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will exempt from call-up for National Service married men with dependent children.

Mr. Heath

There is no power under the National Service Acts to exempt any man from National Service; but men can apply to have their call-up postponed on the ground that exceptional hardship would be caused, and my officers have special instructions to consider with the fullest sympathy applications from married men with families where there are difficult home circumstances.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all this still leaves the position most uncertain? Is he also aware that there are still about 470,000 men liable for call-up, many of whom will never in fact be called up? When does he intend to make up his mind to start tapering it off and putting many thousands of these men out of suspense?

Mr. Heath

It would not be practical to find a device for excluding all married men with dependent children, because there is no such power under the Act. The machinery for dealing with the problem is long established and is working well. On 12th May my predecessor sent a further instruction to those concerned asking that this problem should be dealt with very sympathetically.

Mr. Ness Edwards

But cannot the Minister bring some termination to this indefinite postponement, which leaves a lot of apprehension in the minds of the chaps who get it? They do not know whether or not it is indefinite. As it is apparently meant to be indefinite, why not make it quite plain?

Mr. Heath

I think that the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the position. When indefinite deferment is granted, it is specifically stated and, as the right hon. Gentleman probably knows, is largely limited to particular industries. Where postponement is granted, it is for a fixed period, and at the end of that period, whether the circumstances remain the same or have in any way changed, it is again open to the man to apply for a further period of postponement.

Mr. Chetwynd

Can the Minister of Labour say whether he really wants these people at this time? With Regular recruiting going as it is and our commitments falling, would not it be better to say that he will end the call-up earlier or free these men from liability?

Mr. Heath

When the decision was made, and announced in the White Paper, that those born after the third quarter of 1939 would not be called up, it was recognised that a certain number of those who were deferred would be available for call-up in the period before call-up ended. It was roughly worked out that those numbers would give the Forces what they required. The number that the Forces require is under consideration for this remaining period, and we shall be able to see whether there are any men who will not be required, but it is very difficult to deal in advance with any specific categories.

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