HL Deb 15 March 1951 vol 170 cc1133-60

4.7 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The LORD HOLDEN in the Chair]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Procedure for calling up under s. 1

(3) Where a notice has been served on a person under this section and has not been superseded under subsection (5) of this section or cancelled under the next following section, then if he fails, otherwise than by reason of such sickness or other reasonable excuse as may be allowed in the prescribed manner, to present himself in compliance with the notice, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month, or to both such fine and such imprisonment: Provided that it shall be a defence for him to prove that in accordance with the arrangements in that behalf made by the Service Authority and notified to him before the service of the notice under this section, he had duly applied for exemption from liability to be called up under the foregoing section, either generally or as respects any period including the day specified in the notice under this section served on him, and that he had not before that day been notified that the application had been refused.

THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH) moved, in the proviso to subsection (3), to leave out all words from and including "in accordance with" down to and including "applied," and to insert: either before the service of the notice under this section or within seven days after the service thereof he had applied in the appropriate manner.

The noble Viscount said: I should like to explain that the "that" referred to in the Marshalled List of Amendments is the second "that" in line 38, otherwise the Amendment would not make sense. This is a technical Amendment, but it is moved with a specific purpose. It will operate to no man's prejudice, but will ensure that the protection afforded by the proviso will be available in respect of applications for exemption which are made at any time within seven days of the serving of the training notice. It was previously contemplated by the Service Departments that the protection would operate only in respect of applications made on receipt of a warning notice and before the service of the training notice. I think the Amendment makes the position clear. In the other direction it also prevents claims for exemption being made suddenly just at the time when the man should report. I think the Amendment will appeal to the Committee on technical grounds, and I hope your Lordships will agree to it.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 38, leave out from the second ("that") to ("for") in line 41 and insert ("either before the service of the notice under this section or within seven days after the service thereof he had applied in the appropriate manner").—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 6 agreed to.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, after Clause 6 to insert the following new clause:

Legal Proceedings

". Proceedings for an offence under this Part of this Act may be taken against a person at any place at which he is for the time being."

The noble Viscount said: I am not a lawyer, but I believe that noble Lords who are versed in the law will see that under the Bill, as it has arrived in your Lordships' House, the actual proceedings in a court of summary jurisdiction would take place where the actual offence occurred, which would be where the man failed to report himself. It would be inconvenient for the police authorities if upon all occasions when they made an arrest near the man's home they had to take him and give evidence, perhaps on more than one day, at the place of the camp to which he was to report. The object of this Amendment is to avoid that kind of thing happening. At the same time it gives some convenience to the man who may be accused, in that he may be tried near his home, if it is there that he is picked up. I hope that this Amendment will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 6, insert the said new Clause.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7:

Application of ss. 51 and 52 of 11 & 12 Geo. 6. c. 64 to short-term training under s. 1.

7.—(1) Sections fifty-one and fifty-two of the National Service Act, 1948 (which provide respectively for protecting persons liable to training under that Act from dismissal from employment in consequence of such liability, and for protecting the rights to holidays of such persons and adjusting their contracts of service or apprenticeship, where those rights or contracts are affected by such training), and any regulations for the time being in force under either of those sections, shall, subject to the modifications set out in the Schedule to this Act, apply in relation to liabilities to which persons are subject by virtue of paragraph 1 or 2 of the table set out in sub-section (1) of section one of this Act.

VISCOUNT SWINTON had given notice of two Amendments in subsection (1), the effect of which was to apply the clause also to the Territorial Forces. The noble Viscount said: These Amendments raise a more important matter, and one on which I know opinion is divided; but it certainly is not divided on any political line, and raises no sort of political issue. What I am sure all noble Lords will agree is that it is vitally important that we should do, or try to do, what is best for the Territorial Forces. I feel that I can best serve your Lordships' convenience if I explain the effect of the Amendments, and then try to put the arguments on both sides as fairly as I can.

Your Lordships will see that Clause 7 (1) confers upon the Class Z and G reservists who are called up for fifteen days under the earlier clauses of the Bill the protection given by Sections 51 and 52 of the National Service Act, 1948; that is, in the first place, against dismissal from employment, and, in the second place, protection of their rights to holidays under any agreement within their industry. For example, if within an industry there is an agreement or custom to give two weeks' holiday, then the reservist who is called up for his fifteen days' training under this Bill will be guaranteed that two weeks' holiday in addition to the time he spends in camp. But Clause 7, as it stands, while it applies to every reservist, does not apply to the Territorial volunteer. These Amendments in the names of my noble friend Lord Reading and myself would make the clause apply to the Territorials; that is to say, they would put the Territorial and the reservist on exactly equal terms. I should like to point out that these Amendments do not make any fundamental and permanent change in the relationship and the position of the Territorials. They would apply only in this year, or in a subsequent year if, by an Order in Council under Clause 12, the Act (as it will be) is extended for another year.

