HL Deb 12 December 1944 vol 134 cc244-81

2.13 p.m.

LORD NATHAN rose to call attention to the Government White Papers on reallocation of man-power between the Armed Forces and civilian employment and between civilian employments, Cmd. 6548 and Cmd. 6568; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Motion is on a subject of great intricacy and importance, no less a subject than demobilization. The two White Papers—one on the release of military man-power and the other on the release of civilian man-power after the war against Germany—are documents which, in the view I submit, deserve all our commendations. In both their principles and their practical details they are appropriate to the enormous task which they contemplate. What is that task? It is no less than the orderly redistribution with due attention both to national necessity and individual equity of 20,000,000 men and women. It is to bring back to their homes and to their peace-time avocations the marshalled citizens of this country, whose magnificent war effort is now known the world over, for the first time, through the historic White Paper published the other day.

The two White Papers to which reference is made in the Motion are designed to satisfy both the needs and the wants of the citizens in the Armed Forces and in industry who are to be demobilized, and to satisfy the needs and the wants of the community at large, including those of the continuing war against Japan by the same broad strategy of mobilization and by the same precise and personal tactics as alone have made the unique war effort possible. I come to praise these White Papers, not to criticize them. Mostly I come to seek information about the way in which they will work, about the way in which they will affect men and women, for after all this is not a matter of mechanics, or engineering or scientific economics; it is a human problem, and it is as a human problem that we must regard it. As one looks back through the past five arduous years, one cannot but recognize that the first cause and the essential condition of this magnificent British war effort has been the orderly mobilization of man-power. The second cause and an equally essential condition has been the willingness of manpower to be mobilized; and the same will be true of the peace effort after the defeat of Germany. Man-power and its orderly use in the right place will provide the key.

The two White Papers on release and re-allocation do not indeed add up to a programme of demobilization, but rightly and properly and necessarily, to one of re-mobilization. Mobilization in the war has worked and has been accepted. The questions to ask about remobilization are, will it work and will it be acceptable? Release and remobilization are both parts of the same plan—the reshuffling of the national man-power by the same means as war-time mobilization but with two objectives opposite to those of war-time—first to get people home, and second to get people on to peace-time work. Both these White Papers are based, and rightly based in principle, as far as possible on age and length of service. Those who have been longest away and those who are oldest are to come back home first. In principle release has been accepted by the troops; in practice the test of their acceptance has yet to come. The plan of demobilization in 1918 did not break down simply because it was thought to be unduly discriminatory; it broke down because it was too slow. The revised 1919 plan of Mr. Churchill worked not simply because it was based on age and length of service; it worked because it was quick, and quickness is the crucial factor in demobilization for beyond a point armies always tend to demobilize themselves. I would say, as a word of advice, that to work and to be acceptable in the event, release, when once it starts, must be extremely rapid in every case where active service has ceased. In other words, it must be demobilization. If I may adapt a quotation one might say, "They joined to serve but not to stand and wait."

With that word of advice to those upon whom the responsibility will fall of operating the plans for demobilization, I should like to address a word of warning to the troops themselves and to those who will anxiously await their homecoming. It would be a mistake to think that as soon as the "Cease fire" against Germany is sounded release immediately will become effective. It cannot be so in the nature of the case. Particularly it cannot be so because it is implicit in this scheme that not only shall the age-service formula work equitably in itself, but that as far as possible there shall be no unevenness as between those coming within each separate age-service group. That means that all in a particular age-service group must be got to the dispersal centres in England at about the same time. It follows that those stationed at home, those stationed nearest home, must be content to wait until those in the same age-service group furthest away, let us say in Burma, can get back. That might take three or four months, so that the first actual release can scarcely be expected for three or four months after the end of hostilities. When once the scheme has got going it is essential that it should go with a swing, and there is no reason why it should not do so.

A good deal of attention has been given in public discussion and in private to the question of special consideration for those on foreign service, not only by pay and leave, but by being able to get back more quickly than those who have been serving at home, or have been able more or less readily to get back from time to time to their homes on leave. Of course all one's sympathy is with that point of view. I see the difficulties and that to give priority might mean an undue depletion of experienced men in the fighting line, but if a scheme, perhaps by giving some weightage in the age-service groups, can be satisfactorily evolved, it would answer the deep-seated sentiment held not amongst the troops themselves alone but also amongst the public at large. Perhaps consideration can be given to that.

I now turn to the question of the prewar volunteer. The Territorial Army was shabbily treated in the last war, and certainly no better in this. The shabbiness of the treatment in the last war had a very damaging effect in connexion with the obtaining of recruits for the Territorial Army between the two wars. Even with a measure of peace-time conscription, which I envisage, we may very likely —I would almost say shall quite definitely —want volunteers again in order to maintain our post-war Army available for the purposes of Dumbarton Oaks, and volunteers, with the treatment that they have received in two wars, have had anything but encouragement. And yet without volunteers it is difficult to see how our Armies can be brought up to strength and replenished. I ask, therefore, as a matter of public policy as well as of justice, that there should be a weightage in favour of Territorials so as to put them automatically in a priority class.

After all, every Territorial has been on active service for at least the full length of the war. Many indeed have served longer. I am not aware how generally it is known but it is the fact that at the time of Munich, September, 1938, large numbers of Territorials, at least of the antiaircraft defences of London, were mobilized. While everybody else continued their life and work in the ordinary way, these Territorials, on the instant had to put down their tools, close their desks, pack their kits, say their good-byes and take up their war stations. The same thing happened again in June, 1939. The men of the anti-aircraft units were called out and deployed long before the generality of the Army. I mention these facts because they seem to me to point the solution to the problem which I feel must be met, and the solution I suggest is to add a period—I think perhaps a year would be logical because of that deployment in September, 1938–to the length of service of all Territorials. However, I am not so much concerned with the quantum of recognition as to establish the claim to recognition of some kind.

I now want to draw attention to a point which interests me a great deal. It is rather a subtle one, and I did not find it out myself. It was brought to my attention by troops themselves, not in one instance but in a number of instances, and it seems to me, having looked into it, to he one of some substance. It arises out of the White Papers themselves and immediately out of a quite admirable pamphlet published by A.B.C.A. and issued to the troops under the title, The Way to go Home. That pamphlet sets out the scheme clearly and understandably. It has inserted in it a table which should enable every soldier to know in what group his age and service bring him. The scheme provides that in addition to the general releases under Class A there shall be individual priority releases under Class B—builders for instance have been mentioned in particular. Those released under Class A go on to Army Reserve Z. That implies that they will not be liable to recall unless there is a general recall. So posting to this Reserve Z really amounts to little less than actual demobilization. Those who accept an earlier release under Class B, which is quite voluntary—it is open to anyone to elect to wait until his age group comes along—are, posted to Army Reserve W. That means that they are liable, at any time, to personal recall as individuals. It is quite reasonable that any individual who is given priority in release for the purpose of undertaking essential work should be under the sanction of this possible individual recall.

