§ 4.26 p.m.
§ The Chairman
In calling the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to move the first Amendment, perhaps it would be convenient to the Committee if I said that it is proposed to discuss with this Amendment the following Amendments: Nos. 5 and 7, page 1, line 15, and page 1, line 21 and No. 36, Clause 2, page 2, line 36.
I do not propose to call these other Amendments for a Division.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out "passing" and to insert:making of an order under subsection (3) of this section".Sir Gordon, I would he much obliged if you would clear up one point. If we are to discuss the Amendment to Clause 2, page 2, line 36 with the Amendment that I have moved, I take it that it will be for the convenience of the Committee, and that you will not object, if, at least in passing, I mention the contents of Clause 2 to illustrate the point that that the Amendments to Clause 1 and Clause 2 seek to do the same thing. I should be in some difficulty if you ruled that I could not refer to Clause 2 in my opening remarks.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the Bill is passed without the Amendments I seek to insert, the 1556 effect will be that the Government will have power to hold men who are at present serving for a further six months, they will have power to recall to the Colours National Service men who have completed their service, and they will not be required to account to the House for the circumstances in which they exercise those powers, the number of men involved, or the nature of their purpose.
Our proceeding have been held up somewhat this afternoon by a discussion on the Mace. A great captain-general once had some comments to make about the Mace. He exercised his authority through the Armed Forces of the Crown, and he came here with a posse and suggested that the Parliament of the time should do with the Mace something other than was suggested for it this afternoon. One of the results of this conflict is that over the last three centuries the House of Commons has required the Executive to account to the House in detail for their administration of the Armed Forces.
Until comparatively recently we had the annual Army Bill, by which the numbers were closely controlled. Indeed, the doctrine itself by which that control is exercised arose because the King sought to expend money to pay that was voted for rations, and thereby increase his power by raising the number of men called in. I am not suggesting that the Government are seeking to do that. They are seeking to do something far worse. They are seeking to take measures without telling the House of Commons or the country the real reason why they seek these measures, or the purposes for which they are seeking them.
I turn to the speech of the Secretary of State during the Second Reading debate. He told us that at the moment there are about 50,000 National Service men. He said that of that number 25,000 would not be required—that is to say, men due for release before 1st April. After that time, he said, he would have to hold some of them; probably all the men who were in Germany, no numbers being given. He said that some of the men serving in the Far East or other theatres might be discharged in the early stages, but others would certainly be fetched back to this country 1557 and then sent to the Army of the Rhine. No numbers were given.
This is very interesting. I am sure that the Secretary of State regards himself and his staff as ultra recruiting sergeants. They are engaged in getting recruits wherever they can—from Fiji, from the West Indies, and from similar places. It is interesting to see what their view of the Army is. When dealing with the measures undertaken with great courage by the Labour Government in 1950 the Secretary of State, then in opposition, rejected the theory of sharing equal misery.
That does not help anyone. I would describe service in the Armed Forces of the Crown, whether Regular or National Service, as a privilege. I would not have thought that it helped recruiting to tell our young men that they were going to suffer equal misery and that service in the Armed Forces was so utterly miserable that we would not ask more people to do it than was absolutely necessary. I would have thought that a Secretary of State who was really charged with a sense of purpose and who was proud of the Service for which he spoke in the House would have said to young men, "We are helping you to do your duty. It is your privilege, in a democracy, to serve your country." To talk about it as a sharing of equal misery is a kind of Freudian slip, which explains many of the Secretary of State's other actions.
We understand from the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) that the right hon. Gentleman has decorated his War Office room in a pastel shade. I would have thought that in view of some of the proposals in the Bill he might have inserted a stained glass window, in which would be contained a picture of the late Fred Karno, sitting suitably with a soda water bottle by his side.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Is that not rather appropriate, considering the wonderful record which Fred Karno's army had?
§ Mr. Wigg
It was a wonderful record. I am merely saying that the present Army is an Army of bits and pieces, without a pattern. I am putting the matter in a light and frivolous way because it is my view that at some point 1558 the Secretary of State must tell us the number of men he wants, when he wants them, and the purpose for which he wants them. Above all, he must tell us what the targets are.
I do not want to weary the Committee by going over once again all the arguments about the targets. It is crystal clear that the right target is 182,000. If there is any doubt about that, quite apart from anything that the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations may have said, we can discover the truth of the situation by reading an article in the Soldier, published last week. This is an Army publication, paid for by the Secretary of State and with an editorial board appointed by him. Its leading article presumably produces the official doctrine for the consumption of the men in the ranks.
What that article contains is very different from what has been said in ministerial speeches or in official publications. It says, in justification of the Government's policy:The Army must have at least 182,000 officers and men to meet all its commitments, although even at this level there will still be some shortages.So we know that 182,000 men are wanted. During the Second Reading debate I asked the Government what number they hoped to get in December of next year. I was not given an answer. I know, broadly speaking, that it will be about 165,000 Regulars. It may be a few thousand short of that. On the other hand, the Minister's searches in the Fijis and in other parts of the Commonwealth may enable him to reach that figure. He will also be holding back some National Service men, but we do not know how many, and we should be told.
The figure at which the Government are aiming is between 170,000 and 182,000. We should be told what it is now, because if the statement made in the Soldier is right, any figure below 182,000 will mean a shortage which must find reflection in units which are serving at the moment, and must also result in a weakening of the commitments which they are required to carry out.
But this is not the only document which the Minister has published. Another document was sent out last week, marked "Confidential". It was a circular sent to commands and senior 1559 officers. Why it was marked "Confidential" I do not know. It merely consisted of a hand-out from the Minister's speeches. But it contained some proposals which the House of Commons has never been told about. I learnt with great pleasure that the Government propose to initiate immediate talks with employers and trade union leaders, in order to enlist their help in making a success of the new "Ever-readies" scheme.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
I did say, when I spoke in the Second Reading debate, that I had already started those talks. The hon. Member has said that I did not tell the House, but I did.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry, but I never heard it in the formal way in which it is described in this document. The document also confuses the issue as between the targets of 165,000 and 182,000, as that in the Soldier did not. Without giving a date, it says that the Government hope to get a minimum target of 165,000, rising to 182,000. But the Government know full well that 182,000 is the correct figure.
The document also says that in the last resort the Government might contemplate a return to some form of compulsory service. We have never had an admission from them in those terms before, but it is contained in one document, sent out confidentially, and in another document which has been circulated among the troops.
§ Mr. John Hall
I have been listening with great interest and perplexity to these quotations. They seem to cover matters which have been mentioned on more than one occasion in the House and mentioned in the terms in which the hon. Member has been stating them.
§ Mr. Wigg
The figures have been mentioned many times. But if the hon. Member wonders why I follow up this question in some detail I can tell him that it is because Ministers are not always consistent. I can quote statements from the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations repudiating the figure of 182,000. In a Press handout a year ago he asked what all the worry was about, and said that there had never been any question of 182,000. 1560 I make this point because we must get right out of our minds the figure of 165,000.
I believe that the statement contained in the Soldier is right; that the target is 182,000 and that, as the Soldier says, even if that target is attained there will he some shortages. Anything short of 182,000 next December will represent a very grave situation. Therefore, the Government should not be allowed simply to go on until next April and then, by administrative action, do what they want to do in the conditions in which they find themselves. When they have arrived at a firm decision about the date on which they are going to hold men back under Clauses 1 and 2, they should tell the House what the date will be, how many men are involved, how many men will be retained and how they propose to deal with the situation of undoubted weakness which must exist if there is a gap—perhaps a large gap—between the combined figure of National Service men and Regulars which they have succeeded in obtaining and the figure of 182,000. I, for one, am not prepared to give the Government carte blanche. They have not shown themselves worthy of confidence. They have left the decision until the very last moment.
One of the arguments they now produce, I admit it is a powerful one, cuts right to the heart of my own personal dilemma. They say that now we have got into the position in which we are, what alternative is there to the step which the Government are now proposing? Indeed, in the article in Soldier they produce just that argument. They charge hon. Members in this side of the Committee and the newspapers with failing to produce any alternative to the Government proposals. I admit frankly that that is my dilemma.
I am absolutely dead against the provisions of Clause 1, which I regard as a breach of faith with the men who are serving and who by the accident of circumstances will be affected. I consider it a cowardly breach of faith. If there is any substance in the Minister's case that the circumstances have come about only because of the Berlin situation he ought to remember, as the political head of the Army, that he is dealing with soldiers and that whether 1561 they be National Service men or Regulars they should be treated alike.
If the right hon. Gentleman decided to hold National Service men. he should have done what the Labour Government did in 1950, and never mind about the gospel of equal misery. He should have held both. He does not hold the Regulars which he could do under Section 9—does the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) wish to interrupt me?
§ Mr. John Hall
I was merely expressing surprise because I thought that the Secretary of State had said he intended to take powers to do that.
§ Mr. Wigg
It relates to the Amendment because I come back to the point that in my view the Secretary of State, when he takes his decision to hold men under Clause 1 ought then to table an affirmative Order and tell the House how many men he proposes to hold and the number of men involved. He should give the House the fullest possible information. Perhaps at a later stage he should give exactly the same information in relation to Clause 2. His failure to so involves the House in giving him a blank cheque which the right hon. Gentleman can then please himself about how he uses.
It is my submission that one of the arguments which he has advanced for the Bill was there is no alternative, and the second argument is it is not tied up with the crisis in which the Government find themselves now. That is not something for which they are responsible, because this Government would never find themselves in such a difficult situation. It arises from the Berlin situation. If the situation gets worse and the right hon. Gentleman can prove that some other crisis is at the root of the trouble all he has to do is to come to the House. He has enormous powers if he cares to use them.
The Labour Government of 1950 acted in a different way. They acted fairly. They made no distinction between Regular soldiers and National Service men. In his heart of hearts the Secretary of State knows that the cause of the trouble in which the Government 1562 now find themselves is basically because of a crisis created by the international situation and that it is his duty to hold Regulars as well as National Service men because his need for trained men is of overwhelming importance. It goes without saying that Regulars are better than National Service men in the sense that they are better trained. The reason he does not do that is it would cause great administrative difficulties. It would strike at the heart of the confidence of the Regular soldier and that would affect the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman to raise the Regular recruiting figures.
National Service men are expendable. The Government are allowing their National Service policy to run down. So it is possible to talk to the National Service man, not in terms of duty or privilege, but in terms of equal misery. It is possible to break faith with the National Service man and to cause the greatest uncertainty in his life because for this purpose a National Service man is expendable.
I do not think that this is right. The Government have not shown any reason why they should be given an unlimited amount of trust. I think that they should be called to account for every one of their actions. I make this demand, not because I am passionately interested in the subject—although I am—but on the same basis as any other hon. Member; because this affects every hon. Member who will have in his constituency some people who are doing their National Service or have an obligation to carry out reserve service. They will all be affected by the terms of the Bill.
We have been told over and over again—indeed it is the main argument used against a number of hon. Members opposite who put country before party and a few of us on this side of the Committee who share that view of our duty—that what we want is conscription. If there is no better argument people must fall back on that argument. I repudiate it in my own case. Not only has it been said that we want conscription, but, also, that we want selective service. Let us see where we have got ourselves, and this, again, is why I demand that the House of Commons should keep control 1563 at every stage. Let us see in terms of a time-table. In November, 1959, the right hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of Labour and National Service, announced out of the blue that he was not calling up 60,000 men not because we did not need them, but because the defence budget would not bear it. That related to 60,000 men, and we excluded the miners, agricultural workers, the mercantile marine—
§ Mr. Wigg
I appreciate that it is difficult, but I will bring it back in my very next sentence.
We are told that this is a fair Measure and has nothing to do with selective service. The Government have poured scorn on the idea of selective service, but they come forward with a Measure based on no principle, and thought of at the last moment because of pressure from America, to face a manpower situation of their own creation which has nothing to do with Germany at all. They have poured scorn on those who advocated selective service, but they introduce a selective system which is the most unfair, unjust and militarily inefficient which it is possible for a human mind to devise.
In those circumstances, I cannot give the Government carte blanche. They should account at every stage for their actions. I ask the Committee to say that Parliament regretfully considers that under Clause 2 they may have the powers required because they have got themselves into a mess. It is not only the Government but the country and the Army which is in a mess. The Army must be given the men to get it out of the mess, but the number of men required, and when they are wanted, must be the subject of an affirmative Order so that the Government will be brought to account.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I recognise the motive of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in moving the Amendment, and in many ways I am very sympathetic with it, because all of us, whatever may be our views about selective service, continuing conscription in general, or trying to confine ourselves 1564 to a Regular Army only built up by voluntary recruiting, know full well that there will be cases of individual hardship which we would be only too anxious to avoid if we possibly could. At least we are all agreed on that.
I want to give two quotations from my right hon. Friends speech on Second Reading. The first quotation deals with Clause 1 and it should be borne in mind in this discussion:I have already said that we shall keep back men only for strictly military reasons. So, after April we shall need to hold virtually all National Service men serving in B.A.O.R. In the early release groups after April we should be able to let those serving in other theatres go at their normal times. Later in the year, when there are fewer National Service men available, we shall probably have to keep back the majority of men wherever they are serving and transfer them to B.A.O.R.All of us agree that the situation in Berlin is all too susceptible of becoming electric at any moment. I ask the Committee to consider the wisdom of accepting the Amendment. However much we may be sympathetic with the individual cases of hardship involved, do we believe that it would be wise to compel the Secretary of State for War to come to the House of Commons and state exactly how many men he intends to retain, when the mere act of doing so may very well add to the tension which the men's retention is designed to reduce? This is the vital factor, certainly on Clause 1.
The second quotation concerns Clause 2:While it is possible, in certain circumstances, that we might have to use the power under this Clause"—that is, Clause 2—to call certain National Service men back next year, it seems that that situation, if it were to arise, would probably mean that we would have to declare a state of emergency and call out reserves generally. I do not therefore think it likely that we should need to use the powers under Clause 2 until 1963. By that time there will be rather more than 100,000 part-time National Service men eligible for recall, but in the sort of circumstances we envisage we should only need to call on a fraction of this total."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1961; Vol 650, c. 47, 49 and 50.]None of us can foresee what is likely to be the context in which we would have to operate Clause 2. It may be Berlin. It may be in a quite different part of the world. It may be in Persia, 1565 for example. Perhaps that is not so unlikely as some people may think today. Wherever it is, I suggest that the Committee must be very careful before asking the Government to accept a machinery for implementing either of these Clauses which, by its very nature, would tend to increase the tension rather than reduce it.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I could understand the hon. Gentleman's point if he had tabled an Amendment designed to make action under these two Clauses; subject to the Official Secrets Act. However, if people are being called up, either under Clause 1 or under Clause 2, the newspapers will know about it. Questions in the House of Commons will be admissible. It cannot be secret. Rather than have the matter come out in that way, would it not be much better for the Minister to come forward with an order and give the reasons, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) suggests.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I appreciate the force of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. There is something to be said for making such action subject to the Official Secrets Act, but for the very reason which the hon. Member for Dudley has advanced, namely, that there definitely will be cases of individual hardship, which we would all like to avoid, we ought not to do that.
If we go the whole way with the hon. Member for Dudley, we shall create a machinery which will at once ensure that it hits the headlines, whereas under the machinery proposed by my right hon. Friend we can at least ensure that every individual case is dealt with as effectively as possible on its merits. Many of them—indeed, the vast majority of them—will be dealt with quite quietly without any public fuss. Each case will vary. Cases of hardship are bound to vary considerably depending on whether the man is married or single, etc.
I hope that my action in supporting the Clause as it stands and not being prepared to support the Amendment will not lead anyone to think that I do not realise that there will be many cases of personal hardship. I do realise that. However, if the purpose for which we are asking these men to serve is to help the country to play its part in keeping 1566 the peace, it would not be very wise in retaining these men to use machinery which is bound to increase the tension which they are trying to reduce.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I always listen to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) with respect, because he always speaks with courage and sincerity. It is not often that I find myself so much in disagreement with him as I do today, because the reasons which he has just given are reasons to which I find myself diametrically opposed. The important thing about the Amendment is that it raises the whole question of the increasing habit of passing skeleton Bills and giving Ministers wide powers—powers which Parliaments of years ago would never have tolerated—to be exercised by one Minister without consultation, but without giving any details as to how the powers are to be exercised.
Time after time in the past few years Ministers have come to the House with a permissive Bill and vague promises that they will exercise it with moderation, discretion and consideration. Indeed, I have no doubt that they intended to keep their promises. But all power corrupts. Under the pressure of cricumstances a Minister is very easily convinced that on the whole the situation is not the same as it was when he made his first speech or when he gave the undertakings or assurances. A careful re-reading of his speech will nearly always disclose to him that, after all, the assurances did not mean very much and that they were qualified very considerably.
I have always had very friendly relations with the present Secretary of State for War. He has always considered my individual cases with courtesy, and, I think, with generosity in the circumstances. He gave an almost blank assurance which supported the Clause. He said, "At present I do not think that it will be necessary at all to call up anyone whose term of service is due to expire on or before 1st April of next year". Then, being a Minister and realising that Tory Ministers who make definite statements on anything nearly always finish up as involuntary occupants of another place, he made a qualification which deprives the Clause of its meaning. He said, "Provided that the 1567 international situation does not get worse".
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely, who I am sure spoke with sincerity, thinks that the international situation is worse. He says that the situation in Berlin is one which might become serious at any moment. I suppose it is. It has always been such a situation since it was first established. I am horribly afraid it always will be until some alteration is made.
I ought to declare my interest, I suppose. I call myself a pacifist, without being quite sure what the term means in modern days, because I never feel the urge to have a row with the police in Trafalgar Square on their day off or anything like that. I am a sort of theoretical pacifist who tries to face some of the realistic implications of the existing situation and who does not feel that the fact that he is a pacifist absolves him from the need to look after those of his constituents who have military obligations. Indeed, I also combine with my pacifism a vague theory, which I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, that on the whole military service is a jolly good thing for youngsters, and that, a little bit of collective service—I would rather have it collective service for peace; and one day we may have a peace army doing service in Africa—would do nobody any harm. I cannot think of a better training. Most of us found a good deal of comradeship in the Army, a sense of sacrifice and so on.
On the other hand, I think the hon. Member for Dudley put his case a little high. All of us watched with admiration the courage and self-sacrifice of the troops in the First World War, but there was another aspect to it. A famous poet wrote:Although we obey the moral law,and although we know our quarrel just;Were I permitted to withdraw,You would not see my—back—for dust.It is a view that could be held, if not expressed. I do not know what the position is at the moment, but my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley quite fairly did not say it is a tough job, but a happy job. Let us say, then, that they are to share the collective happiness of six months' further service.
§ Mr. Hale
Well, a privilege. It is the privilege of doing one's duty. I think this is what my hon. Friend said, and I listened carefully to him. If it is a privilege, why not start that way and say that there is comradeship in the Army? There was a definite desire, I know, on the local gun sites for every man to pull his own weight, and when I was a lance bombardier I found that I was getting my shoes cleaned in the morning because—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Norman Hulbert)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather far away from the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hale
I was talking of my feet. I would not have thought, Sir Norman, that they were as far away from the subject as all that. The point I was going to put—and I will put the point first and the argument second—is that we may find ourselves in a crisis in which the obvious first thing to do is to call for volunteers and say, "Look here, we have got to 'nobble' some of you blokes, and some of you like it and some of you don't. Some have great obligations and some have not. Some are single men with not a care in the world, but with a lass down the street, and others have wives in Oldham who are expecting babies, very nervous and alone. There is the situation, and here is a great privilege which at the same time confers on some people a great deal of hardship."
If we can get those who do not have to face hardship to volunteer, we shall have got at the root of our problem and met the situation in a way which I should have thought would have been the first appeal that would be made. If it is regarded so much of a privilege, one would have expected a great response, but it is only fair that I should add that my correspondence from the troops in Germany has not contained a letter from any one who desires to volunteer. On the other hand, it has contained some extremely moving and genuinely serious letters, and, as the right hon. Gentleman said on Second Reading, very great hardship will be imposed on some.
1569 There is the second technical difficulty about it. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have raised cases of personal hardship, and sometimes the right hon. Gentleman has been moved to take steps to remedy it. In one or two cases which I have put to him I think he has behaved with great generosity and consideration, and it is only right that that should be acknowledged. There are other cases in which it is said, "Well, a man has served 12 months already and has not long to go now. We cannot have a compassionate posting" when he is leaving in a certain time and all these things raised again if he has to serve for an extended period of six months.
Is not this Amendment the first measure of protection, for the Amendment provides that the Secretary of State shall come to the House with a Statutory Instrument and say, "You gave me these powers conditionally and a situation has now arisen when I say to the House that the recruiting figures which looked so promising a few weeks ago have not been maintained," or "the international situation is not quite so promising," or "other obligations have come about." At the moment, the Committee is being asked to accord an open cheque to the Secretary of State, with no figures filled in, to be presented when he likes and without any further reference to the House.