Let me now try and put the case for the Amendments. If the Amendments are not made, the Territorials who have volunteered will be serving alongside reservists who are called up compulsorily, and will be worse off. The usual arrangements made by employers in industry—and they have been reasonable arrangements hitherto—have been on these lines: that where it is the custom of the industry to give two weeks' holiday to all their employees, one of the weeks which a Territorial spends in camp usually counts as one week of the holiday, and the Territorial is given one week's holiday in addition. So he has one week of his holiday in camp, and one week with his family. I do not think there is any substantial point about pay, because, whichever way it goes, assuming that it is a case of two weeks' holiday with pay, I believe it is the general practice of firms to give pay for the one week in camp and for the week in which the man has his ordinary holiday. Equally, the reservist would not be paid by his firm during his fortnight in camp, but he would be paid for the two weeks in which he enjoyed a holiday. Therefore, I do not find anything one way or the other on the matter of pay. The first argument is that you have the men serving side by side, and the volunteer is worse off than the pressed man.

The second argument is this. It is said—and I have heard this opinion from various quarters—that there is a growing feeling among Territorials that there is discrimination against them in favour of the conscripts. I am not saying that that is true at all. I am not suggesting for a moment that that is in the mind of the Government or is the intention of the Government, but, as a great judge once said: The state of a man's mind is as much a matter of fact as the state of his digestion.

If that is the state of a man's mind, then it is a fact which we have to take into account. If that feeling is there, then it must be increased if, under this Bill, we give more favoured treatment to the reservist than to the Territorial. The holiday with the family is the great event of the year, and a reduction of holiday time with his family is a deterrent, both to the actual Territorial and perhaps even more so to the potential Territorial whom we hope to enlist. Now, partly from a deep sense of duty and partly because they enjoy camp, the Territorials accept that disadvantage and go to their camp. I know, however, that in many cases—I am not speaking of my own experience, but of what I have been told by commanding officers—there is a pull the other way, and that the wife says: "Why do you do this and cut down the holiday you have with your family?" It surely is not a good thing, if it can be avoided, that there should be—I will not say, "Pull devil, pull baker," but this conflict of loyalties as between the man's family and his service.

Of course, a commanding officer of a Territorial unit is entitled to give leave of absence for all or part of the fifteen days' annual training. If he gives that leave, it is bad not only for the individual training of the man, but "or the corporate training of the unit. In present circumstances it is very difficult—and I think all commanding officers will bear this out—for commanding officers to refuse such applications. But if the Territorial and the reservists were treated alike, and the Territorial were given two weeks' holiday the same as the reservist, there would certainly be far fewer applications; and if there were applications it would be much easier for a commanding officer to refuse them as unreasonable. The Government rightly say, both here and another place, that one of the things they hope will come out of this fifteen days' call-up, when the reservist serves with the Territorial unit to which he is attached, is that he will become permanently attached to the unit, and that he will volunteer and become a Territorial. I think we should all agree that that is much more likely to happen if both the Territorial and the reservist are treated alike. There is more in it than that. Morale and the team spirit are all important, and surely the spirit and the comradeship in a unit are bound to be better if all in that unit, both volunteer and conscript, are treated alike. Finally, on this side of the case I would ask: Is it not bare justice to treat the volunteer at least as well as we treat the conscript? Those are solid arguments.

Now let me deploy the case, equally fairly I hope, as it is put against the Amendments. In the first place, it is said—and I should not have used this argument if it had not been used by the Government in another place—that Parliament ought not to impose conditions by an Act of Parliament unless by that Act you also impose obligations. I do not think there is much to be said for that argument, and I hope it will not be pressed too far. Fair is fair. There are far more important considerations which are advanced in the interests of the Territorial Forces and their members. It is said, and I am sure said truly, that Territorials are proud of their volunteer status, and that they would not wish to have their rights and obligations imposed by Statute. For my part, if we had not introduced this new Bill with this new obligation upon the Z reservist, I should have been disinclined to pass general legislation which altered the status of the Territorial and his voluntary relationship with his Service, and his voluntary relationship with his employer.

Then it is said that many employers have voluntarily agreed that their employees should have a week's holiday in addition to the fifteen days in camp, that these arrangements have worked well and with good will all round, and, that being so, it would be a mistake to risk upsetting them for an emergency year or so. It is thought by those who take that view that employers as a whole might be reluctant to enter into a four-year commitment with their volunteers, particularly now that they have heard about the call-up for three months of the volunteers in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force flying squadrons. From that, it is argued that the consequence might well be that some employers might exert upon a man pressure in one form or another not to volunteer. While most employers would certainly hesitate to use any positive deterrent, an impression might get round that it was not in the interests of the man himself to undertake the volunteer's obligation. This might apply particularly in the case of small firms who find it more difficult to let their men go.

I hope I have put that side of the case equally fairly, but, as the Council of the Territorial Forces Association has been cited, I think it is fair to say this, and I am sure the Government will not challenge it; that when the Council considered this matter, they were directing their minds really to a general and permanent extension to Territorials of the safeguard of employment and holiday given by the National Service Act. As I said, if I were called upon to give an opinion on a general extension, irrespective altogether of this Bill, I also would agree that it would be unwise to make a change. But the Council were certainly not considering at that time the limited application to the Z reserve period of the rights given under Clause 7. The noble Earl, Lord Limerick—and I greatly regret that he is unable to be here to-day, because he speaks with great knowledge and authority—in a letter which he sent on February 10 to the chairmen of Territorial associations, put first the arguments which he said were advanced by General Herbert—arguments very much on the lines which I have already given to the House. But, with characteristic fairness, Lord Limerick went on to say in his letter: There may be important arguments which have to be weighed against them.