But there is a curious gap in this scheme. Nowhere does it provide how a Class B man is at any future date to come out of Reserve W and on to Reserve Z, and so long as he remains on Reserve W he is liable to indefinite recall. Indeed the terms of the pamphlet in this connexion are quoted from the White Paper. This is what it says: Once a man has been transferred to industry in Class B he will not subsequently be eligible for Class A. Thus he not only loses the right of release when his age-service group comes along, but there is no provision in the scheme for his ever being released out of Reserve W at all. This curious omission has been brought to my attention by the troops themselves in a number of cases. I was rather surprised that it should be, for, at first, it seemed to me to be rather an obscure point. I now see that it is important. It must be remembered that the Army has a gentle cynicism about the War Office, and a long established and ineradicable tendency to look with the keenest suspicion on everything which is put forward as granting a concession.

Having looked at this matter from all angles, the troops have come to the conclusion that there is a catch about Class B and, so far as I can see, the troops are right, in the sense that there is a gap which needs to be made good. I imagine that it was an oversight in drafting; but the keen and suspicious eye of the soldier has detected that there is this lacuna. Therefore, I leave it to my noble friend the Minister for him to sec that the earliest opportunity is taken for making this good, and of notifying the troops that it has been made good. It is a matter of importance I suggest, because if it is not made good there may well be no applicants for Class B, and Class B releases are essential to reconstruction. Before I leave that branch of what I wish to say let me add, parenthetically, that I do hope that Class A releases will be started well on their way before Class B releases begin, otherwise there may be some feeling of discrimination and injustice if individuals are released before the general mass.

There is another point, which has been brought to my attention by an airman who writes to me from North Africa. During the war there have, of course, been a number of instances where men have been released from the Forces, either at their own suggestion or on the initiative of a Department, in order to undertake special work in civil life. When that par- ticular job comes to an end they are returned to the Forces. My attention has been drawn to the fact that when these men were released temporarily they were given a release certificate which stated: Your period of release will count as service towards your current engagement, but will not count as qualifying service for award of progressive pay, good-conduct badges, pension, or gratuity. In fact, however, the White Paper states that only paid service in the Forces will count for the purposes of release and demobilization, and, as my correspondent writes to me: This is an obvious contradiction which has been overlooked in framing the White Paper. I was one of those released, and was quite willing to accept the monetary restrictions, but did not expect that this service would not be allowed to count. On the facts before me, and as I have presented them, this would seem to be a legitimate grievance. Perhaps the matter may be looked into, for it is most important that any undertaking given by the War Office or by the Ministry of Labour, such as I have quoted, should be strictly implemented. It is vital to maintain the confidence of the troops in the fulfilment of undertakings given to them.

I now turn to the second part of this great scheme, that relating to re-allocation. I would apply to that the same criteria as to release. It will be acceptable if it works quickly. It promises, in general, work nearer home, and complete release for many in the movement from redundant war jobs to current peace-time work. Married women and women with responsibilities will go at once; so will elderly men and elderly women. Then the long-service workers first, and others afterwards, will be moved homewards or nearer home as their present essential jobs taper off. The principles of the process are absolutely right—to restore family life and restart national peace industry pari passu; but in practice it must inevittably be a piecemeal process, dependent upon the rate at which industry slows down and on the places where it slows down first. That must be so. Of five shell factories in five different places, which are you going to close down first? It is important to know, for it affects each of the workers concerned. Some way ought to be examined of applying age and length of service to all workers, as they are applied to those in the Forces. They should not be left with their release entirely dependent on this or that factory becoming redundant fortuitously, for hope deferred will make the heart sick and tempers short, and the industrial army too will tend in the end to demobilize itself.

Release and re-allocation must, of course, be as far as possible even-handed between individuals, and will have in effect to become demobilization as fast as possible. They are absolutely necessary for the transition, but the transition must not be indefinitely long. It must not be too dependent on to-day's catch-phrase, "as opportunity serves," otherwise the whole scheme will collapse, for its only real basis is consent. The same point emerges if release and re-allocation are regarded from the view-point not of soldiers and of workers but of industry. The only special releases are for building, and, though there will still be some deferment, the calling-up of the young men is to continue. But industry wants its workers as peace-time work returns. The purpose of re-allocation is precisely to provide them as required, while keeping up, of course, output for the war in the Far East. If the right labour is forthcoming for the right jobs at the right place and at the right time, well and good; if not, there will be a clamour for special releases and special allocations. Consent will go, and the scheme will crack. There is a pull as well as a push; there is the hunger of industry for labour as well as the disposition of troops and workers and their families to rush home.

Moreover, there must be homes to go home to. There must be not only houses but furniture and furnishings. The troops who come home have for a period of years had "all found." They are well acquainted with danger and death. They know the appalling discomfort of the front line. What they are not acquainted with and what they do not know are the shabby discomforts of civilian shortages. Rightly they look for their reward and their recompense in home comforts. The homes and the home comforts must be forthcoming. What does that mean, really? It means not only the carrying through with all speed of what the noble Lord opposite has called "the military operation of house-building" (and if the houses are not built it will wreck reconstruction and wreck the Gov- ernment), but also equipping and staffing the factories which are to make furniture and furnishings and clothing. It means doing this forthwith, as military necessity allows. It means this work being given something like Ai priority. There are no stocks of furniture, furnishings, household textiles and clothing, and very little of household utensils. There will be no home to come back to unless we can build these up. This is a matter of the most urgent necessity. These are the most vital conditions of workable and acceptable release and re-allocation. They are the condition of social security for the future.

Finally, it would be fatal to pretend that this scheme can be symmetrical. For military and geographical reasons there will inevitably be anomalies both in the release of troops and in the reallocation of workers. There must be some discrimination, but it is right to reduce discrimination to a minimum. That is why only builders come into Class B. Mr. Bevin very properly wants no room for "wangling." He wants a scheme which he can explain as fair to ordinary people in the Forces and outside. That is most right and praiseworthy. But there are national needs which are basic if these schemes are to work—that is, if reconstruction is to work. There is not only housing but, as I have said, there are furniture and furnishing and clothing. These are necessities for the men themselves.

But what about the key men? To free key men as a class will, of course, invite abuse, but there are real key men, men who are indispensable to industry and therefore indispensable to the men themselves. Moreover, there are students and teachers. Three generations of education will have been destroyed. This is an interest of every parent and of every democrat. It is not difficult to explain the national interest and the equity of releasing or deferring students and teachers. The Minister of Labour has fully recognized that the arts courses are vastly important and should be resumed. We must get the universities into their swing again as soon as possible. Those already at the universities holding scholarships and whose university careers were cut short by the call-up should be released back to the universities under Reserve W; and, to preserve the balance at the universities, those who may win scholarships from school should have their call-up indefinitely deferred.

The universities need for their effective working not only second and third-year men, but first-year men too. Perhaps students and teachers could be brought within the terms of "compassionate releases." If so, they should be, for it is a most perilous waste of national resources and a grave threat to the national future to continue indefinitely the retaining and the fresh call-up of men with broken studies. It threatens to destroy national education. It is only one instance of the danger that the Education Act will be made a dead letter for lack of teachers. That will be a tragedy for all. Unless some means can be found to release teachers and students and replenish the universities, when in the future—the not too distant future—the nation looks for the educated and experienced men and women who will more than ever be needed to take managerial posts in public administration and private business, they just will not be there. I make the strongest plea for a revision of the strictness of rectitude which has led to this decision and, through it, to a capital sentence upon our democratic heritage of education. The comments, the criticisms, the suggestions which I have made are designed to be within the framework of a tribute to the broad, humane, and realistic grasp of the Minister of Labour and to the expert understanding of those who in their several degrees have had a hand in the preparation of this scheme in all the Departments concerned. I beg to move for Papers.