I suggest that there is nothing in the situation which makes that necessary. This is too serious a matter for me to make points which are not serious, but the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely took a much more serious view of the Berlin situation than did the Prime Minister in his famous remark—which I do not criticise, because it gave a good deal of reassurance to the public generally—made on the 17th green that this was not a matter which was ever going to be a casus belli or words to that effect. The Secretary of State said that if he came to the House with a Statutory Instrument, that might produce a headline, but that is not an argument for giving him this Bill at all. In a situation which is altering rapidly, this is the sort of measure which in an emergency could be passed very rapidly indeed. In an emergency, a Bill could be passed much more quickly than a Statutory Instrument, 1570 because the right hon. Gentleman has to have a Bill to enable a Statutory Instrument to be passed in less than 28 days. During the war, we all know that in an emergency Bills have been passed through both Houses very rapidly, in a matter of hours, when a real emergency occurred.
I suggest that my hon. Friend's Amendment is a reasonable precaution and permits the House to keep control of the matter, while giving some assurance to those who are desperately worried and want some information about their situation. I therefore hope that the Committee will consider that it is an Amendment that could be carried.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
I think that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who moved the Amendment, genuinely considers that he was doing the country a great service by putting it down, but I suggest also that for the Minister to have to come to the House every time he wants another hundred or a thousand men will be causing a great deal more distress by making it public every time.
The hon. Member for Dudley put particular stress on the number of men required in the Army. I submit that what we need is some degree of flexibility so that the Minister himself can regulate the exact numbers required at any one time. It may well be that a situation could arise either in Berlin or another country in which forces are required, and this method gives the flexibility which I think is generally required. The second Amendment I am sure was put down in the interests of the Army, but, quite honestly, I cannot possibly see who will be the arbitrator as to what men are called up. The Amendment says—Provided there is no person of similar qualifications available "—
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman is not talking about my same Amendment. If the lion. Gentleman will read the two Amendments, he will find that my Amendment states:(3) The provisions of this section shall come into force on a date specified by the Secretary of State in an order made by him, and such order shall be made by statutory instrument a draft of which has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.1571 That is the Amendment which deals with Clause 1, and I have another Amendment which deals with Clause 2.
§ Mr. Wigg
It would not be necessary to bring it before the House every time. As drafted, when the Bill becomes an Act, Clause 1 will not become operative until the Minister does something about it, or comes to the House to say that it is going to become operative and to get the approval of the House.
§ Dr. Glyn
I take the point made by the hon. Member, and I think there is some substance in it, but in fact this bears on the number of men who are to be called up. It may be that a certain amount of publicity would be given to it. I take the point, but I should say that it would be far more likely to cause worry and alarm if each time it were first to come before the House.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Would the hon. Member prefer the publicity to be in the newspapers to having a debate on matters of this nature in the House?
§ Mr. Paget
Does the hon. Member imagine that when these notices go out some hon. Member is not going to put a Question on the Order Paper asking how many are being called up? All the difference to be made here is as to whether this information, which in any case will have to be given, shall be given in a form 1572 which is debatable or a form I should have thought it desirable to have it published in a form in which the House can discuss it.
§ Mr. John Hall
Is it not a fact that the Army Reserve Bill is designed to impress our friends? It certainly will not impress our enemies. Although I do not support the Amendment, I think this proposal would present another opportunity of impressing our friends.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am afraid I do not share the view of my hon. Friend. The question is the degree of publicity. It is true that there may be publicity in the circulation of notices, but I do not think it would be as great as the publicity and alarm caused by an Order made in this House.
I wish to make another point to my right hon. Friend. On Second Reading he promised that before anyone was called up he would seriously look at the possibility of a review of the exact number of troops required with a view to possibly greater mobility and a reduction of numbers. I am sure that he will carry that out, but I ask him one other thing. Before there is any call-up under this provision, will he look into the question of simplicity of accounting, which could save Army manpower? Also, is it correct that when there are call-ups they are made before any men in the Emergency Reserve or the Territorial Army Reserve are called up? I should like that point to be made quite clear.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I wish to revert for a moment to something which was said by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). He may be a pacifist but, apart from his very rare flights of fancy, he is certainly a realist. He said that Parliaments of years ago would not tolerate what we are now doing. Whether they would or would not, the fact is that times have changed very considerably.
I do not say that the emergencies which we face today are any less or any greater than those faced leading up to 1573 the Napoleonic Wars, but things move so swiftly today that plans for emergency measures of this sort of nature must be well laid beforehand. That is one of the things this Bill attempts to do. It is a gap-bridging Measure and we hope that it will not be permanent. That brings me to the point that if it were to be a permanency and if this were to be an active Measure on the Statute Book for many years or even centuries to come, I would say that undoubtedly there is force in the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). That, however, is not the case.
The hon. Member has stated that the object of the proposed new subsection is, first, to make the Secretary of State come to the House to give two things—the date of the requirement and the number of men to be required. The subsection as drafted does not do that. It would provide the date, but it would not provide any number of men. I do not say that this will happen, but it could happen that the Secretary of State could come to the House one night in order to support the Statutory Instrument and say to hon. Members, "I am sorry, but it is not in the public interest for me to divulge the number of men involved." Naturally, all of us on both sides of the Committee would have to accept that. The subsection does not do what it purports to do.
The hon. Member for Dudley is an old soldier. He and his friends on both sides of the House talk much about selective service. Surely he must realise that what the Army requires under this Measure is not the raw material of National Service men which would be provided by a form of selective service which he advocates, but a number of trained men to bridge a gap for a certain duration of time. If we did what he keeps suggesting we should do, the Army would be overburdened with raw recruits which the Army does not want and cannot do with at this time. What we want to do here is to extend the service for as short a period as possible of certain trained men. That is what the Bill is trying to do. I cannot see why hon. Members on either side of the House cannot understand that. They keep arguing about selective service, but that would get us absolutely nowhere in meeting the present shortage.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The hon. and learned Member asks if this is not selective service. I suppose it can be called selective service, but selective service of a very specialised type, not what he and his hon. Friends mean when they talk about selective service. What he and his Friends have frequently advocated in this House is either selective service linked to some sort of ballot, or selective service linked to such dire medical, physical and other standards that all but the very top men will be kept out. Is that not true?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The hon. and learned Member will no doubt stick to his argument. Nevertheless, he knows that what has been intended when selective service has been argued for in this House from time to time has been the selection of raw, untried young men, untrained and unfitted to fulfil their immediate purpose in our Armed Forces. He knows that as well as I do, and it is no good arguing about the precise meaning of this word or that. We know what we both mean; that is the point.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I can not speak for the Opposition. In any case, there are so many shades of opposition in this House that it is difficult to know what anyone wants. The fact remains that the Army today requires—
§ Mr. Morris rose—
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I will give the hon. Gentleman a full answer—not that form of selective service which will provide raw, untried, untrained men, but the extension of service of trained men to bridge a gap of short duration. That is why I cannot possibly support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I find it rather difficult to understand the logic of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Commander Maydon). I thought, from his remarks earlier in his speech, that he thought it to be absolutely necessary for plans to be laid well in advance. If so, I cannot understand his objection to the Minister being able to come to the House, laying an Order and explaining to hon. Members what he proposes to do.
I support the Amendment because it seeks to amend a Clause which, if un-amended, will represent a breach of faith; it will mean that large numbers of young men who were called up on the understanding that they were to serve for a certain period will find that that period has been extended. That sort of action is extremely unfair to these men. If one is considering any form of selective service, this kind of selection is certainly the worst possible—even worse than wholesale conscription.
I have carefully studied the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), and I cannot see what possible objection can be raised to the Minister laying an Order before the House. Naturally, I do not know about the figures. Figures do not worry me unduly, and while the figures might not be supplied there is no reason why, should the Minister find it necessary to give notice that he intends to call up a number of men, he should not be obliged to come to the House and say so.
The right hon. Gentleman made a number of speeches—some of them in the country—and I gathered from what he said—and if I am wrong perhaps he will correct me—that he may not, in fact, put the provisions of the Bill into operation. I got the impression that he was merely seeking a power and that he hoped that the situation would not necessitate him putting those powers into action. I hope I am right.
§ Mr. Profumo
If the hon. Gentleman will look at my Second Reading speech he will see that his remarks are correct with regard to Clause 2. But on Clause 1 I have made it clear, and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has quoted my words, that if the situation does not get 1576 better I shall have to take power under Clause 1 to retain people in B.A.O.R. after 1st April next year.
§ Mr. Yates
That bears out my remarks. I have hoped that while this was a power the Minister wanted, he would not find it necessary to use it. But the longer we go on the more it seems to indicate that the right hon. Gentleman is going to do something, exactly what I do not know. I therefore believe that the hon. Member for Dudley was right to ask for some specific information before the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take any action.
I therefore support the Amendment, which clearly says that the Minister should lay an Order before he takes any action. This is only fair to the men serving the periods for which they were originally called up, for not to accept the Amendment would be grossly unfair to them. I do not support the Bill in its present form, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) is regarded as a realist—
§ Mr. Yates
—I have never heard it said that any one regarded as a pacifist could also be regarded as a realist. I always understand that a person in this latter category always has his head in the clouds. Is my hon. Friend not a realist when he referred to the past? After all, it has been part of the British way of life that compulsion in time of peace should never be. The Bill as at present drafted constitutes a compulsion, and I object to it. It is a compulsion of the worst kind and for that reason the Minister should be prepared to say that, if he thinks the situation demands him bringing his powers into operation, he should also be prepared to come to the House and say so.
Let us remember that we are dealing with men's lives. It is not as though the Government must wait for a Bill to pass through its varied stages. The Minister need only lay an Order in this instance and my hon. Friends support the Amendment merely to ensure that should these powers be taken hon. Members will have an opportunity to consider them.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I have listened with interest to the discussion so far, especially to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I wonder if it will help the hon. Gentleman if I refer to some writings of a previous hon. Member. I quote a few sentences from "The Decline and Fall", which would seem particularly relevant to our discussion.… but the timid and luxurious inhabitants of a … empire must be allured into the service by the hopes of profit, or compelled by the dread of punishment. The resources of the Roman treasury were exhausted by the increase of pay, by the repetition of donatives, and by the invention of new emoluments and indulgences, which, in the opinion of the provincial youth, might compensate the hardships and dangers of a military life.It is probably significant that at the present time, with the welfare state, we have to have a compulsory service of some form because there has been a complete failure to get the requested number of recruits.
I support the Amendment because this House has always been very jealous of the rights of raising the Armed Forces. It is essential that such control as is practicable can be forced on any Government and that some form of control should be exercised in the raising of forces both in the number and in their compensation.
To suggest that there will be a panic when it is actually announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the troops are to be called up is ridiculous. If he is not capable at this stage of forecasting the number of men he will want to raise under the Bill, then the time has come for him to find somebody who can do the arithmetic for him. This is not a Bill just to deal with the Berlin crisis. I support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who said that we shall have to live with this sort of thing for a generation. It is quite simple to forecast what is required in the Armed Forces. My right hon. Friend has only to read the magazines published by his own Department, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) did. Here is the sentence next following the quotation which the hon. Gentleman made:Yet, at present, it seems unlikely that by the end of 1962, when National Service is due to end, the Army will have more than 165,000 1578 —and this at a time when more and more men are needed to achieve a balanced force capable of dealing with any emergency.If my right hon. Friend were to deal with that figure and the figure in the sentence which the hon. Member for Dudley read, he would find roughly what his deficiency was. Also, he will find from some of the figures which are published by his Department that he can reach certain conclusions. He will find more from some of the figures which are not published. I appeal to him now to consider whether it might be possible for some of the recruiting figures which he could lay under the order we are considering or other orders to have more detail in them so that those of us who follow what he is doing may have better information.
The present information about monthly recruiting figures issued by the Department is not very informative. One cannot follow the drops in the number of National Service men, the number of National Service men who have re-engaged, the number of Regulars who have re-engaged, and a variety of other matters which I cannot believe would be affected by considerations of security. I should be very grateful if my right hon. Friend would consider increasing the information which is made available in the documents.
Returning to the specific point of the Amendment, it should be quite easy, as I have said, to forecast what troops will need to be retained during the next 12 months. If there is any difficulty, the hon. Member for Dudley will, I am sure, offer his assistance in doing the necessary calculations. With those figures, it should be quite possible to lay an order and keep the House informed from time to time. Then we should know where we stood. Parliament would have a chance of supervising the number of people in the Armed Forces and when they were likely to be called up. The traditional watch over the Armed Services would be maintained.
This is not a Bill to deal with the Berlin situation. It is a Bill to bridge a gap created because, unfortunately—I say "unfortunately" with all the emphasis I can muster—voluntary recruiting has not succeeded, nor will it succeed, in providing adequate forces to deal with the commitments which the country has.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Will my hon. Friend apply his mind to this question, which I believe to be closely relevant? I entirely go with him on the question of what forces need to be retained. Now, however, under the terms of the Bill, it is quite clear that a number of people who might ordinarily leave the Service may change their minds. If they are to receive different emoluments and different rates of pay, they may consider that. Therefore, the figures which would normally be available to the War Office as to the number which would need to be retained may be substantially different when the men now have to apply their minds to that factor. Does not my hon. Friend think that that may be a factor of importance in the question whether the Minister brings these provisions under the Clause into effect or not?
§ Mr. Harrison
I am very interested in that intervention. I am not aware of any variations in the current Regular pay scales which might attract the additional volunteers which would be necessary. If my hon. Friend is referring to the possibility in a later Amendment under which a man who is called up like this would be able to switch to the "Ever-readies" and get the bonus, there might be some relevance in his point. I fail to see, however, how the particular point he raises could affect the numbers.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Will my hon. Friend agree that a man might be prepared to have his pay raised to Regular rates for the last six months who would not in the first instance have been prepared to volunteer for a Regular engagement?
§ Mr. Harrison
If I have it right, under the Bill a person who is retained does anyhow receive the equivalent of Regular pay; so there is nothing whatever for him to gain by volunteering.
§ Mr. Profumo
I should not like to lose any Regular recruits there might be in this, but, of course, there is still open, until next April, the offer for any National Service man who wishes to take a short-term engagement and get a bounty in so doing.
§ Mr. Harrison
I take the point which my right hon. Friend makes. I had 1580 overlooked the bounty which is, in part, relevant to the earlier intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies).
§ Mr. John Hall
Does my hon. Friend believe that, as a result of what is now proposed, there will, presumably, during the six months period when reservists may be withheld, be no National Servicemen to qualify for a bounty by volunteering for Regular service and that we might in those circumstances have a complete drying up of all Regular recruits from that source?
§ Mr. Harrison
That is a point which one might have to consider, that there would not be re-engagement by National Service men. It is very difficult—this comes back to the earlier point—to have any appreciation of how successful my right hon. Friend's campaign with bounties has been in persuading National Service men to become Regulars. Some of us have had intimations from unofficial sources about how successful it may have been. I think I can safely say that it is not likely to cause much embarrassment to the Treasury in the payment of bounties up to date.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
Can the hon. Gentleman say, since he is making such a point of this, whether it is a fact that the product in terms of recruits from the bounties has been something in double figures? Does he think that that is very relevant to the manpower situation in the Army?
§ Mr. Harrison
I did imply that I did not think that the extra expenditure would seriously embarrass the Treasury. Unfortunately the figures are not available to us at the present time.
The point of the Amendment is that we should maintain the traditional control over the Army in peace-time, and I think that my right hon. Friend ought to consider very carefully whether it is not a practical thing to do. Provided that his forecasting is moderately accurate, it will not cause him any undue embarrassment. The idea that it would cause a large-scale panic throughout the country is, I think, greatly exaggerated, because, in any case, every local paper will carry details about local people being called up. It is not possible to issue these things under the Official 1581 Secrets Act. If a man is retained, his mother will talk and his wife will talk.
§ Mr. Wigg
The Secretary of State for War dealt with this point on 27th November. He said:In due course each man will receive a separate communication telling him whether or not he will have to soldier on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 48.]I should have thought that anyone who knows anything about the Army would say that soldiers retained or recalled will not keep quiet about it.
§ Mr. Harrison
I agree with the hon. Gentleman.
I ask my right hon. Friend to look very carefully at this Amendment. I do not say that it will not cause him a little inconvenience, but I am sure that he is a man who believes in Parliament, and, consequently, believes in keening Parliament fully informed about things which Parliament can be told without causing a breach of security.
§ Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)
I support the Amendment because it is based on a simple fact, namely, that matters of significance and importance should be subject to Parliamentary approval. I think that nothing is of greater significance or greater importance than the retention of a young man in the Army, involving the deprivation of his normal civic rights, the inconvenience to which he and his family are put, the interruption of his studies, and matters of that kind. All that we ask in this Amendment is that matters of quite fundamental importance in the lives of the citizens of our country should come before Parliament to be discussed and approved by Parliament.
The provisions of the Bill are significant on three grounds: first, domestically, secondly, to our military allies, and, thirdly, to our military enemies. On the first of those grounds, this last weekend I interviewed a young man in my constituency. He may not fall within the provisions of the Bill, but he is already sufficiently alarmed to write to me and to ask to see me because of his domestic situation—his wife's illness, and all kinds of reasons.
It would be unfortunate if debates of this kind revolved around statistics, although I agree that statistics are 1582 important. It would be unfortunate if they revolved around the convenience or inconvenience of the planners and the generals or of ourselves in calling up or discharging men. Debates of this kind must, to a certain extent, revolve around the personal problems of our constituents and the inconvenience to which they are subjected. We have sufficient evidence in our postbags to know that, of all the Bills before this Parliament, this very closely concerns many people. On the ground of its domestic significance and on the ground of its significance to young men in our constituencies, Parliament should have the right to discuss and approve matters, as laid down in the Amendment.
My second point is important. I do not see how the Minister loses by periodic discussion of decisions to strengthen our Army. This heartens our allies. They know that we are doing something important and radical. On this score, I do not see the need to avoid discussion or approval by Parliament. Our military enemies, whoever they may be, at whatever time we are discussing, should also be suitably impressed by the fact that Parliament is discussing a Measure of this kind.
I cannot accept the arguments of the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), whose views on this subject I respect—he knows what he is talking about—but I simply cannot accept his proposition that there are questions of secrecy involved. If the situation has reached the point at which the Minister has to call up more men, clearly that derives from international happenings. Presumably there is no secrecy about international happenings, which appear in all the newspapers. In any case, as has been said, individual call-up papers, however individual, do not take very long to reach wider circulation in the newspapers.
I therefore consider that on all these grounds—the importance of the Bill to our citizens and to our allies and its significance to our enemies—I can see no reason for resisting the Amendment.
The hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) referred to the Bill's provisions in what I thought was a rather casual way. He said that this was just a gap to be bridged. But there are always gaps to be bridged, particularly in the matters of defence and international 1583 policy. We shall not be surprised when they occur this year, next year, and the year after. We should not get into the habit of a casual stopping of gaps by provisions which intimately affect the lives of our citizens. We are here concerned with matters sufficiently important to be subjected to the debate and approval of this Committee. I hope that the Minister will think again and will accept the Amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
During our discussions on this subject, I have often found myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), but I do not propose today to support his Amendment. My reason is not that I like the Bill or the Clause as it stands. It is that I consider that the Bill as such is not capable of Amendment, and I should be very sorry to do anything which implied that I thought that it was or that this Committee should do anything with it except reject it.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War would be entitled to ask why, after 4½ years of calling for some measure of selective service, I then object to a Measure of selective service, however garbled, when he introduces it. I will tell him. The Government fixed the figure of 165,000 men in 1957, when they decided to do away with conscription. We were told at that time that 165,000 was the right figure. We have been told ever since that 165,000 was the figure that we should get, that 165,000 men would be enough, and that anyone who said anything else was plain unpatriotic.
What has happened? We now stand within 12 months or so of the time when, without the provisions of the Bill, the last National Service men will leave the Army. What are the prospects? I have never gone in for crystal gazing to the same extent as the hon. Member for Dudley, but it seems to me that the Government will get very nearly 165,000 men—not very many short of it. After all that has been said, one might have expected a certain amount of self-congratulation on the part of the Government. We are told that recruiting is going well; and so it is. It seems to 1584 be going better than ever. In spite of that, we do not get self-congratulation.
What de we get? We get this miserable Measure. What it amounts to is that the Government have at last been forced by pressure of events, and I suspect, by pressure from their allies to admit—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not go too far outside the scope of the Amendment.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am just coming back to the Amendment, Sir William.
As I say, it seems to me that this is a miserable Measure and that no Clause in it has anything to commend it. In the first place, it is manifestly unfair, and I am sure that in our discussions a great deal more will be said about that. I thought that the hon. Member for Dudley made an interesting point when he said that Clause 1, which we are discussing—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. We are not discussing Clause 1. We are discussing the first Amendment to Clause 1 and another Amendment.
§ Sir F. Maclean
Excuse me, Sir William. I should have referred to the Clause on which we are discussing the hon. Member's Amendment.