He said something else, with which I am sure we shall all agree. He said that the important thing is to: … ensure no deterrent should arise to recruiting.

That, I am sure, is the right test to apply. It is not at all an easy test to apply, because we have to judge or guess what will be the effect in the future of applying or not the Amendments which we are now considering, Amendments giving the volunteer the same rights as the conscript.

Many of your Lordships, indeed all, are deeply interested in this matter, and many of you have very valuable personal experience. I have tried to put the case as fairly and impartially as I can, and I hope the Government will treat it in the same way. Your Lordships may feel that this is an odd way to move an Amendment—that it is more like the summing up to a jury than a speech by an advocate. But your Lordships are a jury in this matter—and, I think, a very special jury. I think what your Lordships want is a fair presentation, rather than advocacy. Nor, indeed, have I a right to advance a dogmatic opinion. My only qualification as a Territorial is more than forty years old, as a member of the Inns of Court. No doubt my learned friends in that Regiment would say that the claim is long since Statute-barred. But if I may draw on a more recent and wider experience I would say this. When I was Secretary of State for Air, I formed the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve—which, thanks to the volunteers and the employers, had a great success. My experience over that Reserve leads me to two conclusions. First, I had the most helpful co-operation from the employers. I do not believe that the good employer—and I found that the good employers were in the great majority—will be deflected from his duty by a fair provision in an Act of Parliament. It may be said that in those days we were alive to the danger and the need. Well, perhaps some of us were; but certainly not all. Many of the things which I tried to do, and did, did not have a wholly smooth passage. But to-day the danger and the need are at least as great; and I hope and believe that many more people are alive to the danger and the need. And by and large I do not think employers will fail in their duty. My other conclusion is this. The volunteer is the salt of the earth. Do not let the salt lose his savour. Voluntarily he gives us his best. Should not we, then, give him our best in return? I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11. line 25, at end insert ("(a)").—(Viscount Swinton.)

4.35 p.m.


I should like to support the Amendment, and in doing so to say that I, too, fully appreciate that this problem has caused considerable heart-searching in the Territorial Army since a similar Amendment was first put down and moved in another place a fortnight or so ago. Since it was put down and moved by the honourable gentleman the Member for Blackpool North, it is not without poetic justice that he himself should to-day have received his Class Z call-up papers.

The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, emphasised particularly the sense of anomaly which, without this Amendment, the volunteer would feel when serving alongside a Class Z reservist who was entitled to greater statutory rights and protections than he was. He would feel a sense of grievance that he was not getting a square deal. The Territorial has, as a matter of fact, never felt anything else: he has always felt that he was at a disadvantage as compared with those alongside whom he was serving. I do not attach a great deal of importance to that grievance—indeed, I do not believe that the Territorial would be really happy if he had lot that grievance. There is no more miserable man in the world than the man who has suddenly been deprived of a long-standing grievance. The volunteer's fear, therefore, is not the primary consideration which leads me to support this Amendment. If this Bill is worth having, it is worth it for one thing only, and that is the chance which it provides of getting volunteers into the Territorial Army. I do not believe that any great good can come out of the Bill except that. And it is upon that consideration that the Amendment must be judged. If it does not attract volunteers from among the Z reservists, the whole Bill is useless.

What we have to ask ourselves is this. What will be the cost to the Territorial Army generally, and to the whole scheme of putting in this Amendment, and what shall we lose if we leave it out? In regard to the first point, one aspect has already been mentioned, the possibility of friction with employers of volunteers. That is to be most heartily deplored; nothing could be worse. If I thought for a moment that this Amendment would give rise to such friction, I could not feel myself in a position to support it. My experience has been that the best employer is always the small employer. The big employers and the nationalised industries, I am glad to find, are now following suit and copying the small employer. I have made fairly considerable inquiries, but I do not find that many small employers are getting worried. I should like to ask the Government whether they have any evidence that employers as a whole are being caused any anxiety by this Amendment. I admit that on the face of it they might be. If that is so, surely the Government must bear in mind that a volunteer need not be prejudiced in his chance of promotion by his employer's reaction towards this Amendment. He can always contract out, and on many occasions men are so doing.

I should like to ask one more question, and that is, what really is the reaction of the Territorial Army to this Amendment? We have been told more than once that the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations have been consulted; but I suspect that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, was right when he says that they were not consulted on this specific point. May I draw your Lordships' attention to an observation passed by the Under-Secretary of State in another place on March 8? He said: What I will do is lake whatever steps seem best and most appropriate to ensure that we are really in touch with up-to-date opinion in the Territorial Army on the matter… That indicates to me at least that His Majesty's Government have perhaps in their minds some doubt as to whether they have accurately gauged opinion throughout all ranks of the Territorial Army. I should like to ask that as a second question. To sum up, what I feel about the matter is this. If we do not attract into the Territorial Army the volunteers out of the Class Z, reservists who have served their fortnight, the Bill and the whole scheme are practically useless. I think the other potential benefits are small compared with this one overpowering benefit. It is the only reason why I am in favour of the Bill. I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, is frowning. I agree that some benefit may arise in specialised units and in exercises for the corps of clerks. If the cost is not too high, then I think we have a right to demand this Amendment. The only cost that I would find too high is friction amongst the employers and uneasiness in the Territorial Army itself. I have no evidence available to me that those two states of affairs exist. I should like the Government to satisfy the House that evidence of that kind is before them. I do no believe that it is.


