Compulsory Military Training.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 27th April 1939.

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Photo of Mr John Dodd Mr John Dodd , Oldham

I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Woolwich is not in the House at the moment, and cannot reply himself, but that was the impression which I gathered in listening to him. It may be that I am wrong. However, I was interested to hear the views of the hon. Member, since he represents the very large organisation of the Trades Union Congress. I wonder how many hon. Members know the feelings that exist at the present time among many employers' organisations. There is, throughout the country, a growing feeling, which has been thrown up from below, that this is a Measure which sooner or later had to be introduced, and the sooner the better; and there is among some of the trades unions and among the employers' organisations a very strong feeling that something of this character is absolutely essential.

Last week, at a meeting of representatives of chambers of commerce, a resolution was carried, with very few dissentients, calling upon the Government to introduce a compulsory National Register at the earliest opportunity for the purpose of bringing together all the resources of the country in every form. Man-power, wealth—the whole mass of the resources of the country—will be called into play if war should come. We want to be prepared and to know where we stand. There is a vast difference between compulsory National Service, compulsory Military Service, voluntary National Service, a voluntary National Register, and a compulsory National Register. In my view, a compulsory National Register is absolutely imperative, and can be the only thing which is complete and absolute. There is nothing in what is proposed to-day that overrides voluntary National Service in every other Service except the Territorial Army.

I should like to say a few words on the matter of national resources. We discussed across the Floor of the House wealth and poverty, putting one against the other, discussing what a man has, what he draws per week and what he gives away, but those are matters of infinitesimal importance when it comes to a national crisis and a war. Provided the country has food to feed the people at home and to keep an army in the field and a fleet at sea, provided houses have roofs—which they might not have—provided people have somewhere to sleep and something with which to cover their bodies, wealth means nothing in a national crisis and in war as it is fought in these days. It is a matter of organising all the wealth, power, strength, industry and man-power of the country.