The Clause does not provide for the retention of Regulars. That is one aspect of its unfairness. Apart from being unfair, it is also wasteful and ineffective. What I am most reproachful about is the fact that it is a temporary stopgap Measure Under the Clause, men are to be retained in the forces for a further six months. The Clause has validity only for another 12 months, because after that time there will not be any conscripts available to retain.
One will be told that under Clause 2. it is possible to retain—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will pay attention to the Ruling that we are discussing the first Amendment to Clause 1. We are not discussing Clause 2.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
On a point of order. Of course, I bow to your Ruling, Sir William, but your predecessor in 1585 the Chair indicated that it would be in order to discuss Clause 2 in so far as it was affected by the Amendment in Clause 2, page 2, line 36, in the name of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), which is virtually a similar Amendment.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am obliged to the hon. Member. In so far as the first Amendment to Clause 1 is concerned, it is true that the Amendment to which the hon. Member refers is being discussed. I thought, however, that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) was going too far. I remain of that opinion and I hope that he will endeavour to keep closer to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Wigg
I asked the Ruling of the Chair on this point, Sir William. I thought that I should certainly get into trouble, but the Chairman was kind enough to say that I could discuss a rather wider point than you are now ruling. It must be an embarrassment to the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), all the preceding speeches having gone rather wide, suddenly to find himself put in a cage.
§ Sir F. Maclean
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and the hon. Member for Dudley have rather taken the words out of my mouth. I intended, Sir William, to refer to the Ruling of your predecessors in the Chair, who have given wide scope for discussion and said that we could touch on any points that were relevant to any of the three Amendments which are being discussed together. It would inhibit me if I were not able to tread on the same ground as those who have spoken before me.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
On a point of order. Can you kindly explain. Sir William, how the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) can discuss periods of time in the Armed Forces on Clause 2 by reference to the Amendment in page 2, line 36, which is specifically related to Statutory Instruments? I should like this to be made clear, because it does not seem to me to be possible to discuss the implications of the retention of men in the Forces under Clause 2 in the context in which you have just given your Ruling, Sir William.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not think I am required to make the hon. Member's speech for him. He will continue with his speech and I hope that he will endeavour to keep within the bounds of order.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I think that I shall be in order in taking up a point which has certainly occurred in the speeches of almost every hon. Member who has spoken before me. I refer to the temporary nature of this whole Measure. That is an all-embracing characteristic and I emphasise, as has been emphasised by other hon. Members, on both sides, that it may be a temporary Measure, but that the crisis which it is designed to meet is not temporary in character and is likely to continue in one form or another for the rest of our lives.
Therefore, what we need—and this is a subject which is dealt with in every line of the Bill—is men on the ground to prevent a worsening of the present crisis and the crisis which will face us, no doubt, in five or ten years' time, when the Bill will have ceased to have any validity unless, as one hopes, it is replaced by something more realistic.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has told us that he is not a realist. In this respect, I am a realist. The only thing which I see about this whole Measure to recommend it is the fact that it has been described as a stopgap. I hope that it may act as a stopgap whilst the Government think again and finally bring in a measure of true selective service which will give them the men we need. Meanwhile, until they do that, I cannot support them in this present Measure.
§ Mr. Morris
I could not but agree with the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) in saying that this is a miserable and, indeed, an unjust Bill. I say so as one who has spent two years undergoing this form of National Service. To have what I regard is nothing less than selective service in its worst possible form by catching a few men who happen to be in a certain spot at a particular time and holding them, or, as to others, calling them back simply because they happen to be in a classification covered by Clause 2, is something with which I cannot agree.
This series of Amendments seeks to give to Parliament the chance to look at 1587 the matter again. Parliament should be very jealous of granting to the Secretary of State for War what is undoubtedly a blank cheque. Where the liberty of individuals is affected, we should not discuss the Clause and the Amendment in terms of round figures of 165,000 or 182,000, but we should consider the matter every time from the viewpoint of the young man who will be retained in the Armed Forces.
Having regard to the control that Parliament has exercised over the Armed Forces and having regard to the feelings and views of each and every one of the individuals who will be retained, the Amendment should be accepted and Parliament should have the opportunity, when the time comes, of considering the needs of the Secretary of State and we should be able to debate them.
All sorts of fears have been expressed in the debate. Before hon. Members speak further, it would be advisable for some of them to look at the terms of the Amendment. It merely states that the Secretary of State should lay an Order before Parliament. It does not specify what the Order shall contain. That is an important consideration and should quell some of the fears of hon. Members who have spoken against the Amendment.
The hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) stated that if there were discussion of an Order of that nature, when introduced into Parliament, it would cause great public alarm throughout the country and, indeed, throughout the world. The hon. Member seemed, however, to be shutting his eyes to the obvious fact of what will happen when the Secretary of State has to issue the individual notices, to which he referred on Second Reading, to the men who will have to serve again. The right hon. Gentleman said that:In due course each man will receive a separate communication telling him whether or not he will have to soldier on. I intend to give as much advance notice as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1961; Vol. 650, c 48.]
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
My right hon. Friend meant that he would give as much advance notice as possible to the individual man and not in a widespread Press statement or in debate in the House of Commons.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Morris
Then he is being patently unreasonable and shutting his eyes to the obvious facts. If the notice is sent to each man with the obvious intention of giving him individual notice, which is desirable under the terms of the Act, then obviously that man will not keep it to himself. There will be hundreds of Questions in the House from every hon. Member whose postbag will be filled as a result. The letter will not be marked "Private and Confidential". It will not be put away on the mantelpiece. The man will tell his friends. Every paper in the land will know about it and it will become a main point of argument and of news throughout the country and throughout the world. Acknowledging that undoubtedly publicity will result from the issue of the notice, it would be far better to have that publicity given in the House of Commons where these matters should be debated. The House should be the forum for these views.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
Does the hon. Member suggest that every time an individual has to be called up, Parliament must be informed of it?
§ Mr. Morris
If the hon. Member reads the Bill he will find that that is not the intention of the Secretary of State. He hopes to call these men from a large class of people after 1st April. He recognised that in his speech on Second Reading. It is because of the obvious need that will arise after next April. I should have thought that it would have been far preferable to have this issue, which will undoubtedly concern every hon. Member, discussed and properly ventilated in this Chamber. This is the place to do it and nowhere else.
I cannot see how this Order of itself if it were accepted and provision for it were inserted in the Bill would create any greater amount of alarm and panic than the issue of notices without the Order. Undoubtedly there will be panic and alarm when the notices are issued, and I cannot see that ordinary Parliamentary procedure will add to that alarm. The hon. Member's argument is an argument for taking every discussion of defence away from the Floor of the House of Commons.
In discussing the Amendment I stand opposed to National Service. I could not understand the statement made by the 1589 hon. Member for Clapham when he said categorically that the Opposition have put forward the view that we should have selective National Service. I have never known that put forward as the policy of the party at any time. I detest National Service and selective service, but if we are to have this form of service the Secretary of State should appear at the Dispatch Box and we should have the matter properly debated.
The Secretary of State said on Second Reading that he could put at least half of these men out of their suspense and uncertainty. Those due to be released before 1st April would not be needed. But this does not mitigate; it aggravates matters. It makes selective service even worse. It selects even among those selected. Those selected in the first place will be those who happen to be in the Army now when the Secretary of State needs them.
§ Mr. Profumo
Does the hon. Member wish to argue that if I knew when I came to the House that I could avoid calling up a number of these people it was not right to inform the House so that these young men would know what their future would be?
§ Mr. Morris
I am sure that the young men released and those who are assured that they are not needed will be happy to have had that assurance, but if out of the class of young men who happen to be in the Army the Government say to some, "We shall not need you," that does not mitigate the case for having selective service. It aggravates the case for others. I am sure that the young men who come out before 1st April will be grateful to the Minister for giving them the assurance when he did, but it aggravates matters for the other young men who are still there after 1st April because they happen to be in a class of people who have at the moment National Service obligations.
§ Mr. Wigg
Before my hon. Friend joins in thanking the Secretary of State, perhaps he ought to bear in mind that these 25,000 young men who will get away with it because they are serving now are almost certain to get caught under Clause 2. What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is, "Thank you very much. We will not get you here but we will wait until you have got 1590 married and settled down to civilian life and we will get you then".
§ Mr. Morris
I hope that the Minister will give a further assurance before we finish the discussion that the young men who will not be needed before 1st April will not be needed under Clause 2 either. If the Minister is seeking to set himself up as a man who can assure people. I am sure that these young men will be grateful for a further assurance that they will not be needed under Clause 2. I was grateful to him for his first assurance. I should be even more grateful if he gives this second assurance which will relieve these young men of uncertainty.
§ Mr. Morris
If I read Clause 2 properly, I do not need to declare an interest. I believe that it applies to people who are within 3½ years of their completion of National Service. I have not to declare an interest on that score, but if the right hon. Gentleman would like to give me an assurance had I that interest, an assurance which I could pass on to those who have, I should be grateful. Obviously, the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give it.
§ Mr. John Hall
If the Secretary of State gives the assurance which the hon. Member seeks, would not it create a great deal more uncertainty among the rest of the reserves?
§ Mr. Morris
Yes, and I would point out that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire has said that he would not support an Amendment to the Bill because basically the Bill was not capable of amendment. Once we have some form of selective service then, however the Bill is breached, it is selective service within selective service and that, instead of mitigating matters, makes them much worse.
The Clause is absolutely unjust, but if the Amendment were accepted it would provide the House of Commons with an opportunity of discussing once again the needs of the Secretary of State. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman will recruit more men, but the Bill is an admission of the failure of the Government's recruiting programme. I 1591 hope that when the time comes the Minister will not require these men, but if that should prove to be the case he should have the opportunity of appearing at the Dispatch Box and patting himself on the back that he does not require them.
I am opposed to National Service in time of peace. It will undoubtedly create a great deal of hardship and many anomalies. The House of Commons should on every possible occasion be jealous of the freedom of the individual. I see no reason why the Amendment should be objected to. It would give the House one more opportunity to exercise the freedom it has always had to discuss matters of defence and of the Army. The Secretary of State should be glad to have this opportunity when it presents itself.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) says that the Bill is unfair. Of course it is. Any system which calls up one person and not another is unfair within the meaning of the word as the Committee is using it today. But the Amendment does nothing to remove unfairness. All it does is to permit us to discuss under an Order what the Opposition have been saying will be discussed anyway, Order or no, in the House. So I do not think that we are being carried any further in discussing unfairness.
My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) seems to have misunderstood the purpose of the Bill. He asked my right hon. Friend to be able to calculate in advance the very large numbers of men he would find necessary to call up in various categories. He entirely overlooked that the number of Regulars which the Army will have will never be static. We cannot know, even month by month, what the number will be, nor what categories they will be in. We do not know the requirement to be made up by men caught by Clauses 1 and 2.
Various methods are being employed to increase the number of Regulars, We do not know what the response will be, or what the international situation will be. Changes in the international situation have important reflections in recruiting. Therefore, it would be idle for my right hon. Friend to say that over the next 1592 six months he wants 10,000 drivers, 6,000 signallers and 5,000 Medical Corps men. He would certainly be wrong and it would be an exercise in guesswork which would not be for the profit of this Committee.
The need is not to retain large blocks of people in each command but to retain men in certain categories in order to meet the deficiencies in those categories. Let us imagine, for instance, that there is need to keep a gunner regiment in Hong Kong, but that a number of its signallers are due for discharge on the same day. Unfortunately and unfairly—we might as well admit it—the need is to keep back a proportion or all of those signallers until they can be replaced by other Regulars from home.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I fail to follow this argument. I see nothing in the Amendments which would require the Minister to specify to the House of Commons the particular categories he wishes to retain. I understand that the Amendment to line 21, which is the obvious Amendment we are discussing, would mean that the Minister would be required to lay an Order which would be quite comprehensive but would not specify the particular category of Service men required.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I was following up the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, who had understood that the Amendment would make it necessary for the Secretary of State to specify the sort of people he wanted. That is what my hon. Friend understood, I believe.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hale
I do not want to say this discourteously but it seems at the moment that not only is what the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) saying not in the Amendment but it is not in the Bill. The Secretary of State has never suggested—[Interruption.] Perhaps my hon. Friends will stop talking at the top of their voices for a moment while I am speaking. I cannot continue in this noise. I am not so young as I was. I have never heard a demonstration like that before.
Surely the hon. Gentleman should know that the Secretary of State has never suggested that it is his intention to 1593 say, "We want half a dozen signallers in Hong Kong. Let us issue a directive about that", and then to wait for the situation to alter in Germany, and say, "We are short of drivers in Berlin. Lei us issue a directive about that."
The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that this will be a continuing power to the Secretary of State to use daily or half-daily, just as the Minister of Transport makes Orders about roads once every couple of hours. The Secretary of State has never declared that intention. If such is his intention then we should have a little more information about it, for it is difficult to know how he can carry out the promise to give the earliest information to everybody concerned if he is not to know what his intentions are until six months' time.
§ Mr. Kershaw
In that case if the hon. Gentleman has correctly interpreted it, the purpose of the Amendment is difficult to follow. If the Secretary of State is only to come once to the House of Commons and lay an Order proposing an Amendment to Clause 1, he could come on the day after the Bill becomes an Act and say that he proposes to implement Clause 1, and that could be the last we should hear of it. We should not have an opportunity of discussing it at any other time. We should have an opportunity on only one occasion.
Hon. Members oposite have said in interjections that no one could imagine that these call-ups or retentions will escape publicity. It has also been said that these matters will be debated in the House on every occasion when a constituent of an hon. Member is called up. If the object of the Amendment is to achieve discussion of the matter, then we shall reach that object far more easily without it.
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) is asking what is the object of the Amendment. This Bill provides powers of which the Minister says, "I do not want them now, but I expect to want them. I hope that, if position gets a lot better I may not want them at all." In these circumstances, is it unreasonable or untidy to ask the Secretary of State to come here when he wants them and present an Order, rather than spread the process about? This would be a tidy way and would 1594 leave to Parliament its traditional control over members of the Army.
§ Mr. Kershaw
How can Parliament have this control over members of the Army if the Secretary of State is not to say how many people he is to retain? If we are to discuss it from time to time it seems to me that our control is greater. The Amendment militates against the purpose claimed for it by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry that the Committee has the impression that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) does not understand the Amendment when he talks of it being idle. I read it through after writing it, and if he had also read it he would not talk as he is doing. There is no question of asking the Secretary of State to give away any particular information. So far, we have never yet been given the Reserve figures, and we are discussing this matter in a vaccuum.
All the Amendment does is to ask the right hon. Gentleman to exercise power under Clauses 1 or 2 to come to the House for approval. This is the same procedure followed in the old days after mobilisation, when, if the Secretary of State called up reserves, the House of Commons needed to be told that they were being called up. That has been the practice for 300 years and I see no reason to depart from it because it suits the hon. Member's convenience.
§ Mr. Kershaw
It is not a question of suiting my convenience but of whether we are to allow the Army to be moved about flexibly and in sufficient strength to meet the different needs which arise in the future at different times. The criticism that we are giving the Secretary of State a blank cheque is not a criticism at all. That is exactly what he needs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in relation to a very limited number of men and the limited period for which the Bill is to apply. We are not giving the Secretary of State power to call up everybody in the land permanently, or for a long time. We are giving him power to call up people who will be eligible to be called up for six months, and it has been made clear that the Secretary of State has limited himself in the Bill. Within that rigid framework 1595 there is no offence to our Parliamentary traditions, but he is enabled to call up either the maximum of the 100,000 whom he said would become eligible, or the much smaller number which he expects to call up.
§ Mr. Kershaw
Exactly. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) says, licence to overdraw and to come to Parliament and tell us what he has done. The Secretary of State is being given credit to be able to overdraw.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
My hon. Friend must have misheard what I said. I was suggesting that we must talk in terms of cheques and that this is a blank cheque not to overdraw.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I do not think that the Amendment achieves what it sets out to do. We will have more opportunity to discuss this limited call-up under the Bill as it stands than we would have if the Amendment were passed.
It has been said as a criticism that this is only temporary.
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Member says that we should have other opportunities to discuss the call-up. What does he mean by that?
§ Mr. Kershaw
I am not sure, but I think that it was the hon. Member for Aberavon himself who was arguing that every time anybody was called up Questions would be asked and we should have an opportunity to discuss the matter. That seemed to be said almost as a threat to cure the Secretary of State, or perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), from thinking that it could be hidden under a bushel. It was put forward as an argument in favour of the Amendment.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The hon. Member knows that there is all the difference between asking Questions and having a full day's debate. The call-up for those affected is very serious, and we believe that it should be dealt with in a proper way in a proper debate in which 1596 hon. Members from both sides could take part. If there is to be only an occasional Question about Sapper Snooks and so on, that is not good enough. We will get a situation in which every hon. Member will be putting down Questions to the Secretary of State asking why various individuals are being called up. Such a situation would be ridiculous and we do not want it to occur. If the hon. Member is a good democrat, why does he not want a good debate?
§ Mr. Kershaw
I do not object to a good debate, but we shall have more under the Bill as it stands than through the Amendment.
§ Mr. John Hall
Does not my hon. Friend agree that he is perfectly right in what he says in that, although the process may start by a number of Questions being asked by hon. Members, there is no doubt that if there is strong feeling in the House about the matter, it would lead to debates, even if they were only Adjournment debates?
§ Mr. Kershaw
I was about to address myself to the criticism that this was only a temporary solution to a permanent problem. It is perfectly clear that a temporary need will arise in twelve months from now. The sort of men we want in the Army to bridge that temporary gap after the last National Service man would otherwise have left are trained men. It would not be to the national interest to call up large numbers of people and give them nine months' training to keep them for what we hope would be a short time while the Regular Army was built up to the necessary numbers. The fact that the Bill is temporary should recommend it to good democrats. The fact that it is temporary and has a good military reason behind it should also commend it. The argument that it is a temporary solution to a permanent problem turns upon itself and is not valid.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Easington)
I am convinced that the reason why there have been so many interjections in the past 15 or 20 minutes is partly a conspiracy to prevent me from making a speech. I have been trying to catch your eye during that period, Sir William. I have 1597 found all the ideas which have been engendered in my head gradually disappearing because of those interjections, but there are still one or two items to which I find it possible to address myself.
The first thing to say to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) and the Secretary of State for War is that if the right hon. Gentleman had originally drafted a Bill which specified categorically that on a certain date, say, 1st April—an appropriate date—he intended to call up 60,000 men, we should have understood it and he would have saved himself the need for debating the Amendment. We should then have known exactly where we stood.
That is not what he did. He was not sure what he wanted and he is not sure yet. It depends on the circumstances. He may call up 10,000 men. He may call up none. He is very vague and nebulous and the whole position is confused. It is precisely because of the confusion that we want to pin him down on one issue and ensure that before he calls up a group of men, whatever their categories, he will give the House of Commons the reason why. That is a sound proposition to put before the Committee.
All we are arguing is that when the right hon. Gentleman, on the advice he receives from the Army Council, or whoever now advises him, decides that he wants to step up the number of men for a particular purpose, for example, in order to increase the number of units in B.A.O.R. or anything of the sort, we should be told explicitly and without any vagueness, so that not only hon. Members, but the country and the men concerned, know why they are being called up. That is fair enough.
I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman needs the men at all and I said so on Second Reading. The Government do not produce one scintilla of evidence that the men are required. I know what has happened and other hon. Members must be aware of it. The Americans decided to step up the number of units in Germany and we had to follow their lead. What is to happen to those men? What are they to do? What is the purpose of sending more men to Germany? We cannot afford to pay for the men already there. We are having difficulties with the West German Government about costs. We are not 1598 sending them there to engage in fighting, so what is the purpose? Is it as a deterrent? Does anyone believe that sending another 10,000 men—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am most reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he will not go too wide of this series of Amendments.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I have been trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument and, as I understand it, he is saying that under the Amendment the Secretary of State will come to the House of Commons and lay an Order specifying how many men he wants and why he wants them. That is exactly the opposite of what I understood to be the purpose of the Amendment.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It may be, but I am stating my point of view. What is wrong with that? This is a free Assembly and we can say what we think.
§ Mr. A. Evans
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is not arguing that it will be necessary for the Secretary of State for War to specify a particular category. The Secretary of State may make his own choice, and there is nothing in the Amendment or in the Bill which obliges him to specify categories.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not suggest that there was. If and when the Secretary of State requires the men he can say, not that he wants Jack Jones, or John Smith, or Andrew Brown, or whoever it may be, to stay in for another six months—nobody expects that; let us not be stupid about this—but that he wants 10,000 men. I am not saying that he should specify the categories. I am not saying that he should say, "Out of the 10,000 men I want 50 signallers because we are short of them, or so many men for the Pay Corps because we are short of them"—not that that would matter anyhow. It is not that at all. But if the Secretary of State says that he wants 10,000 men, we are entitled to ask why he wants them. I am not sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would 1599 not ask Questions about the purpose of calling up these men.
Is there anything secret about it? If the Secretary of State retained 10,000 men without asking the House to consent to his doing this, the whole country would know that these men had been retained, because the men themselves would make a song and dance about it and there would be any amount of publicity.