I should like to add a few words in support of the Amendments. As the noble Lord who has just sat down has said, the important thing is whether or not the Bill succeeds in bringing a number of men into the Territorial Forces. I would put it in a slightly different way, and say that the important thing is to ensure that there is good will and teamwork between the Territorials and the Z reservists. Only in that way shall we ensure that the result of the training which the Z reservists receive is worth while. Unless the Territorial unit which is entrusted with the training of the Z reservists is in good heart, able to work as a team, and does not feel in any way aggrieved, we shall not get that comradeship, association and good benefit from the training for which we all hope. These things will not ensue if there is a feeling among the Territorials (and, after all, as both Lord Swinton and Lord Mancroft said, they are the volunteers in the Service; they give up their time, and give their services free, throughout the whole of the year in order to ensure proper training) that they are being treated worse than those who are called up in an emergency as Z reservists. I feel that we shall be doing a great disservice to the Territorial Service if that feeling is allowed to grow. It will certainly undo all that this Bill seeks to ensure.

The particular point with which these Amendments deal is the question of the holiday. The Z reservist is given an-assurance that he will have this holiday and an opportunity of taking his wife and family with him for their holiday. The Territorial man has no such assurance. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has said, it is true that there is a general agreement among employers to give Territorial soldiers the second week. But we have unfortunately found that there are some employers who do not give the second week, and even in the case of the second week which the Territorial has to do, he sometimes does that feeling that he may lose his job as a result. That is a serious thing, and particularly serious in a year in which a unit camp happens to coincide with the ordinary trades holiday. Then the difficulty becomes even more acute. For all these reasons I press the Government to give sympathetic consideration, and to do justice to the Territorial service as well as to the Z reservist who is called up for the emergency.


I should like to say at once that I very much appreciate the manner in which the Amendment has been moved by the noble Viscount, and the general approach by other speakers to this very important question which is in many people's minds. For example, we know of the services which the noble Viscount has given in the past in various ways connected with the defence of the country, and in particular the organisation of services of this kind. In my short time in this House, I have not heard the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, speak. When he makes his pressure upon me I should like to say to him that I cannot forget the fine services which he rendered as a great industrialist in shipbuilding and other matters connected with the Royal Navy, with which I was concerned during the war. So we do not approach this matter to-day, I am sure, in any Party political spirit. We all want to do what we think will be best for the future of the Territorial Army—I say "Army" but of course there are other Services involved. However, the Territorial Army is very important in our consideration of this point, because it is obviously the largest of our Auxiliary Services and embodies a large number of people.

I have read carefully the proceedings in the debate which took place in another place. I have listened carefully to-day and I quite understand the motives that inspire those who would like to see a special concession made in this Bill of the kind asked for in this Amendment. First, I must satisfy the House upon the point that was mentioned to me by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading—I forget whether during or after the debate this week on the Second Reading of the Bill—and that is, how the information came from the Territorial Forces Association. From the inquiries I have made, I am satisfied that it was quite properly ascertained by the normal method of procedure: through the chairman of the various associations and the contacts made by the staff officer at the War Office who looks after these matters, not only recently but on the general occasion of his actual visits and the like. There was no shadow of doubt what their attitude would be in relation to the different treatment of the Territorial compared with the treatment of the National Service man—none at all. Nor in regard to this other question is there, I think, any doubt what is the majority view upon it. I very much appreciate the manner in which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, quoted the letter of the noble Earl, Lord Limerick. The noble Earl would desire to be particularly fair. I appreciate very much his letter and I regret that the noble Earl does not happen to be here this afternoon to give his testimony, whatever it might have been, when he had heard the case submitted in this House.

If the opinion given was upon the general National Service, I would say that I am quite unable to understand the advantage of obtaining a separate opinion, although I am satisfied that that, too, has been ascertained. There is one small point which seems very much to concern the noble Viscount—namely, whether the Bill before the House, which in its first application will be for one period of twelve months only in respect of a special call-up of Class Z men, should provide different treatment for National Service men from that given to Territorial recruits or members of the Territorial Forces. I am unable to understand the great importance which is attached to these particular Amendments. I can understand the motives and the anxiety of noble Lords to make sure that the best is being done for the Territorial Forces. But where you have actual volunteers, who in the past, as the noble Viscount said, have in general secured very generous treatment from their employers in this matter—where that attitude exists in regard to voluntary recruitment—you have to be very careful before you lay down compulsion in the other direction.


Will the noble Viscount forgive me for interrupting? I am sure the considered opinion of the Territorial Forces associations would carry great weight with your Lordships' House. Can the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, tell us exactly what that opinion is? Lord Limerick's letter of February 10 expresses no opinion at all. That letter was sent to the chairmen of all the associations in the country, asking them to give their opinion, and it merely sets out what the Director-General of the Territorial Army, General Herbert, expresses as his view of what the dangers are. Lord Limerick then goes on to say: Those are the objections to the proposal, but there may be important arguments which have to be considered against them. I should be most grateful if you would consider this problem in the light of events which have occurred since the Council met."— that means the introduction of the Bill, the Bill not having been introduced on February 10— and let me have your opinion as to whether it would be wise or not to introduce legislation. With great respect, it seems to me that what we want here is not the opinion of General Herbert, which we have set out in this letter, but the answer which the Territorial associations throughout the country have given to Lord Limerick, who was asking for their opinion.


