Orders of the Day — Home Guard.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 18th December 1941.

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Photo of Mr John Colville Mr John Colville , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

I have read that wrongly. That modifies what I was going to say, as it removes the difficulty from my mind. After the age of 50, a man is subject to broadly the same conditions as apply to a man below the age of 50. Fifty is the age up to which men can be compelled to come in from outside if more recruits are required, but those who are now in the Home Guard and are above the age of 50 and who do not, within the specified period, give notice to leave will come under the same conditions with regard to training as others. I agree, however, that it should be recognised that among the older men there may be some who should be allowed to retire and that appears to be provided for.

I come to a point which is not strictly related to the White Paper, but which relates to the Home Guard. I hope that care will be taken not to call up for the Army all the men between 40 and 50 who are at present the backbone of the Home Guard. I agree that in a number of cases such men may be more usefully engaged in the Army, but there are cases of key-men in the Home Guard who would be better left there than given employment in the Army on Home Service, where their category would not be high. I hope that the balance will be very carefully weighed. The Home Guard have undergone many changes in organisation, some good and some not so good. I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the Director-General's Department, which has made a special study of Home Guard problems. The Director-General has cut more red tape in six months than, with 10 years' experience of Government Departments, I should have believed possible. I should like an assurance that that work of his Department will be continued.

The final paragraph in the White Paper relates to allowances. The scale of penalties is the same as that for Civil Defence, but the scale of allowances which applies to Civil Defence is not quite the same as that for the Home Guard. I do not ask that the scales for the two services should be completely co-ordinated, but there are cases where Home Guard allowances might be brought up to come more into line with those for Civil Defence. I had a Question down to-day, about motor mileage allowances and I hope that we shall be assured that it is the intention to bring all these allowances more into line. In conclusion, I would say what I think the whole House feels. The year before us may bring to the Home Guard the supreme test of all, that of resisting invasion. It is a test upon which everything depends. In so far as the proposals we have heard to-day will make the Home Guard stronger and more efficient for that great test, we welcome them.