I trust the right hon. Gentleman. I am not suggesting that he is unworthy of our trust. I am not saying that he is unrealiable, or anything of the sort. I am not making any accusations, but I do know the generals better than he does. I have had a lot of experience of them. I know that they can absorb men. They lap them up. If they have 20 men, they want 25; but when they get 25 they want 50. If they get eighteen months National Service they want it to be extended to two years, only to discover that two years is not long enough in which to train a man. I have gone through all this.
It may be suggested that I do not trust the generals. I trust them all right. They are quite good generals, but I do not trust them to make political decisions, and this is a political decision. It is not a military matter. Sending another 10,000 men to the B.A.O.R. will make little difference, except to satisfy the Americans and to satisfy our amour-propre, or our vanity. It is no good. We must be practical about this. Do we really need these men? If we do, when do we need them, and how many do we want? The right hon. Gentleman should tell us that before calling up these men.
The hon. Member for Stroud made a useful admission. He admitted that there was an unfairness about the Bill. There certainly is a distinct unfairness about it. It is bound to be unfair in its operation if it means selecting one man instead of another.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Then why does the hon. Gentleman do these unfair things? There must be a reason for them? One may do unfair things and commit acts of injustice only in times of emergency. I can 1600 understand that, but there is no emergency here. Anybody who understands what is going on in Germany knows that the sending there of another 10,000 men will mean nothing whatever in terms of building up our military strength.
§ Mr. Kershaw
The right hon. Gentleman said that we were unfair, but this is a Measure to enable us to defend our country. Was not he unfair during his term of office when he extended National Service?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman has forgotten what he said. It was he who said that it was unfair to select one man instead of another.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman started by putting one foot in it, and now he has them both in. There is all this talk about overdrafts and blank cheques. This Bill has been brought in because the defence policy of the Government has gone bankrupt. This is not good enough. It is becoming sharp practice. I repeat that I do not believe that the calling up, or retaining, of another 10,000 men will make the slightest difference to our military strength.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant me to answer his question. When I said across the Floor of the Committee that we all agreed that the Bill was unfair he asked why we had brought it in. I do not think that I can do better than quote what Field Marshal Lord Harding said on television on 6th November. He said:I do not see what else it"—the Government—can do, because cutting commitments will take time.I share that view.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Field Marshal Lord Harding is an able man. I have a high regard for his ability and his judgment, but I should not be surprised if he said, "I do not suppose that there is anything else we can do, because the Government have never taken sound advice about building up our military organisation". Consider the various Defence White Papers. We have had a succession of White Papers ringing the 1601 changes all the time. That is our trouble.
I was going to say something else before the hon. Gentleman interrupted me, but I have forgotten what it was. No doubt it was extremely important, and I am doing my best to recall what it was.
It comes to this, that the right hon. Gentleman, finding himself faced with this difficulty, has to retain men for a certain period. I do not believe that it will make any difference to our position. Why does not he take the advice that I gave him on Second Reading and train the Territorials effectively, pay them properly, give them a proper bounty, call them up for weekends or every month, and give them proper training and build up a proper reserve in this country?
I remember now what I was going to say. If we are going to retain men, why not keep them in this country? If that were done, I should not object quite so much. Do not send them to Germany. They will not be of any value there. In fact, we ought to withdraw men from Germany and bring them home. They will be just as effective here as they are there.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to understand that if he is not prepared to accept the Amendment, if he wants this blank cheque, if he wants suddenly to announce that he intends to call up or retain a number of men, and we are reduced to merely asking Questions in the House, he will be in for a warm and rough time because we will be fortified by the criticism, discontent and disquiet among the young men and their families, and this will do no good to the Army.
The hon. Member for Stroud referred to my actions in the past, when in 1950–51 I retained men in the Army. It was done for the specific purpose of enabling this country to make its contribution to a brigade to be sent to Korea. That was a different proposition. I retained the Regulars for twelve months, as I was entitled to do. I prevented men from going out, but, as I say, that was for a definite purpose, and at the time a very worthy purpose. When one is acting in an emergency and protecting national interests, the position is 1602 different. Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate what the position was then? We were faced with tension in Europe, the possibility of aggression from Russia, and at the same time trouble in Korea. We had to do what we did. I do not apologise for what I did then, but the situation now is different.
I want to make it clear that I am not against the building up of our Army by Regular forces, but I am convinced that National Service is no longer of any value. I am sorry to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), with whom I have worked all along on these matters, but I cannot believe that it is of any further value. I want a Regular force. I want it efficiently trained, highly mobile, with effective striking power which can be used if necessary. I want an efficient Army, but I do not believe that this is the right way to get it. I believe that this method is inimical to Regular recruitment. I do not think that it is a good thing. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think twice before he decides to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Profumo
I have listened for nearly 2½ hours to hon. Members speaking to this group of Amendments, and it may now be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervene. I have sufficiently collected the views of a large number of hon. Members, and my speaking now will not inhibit any other hon. Member from speaking afterwards.
I waited purposely until after the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well) had spoken. Towards the end of his speech he said that when he was in office and took the decision to retain certain National Service men—for which I do not criticise him in any way—he did so in order to be able to carry out a commitment to our allies in a crisis. Although it is a different situation today, it is precisely for that reason that I am seeking powers in the Bill.
I have been asked why I am taking this action. It is in order that I may have power to retain a number of National Service men to maintain our contribution towards our alliance in Europe. This situation is certainly different from that which existed at the time of the Korean war, but it is comparable to some degree, and that is the 1603 broad reason for my seeking this power under the Clause.
I well appreciate the reasons that motivated the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and other hon. Members who have spoken to the Amendments. I understand their point of view, but I must try to explain to the Committee the problems which these Amendments would raise. There has been much talk about calling up and retaining men, but I am not sure that every hon. Member is quite clear about what we are trying to do, and I want to make it clearer. Clause 2 contains a permissive power to recall, under certain circumstances; but this Clause is a "once only" operation.
The hon. Member for Dudley asked how this necessity arises, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) answered his question. It arises from a need for more trained men of certain categories in B.A.O.R. next year. This is what I must try to produce. Let the Committee criticise the way in which it thinks we have gone wrong in the past, but this is the problem with which the Government are faced at present. In the Second Reading debate I said that those men in B.A.O.R. whose release fell on or after 1st April, 1962, must assume that they would be retained. Some hon. Members said that that was not precise enough. I will be as precise as I can.
We may or we may not need these people. I have tried to be precise, and I have said that unless the crisis gets worse—in which case we may have to take action earlier—we can refrain from retaining people until 1st April, 1962. When I spoke about "equal misery for all" I was meaning—and every hon. Member who has received letters from serving soldiers knows this—that men are not happy about being retained. These people have their civilian lives, and conscription is only an incident in their lives. In this case, we have tried to ensure that we hold back no more men than we need. Of course, when the right hon. Member faced this problem he held on to the whole lot. We have not considered it necessary to hold on to the lot in this case. We have determined to hold only the number com- 1604 mensurate with the problem on hand. with which we have to deal under the Clause.
I want to emphasise that the people we are going to keep will be of certain categories, in which shortages now exist in B.A.O.R. That is why I cannot be as precise as I would like. I shall try to be a little more precise later on in my speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) asked whether this action would precede any recall under Clause 2, or any calling up of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, if we formed it. I can give him an undertaking that this provision concerns the retention only of a number of people in certain categories for service in B.A.O.R., and nothing more.
As the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) has told the Committee, I have given an assurance that as much notice as possible will be given, and that most of the men to be retained will receive more than two months' notice. This, again, is an attempt to help people who may have to make emergency plans because of this change in their lives. To give effect to my undertaking it will be necessary to operate the powers provided under the Clause immediately the Bill becomes law. If we are to help those people who will be held back in the earlier categories after April, we must give them as much personal notice as we can so as to put them on warning.
If we are to give them two months' notice we are going to be hard pushed. At this moment it looks unlikely that we shall obtain the Royal Assent in time for me to give everybody two months' notice, and therefore I am considering the possibility of warning certain men in the early release groups, before the Bill becomes law, that we shall have to retain them if Parliament grants the necessary power. I am taking advice on this point, but the only way to be fair to these people will be to act immediately the Bill becomes law, or to warn them individually, even before the Bill becomes law, that they may be held.
§ Mr. Paget
By saying that, is not the Minister conceding the case for the Amendments? He says that it is not necessary to wait for the Bill to become law before warning these men. In that 1605 case an Order would not be necessary either. He can issue his warnings, but before he puts them into operation he should inform the House.
§ Mr. Profumo
The hon. and learned Gentleman had better listen to the whole argument. Time is getting fairly short, and if I am to give people an accurate warning I must give them notice as far ahead as possible. For that I need the immediate operation of the Clause. The delay involved if the affirmative Resolution procedure were followed would be unacceptable in the situation that we have to face, and I cannot see what could be gained by a further discussion after the debates that take place during the passage of the Bill and before next April.
I do not see how the House of Commons could benefit by having a further discussion in that short time. The circumstances which require the retention of men exist now, and if they still exist in April we will need to take action at once. If they do not exist, and things get a great deal better, I have already said that we will not use this power. I have assured the House that we shall not retain one more man than is required for strictly military purposes.
The hon. Member for Dudley said that when this action was taken before, under the aegis of the right hon. Member for Easington, Regular soldiers were also retained. He made the point that it would be fairer if we were to retain Regulars as well as National Service men. I see the point about fairness. But the situation is different from what it was then. There was then a war on. The right hon. Gentleman has told us about the emergency, and we were operating under emergency powers. Therefore he could retain Regular soldiers although, in effect, it was breaking the commitment which they had entered into voluntarily. Today the situation is different, and I take the view that it would be "welshing" on the Regular soldier who had voluntarily entered into a commitment—
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is it not the same when dealing with the National Service man?
§ Mr. Profumo
No, the position is different. The National Service man is there because the law of 1948 placed 1606 upon him an obligation to serve as a National Service man. He did not volunteer as did the Regular soldier—
§ Mr. Profumo
I would not concede that at all. The point is that if we did seek to do this it would not help us very much, because the Regular soldiers coming out of the Regular Army during the six months about which we are talking, the extension next year, would not be a large number and would not really fit the categories which we desire to fill in B.A.O.R.
§ Mr. Profumo
It is neither of those things. If this is "welshing", I give hon. Members opposite the benefit of the doubt in respect of whether what they did was or was not welshing also.
My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) made a suggestion about the form in which monthly recruiting figures are issued, and I recognise the tie-up between the number of people we are to get and the number of people we should have to keep back. It seems to me that there is substance in his suggestion and that there is likely to be room for improvement. I will give an undertaking to raise this matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to see whether we can achieve a form which is absolutely clear and not open to any misinterpretation.
§ Mr. Profumo
It is a question of recruiting figures. My hon. Friend said that we are not giving enough information.
§ Mr. Profumo
That is a matter which I will discuss with my right hon. Friend.
I have been asked how many men we are likely to wish to retain. I have been 1607 asked whether it is possible to give some indication of the number of people whom I am likely to wish to retain. This is perfectly reasonable and is one of the things which if we accepted the Amendment the Committee would be entitled to know at the time when we discussed an Order. I think we shall have to retain something like 15,000 men all told, the whole way through the next six months. That is the best guess which I can give. It depends to a certain extent on how the Regular recruiting goes, and so on. But in order to stop the figures of B.A.O.R. from running down, and, therefore, to make our contribution in this way to the crisis in Europe, I reckon that we shall have to hold about 15,000.
§ Mr. Wigg
This exactly confirms the sum which I did during the Second Reading debate, and this is within the mathematical ability of us all. It means that 165,000 plus 15,000 makes 180,000, which right from the time of the 1957 White Paper we have said was the real strength which the Army required.
§ Mr. Profumo
The hon. Member is very astute in these matters, but he might wait until I have finished what I have to say. I have been asked how many men we shall have at the end of 1962, and if the hon. Member for Dudley has done the sum his answer is not quite right. We shall have about 170,000 men left in the Army at the end of next year, of whom about 10,000 will be National Service men. They will be still serving because they are being retained for six months.
§ Mr. B. Harrison
My right hon. Friend has said that there will be about 170,000 men, of whom about 10,000 will be National Service men. Would that mean a Regular complement of about 160,000 and that that is all the Regular soldiers he expects to get?
§ Mr. Profumo
No. The point is that on the very worst figures we can possibly find, and even with recruiting going far worse than at present, these are the sort of figures. It shows the danger of trying to give figures because everyone makes his own deductions. Had I desired not to give the figures I should not have done so, but I am anxious to ensure that this Committee, 1608 the House and the country are properly informed. But it is easy for everyone to make their own deductions, including statisticians—and I have some statisticians helping me too. We get all sorts of different answers. But I thought that the Committee was entitled to have some idea of the figures.
I wish now to discuss the application of Clause 2. I have been asked to say again how many men I shall be likely to want to call back, but it is impossible to tell, quite impossible. I have already told the Committee that the conditions under which we should possibly want to recall X National Service men are conditions of mounting tension, probably after 1963, and during the period when the Regular forces are still mounting to the 180,000 level. I cannot tell. How can I tell at any moment what would be the shortage in any category which would make it necessary to call up men? I cannot in advance give the numbers required, but I repeat that they would be a fraction of the total number available to us at the time.
I cannot accept the Amendment referring to Clause 2 for those reasons. It is impossible, because it would nullify the whole cause for having Clause 2 if the House were not sitting and I had accepted that I must lay an Order before we could call back any men. With tension mounting quickly, we could not use the provisions of Clause 2 for the purpose for which we need it. It would not be possible as I have said. Hon. Members will find that in Clause 4 (4) it states:The Secretary of State shall from time to time report to Parliament with respect to the exercise of his powers to recall persons under section two or call out persons under section three of this Act, and any such report may be made, as the Secretary of State thinks fit, either with respect to any use made or with respect of any use proposed to be made, of those powers.It is drawn up in that way because we wish Parliament to be informed. If there were a Recess at the time, we should still have to take action and we should have to report to Parliament as soon as possible afterwards.
This goes a long way to meet the hon. Gentleman. He will see that the intention is that we should keep Parliament informed. We shall give all the information possible. The only thing I cannot 1609 accept it that I should be tied by an obligation to lay a Statutory Instrument before I take power to do this at the beginning of next year. I wish to give as much notice as possible of when we shall have to use these powers. I cannot possibly accept a condition which might modify the call-up under Clause 2 and I hope that the Committee will realise why I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Mellish
I think that the right hon. Gentleman misjudges the House of Commons when he says that if there was mounting tension the House would not back him —
§ Mr. Mellish
The right hon. Gentleman said that if there were mounting tension and this Amendment were accepted he would not be able to call up men immediately, or almost immediately, because of the terms of the Amendment.
I take the point made by my right hon. Friend. If there were mounting tension and we were faced with such a situation at the present time I should vote against the Amendment. If the country were in such a situation that a call-up was necessary in order to meet an emergency—the right hon. Gentleman has told us that this is the Clause with which he is concerned—and if we were faced with the kind of emergency which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind we should be facing what would amount almost to a state of war. Every one of us capable of carrying arms might be called up into the Army. It is not a valid argument to say that we should be harming the right hon. Gentleman's desires for call-up in an emergency if we passed the Amendment.
Everyone admits that the Clause will operate unfairly. The right hon. Gentleman has argued that in some way it would be even more unfair to Regular soldiers than it will be to the young men called up to do their National Service. The Government could never convince a National Service man that he was not being unfairly treated by being kept in the Army for another six months. Every National Service man clearly understood that he would serve for only two years. They have all made their commitments. Each one of them thought that he knew 1610 the date of his discharge. Now suddenly in some haphazard fashion individuals are to be told that they are to be retained for another six months. It is a very unfair system.
I do not understand why the Secretary of State objects to Parliament being told the numbers and to the House of Commons discussing it. I can imagine nothing more democratic. If he decides to call up 15,000 men, there is no reason why he should not lay an Order before Parliament at the earliest opportunity and say why he needs the men and in what arms he needs them. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that there is no secret about it. He might well be able to say that the Army needs so many signallers and so many engineers. If he told the House of Commons the numbers required and the reasons he would probably carry everyone with him.
This is the first time for a long time that I have spoken in an Army debate. I am one of those who believe in adequate defence forces, but I strongly object to the Bill. I would have supported a Bill—here I may be going out on a limb—providing for conscription as a whole or the continuation of it, if the state of the country showed that it was necessary. I certainly believe that the principle of conscription is right. I have always believed that, when the state of the country justifies it.
But any form of selective service is bad. It can never be justified. As Members of Parliament we shall have an appallingly difficult job trying to explain to any constituent who writes to us why he in particular should be called up again or retained. I do not come from a constituency where the people are mad about the Army, but I go on record as saying that one thing of which the British people can be convinced is the fairness of applying the call-up to everyone—the rich man's son and the poor man's son. They understand such an argument, but what is being done by the Bill is absolutely criminal.
The Bill will apply to the B.A.O.R. troops. It is a little hard on a National Service boy who happened to be sent over to Germany because that was the luck of the draw. He is to be retained. A boy who has not been over to Germany and has been one of the lucky ones may be all right. In the last war 1611 there were many lucky ones who never left the country and never fired a shot in their lives. However, they still carry certain ranks. If someone is the sort of soldier who stays at home and comes out all right in the draw, he will not be affected; he will not be called up for six months. However, if he is serving in B.A.O.R. he will be retained for another six months. Not only will he have served eighteen months away from home, with the usual difficulties associated with service overseas: he will have to serve another six months away from home.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) on tabling the Amendment. My hon. Friends and I think that the House of Commons should discuss any question of injustice to any of these people. I do not understand why hon. Members opposite do not welcome it. We must not be fobbed off with the argument that the War Office will be restricted. Are we to be seriously told that the British Army is in such a state that the extension of service of 15,000 men by six months is a matter of major importance? I do not believe it. I cannot believe it.
I do not think that the Minister dealt with the points adequately. The only valid argument he tried to advance was that if the Amendment were carried it might delay call-up. That is not true, and he knows it. He should have a better opinion of the House of Commons than that. If there were an emergency which demanded the recall of men to the Army or the retention of men in the Army and Parliament were in recess, the Minister would merely have to contact Mr. Speaker and Parliament could be recalled immediately. We would all return and give him support, if he could convince the House of Commons that the foreign affairs situation justified what he was asking for.
We are in this state because of indecision by the Government in their policy and outlook. I believe in conscription as a principle. It is right. If the Government can prove conclusively that there are not enough Regulars to make the Army efficient, I go on record as saying that conscription is right and I would support it. However, I stress that it must always be proved that there 1612 are not enough Regulars to meet the need. That is the grave doubt, because at no time have I heard the right hon. Gentleman or any one in the Government justify what they are asking for. If the right hon. Gentleman could justify his statement that more men are required, it should apply to all and not only to some. As the Bill is framed, it will be selective.
The Secretary of State can forget Members of Parliament and keep them out of the argument, but he is under a duty to the men involved to stand at the Dispatch Box and make a great speech explaining why they are to be called up. He should make a speech that they can understand, because at the end of the day he will be left with soldiers who will absolutely loathe the Army. The Army does not want men in that state of mind. There is a certain percentage of conscripts now who are in the Army against their will. If it is done on this basis, there will be a section of men in the Army who will resent being there and will loathe the Army. What sort of efficiency shall we get from that?
I served in the Army for six years during the last war, so I know a little bit about it. I had the privilege, for what it was worth, of going through every rank in the British Army up to major. I do not shout much about it, but I know a little bit about the Army. I can honestly say that I could not get out of it quick enough. That was understandable. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was perfectly right in his argument on conscription. There will always be only a certain percentage of men who like the Army. It is exactly the same with the Police Force and any other service. Even if I were tall enough, which I am not, I could not do a policeman's job for £50 a week. There are certain jobs which only a certain type of person can do.
I am one of those who believe that the Minister's whole approach has not been realistic. The selective basis is the worst compromise he could have thought of. If he had had any courage, he would have proved his case for conscription as a whole. But he has not done that. He has tried to compromise. My bet is that at the end of the day we shall have full conscription. This is a party political issue. My hon. Friend 1613 the Member for Dudley may need a little support in this. He has been arguing this on his own for some time. The Government under-estimate the British people. If they tell them the truth and convince them that conscription as such is necessary, they will win the day. But if they do what they are trying to do in the Bill they will not get anything except contempt. They will end up with 15,000 men who, even if they like the Army at the moment, will come to hate it.
I can assure the Minister that when these men receive their gentle warning letters from the War Office telling them that they are to be retained in Germany for another six months, the sparks will begin to fly. I can imagine the scene in the barrack rooms. One soldier will say to another, "Have you got one of these letters?" The reply will be, "No, I have not got one. I am all right. I am going home next Wednesday week." The first soldier will say. "I have got one. What are they keeping me for?" The soldier will have no right of appeal. There is to be no independent tribunal. I can understand this, because there must be discipline in the Army. Whatever the orders from above are, they must be obeyed. I do not know why they are obeyed, but they are. There must be discipline in the Army.