I am not sure that I can give it in exactly that form. Naturally, after the way in which the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, pressed the matter earlier in the week, I was at pains to obtain a proper statement on the point that was made. The statement given to me on this point is that the Government's opinion, based on consultations through the recognised channels, is that the Territorial Army, which is by far the largest Auxiliary Force, do not want this statutory protection extended to it, but would prefer to remain as it is. The Council of the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces Association considered this matter some time ago, and agreed with the Government view. Recently the representative chairmen of the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces associations were consulted, and unanimously expressed the view that statutory protection was undesirable.


What was the date of that consultation?


I have no date with me, but I will try to ascertain it. We say that that was the recent opinion.


What we should very much like to know, because we want to get at the real position, is whether this opinion which the noble Viscount has now read out was given by the Territorial chairmen in answer to Lord Limerick's letter, and in the light of the present legislation and the Amendment proposed in another place.


I am told by my advisers that they have not the actual date, but they say it was in February or March. It looks as if it must have been subsequent to Lord Limerick's letter of February 10. I wish I had further information on the date; I should have been very glad to satisfy the noble Viscount.


It may help the noble Viscount if I say that I have a letter which was sent to the Middlesex Territorial Association on March 14 and arrived on March 15, and still the Council do not appear to have come to any considered opinion, because in that letter they are still asking what is the opinion of the Association. I had not intended to intervene at this moment, although I was going to do so later.


I do not know how many more letters are going to appear in this connection during the passage of this Bill. It will not be easy for us to be constantly chasing the results of inquiries as the debate is going on. I am sure that noble Lords do not want the matter approached in that way. We all want to do the best we can.

I am sure that the noble Viscount, with his experience, will say that a very important part of this build-up, and the securing of the best feeling in these matters, is the actual recruitment of members of the working and industrial classes into the "other rank" groups of the Territorial Army and the volunteer forces. That is very important indeed. Therefore another check has been made on this matter. It was raised in the National Joint Advisory Council, so that there could be obtained direct the opinion of employers and the trade unions, whose help and sympathy in this matter I am sure all of us want to have securely behind the general recruitment of the Auxiliary Forces. On this matter the National Joint Advisory Council held the same view as that held by the War Office. Therefore, I feel that it would be quite wrong for us as a Government to accept, however well-intentioned it may be, this compulsion upon employers in respect of the Territorials which is asked for in this Amendment.

I was very struck by a passage in the noble Viscount's speech in which he said that if this had been going to be upon a more permanent basis in regard to National Service and the like, he would have had very grave doubts as to whether this would be the right policy to advocate. But he says that, as it is confined to the temporary nature of this Bill, which applies perhaps only to one year's call-up of Class Z men, then the Territorials ought to be put in the same position. But later in the Bill we are seeking powers by Order in Council to continue the Bill if required, and if circumstances require this may continue for more than one year. Therefore, I do not think we should accept the principle on that basis. I am most anxious that we should continue that extraordinary support that the authorities of the Forces have received from employers in the past on this matter, and that we should do nothing to break that down. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that probably the only thing which would prevent him from voting for the Amendment would be the likelihood that it would cause actual new friction between employers and others. I must say that I myself have some fears that that might arise. In view of the consultations that have taken place, I think it would be far better to leave it as it is, and I hope that on the basis that we all want to pull together, the Opposition will not press the Amendment.


May I correct the noble Viscount on one point? I said that if this matter had not been raised on the Bill I should probably have been opposed to in traducing "out of the blue" legislation to give the Territorials the statutory rights. But my point was this: that as this Bill had been introduced, providing for the call-up of the Class Z reservists for this year, and perhaps next year and the year after, side by side with the Territorials, and having given the Class Z reservists these statutory rights, I thought that created a wholly new situation which made me change my mind on the general principle.


Perhaps I ought to say this. Some reference was made, either by the noble Viscount or by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to the statement made in another place the other day by the honourable gentleman the Undersecretary of State for War. That statement was to the effect that he was going to make certain further inquiries. I should like to say, in view of what was said by Members of the noble Viscount's Party in another place, that that assurance was given, and further inquiries are being made to make sure that everything that is being done is right. If a volume of opinion contrary to that which we have already gathered from our consultations were to emerge from those inquiries, the matter would have to be reconsidered. As I say, those inquiries are going on. That may be one of the reasons for the letter which has been quoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Long. In circumstances such as I have indicated, the matter would certainly be reconsidered; I cannot go further at the moment or make any commitment beyond that.


From what the noble Viscount has just said, I understand him to mean that if the inquiries of which he has spoken show that there is a strong body of opinion that what we have suggested is the right thing to do, then the Government will change their present view and introduce legislation. So far as this House is concerned, I think I can give an absolute guarantee that if that were done we would give the legislation an immediate and rapid passage. If I am to understand that that is the offer which is made, then I am greatly interested.