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, if after five years' obligatory absence from your Lordships' debates I may say one personal word of reintroduction, I have myself, only in the still very recent past, been released from the Army, and in fact have been referred to in connexion with this debate by my noble friend Lord Samuel as Exhibit A. Though I would certainly not presume to put myself forward as in any way the mouthpiece of anything so varied and so voluminous as the Army, at the same time in the course of that period of absence one has necessarily gained experience, made contacts, and heard opinions which may, even though they cover only a partial view, be of interest to your Lordships in this connexion. I think it is right to say that the whole attitude of the Services towards the future is not irrelevant to the particular subject now under discussion in this debate. Naturally, in going one's rounds one has talked to many people, officers and men, as to their hopes and aspirations for the future, and not only have there been opportunities of thus gathering individual opinions, but there has been also a possibility in this war of ascertaining to some degree the collective view of troops. And, startling as the gesture may be from one who is no longer within the clutches of the War Office, I should like to pay a very genuine tribute to the War Office for the efforts which they have made to provide material for thought and discussion in a digestible form on current topics of the day, in order that the troops may be kept up to date and may he given opportunities of forming opinions as to the present and as to the future.

Many of your Lordships will be familiar with the publications of A.B.C.A., to which my noble friend Lord Nathan has already made reference —the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Part of its task is to supply matter with which officers may at least lead off, and, as far as their individual capacity permits, subsequently guide into more or less relevant channels the discussion which takes place among their troops. And those opportunities have, I think, been taken full advantage of. One issue in particular, published about a year ago, dealt with this very topic of demobilization and the future, and I and those who were situated as I was at that time naturally made a point of listening to a part at least of those discussions, and so far as possible of collating the trend of the rest. The results were perhaps not very surprising. I do not think that they reveal any exaggerated hope or perhaps any overwhelming desire on the part of the troops as a whole for revolutionary change. They were not expecting—perhaps it is just as well—a new heaven or a new earth, but there was one dominant and sustained note throughout all those discussions. They did expect, with a passionate urgency, security—security of tenure of jobs and of homes. And without that nothing counts; no high wage, no garden city, no ancillary reform is of value without that basic assurance of security.

Some of your Lordships may be inclined to think that it is a somewhat unexciting and pedestrian ambition for men to conceive in the midst of the adventure of war, but I suspect that only those who have known insecurity can properly judge the value of security. And these men who have known the insecurity of peace, followed by the insecurity of war, are justified in regarding security as an end in itself. I believe it is true to say that in that relatively small part of the Army that I knew best the three most popular figures in British public life at the moment, after the Royal Family themselves, are the Prime Minister, Field-Marshal Montgomery, and Sir William Beveridge. The publication of the Beveridge Report caused a perceptible leap up in the already high morale of the Army. The two words "Social Security" which then became current represented something which was their dearest wish and which burnt itself into their mind. It was as if the lights had been switched on again in a blacked-out city and they suddenly saw, close at hand, a vision of the future after which they had long been groping in the dark.

This is, I think, just as gallant and just as cheerful an Army as the Army of 1914–18 but it has not quite the same happy-go-lucky spirit; it is a more thoughtful Army, and that is as it should be, and the credit for much of that, as I have said, goes to the War Office. I had severed my own direct connexion with the Army before the publication of this actual scheme in detail, but from all that I had previously heard myself and from all that I have gathered since, I believe that the scheme will be received by the Army as being as fair as man's ingenuity can make it, and that is all that they ask. If the view of the Army on the subject could be concisely summarized, I think what they would say is this: We do not expect a miracle but we will not accept a muddle. And I. think they expect this too: that the scheme shall not, as my noble friend Lord Nathan has said, be unduly delayed in coming into operation. My Lords, the most serious situation that could face any Government after the war would be created if the Army were genuinely convinced that the delay in their return to their homes was not due to military considerations but was due to the fact that the machinery for their reception was not yet ready to function. If that situation were allowed to arise, then indeed the future would be dark. I think they expect too that as soon as practicable their places in the Army of Occupation, once the fighting is over, shall be taken by those young men who reach military age and by many of those who, up till now, have been retained in reserved occupations but whose services can be dispensed with once the war is at an end.

I would like, as strongly as I may, to endorse the plea of my noble friend Lord Nathan for special treatment for the men ho were serving before the outbreak of the war. If a personal word may again intrude itself, may I say that I was one of those rare and misguided specimens who went on serving in the reconstituted Territorial Army for a number of years after the end of the last war, and I know from personal experience something of the difficulties, the discouragements and the despondency of those days—no men, no weapons, no transport and no interest. In the years immediately preceding this war that situation sensibly improved. At the same time, I hold that men who have served in those conditions and are continuing to serve should be given every indulgence, and not only that their rate of release should be advanced but that, so far as possible, in every individual case the release should be speeded up in proportion to the length of service before the war.

May I say just a few words on the subject of the officer in relation to this question of demobilization? But I want to make it absolutely clear that in drawing a distinction for this purpose between the officers and the other ranks I am certainly not doing so on any social grounds. At the same time, I think it is fair to say that in the sixth year of the war one is entitled to assume that at least most of those possessing the qualities of leadership—courage, enterprise, determination and self-discipline—are by now in the ranks of those who hold His Majesty's Commission, and it is just the possessors of those qualities upon whom attention should be concentrated in order to rebuild the nation at the end of the war. After all, those are the men—those who have emerged from the ruck, who have built up for themselves positions in their various Services—who will not be, who cannot be expected to be and who ought not, in the interests of the nation, to be, content to go back to their old jobs and resume their old occupations. We must, at all costs, avoid after this war the spectacle that was much too frequent in the years after 1918, of a country strewn with bankrupt chicken farms and derelict road houses, each marking the disappearance of a hard-won and ill-spent gratuity.

I understand the Ministry of Labour has devised machinery for providing employment for officers on demobilization, on a considerable scale. May I say two things upon that, without knowing in any way the detail of the plans? I believe it to be essential for any scheme of that kind to succeed, small though the point may seem, that wherever those offices are located throughout the country, they should be located neither in nor adjacent to the labour exchanges; because it is no good barking the fact that many men would as scion go to Public Assistance as they would enter a labour exchange. And the second point is this: that: as far as possible when men go for an interview by those boards, the interview shall be intelligently and sympathetically conducted by people who know what they are talking, about—people who know, not merely what is to be the future background of the man in his civil employment, but who have some knowledge too of what his background has been during the past five years in his Service employment, and therefore are in the best position to fit the two together.

It would be interesting to know how far, in order to implement this machinery, a canvass has been taken of all employers and, if that canvass has been taken, what the result has been found to be in the production of vacancies for officers who will require them. Every inducement must be given to employers to throw the door open as widely as possible. There are, of course, some who take the shallow view that as far as a man's value to them goes, these last five years have been wasted time, but the great majority take the deeper view that, although during those years a man may not have acquired knowledge of any special trade, at the same time he has developed qualities which are of value to every trade and that on those basic qualities the specialized knowledge can be rapidly and firmly built. I hope there is mere than in preparation, that there is in actual being some scheme by which it will be possible to gain time for officers coming out of the Army before they are expected to shoulder the full burden of civilian work in order that they may learn their new trade. I hope there will be a scheme whereby they may be attached for instruction to suitable businesses and that that scheme may include sufficient—and I emphasize "sufficient"—salary to enable them to live decently until they have learnt their new job. I believe that in that way industry and commerce would obtain most valuable reinforcements. It does involve some outlay of money, but it should not be impossible to devise a scheme whereby those employers prepared to participate but who, however public-spirited, are unable perhaps to afford to go as far as they would like, may be accorded some substantial measure of relief from taxation.