I disagree with the Bill in its entirety. Parliament should be able to discuss this point which is so unfair to a certain section of men. Of course Parliament will approve it if the Minister lays an Order. He will gang up all his crowd behind him, and that will be that. We have seen that sort of thing many times during the last eleven years. He will get his Order. I do not understand why he wants to deny Parliament the opportunity of having a full discussion on matters of this kind.
I say this with great respect to you, Mr. Hynd. Hon. Members will have noticed that the Minister went wide of the Amendment and discussed the whole subject matter of the Clause. In fact, I thought that he was making a speech more appropriate to the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". Other hon. Members may well have to do the same at a later stage in our discussion on this Amendment and on others.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
If that is intended as a criticism of the Chair, I point out that the Minister did not go nearly as wide as the hon. Member has gone.
§ Mr. Mellish
That is very fair, Mr. Hynd. I can only say that you are a very tolerant Chairman. I wish you had been here last night. We should not have been in half as much difficulty if you had been.
This Amendment tries to give a certain element of justice to an unjust Bill, and it places the responsibility on the Members of the House of Commons when discussing what numbers are likely to be called up by the Minister. It will give the Minister a chance to explain which arms of the Service are to be added to or which are to retain certain men. We can cut out all this stuff and nonsense about our enemies being told in advance, because I suggest that they have a better intelligence service than we have. At least, they would be a poor lot if they had not. I hope the Government will concede this right that here in Parliament we should discuss in detail not only the numbers of men to be called up, but the reasons why.
§ Mr. Crossman
I wish to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said by going back to the Minister's speech. Reflecting upon it, I found myself thinking that it was not necessarily true that if we have a small dirty thing the best thing to do is to cover it up with volubility. The longer the right hon. Gentleman talked about the Clause and the wider he went in defending it the more awkward it was and the greater were the difficulties it raised in my mind. I had not thought of the significance of these things until he spoke, and I was reflecting on what was the right hon. Gentleman's justification for his speech.
He tells us now that the whole justification for it is an emergency, a crisis. I do not believe a word of it. As my hon. Friend said, if there was a crisis the right hon. Gentleman should take desperate measures. There is no crisis in Berlin which makes the Bill necessary. There is a crisis which the Government knew was coming. For months, they have been told this in debate. It was a crisis due to the fact that they had 1615 welshed on their figures, because they needed 180,000 men and they have got only 165,000. We know the kind of crisis they had.
I am told by people who know the Press that a conference was held only two days before the Queen's Speech at which it was stated that there would not be a Bill of this sort mentioned in the Queen's Speech. That was off the record. After that, it was spatchcocked into the Queen's Speech. This explains the kind of Bill before us.
§ Mr. Profumo
Will the hon. Gentleman enlarge on that? It certainly did not happen in the War Office, and it had nothing to do with my Department. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that there was a Press conference?
§ Mr. Crossman
I advise the right hon. Gentleman to consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on the Press conference that was held.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
May I put a question to my right hon. Friend? Will he say how long before that the plan was prepared by his Ministry?
§ Mr. Profumo
It was certainly prepared well in advance. As the Committee knows, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, as did the Prime Minister, told the House that all through the summer that we were considering this problem. It is perfectly clear to the Committee. I thought the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that we had a Press Conference at which it was said that it would not be in the Queen's Speech.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman
I think we shall want to know a little more from the right hon. Gentleman. I was told by a friend I trust that only a few days before they were expressly told that there would be no Bill of this kind.
I understand that sometimes the Government have to alter the Queen's Speech because of the requirements of politics—Atlantic politcs—and that it is often convenient to insert something. What he said about the emergency is true, to this extent—in order to look as though we were doing something about Berlin and were increasing our 1616 conventional forces, and it was convenient to have this Bill. We should be clear about what the Minister means, because, Berlin or no Berlin he would still have needed to find the men. What he is doing now—I repeat what I said on Second Reading in order to justify the Amendment of my hon. Friend—is that he is introducing a counterfeit selective draft in order to conceal the fact that he is short on the figures.
What we are now discussing is a kind of penalty the British public should pay to cover this call-up. The Government do not want too much publicity. They reckon that the 20,000 people concerned will know nothing about it and everybody else will keep quiet. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman does not want to have another debate, and what we are asking for is a day's debate on an affirmative Order, and a discussion of this matter in order that the British people may see what is being done. I want people to understand the exact nature of what he is doing. My impression is that the Minister thinks it is a tremendous problem to get people to understand because of the nature of the call-up and he wants only a few people to know and not the general public in the country to know anything about it. The more the general public reflect on the nature of the call-up and the more they consider the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey in his speech, the angrier they will get, but when I go to my constituents I find that I have constantly to tell them because they do not know that we have a selective call-up of a special sort introduced in this dirty little Bill; I have to tell them about it. What are their reactions when I explain these things to them? They are not enthusiastic about the Bill, but they show a certain interest in the sort of things of which my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey was saying with a certain indignation. I appreciate the Minister saying why should we go on debating it in public, but we want very much the British people to know what the Government are doing, because if they knew it would put a stop to it.
Perhaps the worst thing of all in the Minister's speech was what he said about an emergency. He showed a scandalous tardiness in carrying this thing out. If 1617 that is true, then to find oneself in a crisis, a grave emergency, having to pass Bills, of this sort, is probably the worst defence that one could make—and, indeed, it is a defence, as so often happens, which makes the crime considerably worse. I am hoping for more interventions from the Minister to justify the crime, because each will illuminate more clearly the nature of the crime, and the nature of the crime is continual makeshift, continually avoiding facing the problem of the 1956 White Paper, continually avoiding facing the fact that, having abolished National Service before he had got the minimum number of men, he falls back on this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey was frank over this problem. I share his view. I would rather have National Service than put ourselves in this desperate situation in which we are dependent on nuclear weapons and unable to play our role. I believe that the British public would rather have what we had in 1956 than what we have in 1961–62, as a result of five years delay. Now the Minister says that we have to do this because of the emergency in Berlin. He said that there was a threat to N.A.T.O. If there is a threat to N.A.T.O. on account of the British contribution, it has been there for the last five years.
It is absolutely clear. Year after year in this House in annual defence debates it has been pointed out from below the Gangway on both sides and no notice has been taken of it. Suddenly, at the last moment, we have to have this miserable makeshift Measure, this worst kind of selective draft, because there is nothing else that the Minister can think of to do about it. All he is doing is postponing for three years taking a decision. I wonder if the Minister will ask for another postponement. The reason why I am supporting with such energy my hon. Friend's Amendment is because of the demand for another full day's debate in order to impress upon the British public what is being done. I admit that in that debate we could not do more than find what was going on.
I hope that every debate on every Amendment will be as intense and thorough as this one. If we debate this matter for several days we may get the public to understand what is going on. I think some of us are determined about 1618 that. We are glad to have the assistance of hon. Members on the back benches opposite. We are grateful to the Minister for ensuring that this Clause is seen against the whole complex military and diplomatic background. He plunged in and said, in effect, "I cannot let you have another debate." He did not quite say that. I think he said that he could not spare the time, but let us have a full discussion. There was a reference to the Minister discussing the matter with the House of Commons, but he did not guarantee to have a day for such discussion before next April.
All we are asking is that there should be an extra day for discussion of the affirmative Order. Then the right hon. Gentleman could save much time. If he were prepared to have an extra days' debate for that he need not waste time in discussing this Amendment. He is resisting this Amendment because he does not want to give a day's debate on an affirmative Order, and says that it is impossible. He gave many other reasons for resisting the Amendment, but why should it be impossible to devote one day to this matter and again to discuss it on the affirmative Order? It is not impossible, but only undesirable for the Minister's prestige in the mind of the public.
We should like the Minister once again to elaborate on why he wants the Bill, why he wants the call-up and why this extra day's debate should not come in due course when the matter is brought before Parliament again. If he does not tell us why, we shall know the reason. The reason will be that the Government are afraid of another discussion. That is the sole reason why they are opposing this Amendment. If that is not so, let the right hon. Gentleman give a single reason why, after his speech, he should not explain once again—with that brilliant lucidity he shows—the nature of the crisis and the tremendous emergency in N.A.T.O. The more we hear of this the more interested we get. I should like to hear another variation of it. Of course there will be a new excuse next spring. There will always be a new excuse for doing the same thing and covering it up.
Other hon. Members on this side of the Committee will want to put their reasons why we should carry this 1619 Amendment before we go on to further discussions.
§ Mr. Marsh
One of the good things about the debate on this subject is that we have got away from the usual cosy discussion between a group of gentlemen who, with the greatest respect to them, are ex-Regular Army officers with a considerable knowledge of everything in the Army except the practical effects of post-war, peace-time conscription.
It is a good thing that we should discuss this Bill, because in the view of many people this is something which is intolerable in peace-time, unless the Government can say to the country that, not only is there a crisis—and, as many hon. Members have said, we are bound to live in a state of crisis for a long time to come—but a serious and immediate crisis, and if that were the case I think we should need something much larger than is provided for in this Bill. Two of my hon. Friends have said that they would prefer a form of conscription to this particular Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said that. One can see the arguments for that.
§ Mr. Marsh
It is at least honest. The important thing is whether it would serve the purpose. I give my purely personal point of view as one who is not a defence expert but spent a gallant two and a half years in the Army in which one of my main achievements was to lead a successful concert party. I do not talk to generals using their Christian names or engage in barrack room gossip from the War Office. One of the ideas I have about conscription is that, even if we have any tolerable form of conscription, the belief that that would enable us to fight a pause in Europe and to avoid nuclear conflict is highly dangerous and completely unjustified by the facts. The position is that with any form of conscription which was tolerable, the best which this country—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I do not want to restrict the hon. Member too much. It is true that some hon. Members have made certain digressions into the subject of conscription—[An HON. MEMBER: "As did the Minister."]—and so did the Minister-but the hon. Member 1620 for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) has not yet mentioned the group of Amendments under discussion.
§ Mr. Marsh
I am grateful to you, Mr. Hynd, but the point I am making is very much tied up with these Amendments. The whole purpose of the argument behind these Amendments is that it is the job of the Government to justify this particular type of Measure when they want to introduce it.
It has been suggested that there are better ways of doing it than by this type of Measure. Obviously it would be out of order to pursue that point for very long, but I make the point on these Amendments that the idea that peacetime conscription of any type meets the problems which face this country and Europe at present is a highly dangerous idea. It is possible that a pause might be held with conventional forces, but I think that it is highly unlikely. I should have thought that in the intervening period the weight of numbers on the other side would be such and the devastation would be such that in a democracy we could not stop at that stage even if Parliament wanted to do so. The damage to men and women would be so considerable that we could not draw back and say that we had changed our minds.
The Amendments we are considering raise a very important point. They ask that before those who are in the process of serving a national engagement—or who have completed their national engagement—are required to go beyond the original contract, the Minister should come to the House and justify his action and tell us how large the inroad should be. I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would agree that if we are to embark on any changes in conscription in peace time it is reasonable for Parliament to discuss them at the time in relation to the specific incidents which arise and make them necessary.
The Minister gave us a number of reasons why he could not accept these Amendments. He said, first, that the whole purpose of this exercise was that we have to maintain our commitment with our allies in this period of crisis. He went on to say—he will correct me if I am wrong—that he was thinking in 1621 terms of extension of engagement for 15,000 men. I should have thought that 15,000 men would not enable us to meet our commitments in Europe. He went on to refer to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and compared this situation with what happened over the Korean War. If we were facing a position similar to that which my right hon. Friend faced at the time of Korea one could understand that the emergency is immediate, the demand clear and the crisis upon us.
§ Mr. Marsh
And that it exists. My right hon. Friend was talking about the Measure he introduced, but he wanted a number to fill a brigade for a particular purpose and it was already in action. The position here is very different. What the Minister wants is more men for B.A.O.R. to meet a crisis. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East rightly said, to suggest that this Bill is the result of the Berlin crisis is nonsense. The right hon. Gentleman has not actually said that, but I have the impression that that is what he inferred as the main argument in favour of the Bill.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
If the hon. Member will look at the Second Reading debate, he will see that that is precisely what my right hon. Friend said. He used the words:As it is the situation in Europe that has made this legislation necessary, it is obviously B.A.O.R. that we have to stiffen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 47.]
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is my hon. Friend aware that when the Prime Minister came to Gleneagles and was interviewed on the golf course there he said that there would be no fighting in Berlin?
§ Mr. Marsh
In recent months hon. Members have tended to attach less importance to the Prime Minister's statements than was the case hitherto. The statement to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) referred was not one of the right hon. Gentleman's best, anyway.
If, in fact, the Minister does not require these men with whom the Amendment is concerned for the crisis in Berlin we are entitled to ask for what crisis he requires them. If he requires them for the general crisis which exists in East-West relations, in B.A.O.R. and in Europe in general, the Bill does not meet or solve the problem. Hon. Members with considerable experience of these matters, on both sides of the Committee, who dislike this nasty little Bill intensely do so mostly because it does not meet the purposes which the Minister claims it is intended to cover. I should have thought that the Amendment calls for a very simple procedure.
§ Mr. Mellish
My hon. Friend will be aware that even that is not the whole point. If there is a genuine crisis in Berlin that is so serious that we need more troops, is it not right that the Government should spell out that crisis in such a way that it convinces the nation that conscription is necessary? Would not that be better than applying their present argument which attempts to justify the retaining of merely a handful of men? Either we have a crisis which needs a lot of soldiers or we do not have a crisis and we do not need that great number of soldiers.
§ Mr. Marsh
The purpose of the Amendment is precisely because many of my hon. Friends, and a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite feel that the Bill is designed merely to cover up Government incompetence in the Ministry of Defence and not to meet a specific crisis which now exists. If a crisis exists now and if Britain is faced with a serious crisis necessitating the deprivation of a number of young men of their liberties, 15,000 men next year in B.A.O.R. will not solve it.
The Minister is, therefore, producing a Bill which appears on the face of it not to meet a situation or crisis at the moment but to cover a crisis which might arise at some time in the future.
§ The Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
Might I remind the hon. Member that we are discussing an Amendment and not the Bill as a whole?
§ Mr. Mellish
On a point of order, Sir Gordon—and you must be fed up with points of order. With respect, earlier the Minister, quite rightly in order to explain why he was rejecting the Amendment, went quite wide and brought in the orbit of the Clause as a whole and, subsequently, other speeches were allowed to combat that. I put that to you, Sir Gordon, because you were not in the Chair at that time.
§ The Chairman
Naturally a certain amount of latitude is allowed, but I should be obliged if hon. Members would confine their remarks to the Amendment under discussion.
§ Mr. Marsh
I certainly would not want to stray from the Amendment. I am merely pointing out that if there is a crisis at the moment which can be met by the Bill the Minister is correct on the points he has made. But if such a crisis does not exist now, but the Bill exists in order to meet a crisis which may or may not arise at some unspecified date in the future, the Amendment—which calls for a debate to take place in the House on any action the Minister is to take at such a time to meet such a crisis—seems perfectly reasonable.
If the crisis is current now and the Government wish to hold on to 15,000 men next year to avoid this country being faced with a serious threat, then obviously there is no need for the Amendment. I should have thought that if that was the case we should be having not this Bill but one calling for general conscription. The whole point of my argument is that we are being asked to bring into being a Measure for indiscriminate conscription which will have no effect.
§ Mr. Marsh
I submit, Sir Gordon, that when the Minister intervened recently he rose to assure hon. Members that the purpose of the Bill—and the reason why he could not accept the Amendment—was that he might need to 1624 recall men in a period of rapidly increasing tension. I am suggesting that if this Measure meets an existing period of tension and that 15,000 men next year will meet that current problem, the Minister has made his case. He is therefore, perfectly justified in rejecting the Amendment. But if the period of crisis is not with us now, but might arise at some unspecified time in the future, the case for the Amendment is made because it is at such a time that Parliament would like to discuss the measures which the Minister would like to introduce. I should have thought it essential that Parliament should have an opportunity, on such an occasion, to discuss exactly what the Minister is doing.
Why should there be any opposition to the Amendment? A series of reasons have been offered, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) said earlier that if Parliament met specially to discuss this selective call-up it would add to the international tension.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I was making the point that anxiety might be caused throughout the Army because no one would know who was being called up.
§ Mr. Marsh
I find that one even more difficult to understand than the hon. Gentleman's previous remarks. Thinking back to the time when I was called up, I perhaps wish that I had shown the sort of equanimity which the hon. Gentleman appears to believe will be shown by a conscript in B.A.O.R. at the present time who is not anxious and whose family is not anxious for him to remain there.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I think my right hon. Friend cleared up that point earlier when he went into the question of our being informed in advance of legislation.
§ Mr. Marsh
One of the arguments against the Amendment is that we should keep this sort of thing quiet, just between ourselves, because we do not want Parliament to meet to discuss the matter. The Minister has said that he might want to recall these men in a period of rapidly increasing tension when Parliament was not in session. If this House gets into the position where a Minister can recall thousands of men to the Colours without Parliament being 1625 recalled to discuss the matter, I do not know what will be the result. Are we really expected to believe that only at the end of the Summer Recess are we to hear, or read, that the Minister has done this off his own bat? I am increasingly amazed at this Government as we hear more of their arguments against what would appear to be a perfectly reasoned Amendment. In fact, one becomes increasingly more amazed at this Government—full stop.
Again, I was surprised when the Minister, in attempting to justify the application of this Measure to National Service men without Parliament having the opportunity of debating it beforehand on a special occasion, used an argument which, for precisely the same reason, I should have thought would lead to the conclusion that it should not apply to National Service men. The Regular is a volunteer who has consciously taken a decision to commit himself to military service. The conscript is a man who, to everyone's regret, has been called into the Army without any choice at all. When the Minister has to make the choice, he chooses the conscript to do the additional service, in spite of the fact that he is a man who never wanted to do it in the first place, rather than the Regular who has consciously and willingly decided to undertake a military engagement for a period of years.
The right hon. Gentleman chooses to extend the military service of people who have already undertaken a burden which they did not want, which they did not undertake for its career prospects, which they did not undertake because of the financial emoluments and advantages held out to them by the War Office, which they did not undertake because they were attracted by glossy advertisements in magazines, but which they did undertake solely as an enforced contribution for them—quite rightly, as persons within a democratic society—in the service of their country. I should have thought that it was intolerable and likely to arouse very little sympathy indeed that the Minister should try to justify extending the contribution which those men have made without having to justify to the House at the particular time whether their service should be extended or not.
1626 We are asking for something very simple. The debate and discussion we have had on this Measure so far are insufficient. The fact that we have had a Second Reading debate does not meet the point precisely because we on this side of the Committee, and a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, believe that the Bill is not a Bill to meet the existing crisis at the present time but it is, in fact, to meet a crisis which has taken the Government by surprise. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has been drawing attention to that crisis ever since I have been in the House. I can speak for only the past two years, but that surely should have been time enough for the Government to have some idea that events would work out in this way. This is, in fact, a shabby attempt by the Government to duck out of the political difficulties into which they have put themselves, regardless of the hardship which their action imposes upon people who have already made their contribution in the service of the country.
If the Minister wants the men to meet any particular crisis, the House and the British people will give him authority, as they have given Ministers authority in the past. What the House and the country want is the Minister's evidence that the crisis exists at the time. He has made out no case that this Measure is necessary to meet such a crisis. He has given no reasons justifying it at the present time. The least he should agree to do is to say that, when he wants the men and has to ask for them, he will come to the House and ask the House to consider whether a serious situation then exists to justify their recall.
It is not just a matter of individual hardship. Hon. Members have referred to the individual cases about which they are hearing through their constituency post-bags. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) said that the fact that Jimmy Smith would lose his apprenticeship or job in industry, or the fact that he had a wife and three children, would enable us to discuss the problem at Question Time. That is not enough. What the House and the country will wish to consider at the time is the effect which such a move might have on the individual, the events which have led to it and the causes in the Government's handling of our 1627 defence affairs. It will wish to consider also the far-reaching effect of these things on the nation's economy.
I support the Amendments because I regard them as the only safeguard at this stage to ensure that the House will have an opportunity of considering those matters. I think it is essential that we should bring every effort to bear on ensuring that people generally understand that what they are being asked to do and what their sons are being asked to do under this Bill—is not to meet a military crisis but to pay the price of bungling incompetence in the Ministry of Defence and this Tory Government as a whole.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget
This group of Amendments covers a fairly narrow point on which we have had quite a wide debate. I shall stray from the narrow scope of the Amendment only a little in answer to a point which was discussed at some length by the Secretary of State, namely, the crisis which has made all this necessary.
The argument all depends upon what one means by the word "crisis". If one means a crisis in our foreign affairs, it is nonsense, of course. This is the first time since the war when we have had no state of emergency existing anywhere within our own Commonwealth. It is the first time since the war when we have had nobody anywhere serving on active service. In Germany we are doing little more than half what we are obligated to do by treaty and what we were obligated to do by treaty in 1957 when the original policy was adopted.