I am afraid that to assent to all that the noble Viscount has just said would mean going further than I am prepared to go at the moment. I now go just as far as. the honourable gentleman the Under-Secretary did in another place, when he said that inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining whether these decisions had been taken in accordance with the opinion which is generally held. Doubts have been raised by speakers here and in another place, and these inquiries are now going on. I repeal that if it should be found necessary the matter would be reconsidered. Of course, the noble Viscount with his long ministerial experience knows that reconsideration in such a connection might mean some major decision by someone other than the Minister who makes the promise. Apart from that, I can only reiterate that we should give full reconsideration to the matter if evidence were found suggesting that what we gained from consultations which we had before did not reflect the view generally held.


Arising out of what has been said, may I intervene to say that I have been anxious concerning the reference made in your Lordships' House to-day to consultations with units, commanding officers and N.C.O's on this matter? I am very anxious about that. I do not think the consultations have yet reached the stage in which all the replies have been received. Therefore, I still ask for time so that these replies may be got in. I think this could be arranged, and that the necessary time could easily be given.


It is absolutely vital that we should get the Bill through at once. We must get it. Therefore I ask the noble Viscount to accept what has been said by the Under-Secretary of State for War and by myself. If the sort of evidence of which I have spoken were to emerge from the inquiries, the matter would be reconsidered. In the meantime, I hope your Lordships will accept that assurance. I am sure that we can rely upon each other, for we are all anxious to do our best for the Auxiliary Services.


After listening to the very cogent speech made by my noble friend in putting forward this Amendment, and to the reply by the noble Viscount opposite, it seems to me, if I am not misinterpreting him, that the case which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has put up against the Amendment is based entirely on the point that friendly relationship with the employers is tremendously important. That is the whole meat of his argument. That may be a very sound argument, but we have not yet solved the problem of why a man who is called up—it will be once only, we are told—should have his right to his civil holiday as well as his fifteen days' training, whereas the volunteer will not get that right. The volunteer has his holiday at the discretion of his employer, and, more often than not, what he gets is only part of his normal civil holiday, and not the whole of it. It seems to me wholly indefensible that that should be the general position. Possibly an alternative solution to this problem could be adopted. I think we ought to consider any alternative solution, for it must be remembered that we are almost on the verge of straining too highly the patriotism of those volunteers who have borne the burden and the heat of the day for some four years now.

I should here like to refer to something which was said by the noble Viscount. He made the point that volunteers, after all, have volunteered; they have done what they have done of their own volition. Of course, a great many individuals have joined the Territorial Army as a hobby; but I think that a great number have joined for the reason that they felt that it was their duty to join. I am not saying for one moment that most employers have not been very sympathetic, and I know that many have given their best consideration to the question of giving additional holidays. I should be the last to wish to disturb these excellent relations, because that would upset the machine completely. But in how many cases have volunteers had full training and full holidays? I think your Lordships would be surprised if it were possible to get statistics giving the answer to that question. It would, of course, be very difficult to get them, but if they were obtained, I think we should be surprised to find how few had had full holidays as well as full training; and that applies not only to persons employed by private firms but to individuals in nationalised industries also.

The noble Viscount suggests that the situation so far as volunteers is concerned has been satisfactory up to date. I think that, on the whole, it has. But if it has been satisfactory for the volunteers, why should not exactly the same situation be satisfactory for the reservists who are called up? Why should we not delete from the Bill all reference to Section 52 (1) of the National Service Act 1948? The situation would; then be that whereas the reservist who was called up would have rights relating to reinstatement, contracts of service or apprenticeship as allowed for in the Bill, he would be in exactly the same position as regards holidays as the volunteer. In other words, this matter would be at the discretion of the employers. It seems to me that if we did that, we should not be in any way interfering with the happy relations between employers and employed, but we should be putting the volunteer and the reservist on exactly the same basis as regards holidays.

It is probable that an employer, seeing that a man in his service was called up compulsorily, would be even more sympathetically disposed to the idea of giving him the best possible holidays; and, by reason of his doing so, I think he would also be likely to extend those same facilities to volunteers who might be employed by him. I do not think that I can justly be accused of speaking from a dog-in-the-manger point of view, or of asking to have this arranged on the basis that: "If I can't have it, neither shall you." I think the suggestion which I have put forward is a sound one. It would meet my noble friend's case and at the same time would meet the Lord Alexander's point of view that we do not want to interfere with the relations between the man and the employer. What would be necessary to put into effect my suggestion could be very easily drafted. All that is wanted is to leave out the reference to Section 52 (1). I hope that the noble Viscount will seriously consider this suggestion.

5.10 p.m.


I wonder whether I may make a suggestion; and I believe that in what I am going to say I shall be expressing the feeling of the whole House about this matter. At present we are in a great difficulty, because neither we nor the Government know what the Territorial Forces associations in the country think about this particular situation. And I am sure that that is the position of all of us. The noble Viscount has been absolutely frank with us about this. He said he did not know, that he is making further inquiries, and that if these inquiries led the Government to believe that they were mistaken they would desire to apply this Amendment. If, on the other hand, the Territorial Army associations, with knowledge of the Bill, decided that they were against the Amendment, then the Government would not want the Amendment. And neither would I. If there were not a "rush hour" to this Bill, we should all like to adjourn this debate until the noble Viscount can give us the information upon which alone both the Government and ourselves can form an opinion. That is not practicable, of course, because the Bill has to go through within a week, but we have still the Report stage of the Bill. May I make this suggestion? We all know that if the majority opinion of the associations is in favour of the Amendment, then we want it. If we passed the Bill without the Amendment, the only way we could meet the wish of the associations would be by introducing another Bill. But, with the pressure upon Government time, the Government might easily find themselves in the position in which, while they wanted to do so, they could not find Parliamentary time to take another Bill through both Houses.