I would like to acid one last word on behalf of the older officer, the officer over 45 who, although out of date—incidentally for twenty years no one in authority has made the faintest effort to keep him up-to-date—cheerfully threw up his civilian job and hastened to put his last-war experience at the service of the country until the younger men could be trained to take his place. The same applies to the older men. It must not be forgotten that in the earlier months of the war the doors of the recruiting offices were flung open to men between 35 and 5o years of age who responded to that call with all the enthusiasm that one would expect. Those men must not be thrown on the scrap heap now that their usefulness is almost exhausted. Unless they have definite jobs to go back to theirs is going to be a very difficult path. To take up a new way of life they will require, and I hope will receive, special care and consideration. It is, after all, not only the temporary commissioned officer who is affected by the situation, for the fact has to be faced that in view of the singularly ungenerous provision which this country thinks fit to make for its public servants there must be many Regular officers at this moment of long service and holding high and dignified appointments who, when they have time for a moment's reflection, must look into a bleak prospect in the future.

A scheme so complex and comprehensive as this one cannot be founded upon absolute justice. There must be hard cases. But it seems to us on these Benches that this scheme does present a remarkable aspect of fairness and that it has been generally received as such. I want to add only one rider. The test of this scheme is not its commission to paper, it is its working out in practice. If it is to succeed it must be administered with efficiency, with humanity and with impartiality. There must be no pulling of privileged strings. That said, this is the first step towards the future, a future to which we all look forward with confidence and with the hope, if one may apply some lines of Meredith: That her sons overseas In a rally of praise May behold a thrice-vitalized Britain, Ashine with the light Of the doing of right At the gates of the Future in Trust.

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend who introduced this Motion has made a particular study of this subject of demobilization and I feel that he has done a real service. I also feel that your Lordships will agree that if his Motion served no other purpose than that of being the occasion of the remarkable speech of the noble Marquess, if he will allow me to say so, it would indeed have been fully justified on that account alone. Like the two previous speakers I also feel that the Government scheme as outlined in the White Paper is a good scheme, is simple, and, as far as it possibly can be, is fair. Criticism of it there will of course be and there must be, but when I think of the critics I cannot help remembering how the Navy used to be demobilized in the eighteenth century. When one thinks of that one realizes that we certainly have made some progress. The sailor of those days was recruited by the agency of the press gang when the war started, he served on board under a penal discipline of flogging, was fed upon mouldy beef—this I am sure will interest the noble Lord opposite—


I never had any association with mouldy beef.


I merely say it is a contrast which will interest the noble Lord. The sailor of those days was fed upon mouldy beef, upon biscuits full of weevils, upon cheese full of worms, and even of those scanty rations he was robbed by the purser. If he was wounded he was attended to by a surgeon's mate who knew about as much of surgery as a boy at a petrol filling station knows about engineering. And when the war ended he was demobilized by the simple process of being flung ashore there to fend for himself until another war broke out, when the press gang would come round again. That was demobilization in those days. Certainly we have made some progress in this respect.

What impresses me most when I think about this subject is that demobilization must be regarded as something more than a release and a scramble to get home. We have got to get back to the conditions of peace in an orderly way. These men in the Armed Forces who have given of their very best during their service will find that the future will call upon them for an equal sense of duty. On that account I feel that they have to be welcomed home. There must be jobs for them. There ought also to be houses for them, but with the collapse of the somewhat grandiose Portal scheme that evidently will not be certainly managed. But the jobs ought to be possible because of the immense demand for consumer goods that there will be. If the Government can only get industry going there will be not only ample work but there will be the War Savings money available to purchase the goods when industry has been restarted.

I feel that the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, is to reply to-day is evidence that the War Cabinet regard this question of demobilization as possibly almost The most important part of postwar reconstruction which has got to be carried through. It is indeed an immense and most intricate problem. It is not an affair of turning men loose from the Service but of restoring them to their old civilian service and of a reconstruction of national life. It is an intricate task even granted good will. Fair play to the men has got to be reconciled with the necessity for getting our peace industry restarted. There may be sometimes apparent conflict between the two ideas, but our peace industry has to be restarted and that again is a very intricate matter because many industries have switched over to new types of work, women have come into industry on an unprecedented scale, especially in engineering and the aircraft industry, and many youths have grown up to hold very important jobs. All these things must produce great complications in restoring the men of the Armed Forces to civilian life. Demobilization has got to be related to that high and stable level of employment for which the Government have accepted responsibility. Therefore the industrial switchover to peace-time conditions must, to some extent, regulate the pace of demobilization.

This is an important point because it raises the question of whether men are to be kept on in the Fighting Services because no industry has asked for them. I have seen it stated that the McCorquodale Committee said that no man would be released unless there was a job waiting for him. If there is no job waiting for a certain number of these men, are you going to keep them in the Army although there is no military need for them? I do not know if the noble Lord will be able to deal with that point in his reply but it does seem to me a most important point. I feel that the industrial side is almost the crux of the matter because the Government scheme as outlined in the White Paper is really not so much a scheme for demobilization as for demobilizing by instalments. It is not so much demobilization from war as remobilization for peace. That is the essence of the scheme. You can only have general demobilization when the war is over everywhere. Until then, all you can effect is a readjustment and reallocation of man-power as between the Armed Forces and civilian employment.

I fully agree that operational requirements must come first. Equally I agree with my noble friend Lord Nathan that this is a good and fair scheme. But, as has been said, there will be hard cases. It is impossible to devise a perfect scheme. Hard cases make bad law and millions of men cannot be transferred back to civilian life on some plan which takes account of the private and peculiar circumstances of some very exceptional cases. Nor can the scheme be applied with equal speed in all arms or all Fighting Services or all theatres of war. There will be the war with Japan, Armies of Occupation will be necessary in Germany and units and formations cannot be split up. There again I agree the Army has its key men as well as industry. Consequently there will be hard cases and men will feel that other men are snatching their opportunities, although in sober fact the men first home may not always be the most fortunate. I would like to ask whether any machinery is going to be set up to deal with and adjudicate upon these hard cases which must necessarily occur.

I feel, as has been said, that it is essential to take every possible means of explaining the scheme in advance. I am sure a great deal has been done already in that way by means of handbooks, by means of those admirable A.B.C.A. discussions, but every means should be used to explain the scheme in advance, because just as laws cannot be considered good laws unless those affected feel them to be just, so no demobilization scheme will work well unless those affected think it is a fair scheme. Therefore I would suggest, as this scheme is a fair one, that there is no reason whatever why it should not be thrown open to the very fullest discussion by the men affected. If that is done I am sure very useful points will emerge which the authorities would be very glad to profit by. Heart-burnings there must be, and the utmost restraint and self-discipline will be called for. Every man will want to get home, and every man will feel that he has a peculiar right to get home. After all, some men serving in this war have not seen their wives for live years. Certainly there will be heart-burnings if such men find they are rather far down the queue. I know that 90 per cent. of the men in the early classes are supposed to be married men, but there must be hardships. National needs, however, as well as personal needs have to be considered, and if it is brought home to the men how important national needs are soreness and disappointment will tend to disappear. It will be realized that to grant special priorities would really produce anomalies and unfairness.