On the other hand, if one means "crisis" in the sense in which the word is used by doctors, when someone has taken an infection or taken poison and at a certain point the consequences of the infection or poison reach the point of disaster, it may well be that we have a crisis on our hands. But it is a crisis which has arisen with a sense of inevitability, not as a result of anything unforeseen but with everything foreseen as a result of the Government's own policy. That is the only form of crisis with which we are dealing.
I turn now to the narrow meaning of the Amendment. It is strictly a procedural Amendment and nothing else. The 1628 Minister wants two kinds of power. Both are contingent powers. He wants neither immediately. Under Clause 1, he wants a contingent power which he expects he will probably need in April. He says that, if he were surprised by something unforeseeable, he might need it before April. On the other hand, he has led us to hope that if he were surprised by a détente which made things easier, he would not need it at all. That is the position with regard to retention.
It is at least very usual for a Minister who comes to the House to ask for a contingent power which he may or may not want to say, "If I do want it, I will ask for an Order to bring it into operation". That is both a usual and very convenient method.
If that is the case under Clause 1, how much more is it the case under Clause 2? Under Clause 2, the contingent power for which the right hon. Gentleman asks is not required until the end of 1963, and even then he has said that he will be very disappointed—disappointed with his "Ever-readies"—if that power is needed at all. If it is needed, surely the convenient method, the tidy method and the best method is to do it by Order. It is certainly a very usual way to do it.
What are the reasons put against doing it by Order? The first is that, if we needed this power, it might be because of a tricky situation in Europe and that an Order might cause alarm and despondency either within the Armed Forces, or among our allies or the people of Europe, or among our enemies, and it might make them nervous, like orders for mobilisation. On examination, that reason does not stand up for a moment. The fact that the matter was done by Order would not bring about any more publicity. Suppose that it were done by individual notice. Everyone gets the notice and everyone starts moaning about the notice. The newspapers pick up the story and those who get the notice write to their Members of Parliament. Questions are tabled in Parliament. Every criticism is directed at the Government before they have had a chance to reply.
The matter does not get any less publicity if it is done in the way proposed by the Government. There is only publicity in the worst possible form. Surely if the Government want the Bill to be a success and the things that they 1629 do to be a success—and here we are dealing with a matter in which morale is all important—the important thing is that the Government should have the opportunity to be able to tell the people straight away why they want it, and then they will get the response. Surely the laying of an Order which gives the Government the opportunity to explain publicly why they want the Bill is the best way from the Government's point of view to get their case in first and to get it over to the people instead of having it disseminated and built up into a moan, which is the form that the publicity takes. What could be more demoralising?
The second reason, which, again, I do not think stands up for a moment is that it is necessary to give people warning for their own convenience.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I wonder whether the hon. and learned Gentleman has considered this aspect of the matter. Suppose that we needed only 10,000 under Clause 2. By that time there would be about 100,000 National Service men left in that category. Surely, if all that the Secretary of State for War can do under the Order is to say that be wants 10,000 men, we at once put the wind up the other 90,000.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
No. I am not trying to make a party point here. If we are to do it by the personal approach of a separate message to every man, surely that is less likely to put the wind up the ones who do not get the message.
§ Mr. Paget
With great respect, I should have thought that exactly the opposite was the case. Consider the situation. "Joe" gets a call-up notice. The news goes round the factory, the pubs, the clubs and the whole town. Everyone says, "Good lord, recall notice is coming. What will happen?" If the Secretary of State comes here and lays an Order and says, "I am going to recall a certain number of men. The recall notices are in the post and will be received tomorrow morning. No one who does no: receive it need worry, because 1630 I am calling up only these men", what better opportunity would the right hon. Gentleman have for putting his case and for justifying it and for setting the limits? I cannot think of a more convenient or better way to do it.
As the Secretary of State said, warning is needed. We shall have immediately to start giving warning to the people whom we expect—we are not certain about it—to retain. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman himself provided the answer to that. He said, "I am already doing it before I have the Bill". He can equally do it before he has the order. There would be no difficulty in saying, "The probability is that we shall have to bring this measure into operation by 1st April, and you are one of the people we shall have to retain. You had better make your arrangements". We cannot do more than that anyway, because, unless it is sheer bluff when the right hon. Gentleman says, "If things turn very much for the better, I would not even need it in April", it must remain contingent. Whether the right hon. Gentleman has the Bill or not, he is giving a warning which he hopes will not materialise. The position about warning is the same whether we adopt the Government's procedure or not. As I have said, whatever way the matter is dealt with will not affect the volume of publicity, but it is possible to get the publicity into a much better and realistic form, with the Government having the first word in saying what they want.
Finally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said, it is a very ancient principle of the House of Commons that Parliament controls the numbers in the Armed Forces. We have always sought to stick to that as closely as possible. We have machinery that keeps in Parliament's hands as effectively as possible control of the numbers in the Armed Forces. For that constitutional reason, we should adopt the method that we suggest unless there is a really conclusive reason of convenience against it. The Government have not produced the slightest reason of convenience against it. Publicity has broken down and warning has broken down. Therefore, when there is no case in convenience, in need or in urgency, would it be right for Parliament to surrender its control of the numbers in the Forces, 1631 which is amongst its most fundamental ancient and important constitutional rights.
I certainly suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, although I do not think that he needs much suggestion from me, should force the Amendment to a Division and I would ask all my hon. Friends to go into the Lobby in support of it. We have had an extremely good debate and whilst, obviously, the Committee would be interested in hearing anything which my hon. Friend wished to say in winding up, this is a Bill which, much as we dislike it, we are not trying to obstruct in any kind of way. There are a large number of highly important Amendments which require consideration and adequate discussion. I hope that the Government will change their minds and accept the Amendment, which would add to the convenience of the working of the Bill. It is a small one, a procedural one and, I believe, a right one.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Before my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) winds up, as he is entitled to do, may we not appeal to the Secretary of State to reply to the powerful speeches which have been made by the last five or six speakers from this side of the Committee, and particularly the speech to which we have just listened from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) from the Front Bench? The Secretary of State made a preliminary but what appeared to be a superficial case for resisting the Amendments, since when the searching light of criticism has been cast upon his attitude. I hope that if I may give him a few moments of reflection, he will consider that the Committee is entitled to his reply to the case which my hon. Friends have put.
We know that the Executive and the bureaucracy always have a natural resistance to Parliamentary scrutiny. The first point that is felt widely, not only on this side of the Committee, is that, as one hon. Member opposite said, the Bill is admitted to be grossly unfair. That is indisputable. This Measure victimises a small number of men who are, in a sense, being double-crossed.
1632 They were taken on for two years' conscription but are to be made liable to be held on to for a further period at the will of the Government.
It is agreed on both sides that this is a selective injustice that is being imposed. Some argue that it is necessary and inevitable in the circumstances of the case, but simply because it is admitted to be grossly unfair to a small number of citizens who happen to be National Service men or on the Reserve emphasises our duty to ensure the maximum Parliamentary scrutiny of the way in which the Minister uses his powers under this Measure.
The second point to which, I hope, the Secretary of State will direct his attention—I did not think he was being deliberately ambiguous or indulging in duplicity in his speech—is why this Measure is needed at all and why he requires a blank cheque. Why should the Secretary of State have a blank cheque? Why should he not have to make orders that would be the subject of discussion in the House of Commons? Part of the Minister's speech tried to suggest that tension in international affairs and in Europe was such an emergency operation that it justified the Minister's having a blank cheque to do what he liked under the powers given by Parliament in the Bill. None of his hon. Friends has tried to justify that view. Nobody accepts it, because we all know that in relaxing international tension the Bill is neither here not there. Had it been the result of international tension, much greater powers would have been taken. Much larger measures would have been brought forward by the Government, Parliament would have been recalled in the middle of the summer and then, had the situation justified it, we should have been only too willing to give Ministers a blank cheque.
The crisis, from which arises these two Clauses which we are trying to amend, is the crisis in Government policy because of the difficulty in reconciling the commitments which the Government have undertaken in Europe and the failure of their recruiting policy to match up to them. The Minister has failed so far to admit that.
We want to see the Secretary of State at the Box coming clean about the reasons for the Bill. This Measure 1633 has to be produced because the Government have undertaken certain commitments for military forces. The Government decided to abolish conscription and their gamble in their recruiting policy has not matched the commitments which they have undertaken.
§ The Chairman
Order. I remind the hon. Member that we are dealing with the Amendments and not the Bill.
§ Mr. Loughlin
On a point of order. In one part of the debate, Sir Gordon, your predecessor gave a Ruling which seemed to me to enable an hon. Member to go very wide. I rose on a point of order and asked the occupant of the Chair whether that did not mean that the debate was going wide, but no attempt was made to restrict the hon. Member concerned in the width in which he dealt with this issue.
§ The Chairman
I cannot discuss what happened when I was not in the Chair. My remark was that we are dealing with Amendments and not with the Bill. I should have thought that that was a perfectly accurate remark.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Further to that point of order. The point which I am putting, Sir Gordon, is that if previous speakers have been able to range over a wide field, it is unfair—
§ The Chairman
That is not a point of order. I cannot discuss what happened earlier when I was not here.
§ Mr. Swingler
The only reason why I bring the point forward, because the Government benches have not yet admitted the reason for the crisis to which they refer when they argue in favour of the Bill and, moreover, they argue against these Amendments and, therefore, they are in favour of Ministers having a blank cheque in applying the powers of the Bill, is that if it is true that these powers are needed because of Ministerial incompetence or miscalculation, if the analysis is correct that the reason for this makeshift policy is because the Government have miscalculated in their recruiting policy, or, to put it the other way round, that the Government have taken on too many commitments in Europe, that seems to me to be an overwhelming argument for subjecting this Measure to Parlia- 1634 mentary scrutiny in detail. It makes a great deal of difference.
If it was due to some enormous international crisis, that could be a reason for saying that the Minister should be voted a blank cheque because emergency action has to be taken. If, however, the nature of the crisis is the incompetence of the Minister in failing to recruit sufficient Regular forces or his miscalculation of the relation between those forces and commitments abroad, that is why the Minister at every stage should be forced to justify his Measure to Parliament. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will now reply to the searching and serious criticisms which have been made in the course of this discussion.
§ Viscount Lambton
I support the request that the Minister should say a word or two. These Amendments give him a fortunate opportunity of saying that the Bill is a form of selective conscription. Will he please say whether it is? If he does not call it selective conscription, will he please say how he would define it?
§ Mr. Wigg
I am much obliged to the hon. Members who added their names to the Amendment and for the support we have had from all quarters of the Committee. I shall shortly accept the advice of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in view of the very important Amendments on the Order Paper still to be dealt with, and ask my hon. Friends now to come to a decision. It seems to me the right and proper thing to do. The debate has been worthwhile and it has elicited a number of points.
The first point was the admission that what the Government wanted was a blank cheque and what anyone who has pinched somebody else's chequebook wants is that somebody else shall honour it. This was an admission from the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) who has held high office in the party opposite. Then we had the admission of the Secretary of State for War. He made a point of some substance against me when he said that on Clause 1 he would be in grave administrative difficulty if he were called upon to present an Order 1635 to the House—because he would not have the time.
This is a final admission of failure on a Measure, the influence of which goes to every home in the country and every regiment in the British Isles. The Secretary of State for War says, "We have left this so long that I cannot even carry out for administrative reasons the undertakings which I gave on Second Reading. Therefore I cannot meet your arguments". It is a powerful argument against me, but it seems to me a tremendous admission of failure on the part of the Government.
Then, later, the right hon. Gentleman said, "On Clause 2 I shall be in difficulties if I am required to come to the House, perhaps in a state of emergency." It is not until 1963 that he even contemplates using these powers. Is he then saying that again in 1963 he will wait once more until after 12 o'clock before he takes action? That is the implication of what he says. He says in effect, "Because we know that the next step will be even more unpopular, like Mr. Micawber we shall hope that something will turn up and then we shall come along with a stopgap Measure and say that we cannot do anything but what we are now doing because we have left it too late." I hope that, for that reason if for no other, hon. Members opposite will join with us in going into the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
I wish to raise a point on the words "equivalent service" in the Clause. As I see it, the Bill means that men who are serving at present as National Service men, and some who have served as National Service men, will be compelled to serve for a further six months' period. On the face of it, it would appear that the total of their service will be 30 months, but already many National Service men have been in the Army for a period considerably exceeding the two years provided by law.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I have to apologise, Sir Gordon. I agree that I have not been in the Chamber during the whole of 1636 the debate. I came in at the first possible opportunity and I thought that we were debating Clause 1. I want to make quite clear that we should have a statement from the Secretary of State for War putting beyond shadow of doubt what is meant by "equivalent service".
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
With great respect, Sir Gordon, I am saying that part of the argument for suggesting that the whole of this matter should be taken on the Floor of the House is contained in Clause 1, and in that Clause the words "equivalent service" occur.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I thank my hon. and learned Friend and I hope, Sir Gordon, that I shall have the pleasure of being called by you on the next occasion.
§ The Chairman rose—
§ Mr. Mellish
Before we go further, Sir Gordon, I should like to go back to that relevant point which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) has just made. He made the fair point that there are some National Service men who have done more than two years' service and therefore it makes it all the more necessary that if under the Clause some of these boys are to be asked to serve a further six months the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) should be passed by the Committee to ensure that the injustice already done to some of these boys should not continue to be done for a further six months. This, therefore, adds weight to the argument that we should have the right in this Chamber to decide whether these people should be called up for an extra six months.
I should like to make an appeal to the Secretary of State. He was asked a question by the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) the answer to which would help us to complete discussion on the Bill and the various Amendments associated with it. Is it now agreed, by the 1637 Secretary of State that we are discussing selective conscription? Can we have some statement from the Minister? We shall get into an awful tangle later on if we cannot have that made clear as soon as maybe. It is relevant to the Amendment. Will the right hon. Gentleman answer?
§ The Chairman rose—
§ Mr. Mellish
With respect, Sir Gordon, all we are asking is that a certain Order when made shall be debated by the House. There is some disagreement on whether we are talking about a form of selective conscription or not. I say that we are. I join with the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. We are entitled to have this this point clarified. When we are debating matters in this Chamber we should be clear—
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Gentleman should confine himself to coloured workers, though he is not any good on that subject either. He should not talk about soldiers, although he would be the first to have coloured men in the Army.
Will the Minister now give an answer on what will be a very important matter? If he has any sense of the Committee he will answer. He had better ask the Leader of the House about this. He knows what happened yesterday and how tempers rose—
§ Mr. John Hall
Would not this point be better raise on the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill? The hon. Member might then have a better opportunity of pressing a matter in which both he and I are interested.
§ Mr. Mellish
That is the point. Discussion on Clause stand part is reached after all the proposed Amendments to
§ the Clause have been disposed of. If we are to have an intelligent discussion on the Amendments it is right that the point put by the noble Lord should be answered so that we know where we stand. There is nothing to stop the Secretary of State replying to the noble Lord. The trouble is that we have got to the point when we think that the Committee stage is like Second Reading, with one speech only for the Minister.
§ Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up this question about selective conscription? If we are to have this matter debated on the Floor of the House in Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman please now get up and tell us about selective conscription? It is monstrous that apparently he will not do so.
§ Viscount Lambton
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be fair to presume, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not say it, that we are discussing some form of selective conscription.
§ Mr. Profumo
Perhaps my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) was not here when I made my speech earlier. When he and the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) read HANSARD tomorrow they will see that there is no duplicity about this. I join with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in suggesting that we now decide on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Mellish
Is it selective conscription? Can we have an answer? Apparently not. Very well, there are other Amendments to come.
§ Question put, That "passing" stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 175, Noes 135.1641
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[8.21 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Black, Sir Cyril||Chataway, Christopher|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bossom, Clive||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Allason, James||Bourne-Arton, A.||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Cleaver, Leonard|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cole, Norman|
|Balniel, Lord||Brewis, John||Cooper, A. E.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Barter, John||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Cordle, John|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bryan, Paul||Corfield, F. V.|
|Bell, Ronald||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Costain, A. P.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony|
|Biffen, John||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Craddock, Sir Beresford|
|Bishop, F. P.||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Curran, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony||Ramsden, James|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kirk, Peter||Rawlinson, peter|
|Dance, James||Kitson, Timothy||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Deedes, W. F||Leather, E. H. C.||Rees, Hugh|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Renton, David|
|Doughty, Charles||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|du Cann, Edward||Lindsay, Martin||Roots, William|
|Duncan, Sir James||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Russell, Ronald|
|Elliot, Capt-Walter (Carshalton)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||St. Clair, M.|
|Elliott,R.W.(Nwcstle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Longbottom, Charles||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Loveys, Walter H.||Sharples, Richard|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Shaw, M.|
|Finlay, Graeme||MacArthur, Ian||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Gammans, Lady||Maddan, Martin||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||Maitland, Sir John||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Marshall, Douglas||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Talbot, John E.|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Green, Alan||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Grimson, Sir Robert||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S, L. C.||Taylor, F. (M'ch'ter & Moss Side)|
|Gurden, Harold||Mills, Stratton||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Nabarro, Gerald||Turner, Colin|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Neave, Airey||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Noble, Michael||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Harvey, John (Waithamstow, E.)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Walker, Peter|
|Hastings, Stephen||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Wells John (Maidstone)|
|Hendry, Forbes||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Whitelaw, William|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Partridge, E.|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||peel, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Percival, Ian||Wise, A. R.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pitman, Sir James||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Pitt, Miss Edith||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pott, Percivall||Woollam, John|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Prior, J. M. L.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|James, David||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Mr. Gordon Campbell and|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pym, Francis||Mr. McLaren.|
|Ainsley, William||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Gourlay, Harry||MacMillan, Malcolm(Western Isles)|
|Bence, Cyril||Grey, Charles||Mapp, Charles|
|Benson, Sir George||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Marsh, Richard|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Blyton, William||Grimond, J.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Boardman, H.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Millan, Bruce|
|Bowles, Frank||Hayman, F. H.||Milne, Edward J.|
|Boyden, James||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Holman, Percy||Monslow, Walter|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Holt, Arthur||Moody, A. S.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Houghton, Douglas||Morris, John|
|Collick, Percy||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Moyle, Arthur|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mulley, Frederick|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hunter, A. E.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oram, A. E.|
|Darling, George||Janner Sir Barnett||Padley, W. E.|
|Deer, George||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Paget, R. T.|
|Dempsey, James||Parker, John|
|Diamond, John||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Dodds, Norman||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Peart, Frederick|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pentland, Norman|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Kenyon, Clifford||Prentice, R. E.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Probert, Arthur|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||King, Dr. Horace||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Evans, Albert||Ledger, Ron||Randall, Harry|
|Fletcher, Eric||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Reid, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Loughlin, Charles||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Forman, J. C||McCann, John||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacColl, James||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|George,Lady Megan Lloyd(Crmrthn)||McInnes, James||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Ginsburg, David||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Ross, William|
|Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Swingler, Stephen||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Symonds, J. B.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Short, Edward||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Skeffington, Arthur||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Small, William||Thornton, Ernest||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wainwright, Edwin||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Warbey, William||Woof, Robert|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Weitzman, David||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Steele, Thomas||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Stones, William||Wigg, George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. Lawson.|
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, after "may" to insert:provided there is no person of similar qualifications available to be called out under section three of this Act".
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee also to discuss the Amendment in Clause 2, page 2, line 36, at end add:(4) No person shall be recalled under section two of this Act whilst there is a person of similar qualifications available to be called out under section three of this Act.However, that Amendment will not be called for a Division and any Division will take place only on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew).
§ Mr. Mayhew
We have had a most interesting and useful discussion on the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who is to be congratulated on moving an Amendment which apparently covered only a narrow issue but which enabled speeches which were interesting and comprehensive to be made.
We now turn to a more substantial Amendment which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept, although I admit that it profoundly changes the whole nature of the Bill. The Amendment raises the whole question of the relationship of different parts of the Bill to each other, and we shall ask the Minister for a good deal of clarification. The simple point is that the Minister should not have power to conscript men under Clause 1 or Clause 2 while volunteers of similar qualifications are available under the "Ever-ready" scheme in Clause 3. If the Minister means what he has said about preferring a voluntary system and hoping for success for the "Ever-ready" scheme, these are Amendments which he can accept. So far, however, his intentions about the 1642 "Ever-ready" scheme have not been altogether clear.
We know that he wants those affected by Clause 2 to be able to volunteer for the "Ever-ready" scheme. We know that he wants those National Service men on part-time service to be able to volunteer for the "Ever-ready" reserve. He said so on Second Reading. On the other hand, he prohibits those covered by Clause 1 from volunteering for the Emergency Reserve.
I would like the Committee to consider the implications of the fact that in certain circumstances the Minister would wish to conscript men under Clause I and Clause 2 even though similarly qualified men were available under Clause 3. That is the position he has to defend if he resists the Amendments. I ask hon. Members to imagine that the Emergency Reserve is a great success, the "Ever-ready" scheme is a great success and that volunteers come forward in considerable numbers. There is a big reserve of people qualified to volunteer for the new reserve. First, there are about 100,000 volunteer members of the Territorial Army. Under Clause 3, all of those can apply to become "Ever-readies." In addition, there are 200,000 part-time National Service men who can volunteer for the new reserve. In a year's time there will be fewer—the Minister says that about 100,000 National Service men will be able to volunteer—but today there are 300,000 possible volunteers. At the end of next year there will be 200,000 possible volunteers, and probably in the middle of the year about 250,000 possible volunteers.
