(by Private Notice)asked the Under-Secretary of State for War, whether he has any announcement to make with regard to the extension of compulsory enrolment for the Home Guard?
The powers of compulsory enrolment for the Home Guard are at present in force in Civil Defence Regions Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 12, which approximately cover the area south of a line from the Wash to the Severn. While these Regions include the areas which lie within closest reach of the enemy's invasion bases, it is no less essential to bring Home Guard units in other parts of the country up to the strength necessary to meet the operational requirements of each locality. It has, therefore, been decided, upon the request of the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, to extend the application of the powers of compulsory enrolment for the Home Guard to all the remaining Regions of England, Scotland and Wales. I trust that this measure will not only meet the operational needs of the military situation, but will also have the effect of impressing upon the country at large the importance of the part in our defence plans which has been assigned to the Home Guard and the urgent necessity for bringing it up to the highest level of efficiency and preparedness.
While not, of course, presuming to speak for the country as a whole, will my hon. Friend be assured that this decision will give universal satisfaction in the Home Guard, and especially among the willing horses of the Home Guard? Can he say when these regulations will conic into being, and can he give any indication as to the approximate numbers involved?
That is an entirely different question. The powers for ensuring proper attendances at parades and training have been explained to the House on a previous occasion, and I shall be glad to send my hon. and gallant Friend the information he asks for.
Those who will not be available in the event of invasion clearly cannot be accepted in the Home Guard. Provisions have, however, been made to enable men whose important civilian work may make it difficult for them to be immediately available on mustering to continue to serve in the Home Guard.
The numbers to be compulsorily enrolled in the Home Guard will be fixed solely in relation to the military operational needs of the district. Those needs will be met by the measures which I have announced.
May I ask a question on a very important aspect of this matter? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that equipment and small arms ammunition will come forward in sufficient quantities to give these greatly increased number of entrants into the Home Guard the necessary material with which to train?
Colonel Arthur Evans:
Arising out of the hon. Gentleman's answer to the previous Question, is it not true that some time ago the Secretary of State for War of that day made known to the House the respective duties of the two Joint Under-Secretaries of State; and at that time was it not clearly laid down that one of the Under-Secretaries of State would be responsible for the Home Guard; and is not the House entitled to know whether a change has been made?
I regret that I did not know that these internal office arrangements had been publicly announced to the House. If that is so, I express my regret to my noble Friend. When the recent change in Ministers took place, the duty of dealing with the Home Guard was transferred to the Financial Secretary.