I venture to urge that a sympathetic approach by the authorities is an essential requirement; there must be a spirit of humanity and understanding. After all, we are dealing with men of immense self-respect who have been doing a liberating job well. Treat them well when they themselves are liberated. Give them that generous treatment which the nation wants them to have. Give the ex-Serviceman his Bill of Rights. Give him a loan to help him set up in business or trade or on a farm. Make good the gaps in his education and training. It is more than a matter of giving civilian clothes, a gratuity and a railway pass home. The men will want what the motor salesman calls "after sales service." Let them have their Bill of Rights. The scheme may appear in some ways perhaps to be a little over-simplified, but an elaborate point scheme which has been suggested would call for information which is not in a man's records. Consequently that would introduce great complexities and complications, and it would have the effect probably of slowing down demobilization, which above all things we want to avoid. If the scheme is not entirely perfect, if you can avoid slowing down, that will make it a better scheme. Some doubt has been expressed because of the lack of discrimination in this scheme, such as there is in the United States, according to the nature of service. I confess I feel some uneasiness about that, especially when I think of the men of the Fourteenth Army and what they have endured in Burma. I cannot help wishing that even at this time the scheme might be modified to allow of early release for the men who have served in Burma.

As I said earlier, the essential thing is that industry should be restarted. We had last week an important debate on the need to recreate our export trade and to create new industries. The Government recognize the necessity for the release of key men, especially in the building trade, to get on not only with the work of restoring bombed-out houses, but the work of building schools and farm labourers' cottages which is sadly in arrears. These men in Class B are transferred from military to civilian service. They are transferred from fighting the enemy to repairing the damage which has been caused by the enemy to our social and industrial life. They are really the shock troops of the work of reconstruction on our Home Front. And I would like to ask if it is possible for some releases of key men to proceed even now, because employers are, at the present time, engaged in making their plans for the switch-over of their industries from war-time to peacetime production. I feel that for the work of making those plans they require certain key men who were formerly in their employment, and I would, therefore, ask if it is not possible to effect the release of a certain number of these, even at this moment, in order that employers may get ahead with those plans for the switch-over to peace-time production.

Again, one of my main preoccupations, and indeed one of my main anxieties—and Lord Nathan has said that it is one of his also—is on the score of education, which is a matter of the most vital national importance. The release of students to resume their interrupted courses of higher education is most desirable. And there is even something behind that because if you are going to effect that release it also entails the even earlier release of those required to instruct them. The Vice-Chancellor of London University has recently written some most interesting letters to The Times on that subject. For five years now, hardly a student has taken a degree except in medicine and in certain scientific subjects. That fact represents most appalling damage to our intellectual resources. It creates a really alarming gap in our educational system, and it is a most serious matter for the future of the nation. It affects the whole of our cultural life. I feel that efforts should be made to close that gap with as little delay as possible.

May I ask are the young men and the young women affected by this matter in Class A for release? If so, how high up are they in Class A? I am bound to say that, personally, I think they ought to be in Class B, because we are told that Class B is designed for those needed for "urgent work of reconstruction on which a beginning must be made in the interim period.' It takes three years to make a graduate and I would like to know What could be more "urgent work of reconstruction on which a beginning must be made in the interim period." Compare the treatment of those who have had their education interrupted in this way with the provisions made in regard to apprentices. After all, in the future the race between the nations is going to go to the best educated and the best trained nations, and it really is in our national interest that there should be priority for those whose education or training has been interrupted.

The final thing I would venture to say —and it bears to some extent on some remarks made by the noble Marquess—relates to demobilization, and the part those who are coming home are going to play in the future life of the country and in the work of reconstruction. That is a matter which we must think about. It is, I may say, a matter which has been very much in my mind, because, just recently, I have read an article and some correspondence in the Spectator with reference to what the soldier is thinking about as he views the future. There has been considerable correspondence about this and I think it most unfortunate that in several of the letters there has been a very regrettable note of setting the soldier against the politician, of encouraging him to believe that politics are worse than useless. There has been, moreover, a certain expression of cynical disbelief in everything, a ventilation of the idea that all Parties are rotten, that it is no use to vote or to take any interest whatever in public affairs. I think the attitude of mind so reflected is as unfortunate as it is ill-founded.

During this war, both Houses of Parliament have shown themselves most active in everything which concerns the welfare of the men in the Fighting Forces —their leave, their pay, their pensions, their dependants' allowances and so on. Equally, much has been done with the view to securing the best weapons for our fighting men. Members of Parliament have taken this up, and have conducted most vigorous campaigns in regard to tanks, anti-U-boat warfare, the Fleet Air Arm and so on, at very great personal inconvenience to themselves sometimes. They have shown an earnest desire to make every possible effort to see that the fighting men shall have the very best weapons and equipment that can be provided for them. I remember, too, how, at the time of those unfortunate defeats in North Africa, messages went out from your Lordships' House expressing the deepest sympathy and complete confidence that our men would restore the situation. Really if Members of Parliament do not visit the troops more than they do that is not the fault of Members of Parliament. It seems that there have been certain obstacles put in the way. Many would be only too glad to pay such visits to the men in the field, and I believe that the men in the Armed Services would be very glad to see them.

As I say, I think that the note which has been evident, in this correspondence to which I have referred, has been very regrettable. I think that the true note is struck by an officer who flew home to take part in the recent demobilization debate. He said: I only wish the men and women in the Armed Forces could have been present during the debate. It would have done their hearts good to have watched the keenness and genuine interest taken in all parts of the House. The same officer described himself as "satisfied as a serving man that the problems and feelings of the Armed Forces have been completely grasped by the politicians." He further said that "Westminster is not so remote from the 'battlefields as some people believe." I think that it is people who have very little sense of responsibility who take it upon themselves to try to drive a wedge between the men of the Armed Forces and the politicians. I do not believe that that cynical spirit really represents the spirit of the men who are going to come back. It is very largely a pose on the part of a small minority. But I do hold that that tendency to set men in opposition to our political government ought to be discouraged.