Now suppose that the appeal for volunteers is successful. Surely, as we have argued already, it may make totally unnecessary the conscription of men either under Clause 1 or under Clause 2? Many of these volunteers will, after all, be equally. well trained. A high proportion of these volunteers under the "Ever-ready" scheme, both in the middle, and 1643 at the end, of next year will be at least as well trained as the men whom the Minister proposes to conscript under Clause 1 and Clause 2.
The Minister cannot say that his preference for conscription under Clause 1 and Clause 2 is based on the fact that these men are trained, because, on the assumptions that I am making a proportion of the "Ever-ready" volunteers will have lone their National Service and be equally well trained. Indeed, on my assumption a high proportion of these volunteers in the Reserve will be better qualified. They will have been selected under the provisions of the "Ever-ready" scheme from a number of volunteers, and for that reason we can assume that their standard as soldiers will, on the whole, be higher than the standard of those whom the Minister demands power to conscript under Clause 1 and Clause 2. Therefore, there are two solid reasons for preferring to take his men from the "Ever-ready" scheme voluntarily, instead of conscripting them.
Here are two further reasons for pressing the Minister to do this. First, because the men he will be accepting under the "Ever-ready" scheme, will not, by definition, be hardship cases. They will be volunteers, and we have been told by the Secretary of State for War that it is his aim to avoid as much as possible inevitable hardship involved in the application of this Bill. We shall be able to deal with this problem in a number of subsequent Amendments. I make this third point in favour of accepting these volunteers, that there will be no hardship involved, unlike in the case of conscripts.
Finally, we shall be able to get men through the "Ever-ready" scheme who will probably not be obsessed by a powerful and justifiable sense of grievance about the way they have been brought into the Army, because, as we on this side of the Committee have said time and again, one enormous disadvantage, or drawback, of Clause 1 and Clause 2 is that a small number of men who are retained in this way, or called back in this way, will, inevitably, have a powerful and well-justified sense of grievance, and a handful of these men in a unit of volunteers may make a great deal of difference.
1644 I speak from personal experience. During the war I had the experience of serving both in a completely voluntary unit and in an almost wholly conscript unit. There is undoubtedly a tremendous difference in spirit, particularly where a group of volunteer soldiers is mixed with a small nucleus of conscripts. That is a profoundly unhappy situation, and one which this Bill will greatly increase.
For these four reasons I ask the Minister to consider the advantages of taking men from the "Ever-ready" pool instead of taking them under Clause 1 or Clause 2. First, no hardship is involved. Secondly, because the men, being volunteers, have no sense of grievance. Thirdly, because he will be able to choose the National Service men of equally good training, and, fourthly, because they will be better qualified and of a higher standard than the men he proposes to conscript under Clause l and Clause 2.
I should have thought that that was a fairly self-evident fact, and all that our Amendment says is that while there are enough volunteers of similar qualifications the Minister shall not be allowed to conscript men under Clause 1 and Clause 2.
I should have thought that the Minister might find this acceptable. I cannot see any reason why he should not. He has often told us that he believes in the voluntary system, and he has talked in the same way as I am talking about the disadvantage of conscript soldiers. He has made elaborate speeches about his worries on the score of hardship, about which we shall press him later, and he has already said that he hopes to get enough Clause 2 conscript volunteers to avoid conscription.
I should like to quote his remarks on this point. In the Second Reading debate he said:It is possible that we shall never have to operate this second measure"—that is, the Clause 2 scheme—which is solely designed as an insurance against national need during the period of transition from conscription while the Regular Army will be at low strength. I have good reason for saying this, because of the provisions of Clause 3, which is designed to create a new form of volunteer Reserve within the Territorial Army."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1961; Vol. 650, c. 51.]1645 The "Ever-ready" scheme is a long term plan, and so far as the scheme meets with success it will obviously help to reduce the possible need to recall part-time National Service men, because this voluntary force would be called upon first. That is the Minister's position. We ask him to go a little further in a totally logical direction and to say that he will not conscript men when volunteers are available.
I am not sure what his objections are. In practice, he may say, "I shall not have in the 'Ever-ready' reserve men of similar qualifications." On the contrary, if the scheme is any success I think that he will have a large number of men with similar or better qualifications than he will get under Clauses 1 and 2. But if he does not get enough men with similar qualifications the Amendment in no way ties his hands. We are concerned only that he should be impelled to make sure that no volunteers are available first.
He may say that the training of the "Ever-ready" reserve will not be good enough. As I have already said, many will he National Service men, and will be well-trained. That does not mean that hon. Members on this side are satisfied with the training likely to be given to the volunteers in the "Ever-ready" scheme. We feel that there is a strong case for the Minister's looking into the possibility of special courses of training for volunteers in that scheme. But even as it is, on the assumptions that I am making there should be a sufficient number of former National Service men, part time—if the scheme works at all—to provide the men he needs.
He said that he will give priority to volunteers, and I accept that. He is going to give them priority over the Clause 2 men. But I want to tie him down a little. It is much easier for him to take a man under Clause 2 than under the "Ever-ready" scheme. To begin with, it is much cheaper. If he takes a man under Clause 2, all he has to pay him is a bounty of £20, but if he accepts a volunteer under the "Ever-ready" scheme the figure is £150 a year for the volunteer's making himself available, and a bounty of £50. There is a considerable financial inducement for the Government to conscript men under Clause 2—let alone under Clause 1, in 1646 respect of which there is no bounty—rather than to take volunteers under Clause 3.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Yes, getting the men on the cheap. They can get soldiers on the cheap if they conscript them under Clauses 1 and 2.
This suggests that the bounties given to men under Clauses 1 and 2 are wholly inadequate. There is a £20 bonus under Clause 2, and no bonus at all under Clause 1. One would have thought that a bonus at least equivalent to what the volunteer would get would be reasonable. Why should there not be a bonus of £125 both for the Clause 1 and Clause 2 conscripts, to correspond roughly with the emoluments given to volunteers under Clause 3.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall
Is that really quite fair? It seems to me that a National Service man who is retained in the Army under Clause 1 will immediately get an increase in his pay which will be made up to Regular rates. In itself that is some compensation and—
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "compensation"? It is not compensation.
§ Mr. Mayhew
As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), it is not compensation to be paid a higher wage for a job which one does not want to do.
Here the point is—this runs through a lot of what the Secretary of State has been telling us about the Bill—that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind that these men referred to in Clause 1 and, to some extent, in Clause 2, are already soldiers. The right hon. Gentleman thinks of them as already being his bodies. During the Second Reading debate when we talked about the procedure for appeal against this extra six months, the Minister said that they would continue with the old arrangements that were already in existence for 1647 compassionate release. There will be Amendments moved later on that point.
The Secretary of State has in mind that these are men who belong to him and that if they wish to be released on grounds of hardship, they should apply for a release, and they must apply in the ordinary way for compassionate release. That is a totally wrong way to look at it. These men are not the Secretary of State's bodies. They are men whom the Secretary of State will call up. They are not asking for release. The Secretary of State is asking to vary a contract so that they will serve another six months after a period of two years. To go on for another six months a man needs to be compensated much more than by the wages of a Regular soldier. He needs to be compensated for all the arrangements he has made in his private life; for the arrangements he has made in respect of a job; for the home life that will be lost and for not being in Britain when he wanted to be. Compensation for these men should go far beyond the amount of pay given to a Regular soldier. The Regular soldier volunteered for the job. These men did not volunteer and they deserve far better than is provided for the Regular soldier.
These men deserve far better treatment than the National Service man who stood his chance like everybody else and was conscripted at the right age like everybody else. But these men will have done their National Service. Already they will have served a longer period of National Service than anyone else in the Western countries and so they deserve more consideration than the Regular soldier or the National Service man.
§ Mr. John Hall
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether, when his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was responsible for getting back National Service men and Regulars to meet what was an acknowledged emergency, the right hon. Gentleman or the Socialist Government of the time gave to the National Service man the kind of bonus which the hon. Gentleman is talking about now? In fact, was their pay increased to Regular rates?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I cannot recall the precise arrangements made by my right 1648 hon. Friend, but I would certainly say that when the Secretary of State has produced a contract which admittedly is embodied on the Statute Book, for a period of two years, and then breaks the contract to make the period two-and-a-half years, contrary to the wishes of the man concerned, serious compensation should be paid to the man for that loss. I am certain that is right.
I have wandered a little from the point to which I was seeking a reply from the Minister, the simple point why he should conscript men against their will when similar volunteers are available to him? If we do not tie down the right hon. Gentleman by means of this Amendment he will attempt to do that because it is cheaper for him to conscript men under the provisions of Clauses 1 and 2 and also because it is more convenient. If we are to judge whether to retain a man or to call him up on the basis of his personal position and hardship it is a much more burdensome business administratively than simply to take the men required for military reasons.
The Minister said on Second Reading that he proposed that almost all the men in B.A.O.R. who would be affected should be retained under Clause 1 in April. This means that he will retain men under Clauses 1 and 2 not in accordance with their own personal individual positions. The right hon. Gentleman does not mind if they are married men with children, or if they are single, or if they have financial responsibilities. What matters to him is where they are posted. That is his criterion for the retention of these men.
We on this side say that we can mitigate the injustice of this Measure, bad as it is, by insisting that men are not retained if they have personal hardship grounds for exemption. This goes against the convenience of the War Office planners and of the Minister. It is easier and cheaper for him to conscript under Clauses 1 and 2. Therefore, we seek to tie his hands by the Amendment.
I do not know what the Minister's grounds will be for resisting the Amendment or even if he will resist it. I shall wait to hear what he proposes to do. I hope that he will not say, "I must keep my powers to conscript under Clause 2, 1649 because while I have powers to conscript under Clause 2 all the National Service men who may be affected will volunteer for the ' Ever-ready' scheme". There was a hint of that in his Second Reading speech. His argument is that he can persuade volunteers into the "Ever-ready" scheme by threatening them with conscription under Clause 2.
This is a funny kind of volunteering. It is a typical army volunteering. Hon. Members know the story—"I want volunteers for the cookhouse—you, you, and you". That is an old Army method of volunteering. Is the Minister insisting on his powers under Clause 2 with the fact in mind that this will encourage those who may be affected to volunteer instead under the "Ever-ready" scheme? The kind of volunteer he will then get for the "Ever-ready" scheme will not be a genuine volunteer. It will spoil the whole conception of the Reserve and he will be accepting as volunteers those who are being pressured by him to volunteer.
I hope that I have made the meaning of these Amendment clear to the Committee. I hope that my hon. Friends will support me in making this simple point clear to the Minister. If he believes in a voluntary system, this is his chance to show that he means it. He should simply say to the Committee, "I agree. If I can get these men by voluntary methods under the Reserve I will not conscript them under Clauses 1 and 2".
§ Sir F. Maclean
I have no doubt that, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, my right hon. Friend would accept the Amendment if he possibly could. I take this sign of kindred spirit as an indication of the unholy alliance which has always existed on all these questions between the two Front Benches. The trouble is that my righthon. Friend will not be able to manage simply on the men called up under Clause 3. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was optimistic. One thing which he did not make at all clear is what period he is thinking of. This situation will arise all too soon anyway when my right hon. Friend will be exclusively dependent on the "Ever-readies".
§ Mr. Mayhew
I see no reason why, if this scheme is to work, it should not be working by April or May of next year. 1650 The Minister has already said that he will not hold anyone back under Clause 1 and Clause 2 before April of next year.
§ Sir F. Maclean
After April of next year, the period for which he will be able to retain men in the army under Clause 1 will amount to a very few months and will not last long. Under Clause 2, he will be able to retain men until the summer of 1966, and after that, he will be entirely dependent on the "Ever-readies", which ought to suit the hon. Gentleman. It is a nice idea to have "Ever-readies", but even if volunteers come forward, and I am sure that we all hope they will, how much use are they likely to be?
At worst, the Army may well find itself dependent upon men who have had one fortnight's camp and a few evening drills, but what use is a man like that likely to be if he is sent for six months, which is a very short period, and has not time to get settled in? He is sent off by himself for a period of six months to a strange unit, because there is no question of these men going by units or sub-units. It will be a single man who has had one fortnight's camp and a few evening drills who is to be sent off to fill a gap in an existing unit. How much use is that likely to be?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that at the present time there is a large pool of men who have done their National Service and who are in effect trained soldiers already. One hopes that they will volunteer, but in 1966 my right hon. Friend will get very few indeed, and that is the period I am worried about.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
This Bill is an outrage against personal liberty. I believe that not a single conscript should be required to do the extra six months while there is a single "Ever-ready" available. This is an offence against our sense of fair play and justice. It is wrong for the Government to use compulsion when voluntary methods are available to them.
The Government are evidently unaware just how obnoxious this business is. This evening, there have been hon. Members who have defended general conscription, but I agree with the founder-father of the Labour Party—Keir Hardie—who said that conscription is the mark of the slave, and he was 1651 speaking about conscription in war time. How much more intolerable is conscription in peace time.
In some units at this moment, officers are explaining to their men who are likely to be retained, and the indignation and bitterness has been tremendous. I share these men's feelings. The Government say that they are terribly sorry for the National Service men whom they are having to call up for an extra six months, but, nevertheless, they are continuing with that calling up. What hypocrisy. It is like a gang of thugs who waylay an old age pensioner and say that they are terribly sorry for her, but they must take her purse. The Government are saying in the same way to the National Service man that they are terribly sorry for him, but they must take his manpower.
There are 430,000 in the Armed Forces. There has been too much talk of 165,000 and 180,000. The Army has a shrinking number compared with the other two Forces. The total at which the Government are aiming is 430,000 and they think they will get 410,000. If we cannot meet our commitments with 410,000 voluntary men plus the "Ever-readies", we shall have to cut our commitments. If it is asked where we should cut our commitments, the answer will be found in the Second Reading debate—in Hong Kong, Singapore and other parts of the world.
On Second Reading the Secretary of State said that he had had favourable discussions with the T.U.C. I suggest that although the T.U.C. may have said that it had no objection to the "Ever-readies" the T.U.C. gave no support at all to conscripting men for an extra six months. I should like to know from the Secretary of State exactly what the T.U.C. did view with favour.
If an individual person is unjustly fined or imprisoned there is a tremendous outcry, and rightly so, but here the Government are doing a great injustice, not to an individual, but to perhaps 15,000, 20,000 or 25,000 men. This is not a light matter. It is not like a £2 fine, yet we have had debates in this House over the unjust imposition of a £2 fine.
1652 Now we are to compel men to serve an extra six months, taking a large chunk out of their lives.
The defence made by the Minister has always been that of military necessity. I object to this Committee considering only military necessity. Are there not other necessities? Is there not the need of the young wife or mother to have her husband in the home to look after herself and her baby? Is there not a need for a young man to pursue his career without this gratuitous interference. Is there not need in industry for these men? I believe they would be doing a far better job there than in the Forces.
In my constituency I have had a number of cases of men who, because of hardship, have been granted release. I must pay tribute to the Under-Secretary in this respect. All those cases which come to me—and I am sure they come to other hon. Members—have been about National Service men. Volunteers, the Regulars, are less dissatisfied. They have thought these things over before they joined up, but for the poor National Service men this is where the injustice lies: they have no choice. It is unjust to them and not much good to the Army either.
The last batch of National Service men have had an extremely raw deal. It is a matter of whether they were born a week before or after a certain date. I understand that in all these cases a line has to be drawn somewhere, but it seemed to me that this last batch of men might be given a reduced period of service. Instead, the Government say that they are to have an increased period of service. This is indeed a double injustice.
Reverting to the point about interference with careers which will take place unless this Amendment is carried, I wish to read from a letter I received this week from a retired naval lieut.-commander. He writes:I wonder if you could mention the anxiety of the British Medical Association over the retention of doctors within the National Service? The Association contends that this is going to create hardship for these young doctors, of whom there is already a shortage. The doctors also wonder if the B.M.A. was consulted before the decision was reached to retain doctors in National Service.That is very relevant to the Amendment. If young doctors want to volunteer for 1653 the Army that is their business, but to conscript even one of them is utterly wrong when "Ever-readies" are available.
Although I once asked the Minister if a National Service man with a wife and child would be exempted, I received no reply. I know from my constituency experience in Salford that tens of thousands of National Service men who are now serving are married and, in many cases, have children. It is entirely wrong—and if the Secretary of State has any fairness in him he will realise that it is wrong—that in 1961, in peace time, a married man with young children should be forced to serve in the Armed Forces.
Some of these married men with children, I believe, are to be asked to serve an additional six months. Surely the least the Minister can do is to exempt them. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman is going to do so and I therefore hope that my hon. Friends will press the Amendment. Again I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary, because I know that where exceptional hardship can be proven, compassionate discharge is allowed. But there must be exceptional hardship in all these cases. Discharge should be granted without any further proof. There should, for example, be automatic discharge for any National Service man who has a wife and one or more children.
If that is right, how much stronger is the case for exempting them from a further six months' service? This brings me back to the Amendment, which says that there should be no call up of National Service men while "Ever-readies" are available. The number of married men with children in the last batch to be called up who may have to serve the extra six months will be higher than ever before, for many of these men had completed apprenticeships before going into National Service. Thousands of them will be 23 years old before leaving the Armed Forces. If these men are not to be automatically exempted I maintain that the only alternative is to say that no National Service man should have to serve an additional six months while a single "Ever-ready" is available.
§ Mr. Profumo
As this is a fairly narrow point we are discussing in these two Amendments it might be convenient if I intervene at this stage to express my view.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) put his finger on the point when he explained that if we made these changes—and if I accepted the Amendment—it would make a profound difference to the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) made a point on which I think I should elaborate, because a number of speeches have been made asking me to accept the Amendment in order to avoid special hardship being caused to those who might be held next year in the interests of keeping B.A.O.R. up to strength.
I must point out that, when a similar sort of thing happened under the Labour Government and a lot of National Service men had to be kept, there was no arrangement then for any sort of recompense in the form of a bounty, and in regard to those National Service men who were kept—there must have been many cases like this where there was hardship to be dealt with—there was no question of men coming forward and saying, "You must show why we should be kept on". Exactly the same procedure as we are thinking of now was adopted then, namely, that the hardship cases came up and were reviewed in exactly the same way as for any other person who was a National Service man. That is the way it worked then.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is a great difference in the type of conscription, the conscription proposed in his Bill, as compared with the extension of conscription at the time of the Korean war? At the time of which he is speaking there was general conscription. In this case, he is talking about selective conscription.
§ Mr. Profumo
The point I make is that hardship is hardship whether there is a war or not. The hardship cases 1655 were dealt with then in the way we propose on this occasion. We are not proposing to hold all the National Service men. We shall let out, on grounds of hardship, as many as we can.
There has been some attack on the ground that we ought to recompense these men whom we are keeping on by making some form of bounty. We are doing precisely the same as was done then.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The right hon. Gentleman has ignored the difference between the kind of hardship. There is hardship as a result of outside circumstances like the Korean war, for which the Government were not responsible, and hardship caused by the gross ineptitude of the present Government by the Bill.
§ Mr. Profumo
I think that you would object, Sir William, if I were to go over all the matters I referred to in my speech at the end of the four hours' debate we had on the previous Amendment when I pointed out quite clearly —the hon. Gentleman will read my speech if he was not, perhaps, able to be here at the time—the reasons why we have had to take powers under the Bill. I am anxious to keep this matter narrow. It ought not to be enlarged.
I turn now to the point at issue. The main objection to the first of these two Amendments is simply that the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve is intended—I have made this plain, too, and the hon. Gentleman stressed it himself —as a long-term concept. It is designed specifically to provide a voluntary force right from the start. Therefore, liability must, I submit, be a liability for a possibility, not a certainty. In other words, when somebody joins up in the "Ever-readies", the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, he takes his bounty and he takes his chance not of the certainty but of the possibility that he might have to be recalled for six months in the particular year for which he takes on. It would be a certainty if, the moment a man was enrolled as an "Ever-ready", he was immediately called up and swapped over for a National Service man serving at the time. That would be quite a different thing.
If the Government had decided to rely on what one might call a voluntary 1656 system of selective service, they would have gone about the Bill in a completely different way. The requirement is for men who are already trained, and we came to the conclusion that the best way of effecting what we needed was to retain men now actually serving. In the circumstances, for the purposes for which we want them, they must be better than any Territorial soldier recalled, however good he may be, because these other people are in their right categories, and many of them are serving in the B.A.O.R.. at the moment.
§ Mr. Mayhew rose—
§ Mr. Profumo
I do not want to detain the Committee. Everyone can speak again. I just want to make my case. I owe it to the Committee to do so, I think.