We both want to give effect to the advice of the associations as soon as we get it. One simple way of doing that would be to insert in the Bill an Amendment giving the Government power by Order in Council, to be approved by affirmative Resolution of both Houses, to apply this section to the Territorial Army. That would give the Government instantaneous powers. They are already taking extreme powers in Clause 12 to continue the whole Bill by Order in Council, but they could not introduce this Amendment into such an Order, which could only continue the Bill as it is. I believe that this suggestion would meet noble Lords on all sides, and I would ask the noble Viscount to accept such an Amendment, which we could agree on Report stage—we need not even debate the matter—and the Bill would then go through as rapidly as possible. I am sure that this would be accepted in another place. An Amendment giving the Government power by Order in Council to apply the terms of this Amendment, or any modified terms, to the Territorial Army, if the advice of the associations is that they want it would satisfy the whole House, and we should be able to let the noble Viscount have his Bill. I appeal to him to accept that proposal.


I appreciate very much the suggestion put forward by the noble Viscount, and the spirit in which it has been put forward. I should be most happy if I could say, "All right, I'll take you." But I gather from his remarks that he is under the impression that I had said that if, after inquiries, evidence were found, apart from what we have already had, in the direction of the advice of noble Lords opposite, the Amendment would be accepted. The position would not be quite that. I am told by those who have checked up this matter that we should have to consider what should be done; and that was why I was so careful to say that the matter would be reconsidered. I have to answer the noble Viscount on the spur of the moment, and I would suggest that, if your Lordships will pass the Bill in Committee and leave the Report stage until Monday—when we could no doubt arrange to take it as first business, so that the Report stage could be completed at an early hour for transmission to another place—I will see whether anything can be done in the meantime to meet the situation. We shall do our best, but I shall be under no commitment to insert such an Amendment when your Lordships discuss the Bill on Report stage.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. I am sure he is trying to meet what we all want. I am not worried in the least about the terms of the Amendment; only about the principle of it. Let me point out to the noble Viscount that he still remains master of the event. If we take power by Order in Council, the Government are the judges of whether an Order in Council should be introduced. The decision rests with the noble Viscount, and the assessment of the evidence rests with him. I think this is a fair offer, and the Government need come to us again only if they are satisfied that it is the right thing to do. I agree that it is difficult for the noble Viscount to give me an undertaking across the Floor of the House, but I think that what he has offered will satisfy the whole of the House. I think it will be equally appreciated in another place. An Amendment giving the Government power to apply the principle in whichever way is best, maybe with modifications such as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, from his experience—


I ought to say that some of those suggestions were rather dangerous and I hope the noble Viscount will not think I am going to adopt them.


I am not pressing that. I should like to leave it for the Government and the War Office to frame what they think is the fairest and most practical form of the clause which could be applied when they have received the evidence. All it would require would be an affirmative Resolution of both Houses to approve an Order in Council.


If your Lordships will pass the Committee stage of the Bill to-day, we will give favourable consideration to this matter before meeting again on Report stage. I do not want to go further than that. I would point out to the noble Viscount that he is still left free to take what action he wants in this matter.


If the House is satisfied—and I think it is a very fair offer, which would meet with what we all want to do—and if no other noble Lord wishes to speak, I will ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 12:

Extension of Part 1 to years 1952–1954

12.—(1) His Majesty may by Order in Council direct that Part I of this Act shall apply in relation to all or any of the years nineteen hundred and fifty-two, nineteen hundred and fifty-three and nineteen hundred and fifty-four as it applies in relation to the year nineteen hundred and fifty-one.

(2) A draft of any Order in Council proposed to be made under this section shall be laid before Parliament, and the draft shall not be submitted to His Majesty except in pursuance of an address presented by each House of Parliament praying that the Order be made.

(3) In sections fifty and fifty-one of the National Service Act, 1948, as applied by virtue of Part II of this Act, words referring directly or indirectly to liability to be called up shall be construed, in relation to a person of a description specified in the table set out in subsection (1) of section one of this Act, on the assumption that the power conferred on His Majesty in Council by this section will be fully exercised.

(4) If any Order in Council is made under this section, references in this Act, or in any enactment or regulations as modified by the Schedule thereto, to Part I of this Act or any provision of the said Part I shall include references to the said Part I or that provision, as the case may be, as extended by the Order.

5.20 p.m.

THE MARQUESS OF READING moved to leave out Clause 12. The noble Marquess said: The point at issue here is, I think, narrow and precise. The Government not unnaturally desire to take power to prolong the existence of the scheme set out in this Bill as conditions subsequently require it, and they have selected as the means of carrying that object into execution an Order in Council to be adopted by affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. We, on the other hand, while we recognise that it may well be necessary to extend into the future the scheme embodied in this Act, consider that a much more appropriate method of dealing with the situation would be that whatever Government may be in power when a year has elapsed should be under the obligation to reintroduce a new Bill. And we feel that that obligation should continue from year to year into the future, as long as the scheme has to be kept in being. The reason for our attitude is quite manifest. The difficulty of proceeding by Order in Council is that it is not susceptible of any amendment, whereas, of course, a Bill can be changed, in the light of circumstances and under the test of experience, whenever it is presented to Parliament.