After all, whilst most fully subscribing to the view that the dogged qualities of our fighting men have decided the issue, it is fair to remember how, in two wars in the last twenty-five years, our political system has thrown up two men from the ranks of the politicians who have shown themselves capable of leading us from imminent defeat to victory—Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill. They are great men set against any background or judged by any yardstick which anyone may choose to select. Equally, although our Government come in for criticism, I think it is fair to say that those who have organized the fighting machine which we possess to-day cannot be entirely "duds." I hope that many of those who are returning from the Armed Forces will enter and take part in Parliamentary life. Captain Sidney, having won the highest distinction in the Army, has just done so. We are saddened by the fact that that gallant man, Wing-Commander Gibson, is missing. He had spoken to me about his wish and hope to enter Parliament. A splendid young sailor, Lieut.-Commander Howard, has just been adopted as prospective candidate for Portsmouth. I hope that many more men from the Services, and men from the ranks above all, will, when this war is over, come into Parliament and refresh us with their views and help us in the task which lies ahead. No antagonism ought to be encouraged between these men and Parliament. Some of us are looking forward to a return to Party strife, but Party strife does not mean national disunity. Let us have our Party warfare, but in the reconstruction days let us preserve our essential unity and look forward to the help of the men who are to be demobilized.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to concentrate attention on a subject which has not so far been raised in this debate, but which I think is of the greatest importance at the present time. The boys who are now reaching the age of fourteen have suffered intellectually and psychologically from the impact of war. Their teaching in school has been interfered with, and their leisure time has been restricted. They have not had the same opportunities as they would get in peace-time for healthy outdoor activity, and they will gain nothing from the Education Act, whereas their younger brothers will probably get the benefit of an extra year at school, and possibly of county colleges. Moreover the post-war period is likely to present to them many difficulties of employment and generally of unsettlement. The post-war fourteen-to-eighteen generation will therefore be in special and urgent need of leadership. Many first-class leaders who have had great experience before the war in leading and training youth are now in the Forces. In the interests of the generation which has, next to that of the fighting men, suffered most from the war, I do plead that youth leaders should be demobilized on the same lines as teachers.

I need hardly remind your Lordships and others who are interested in the planning of demobilization that education today covers not only the work done in school hours but also the training and attention given to youth in their leisure hours. This leisure time is probably more important for character training than the time spent in school, and is certainly more important in training for citizenship. I do not know what advice the Minister of Education has received from the National Youth Advisory Council set up to advise him on youth matters. It would be in- teresting if the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate could give us some information on that subject. I feel that in any case, however, this is a matter which goes beyond the Ministry of Education, and it certainly affects the Ministry of Labour. We have been told on good authority for some time that the birth-rate in this country is declining, and is likely to decline very steeply. For that reason I feel that it is imperative that everything possible should be done to improve the quality of the young people who are going to be the parents and the workmen of the next generation. I hope that every attention will be paid to what I feel is a vital subject.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, it would be completely invidious for me to say other than that I do not remember attending a debate in your Lordships' House which I have enjoyed so much as this one, because of the speeches which have been made. If I express particular gratitude to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, for what he said, I do so at this stage because I shall read what he said as well as having heard it, and I shall see that the substance of his remarks is conveyed to the appropriate Ministers. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, with the courtesy which he always shows to me, was good enough to send me a note of the line which he proposed to take to-day. I intend to answer his questions. I hope that I shall give him satisfaction, but that is a matter which is entirely within his jurisdiction and not mine.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, placed a Motion on the Order Paper some time ago dealing with the first of these two White Papers. I am very glad that he waited until both had come out, and I think that to-day he has rendered us some service by bringing the two together. The noble Lord referred to the common use of the phrase "as opportunity serves." There is another phrase which is going the rounds to-day, and that is "a comprehensive plan." That is a sort of political whipping-horse. Those who use it do so because it gives them a sense of intellectual superiority, and leaves those who are responsible for doing the day-to-day work under the implication that they are just struggling to keep afloat, that they have no comprehensive plan, and that they are working without vision and without a real grasp of the problem. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has brought the two White Papers together, and he and Lord Winster, whose speech I enjoyed very much, have said that they have nothing but praise for the plan.

Both these noble Lords have shown that the issue is one of allocation of manpower, and in this 1 think the Government can claim that they have shown a comprehensive grasp of the subject. I think my noble friend Lord Winster was right when he said that there is no issue which is so important for the reconstruction period as this. There is also no issue which might so easily lead to misunderstanding. We talk about demobilization when the war with Germany is over, but demobilization is something which we get when war is over and it seems to me that public men cannot too often repeat that the war in the East and the war in the West are one war, and that the whole of our resources of men and of materials that are necessary will be used against all our enemies. The population of Germany before the war was 78,000,000 people and the population of Japan was 98,000,000 people. A very powerful foe remains to us when the war with Germany is over. I make this comment lest the observations that have been made on the things that we have to do might be interpreted as meaning that we were going to be less interested in the war when we had got rid of one of our enemies, though I know that is not the view of the noble Lord who has proposed this Resolution.

These White Papers are framed on the recognition of the fact that there is one war. They recognize that all civil needs, however urgent and however desirable they may be, must be subordinated to military necessities. They state that the call-up of people to the Forces must continue and that, this being done, there must be a re-allocation of the efforts of the population. But fortunately we shall not be under such strain when we have only one foe to face as we were when we had three foes to face. Consequently more people who have been pressed into industry, and who may now be retained in industry although they are past their best working days, may be relieved. Others who have rendered long and inconvenient service inconvenient away from the comforts of their homes, may be able to work in more congenial neighbour- hoods. The noble Lord was rightly concerned with the position of the men in the Forces for whose welfare he had some official care

Now the problem that the Government had before them was to secure a plan that was fair, that was simple in its conception, and that would be practical and speedy in its operation. The noble Lord recognized, as indeed the Forces recognize, that the scheme that we put forward fulfils those conditions. But the noble Lord was tempted, as in fact all of us who have thought about this problem have constantly been tempted, to abandon simplicity in order that we might get improvements. That way danger lies. You can always think of people whom it may be most desirable to bring out of the Army before somebody else. Special categories are what we should think of—other people with less integrity would think of special people who might advisedly be brought out. The trouble about it is that we probably should not all agree as to who the special categories were and we most certainly should not agree as to who the special people were.

There is a more important consideration, I think, than what we are thinking about it, and that is what is going to be the opinion of the men in the Forces? They are not bothering about the relative value of the peace-time occupation of the other fellow. There they are working together, facing common dangers, suffering common privations without any regard to those social and industrial functions that went on before the war; and I believe that the only way of convincing them that there is absolute fairness and absolute justice is by having some system which commends itself on the grounds of simplicity, which they can quite easily understand, and which they sum up by saying, "Well, at any rate that is fair." That was why we abandoned—abandoned after a great deal of consideration—all these suggested improvements that were put before us, and which many of us advanced, on this simple method of age plus length of service. So we shall release from the Forces everybody who is unfit and as many as possible on the age plus length of service basis. I am glad the noble Lord has called attention to the fact that it would be a great mistake to assume that when the "Cease fire" goes then immediately demobilization can take place. It obviously cannot. The aim of the Services is that at the earliest possible moment—and they recognize the need for speed—the Class A men shall begin to be released. Class A men will begin to be released before Class B men begin to be released.

The noble Lord and the noble Marquess both asked me about the Territorial Force. I share with them both their pride in and their praise for the Territorial Army. But they say "Cannot you do something more than give praise; cannot you express it in something that is a little more tangible?" We have tried. I was spoken to on the first day after I became a Minister by a very good civil servant who said: "Never explain to the House administrative difficulties, because you will find they are not interested in them." But at any rate the House will understand that there may be a few administrative difficulties in finding out the periods during which men have been serving in the Territorial units before the time of demobilization. It was because of that difficulty that we abandoned the plan of giving preference to those who were volunteers. But of course the method of age plus length of service does in fact give them some preference. They were the people who were in first; every two months that they served counts as a year to be added to their age; therefore the people who were in first will be out first, age for age, and under this plan the people who were in the Territorial Army will come out before people who were not in the Territorial Army.