§ Mr. Mayhew
To make it perfectly clear, the Secretary of State is saying now that he proposes to accept as a volunteer in the "Ever-ready" scheme a National Service man who is trained and keep him there unused while he conscripts men under Clauses 1 and 2. That is quite clear, is it not? He will keep available in the "Ever-ready" scheme volunteers who are National Service men without calling them up and, at the same time, he will call up compulsorily under Clauses 1 and 2 people of similar qualifications.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Profumo
I would urge the hon. Gentleman to listen to the whole case. I know that he is very eager to make his point. If when I have finished he has any doubt about the matter, perhaps I can help him further.
The main objection to the first Amendment, which concerns the question of using the "Ever-readies" instead of the men we are retaining, not the recalled men, is that this is a voluntary force that we are seeking to create for the long term. Therefore, it must rest on a liability of a possibility of recall. It would be futile to start a voluntary reserve for people who at the moment that they joined would have to serve. That would be a completely different concept.
Another equally important point is this. The success of this new long-term concept depends, and must depend, very 1657 largely on the co-operation on both sides of industry, whatever we in Parliament do. It was in this context that I mentioned on Second Reading that we had discussions with the T.U.C. and with the representatives of the employers. They were favourable discussions and they were confidential discussions. We found that there was a general feeling of co-operation in trying to make the scheme a success.
In my view, if an employer is asked to accept the possibility of one of his employees being called up for six months during any one year of engagement, that is one matter. But if we ask him to accept the certainty that the moment that one of his employees has joined as an "Ever-ready" he is bound to be called up, because there is a National Service man being retained for whom he must be swapped, that is another matter. Employers will not agree to a form of voluntary service which means that some of their best men are paid £150 and immediately taken from them.
There are two distinct phases in this matter. Clause 1 deals with the retention, which has been done before and is not new, of a certain number of National Service men for a period. During that time, we intend to try to build up a new voluntary force, but it will be really voluntary, men volunteering against the possibility of being recalled later. In my opinion, from the point of view of the volunteers and the employers, we can get this force which we regard as a long-term necessity only if we do it in this way.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point, but, despite the explanation he has given to the Committee and presumably to the T.U.C., did the T.U.C. accept this extra six months' conscription?
§ Mr. Profumo
Talks of this sort must remain confidential. I am not prepared to disclose what was said in our discussions. I have told the Committee that they were favourable and that the discussions that we had were on the narrower issue of whether or not a system of "Ever-readies" could be made to work. I repeat what I have just said. It does not matter what we in this Chamber decide. Even if we decide to 1658 welcome it, it is the employers and trade unions who will make the scheme workable.
I should like to say a few words about the Second Amendment, and to deal with the question of not calling up anyone under Clause 2 if "Ever-readies" are available.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
I wonder if my right hon. Friend would clear up one point. If we want to make this volunteer force a success, it will be a considerable time before we get the right men properly trained for the reserve. Therefore, it would not be a substitute for calling up under Clause 1.
§ Mr. Profumo
The point has been made that some men who became "Ever-readies" might well have just stopped doing their National Service and could be regarded as pretty well trained. I see my hon. Friend's point. The main point is that we cannot build a force of this nature on a really voluntary basis if the moment a man is recruited to the "Ever-readies" he is put straight back into the Army. That is not the purpose of this new long-term reserve.
I made it plain on Second Reading that it would he the intention of the Government to call out Territorial Army Emergency Reservists before recalling National Service men under Clause 2. I have made it plain and will make it plain again, in spite of the hon. Member's attempt to suggest that we were trying to get the men we want on the cheap and, because it would be cheaper, we should call up the part-time National Service men liable under Clause 2.
If the hon. Member does a calculation, he will find that there is only about £30 difference. Once we have a Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, we are bound to pay the bounty of £150 a year whether or not we call up the men. We should, therefore, be committed to the £150 and we should not save it by calling up part-time National Service men. The difference in the gratuity would be between £20 in one case and £50 in the other. No Government would be skinflint to the extent of saying that although they paid those men £150 bounty, they would call up the other less well-trained men in order to save £30 per man. To do so would be ridiculous.
1659 I have made the point that we would call up the "Ever-readies" in preference to part-time National Service men. What I cannot do is to guarantee this. I do not want to make it a statutory obligation, because it could lead to inflexibility, and considerable difficulty might arise even by the use of the words "similar qualifications" in the Amendment. In circumstances such as would envisage who would say what were or were not "similar qualifications"? However much hon. Members might like to do something of that sort, I cannot put the legislation in jeopardy in that way.
I cannot take on a statutory obligation, but I give an absolute undertaking, which is bound to be carried out, because from the Government's point of view it is far better to call up the "Ever-readies", that we will call them in priority to anybody under Clause 2. I cannot, however, he hound by statutory obligations. I hope the Committee will understand concerning Clause 1 that it would make nonsense and would throttle this new Reserve at birth if the moment we enrolled the men in it, we were to call them up and put them into the Army instead of the retained National Service men.
For that reason, I am unable to accept the Amendments.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
In trying to defend his policy, the Secretary of State for War has reminded me forcibly of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor has tried to institute a wage pause and has promised something that he will not institute in the future—that is, that he will do something about profits and dividends.
The Secretary of State for War has made it clear that he intends to extend the period of those now undergoing National Service. He has been so nebulous about those in the "Ever-ready" brigade under Clause 3 that one becomes suspicious whether they will ever be called at all. The Secretary of State said he would promise the House that he would call those under Clause 2 before those whom we call the "Ever-ready" brigade. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am sorry if my interpretation is wrong—
§ Mr. Profumo
It is not a wrong interpretation. It is the very reverse. I have given an undertaking twice—this is the third time—that we would call in priority the "Ever-readies" before we called any part-time National Service men under Clause 2. That is the very reverse of what the hon. Member is saying.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
In other words, before calling back to the Colours the National Service men—the ones who have served—under Clause 2, the Secretary of State will call up the "Ever-readies". Why cannot he give the opportunity to the ex-National Service man to join the "Ever-ready" brigade? A man who has already had his training might wish to volunteer for service under the conditions for the "Ever-ready" brigade. I want an assurance from the Minister that he will allow this. So far, we understand he is prohibiting these men from joining that brigade.
§ Mr. Profumo indicated dissent.
§ Mr. John Hall
I am sorry to interrupt, but the hon. Member seems to be a little confused about this. I have understood right from the beginning that the Secretary of State will do all he can to encourage National Service men to join the "Ever-Readies". There is no prohibition of that to my knowledge, unless my right hon. Friend says something to the contrary.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Now that I have that clear in my mind, I submit to the Secretary of State that it will be better to use the reserve of the "Ever-Readies" than those who are at present doing National Service. I submit it because, with the application of Clause 1, we shall have a very limited extension of conscription, especially when the concessions under the hardship Clauses are taken into account. Therefore, we shall have serving a longer period in the Army people who have a growing sense of dissatisfaction. I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that those who are in the Army at the moment are those National Service men who were the last to be called to the service, perhaps because time and circumstances were against them at that moment.
1661 They resented the fact that they had to go and that some others were not called to the Colours. All kinds of prevention happened whereby a man cannot be called under Clause 2 of the Bill and will not serve under Clause 1, yet a man with equal claims to exemption from National Service on hardship ground may be serving at the moment.
I should like to give one or two illustrations. Just before the final intake of men into National Service a man asked me how he could avoid it. I pointed to the hardship tribunal. I do not believe that if he had gone before that tribunal he would have suceeded in his claim to periodic exemption. I believe that the tribunal would have said, "You ought to go into the Forces now. Your case of hardship is not fully justified." But before he reached the hardship tribunal the intake was stopped. Yet a man older than himself with more responsibilities had already gone into the Forces and is still there and under Clause 1, will be called upon to serve an extra six months.
I should like to illustrate this argument by quoting the case of a famous personality in this country, Cliff Richard, who was one month short of being called to the Forces.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
There is no doubt that we shall have to deal with the principle of further education for Members of Parliament before very long. Cliff Richard is a very famous "pop" singer.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Cliff Richard is just over 21 years of age. I would say, subject to physical fitness, that in the normal circumstances of conscription he would be serving in the Colours today. He was a month too young to be called up, but a man who was a month older and who was called up can serve more than two years plus anything that may now be imposed upon him by the Secretary of State.
The fact is that two years is not the maximum which is now being served. Many National Service men are already 1662 serving for longer. Many of those brought home from the Far East do not get back to this country until their two years' service has been exceeded. When the period of leave is added to their service, it works out at almost two years and two months. Now, on top of that, these men are to serve an extra six months.
The Secretary of State is trying to secure through National Service men what he has failed to get by an intake of Regulars. He may think that this is creditable, but it will cause a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the men in the Forces who feel that they have been discriminated against and that they are getting a raw deal. Indeed, they feel that the Secretary of State has broken faith with them after the promises which were made. It is because of that that I support the Amendment.
If the Secretary of State can get an "Ever-ready" brigade by voluntary means, it will be far better to have in it the type of man who has already had his training as a National Service man or as a Regular. It would be far better to have such men in the Forces than the remains of the National Service scheme, with dissatisfied men having to stay on, feeling aggrieved in spite of the fact that their pay has been raised to the level of the Regular soldier's.
Most of these men now in the Forces are 21 years of age and over, and in ordinary civil life would be receiving, in many cases, a journeyman's rate of pay. There are men now receiving the ordinary infantryman's rate who, if they came back to my constituency to work in a steel factory, would be getting £20 or £25 a week. Yet the Secretary of State is asking such men to sacrifice, at a cheap rate, the heritage they have worked for.
The Government are making a big mistake, which is the result of their inefficiency and inability either to read the signs of the times or to prepare adequate defence of this country. Because they have failed they want to thrust the responsibility upon Parliament by this Bill—responsibility for what is, in peace time, a system that can only be likened to the slave labour of times gone by.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I listened carefully to the speech 1663 of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War and that of the hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) in an endeavour to discover whether there was a substantial answer to the Amendment. I am bound to say that I failed to see even an outline of one. The right hon. Gentleman invited us to think that we had disregarded what he described as the long-term concept of the "Ever-readies". I do not think that any disregard of that kind is implicit in the Amendment.
What is fundamental to the concept of the "Ever-readies" is surely the fact that they are to be a voluntary force and that they become "Ever-readies" by entering voluntarily into written agreements. It is not the fact that they do not know when they are to be called up that makes them "Ever-readies". That is not the basic characteristic of the force. The basic characteristic of the force is that its members are volunteers. There is nothing in the Amendment which runs counter to that.
There was the same fault in the reasoning of the hon. and gallant Member. He suggested that hon. Members on this side of the Committee were overoptimistic in their expectation of the numbers of "Ever-readies" who would be forthcoming and over-confident about the times at which they would be forthcoming. That again does not seem to answer the arguments which we have presented.
After all, what the Amendment is is a logical conclusion of a proposition which, I would have thought, all hon. Members could agree was perfectly reasonable, namely, that the number of men who are to be retained under Clause 1 should be affected, at least in some measure, by the number of volunteers available under Clause 3. That is what we are asking for. It is true that our Amendment carries it to its logical conclusion, but that is what we are asking for.
Of course it is an inflexible proposal, and an unsatisfactory proposal because it is inflexible, that the number of men to be retained under Clause 1 may not be affected by the number of volunteers coming forward under Clause 3. The 1664 Committee is entitled to expect and ask for a much more thorough and complete answer to the arguments which have been presented than it has hitherto received.
What strikes me about the proposal in Clause 1 is that it will be generally agreed by all hon. Members that the retention of men under Clause 1 may and in many instances will cause considerable hardship. Everyone recognises that there is an arbitrary element in the selection of men under Clause 1. The matter was very clearly put by my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) who pointed out that these men coming at the end of National Service, who might have expected to receive somewhat less severe treatment than their predecessors, are being called upon to give longer service than they did
Earlier this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) adumbrated the hardship which is occurring in cases of men who have put in applications for compassionate release. Although it is recognised that these cases are often generously treated by the War Office, in certain cases the applications may have been turned down because the War Office felt, not wholly unreasonably, that because the man did not have much longer to serve, the hardship could not be regarded as so severe as to come within the expression "exceptional hardship".
For a man who has had his application for release perhaps rather narrowly rejected because of considerations of that kind to be retained for the additional six months is, of course, a very considerable hardship indeed.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. In my view there factors make it very clear that hardship is involved, and I think that this is generally recognised.
That being so, it is clearly desirable, on the assumption that additional forces are needed, that they should if possible 1665 be taken from elements who want to serve and not from elements which may include the cases of greater hardship to which I have referred.
Our Amendment seeks merely to make the machinery proposed under the Bill less inflexible. It is an endeavour to ensure that the number of men to be retained under Clause 1 will be more explicitly affected by the number of "Ever-readies" available under Clause 3. To us on this side of the Committee this seems a difficult proposition to answer.
At an earlier stage the Committee rejected an Amendment which aimed at interpolating an Order by way of Statutory Instrument between the coming into force of this Bill and the exercise of the powers contained in it. The fact that the Committee has rejected the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) makes it the more desirable that it should take this opportunity of spelling into the Bill a degree of flexibility which it lacks at the moment.
The more we are deprived, after this Bill has become law, of the opportunity in the course of debates on Orders and things of that kind of raising matters, the more desirable it is to take the opportunity now to spell into the Bill a degree of flexibility, and to ensure, as the Amendment seeks to do, that as a matter of Statute Law the number of men to be retained under Clause 1 shall necessarily be affected by the number of volunteers coming forward under Clause 3.
That is what the Amendment asks for, and it is no answer to say, as has been said, that that point of view disregards the character of the proposed voluntary reserve. That is not so. In fact, far from that being so the foundation of this Amendment is the fact that the proposed Clause 3 reserve is a voluntary one, and we desire that relatively greater claims should be made on that element than on the element referred to in Clause 1, where a considerable number of cases of hardship may be expected to be found.
§ 9.45 p.m.1666
§ Mr. Willis
I apologise again for not knowing that he is still living. I want to make one or two points before I deal with the reply of the Secretary of State. First, I want to deal with the interjection of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), that the Bill treats National Service men who are to be retained for more than two years more generously than the Labour Government did.
§ Mr. John Hall
My point was that, so far as my recollection goes, when the Socialist Government had to hold back National Service men to meet an emergency they did not give them the amount of bonus which the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) was urging the Government to give in this case.
§ Mr. Willis
I thought that I was making another point made by the hon. Member, which arose as a result of the proposal made by my hon. Friend that the bonus should be given. All I wanted to say about that was that conditions are now quite different from what they were in 1950. We happened to be at war in 1950. I suggest that even if the Labour Government were wrong in what they did at the time that is no reason why we should not try to do the right thing now.
§ Mr. Hale
This is the only subject in this debate upon which I can speak with expertise. I joined the Army in 1939, when we had a Conservative Government. My pay was 14s. a week, less 7s. deducted for the missus, less 1s. in case I got into debt, and an allowance of 4s. a week for my first child and 3s. for my second. I can give the precise figures which the Conservative Government paid to the Army when war broke out in 1939, after an election in which they had pledged support for the League of Nations and for the preservation of peace.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. It is quite flattering to the Labour Government for the Tories always to compare what they are now doing with what the Labour Government did. We are glad that the Tories think that what we did was so good that it should form a standard by which to test the activities of the Tories. But even I do not go as far as to say that 1667 what the Labour Government did was as wonderful as all that. I am prepared to support them, but I do not think that what they did was perfect. All I want to say is that whether it was good or bad, right or wrong. we are now considering this proposal, and our job is to ask ourselves whether, in the circumstances of today, what is being done by the Government is right. We are not being asked to judge what the Labour Government did earlier.
§ Mr. John Hall
The only reason for my intervention was that it is possible to judge the value of the utterances made today from the benches opposite against the standards of past occasions.
§ Mr. Willis
The man whose ideas never develop over a period of ten years is not a man at all. He does not think. We happen to be rather different.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) did not answer the case made by my hon. Friend. He said, first, that we might not have a sufficient number of "Ever-readies" to fill the gap that at present exists and, secondly, that they might not be trained. Both points are covered by the Amendment. It is a proviso. It says:provided there is no person of similar qualifications…".In other words, if there were not enough "Ever-readies" we would take men under Clause 1.
I now turn to the case made by the Secretary of State against the Amendment. I will adhere strictly to the case made. In the first place, his case was that he was willing to give a solemn undertaking that what we are asking him to do in connection with Clause 2, he would do; but he could not put it into the Bill. I do not wish to question the integrity of the right hon. Gentleman, but I must point out that his most solemn undertaking means nothing unless it is incorporated in the Bill. Any Secretary of State taking office after the right hon. Gentleman would be able to do as he wished. I suggest that a test of his solemn pledge would be for the right hon. Gentleman to try to find words to incorporate into Clause 2 the principle which we are advocating.
With regard to Clause I the argument of the right hon. Gentleman against the 1668 use of the "Ever-readies" in place of retaining the National Service man for an extra six months was that he was trying to build up a Territorial emergency reserve which was a long-term concept. He said it was impossible to build this if there was a certainty that the men might be called up. He could build it up only if there were simply a possibility that they might be called up. To me this seems a rather strange argument. Who is to determine what is a certainty or a possibility? Surely the difference between these two concepts depends on the international situation at a given moment and this might well change within a period of three or six months. I could not follow the logic of that argument.
Nor could I follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that it was quite wrong to be able to expect to build up a force if the people joining did so in the knowledge and certainty that they had to do six months in the Service. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that a man who is to volunteer under the provisions of Clause 3 will get a gratuity or payment of £150 a year. If he is called up for six months he gets that on top of his pay. I can easily visualise that a man might be tempted to do six months' service if, in addition to the fuller rates of pay, he could get £150 for that service. That amounts to something like £6 a week over and above his Regular soldier's pay. Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest, or does the Under-Secretary suggest, that some men will not be prepared to join if they can get £6 a week extra? I suggest that a number of men might be attracted by an additional £6 over and above, not the pay of a National Service man, but that of a Regular soldier.
§ Mr. Willis
This becomes a handsome inducement to people to join.
I found it difficult to follow the other point which the Minister made. He argued that if a man did join and was called up at once we could not expect his employer to co-operate. Either the Secretary of State for War expects that the man would not join because he might have to do six months' service, 1669 and therefore he regards that as a disincentive, or he looks at it as an incentive. If it be a disincentive, the problem regarding the employer does not arise. What was the position adopted by the Secretary of State? Which horse was he trying to ride?
§ Mr. Willis
My hon. Friend says "both". The late Jimmy Maxton told us at one time that a man had to be able to ride two horses to be in this circus. I do not know which argument the right hon. Gentleman backed. Both arguments seemed to be fallacious, because in connection with the argument about the employer if the international situation worsened—and only today the Prime Minister told us that it was critical—the employer would lose the man. How can an employer be given the certainty that this situation will not worsen next year? I do not know, and I do not think that the Under-Secretary does.
The right hon. Gentleman's arguments are difficult to accept. They apply mainly to Clause 1 and not to Clause 2. As they are difficult to accept, the principle advocated in the Amendment is still a sound one, namely that if people can be obtained voluntarily they should be used in preference to conscripts. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made a very good case based on four sound arguments, none of which was answered. Before we vote on this Amendment, as I hope that we shall, I want to hear the Government's answer to my hon. Friend's speech. I also want an answer to the points I have raised.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn
This argument falls into two compartments—first, the immediate necessity of calling up men, and, secondly, the very long-term view of forming an efficient good reserve. In order to form such a reserve, a reasonable amount of time must be allowed so that the men can be properly selected. It is no good trying to get together a scratch reserve in a short time. This is a long process. With the best will in the world, my right hon. Friend will not be able to get this reserve in working order for at least six months. In the meantime, it is obvious that men must be retained under Clause 1.
Consultations have already taken place and both unions and employers are 1670 agreeable to co-operating with the reserve, which has a possible liability but not a certainty. In six months or a year's time we shall have a very efficient and reliable reserve, but we should not have it if we tried to get it working immediately.
§ Mr. Hale
I did not want to intervene in this discussion, and, indeed, I have no intention of doing so, except to the extent of asking one question which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) put forcibly but which has not yet been replied to. Another reason is that I see that the Secretary of State for War has. returned.
I want to place on record the fact that, although I always listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Bright-side (Mr. Winterbottom), my former constituent, with respectful attention, and nearly always with agreement, I do not think that his argument about the hardship to higher paid workers was the sort of argument which should be advanced. I have always taken the view that, on the whole, we are here to protect the poor and the weak rather than the rich and the strong, whether they are workers or whether they are not.
I recall that when I was stationed at Norton-on-Tees during the war and when my income was insufficient to buy beer of the strength which was then being brewed for puddlers at the price at which it was being brewed, a puddler stood me a pint and told me that we were to land at Cherbourg and knock Hitler off the map. I invited him to go further and tell me whether he was going to do it or whether I was. I gather that he got me designated for the purpose. Not for the first time I was afflicted with a sense of my own unsuitability for tests for which I was designated.
I want to put what is surely a question which may be put to the Secretary of State. He used this observation—I hope I am quoting him from memory correctly—"I cannot be bound by a statutory definition".
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.