We had some discussion about this point on the Second Reading, when the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, advanced certain reasons against the course which we desire to see taken. I should like to examine what they are. First, there was the question of comparative speed between the two proposals. The noble Viscount said: It may well be that we shall be required to act very quickly in any further steps that we take in the matter.

Why? If the situation remains more or less constant as it is to-day, whatever Government are in power will have ample opportunity to judge in advance whether or not it is necessary to bring in a new Bill. But if, unhappily, the situation should be worsened, and there should be an immediate threat of war, it is difficult to see any scheme which a Government are less likely to endeavour to put into operation at that moment than a scheme providing for the recall of reservists for a period of only fifteen days. In those circumstances it would be an utterly futile manœuvre. The next reason given by the noble Viscount spoke of "all the work of drafting a new Bill." One would have thought (if I may use the expression) that if the type had once been set up it would not be a very laborious exercise a year later to take another "pull" from it. The Government will have the Act, and it has taken a little time-and usefully taken a little time—to go through this year. But here they will have the Act on the Statute Book, and all they will have to do is to re-present it with such changes as may be necessary in the way of numbers or other details, when the time again arises. The noble Viscount also talked about an annual Bill involving a considerable amount of time in both Houses of Parliament. As I say, the Bill has been amply discussed on this occasion, and it is surely not very likely that a subsequent Bill will take up a great deal of time when it is merely a repetition of the existing measure.

This is, on general admission, an experimental scheme, and we all hope that it will be a success in the form in which it is now before us. But we should surely be extremely unwise to shut our eyes to the possibility of defects coming to light in practice; and if those defects come to light in practice, surely we shall have the wisdom to put ourselves in the position of being able to learn by experience and turn that experience to practical account. That is the advantage of the method that we propose over the method proposed by the Government: an Order in Council freezes the situation, whereas a Bill leaves it fluid. This being a new measure, an experimental measure, an emergency measure, we believe that it should be left open, in order that we may profit by experience. And for that reason we trust that the Government will be converted to what we take to be the highly advantageous alternative proposed in the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 12.—(The Marquess of Reading.)


This question is on rather a different level from the Amendment we have just debated. This is a matter to which the Government attach importance, if the objects intended by the inclusion of the Clause providing for an Order in Council are to be secured. I am a little astonished at the noble Marquess pressing the Amendment so strongly, because I am sure that his Deputy Leader sitting alongside him, who was in another place for so many years with me, will not have much difficulty in recollecting that this method was adopted again and again by Governments of different complexions in order to secure that, where necessary, an Act, which it was thought was perhaps going to be required only temporarily could nevertheless be continued by Order in Council when the circumstances came to be known.


The noble Viscount has appealed to me. I agree that we used that method and the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, for the possible continuation of Bills which we knew we should continue in their existing form, if we were going to continue them at all. We did not use it where we thought that though we might continue the general principle we might want a quite different Bill.


I have satisfied myself that this is a very good way in which to secure rapid action in circumstances which apparently the noble Marquess has not visualised. The situation is constantly changing, and we hope it will change permanently for the better with regard to this man-power situation. With the resumption in April of the transfer of National Service men to the Territorial Army, our reserves will be built up, and it may well be that at the beginning of another calendar year the defence authorities of this country will say that, in all the circumstances, it will be unnecessary to proceed with the measure in 1952. But, though we may come practically to that conclusion, there may on the other hand be certain changing circumstances which will require at short notice another trial mobilisation, and we want to be able to put that trial mobilisation into rapid effect. That can be done most conveniently by the Order in Council method, with an affirmative Resolution passed in both Houses of Parliament on the same day. I feel that there is a strong case for this well-known and tried procedure. We now get a far greater number of sections of Acts providing for Orders in Council which require affirmative Resolutions in both Houses of Parliament than used to be the case in my early days in Parliament. Then, the Orders were nearly always subject only to the negative Resolution procedure. But here affirmative Resolutions are required. We may need these provisions at short notice. In spite of the criticism which the noble Marquess made of my reference to speed, I believe that it is a sound case, and I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed.


I do not wish to "harry" the Government—I think that is the fashionable word—into sitting until half past five or six o'clock, but I should like to express my regret that the noble Viscount cannot see his way to accept this Amendment. He talks about "rapidity," but when the Government really want to hurry a measure through they seem to be able to do it all right. If this experiment proves to be in need of considerable amendment a new Bill will be required; but, if it does not, then a one-clause Bill can surely be put through both Houses of Parliament in as short a time as the Government may need. It seems strange to me that the Army requires the Army Act to be passed every year, yet this Bill should be renewable by Order in Council. I do not think it is a matter of the gravest importance, but I think that it is a pity that the Government cannot see their way to accept the noble Marquess's Amendment.


The Amendment which I put forward is still one which we prefer, and, in spite of the cogency of the arguments put forward by the noble Viscount, I do not profess to have been convinced by him. At the same time, we do not propose to press this Amendment to a Division, and with the leave of the House I beg to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Remaining clause and Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before six o'clock.