The next question my noble friend asked me was whether foreign service could not count. This, of course, is equally attractive on the face of it. Who that has studied the relief map of Burma and seen the places where these men have been fighting, would not say "Cannot something be done for them?" But there again you add much complication, and do you really do justice? Men do not stay at home because they have not volunteered to go on foreign service. I know men, and I am sure your Lordships do, who are in the Army at home eating their hearts out because they have not been allowed to go. Their lives may indeed have fallen in rather more pleasant places than those of the men who have been fighting overseas, but the men have not in fact been very much more comfortable in their minds about it. We came to the conclusion that we must keep the demobilization scheme simple, but that we must give rewards to the men who had been on foreign service by means of supplementary benefit after the end of their service—leave after demobilization, with payment, rather than priority.

The third condition that was raised by the noble Lord when he asked if we could not do something about this matter, was the question of people who had family responsibilities. Now once you begin to do that, where do you get to? Which family responsibilities? When were they incurred? Were they the people who had family responsibilities before the war started, or were they the people who, having been at home or having come home frequently, having been fortunate in that way, have incurred family responsibilities? Ought they to have preference over the men who have been out for four years? We came to the conclusion that the Government would be wise to stand on the simple basis that is propounded; a basis that every man in the Forces can work out and know that he has been treated on an equality with the other fellow who is standing next to him in the line.

The noble Lord asked me a further question. He asked whether people who were released under Class B would ever get into the same category as the people who were released under Class A. The people under Class A go into category Z, and if you are in category Z, as I understand it—I have to seek advice—you are not going to be called up to the Forces again unless there is some dire national need. What happens to the people in the other category, the people who are released under Class B? It was said there was a gap. There is no gap. These people need not go. They are people whom we call "builders" as a general phrase. They are people who are urgently needed at home for some reconstruction work. They are given the chance of saying, "No, we prefer to stay in the Army until our age plus length of service lets us out." Alternatively, they are at liberty to say "Yes, we would like to go home." But they go home under conditions. They are not demobilized; they are released under control in order that they may come home and do a specific job which the nation considers to be equally important with the job of staying in the Army. If they give up that job, then they are recalled to the Colours. They presumably think that it is an advantage to come home, otherwise they would not volunteer for it; but having taken that advantage, and having had other advantages that will probably come from being engaged in the building trade in this country between the wars, then they must remain in the Army and they will never get into the same class as the people who go by age plus length of service. They will remain in the Army until the time of demobilization comes. We think that is fair, and certainly it is not as the noble Lord's very intelligent friend in the Army thought, a matter of misdrafting.

I am sorry to have taken rather a long lime but I must answer the points. The noble Lord then asked me whether there were any arrangements being made for the release of specialists. Well, these represent a very small proportion of the number of people in the Army. We have made provision for them in the plan—a provision that is made quite clear. The first thing that is made clear is that these specialists shall be specialists, and that there is going to be no favouritism in the selection of people in this category. We remember the people who were so "essential" for early demobilization after the last war. It will be national need and not personal privilege that will determine the people who will come out under this class, and if your Lordships look at paragraph 12 of the White Paper you will see that we have dealt with it there.

Now the noble Lord was good enough to send me his note about the airman, and I think I must trouble your Lordships to let me read this because I want to be quite clear about it. The noble Lord quoted a letter from an airman complaining that any period of release to civil employment does not count in reckoning up his demobilization class and saying that there is a contradiction here between the White Paper and a form which he received at the time of his release. Well, there is no contradiction. Periods served in civilian employment, whether by regular airmen, or by those volunteering for the emergency, categorically do not count as service for the purpose of the demobilization scheme. And, after all, why should they count? There is no hardship here. Men so released have taken up their old jobs; they have, in effect, already enjoyed a period of demobilization. Periods of release to civilian employment do, however, count towards fulfilling the term of regular engagement, as distinct from mobilization for the emergency only. The airman who wrote to my noble friend Lord Nathan is labouring under a misunderstanding, because the release certificate with which he was furnished was issued before the demobilization scheme was worked out; and therefore, while the certificate mentioned "not counting" towards a gratuity, etc., it did not specifically state that his release period would not count for the purpose of the demobilization scheme. Any similar release certificates issued now specifically make this point. Due to the length of the war, the engagements of almost all the regular members of the Forces have in any case expired, and these men are now held on the same terms as temporary members. The point I have explained to your Lordships about these releases applies to everybody.

I now come to the second part of the noble Lord's speech, in which he said in effect that some way must be examined for applying the age and length of service principle to all workers, not leaving release to be entirely dependent on this or that factory becoming redundant fortuitously. Is not that what we have done? If the noble Lord will be good enough to look at paragraph 10 in the White Paper he will see that we have put some words in italics: … those who have worked away from home for three years or more and want to obtain work nearer home will be given first priority of release for transfer to work of importance irrespective of the work on which they are engaged or whether they are redundant, unless in such cases there are sound production reasons to the contrary." In paragraph 14 of that same Paper we provide that the order of release under paragraph II shall, as and when substitutes are provided, be applied even when there is no redundancy. I think if your Lordships will be good enough to look at it, you will see that we have tried to carry the same principle out for civilian employment as we have put forward for the demobilization of the Armed Forces.

I come now to the last part of the noble Lord's speech in which he said there must be homes for the men returning from the Forces to go to. He spoke about the troops during their period of service having "all found" and being unacquainted with the shabby discomforts of which you and I are so well aware. He spoke of those men looking forward to their reward at the end in home comforts and said that those home comforts must be forthcoming. He said these houses must be there forthwith and, then, with great wisdom and great caution, he added "as military interests allow." I will venture to go a little away from the White Paper because the noble Lord has given me a chance of doing so. There is going to be no domestic issue that will be more important in the public mind during the course of the next few years than this question of providing homes. The noble Lord will not take this amiss from me I am sure; he and I are in complete agreement. He said that these houses and those homes must be forthcoming. I wish he had also said: "These houses must be forthcoming as soon as it is possible by the organization of the man-power of this country for these houses to be built." I am sure that is what he meant, but it would have been a very long sentence.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, has spoken about the importance of politics. I ventured a few days ago elsewhere to make a plea that this problem of housing should be kept out of Party politics—not outside politics but outside all Party politics. I know of no people on any side in politics who do not want us to get houses as quickly as possible and who are not determined that whatever they can do shall be done to provide houses as quickly as possible. We have had war in this country as well as war overseas. Houses in this country have been one of our most serious war casualties. On the first occasion that I had the privilege of addressing your Lordships as Minister of Reconstruction, I reminded you of the last war and the phrase about "homes for heroes." I said then I would not be a party to making promises about what we were going to do in the way of providing for housing until I knew how we were going to fulfil those promises. No effort on the part of this Government or any other Government would be sufficient to ensure that there will be houses for everybody who needs them at the end of the German war. When these Class A men and women come home from the Forces there will be a great need of houses, and it is not any use saying that there must be houses. I am not going to be a party, and I am sure no one in this House would be a party to fooling the men in the Forces into thinking that when they come back there will be houses for everybody.

