HL Deb 30 May 1946 vol 141 cc684-6

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they can now make a statement on the terms of service in His Majesty's Forces during the present transitional period.


My Lords, the Government have given very careful consideration to this important matter. Many of the factors are still uncertain, especially the extent of our future responsibilities in the field of Foreign Affairs, but the Government consider that young men reaching the age of 18 can no longer be kept in suspense regarding their call-up. They have accordingly decided that as a transitional measure young men called up during 1947 and 1948 shall serve for a fixed period. Those called up during 1947 will serve for two years, and if no unforeseen circumstances arise this period will be progressively reduced for those called up during 1948. Thus men whose service begins in January, 1948, will serve for two years and those whose service begins in December, 1948, will serve for eighteen months.

As by the end of 1946 all fit men between 18 and 30 years of age still in civil life will be in work from which they cannot be spared if essential production and services are to be maintained, the call-up to the Forces in 1947 and 1948 will, with certain exceptions, be confined to men reaching the age of 18 in those years. It is possible that a few men over the age of 18 whose call-up has been deferred may cease to be employed on the work for which they were deferred. In such cases they will be found equally important work. The number will in any case be negligible and to call them up could not have any effect on the rate of release of those already serving in the Forces.

Deferments on industrial grounds will cease to be granted after the end of 1946, except that in 1947, and later if necessary, call-up may be deferred as at present in the case of men employed in coalmining, agriculture, building and the production of certain building materials. The Government have been concerned to ensure that apprentices and learners receive a proper and thorough training. With this end in view they have decided that deferment may be 'granted to young men to complete their training where the Ministry of Labour and National Service, through the machinery of the man-power boards, is satisfied that a genuine and satisfactory apprenticeship exists. Others in a similar position of apprentices will be treated in the same way. Men already serving in the Forces at December 31 1946, will be released according to the existing are and length of service scheme. All such men will be released before the end of 1948, that is before any of the men called up in 1947 are released. Moreover, the Government will aim at releasing during 1947 all men called up before January 1, 1944.

In order to lessen the needs of the Services for men, it has been decided to call for recruits for the Women's Auxiliary Services to volunteer for a period of not less than two years. It has also been decided to continue the Women's Royal Naval Service, the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force on a voluntary basis as permanent features of the Forces of the Crown.

The Government have endeavoured to make the scheme as flexible as possible in order to allow for the many uncertain factors and to enable adjustments to be made in either direction if unforeseen developments should arise. A White Paper setting out the proposals more fully is now available in the Printed Paper Office.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply, and may I say that some of the points that he has raised will certainly need our consideration on this side of the House. I hope that there will be opportunity for a debate at the proper state.