I, like many other hon. Members, welcome this opportunity for a discussion on the Home Guard, and I will try to be brief in the points which I have to put. I particularly welcome the promise of wide discretion in my right hon. and gallant Friend's speech to-day. Of course wide discretion may have some time to be tightened up, and I want to ask my hon. Friend who is to reply for an assurance that he will continue the practice, which has been greatly appreciated by Members of this House who are interested in the Home Guard, of coming to meet us and allowing us to put points to him. I think there are a great many points that can be ventilated in that way to everybody's advantage. Turning to the proposals themselves I welcome them on the broad ground that they are based on what I consider to be the first cardinal principle which should apply to the Home Guard, and that is that it is a Force to be taken seriously. Methods of application must, of course, take account of local conditions. And there is another point which I wish to emphasise very strongly. Compulsory attendance will do more harm than good unless when the men turn up, they get good instruction and are put on useful duties. I consider the question of instruction to be one of primary importance and shall refer to it again. My second cardinal principle in connection with the Home Guard would be that the problems of the Home Guard should be treated realistically. By that I mean, do not generalise too much, take account of local conditions, have a very clear idea of what are the local tasks and, finally, apply the up-to-date lessons of this war.
I am speaking as a platoon commander in a very scattered rural area, covering about 20 square miles. When I talk about being realistic and taking account of local conditions I want my hon. Friend to consider particularly what a change has come about in the duties of the Home Guard in some of the backward rural areas since the Home Guard was raised by reason of the construction of aerodromes all over the country. The duties of the Home Guard in connection with the defence of aerodromes have become, perhaps, one of the most important parts of their duties. They are duties which fall particularly heavily on what have hitherto been regarded as peaceful back areas where there are not large numbers of Regular troops. I do not want to say anything which would encourage the enemy, and I am quite certain that he will get a nasty time. wherever he comes, from the Home Guard, but I do want to be sure that he gets as nasty a time as possible and that we make the fullest use of our facilities.