The men in the Forces are accustomed to facing stern realities. The people of this country have had to face many realities and they have never objected when they have been told the simple and unvarnished truth about them. When the facts have been placed before them they have given them due weight and proper judgment, and I beg that we shall not mislead them into thinking that this problem of housing can be settled by any other means than by the use of sufficient labour to meet it. The Government have shown in this White Paper their recognition of the fact that the problem of housing is a problem of man-power and that they are taking steps as soon as the military situation allows it to release that man-power from the Army, under control, in order that houses may be built. The troops will understand this: they will understand that men must leave the Forces designated for this particular work as soon as the enemy in Europe is beaten. We have all the comprehensive plans for housing and when we get the labour we shall then be enabled—still in a period of great scarcity of labour—to make a major attack on this problem. I hope the noble Lord and your Lordships will agree with me that this problem is one of such magnitude, one which, if the subject of light words, might cause so much distress in the country, that it behoves us in the interests of social stability to give full support to the proposals for tackling the problem that are inherent in these Papers.

I have heard it said that we want a comprehensive housing policy. We have the policy; we have got the plans and this is one of them. What the people want is houses, and you cannot build houses with paper plans. You can only build houses when you get labour to build them, when you get the labour that makes the bricks and all the other accessories that go to house building. There is no member of this Government who is not determined (least of all my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour) that to the utmost of our capacity that labour shall be forthcoming even at a time when there is great scarcity of labour and when we are fighting against a most powerful foe six thousand miles away, and whilst we continue to wage war against that foe until the end.

I have not yet dealt with some of the questions about which I had not been given previous notice. I have been asked by Lord Winster: "Are we going to keep men in the Army until there is work for them to do?" The answer is, No. If it is not known where there is work for a particular man to do we have arranged for a considerable period of leave at the end of his service during which, on full pay, he will be able to live without suffering poverty until he finds work. The truth is that apart from the dislocation that inevitably will take place in industry in moving from war .to peace .production there will be for the first few years after this war at any rate an amplitude of work. Some of your Lordships laid special emphasis on the subject of teachers and university students. The early release of students, if they are to be released, must be in Class B, because they are very young people and therefore they would be late in demobilization. The question of the release of a number of university students in Class B is, as the phrase goes, receiving active consideration, Some of us are very interested in university work—I am myself—and I think he can rely upon it that we will see that that attention is active. On the subject of teachers I should be glad if your Lordships would not press, me at this stage. Consideration is being given to the problem at this time. Whether the teachers would include youth leaders or not I do not know, but I will remember what the noble Lord said and discuss it with the Minister of Education.

The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, spoke with much depth of sympathy about derelict officers. I hope we shall avoid that situation this time. At any rate I can assure him that the point has not escaped the Government's attention and discussions are already taking place between the Minister of Labour and large employers of labours. If I may cease to be a Minister for a moment and go back to my former life as an industrialist, I may say that I should have thought it was entirely in the interests of men controlling large industrial enterprises, that they should give the greatest possible welcome to these men. We have long since learnt in industry that the old idea that you need a long period of training before you are capable of occupying an important managerial position is just not true. What you want is a good education and the training that goes with a good education. These men who have been carrying responsibility in the Forces for five years seem to me to be material which wise men of business will welcome into their ranks. I have kept your Lordships, as I so often do, longer than I intended, but I am most grateful to the noble Lord for having brought up this matter to-day and I hope the reply I have made will, at any rate, give him some satisfaction.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure I shall be voicing the opinion of all your Lordships when I say that we are grateful to the noble Lord for the care with which he has presented to the House observations upon the various points that have been raised in the course of this discussion. It would be affectation for me to pretend that I am wholly satisfied with what he has said, although I am grateful to him for the interest which he has shown and the information which he has given. There are two or three points on which perhaps he will allow me to comment in a sentence or two.

I must confess to sad disappointment at what he said regarding special consideration for Territorials, bearing in mind that you may want volunteers again. I see that if the matter were dealt with individually in relation to individual service, endless and impossible difficulties would arise. I hope I made it clear—if not I will make it clear now—that my object was to get a gesture of recognition. I do not ask for a very grand gesture but for a gesture, and I shall he quite content for my part, and I believe it would give great satisfaction to the whole Territorial Army, if there were a flat rate addition of, say, six months or twelve months to the term of their service which would rank in ascertaining their age-service group. Administrative difficulties would be negligible if a flat rate is adopted. I would urge that that matter might be further considered because—I do not want Ito mislead the House—the point which I mentioned was brought to my attention by the Forces themselves.

All the points which I have mentioned to-day have been the subject of discussion amongst the troops themselves. I am really only echoing their opinions. I thought the noble Lord's explanation with regard to what is called the B-W. gap was not completely convincing. I think if he will read his speech in the Official Report to-morrow and compare it with the question I put, he will agree that his mind was not really directed to that question. With everything he said I agree—it was only an echo of what I said—but he did not follow the matter to its conclusion. My question was, when does a man come off the W record? I understood him to say when final demobilization takes place.


That is so.


If that is so it is a very grave matter, because although B men for reconstruction must be volunteers final demobilization will be at a date far into the future. Final demobilization will not necessarily come even at the end of the war against Japan. It may be far later than that, because factors will have to be taken into account which no man can prophesy before final demobilization is possible. A man in Class A can look at the booklet furnished to him and say definitely, subject only to overriding considerations of military necessity, "I shall be released in a certain category and I can make my plans for my future life on that basis." If a man goes into Class W he is all the time liable to recall up to the final day of demobilization; it may be in the distant, and certainly in the unknown future. I doubt very much whether these Class B men will be forthcoming as volunteers if they are asked to give up the certainty of an early future for the uncertainty of a distant future.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord. It is a very interesting point.


With regard to airmen I did not think the answer completely convincing. The whole case was given away to me by the noble Lord because the Government have found it necessary now from what the noble Lord said to amend the certificate of release so as to answer the very point to which I referred. Still, it is not satisfactory to reply that there was an omission because we did not think of it.


I did not say that.


I say it.


We must be clear about this. I would be glad to go into particular cases, but I am instructed in this matter in this direction; that there was a certificate issued before we were contemplating demobilization at all and therefore the Ministry did not mention demobilization. Later certificates, when there was a demobilization scheme before them, do mention it.


I fully understand that, but the point is that it Was not mentioned in the earlier certificate. This soldier allowed himself to be released on the understanding contained in that certificate and consequently the undertaking given to him at that time ought to be made good, although now the form of certificate has been extended to cover the point.


If the noble Lord will be good enough to send me particulars of the case I will take the matter up.


I will take advantage of the suggestion which the noble Lord is good enough to make. I will not, at this stage of the debate, pursue matters to which the noble Lord referred under the heading of housing. To do so would occupy too much of your Lordships' time. If I said very little it would be bound to be inadequate, and there is certainly not time to deal with what the noble Lord said in any detail. I would only say that it was a serious and grave statement—not differing, indeed, from the statement made recently elsewhere on the same subject—which the noble Lord made to-day. And it was the first time, I think, that so grave a statement has been directed as a message to the troops themselves. My noble friends will hope to open a discussion in your Lordships' House on this question of housing as an independent matter, so I will not deal with it further now, in connexion with the matter of demobilization. I think that the course I have suggested would meet the convenience of the House better.


I entirely agree.


Having said so much, I have only to thank the noble Lord for the care which he has taken in replying to this debate and the interest which he has shown, and to beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.