Home Guard (Compulsory Enrolment).

Oral Answers to Questions — Post Office. – in the House of Commons on 26th March 1942.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore , Ayr District of Burghs

(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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore , Ayr District of Burghs

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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

For obvious reasons I am not prepared to give figures. As regards the date, this measure will be brought into operation as quickly as possible.

Photo of Sir Adrian Baillie Sir Adrian Baillie , Tonbridge

The Financial Secretary stresses the word "enrolment." May I ask him what disciplinary powers it is contemplated giving commanding officers who may desire to take action against conscripted Home Guards who have either failed to fulfil their obligations, or failed to do their duties?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is my hon. Friend aware that certain part-time Civil Defence workers have wanted to join the Home Guard but have not been allowed to do so? Does this statement mean that they can now join the Home Guard?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

Will the Government take into account that in country districts there are disproportionate numbers of men enlisted in the different Services, such as the Special Constabulary, Civil Defence and A.F.S.? In some villages the numbers are altogether out of proportion.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

May we take it that the lion. Gentleman is answering in this matter for the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War, and that the duties of looking after the Home Guard have not been transferred to his Department?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

I think my Noble Friend knows the Procedure of this House very well. Any Minister in a Department can answer a Question addressed to that Department. The responsibility rests of course with the Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

Will men still have the option of joining the Home Guard either at their place of business or at their place of residence, or is that option to be withdrawn?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

No change has been made.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

May I press the hon. Gentleman for information on the point which I raised? I do not know why he should administer a rebuke to me. I merely asked whether the duties of looking after the Home Guard have or have not been transferred to the Financial Secretary to the War Office.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

The responsibility for all matters relating to the Army is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for War, and whatever internal arrangements may be made in the War Office for dealing with particular questions, do not affect that responsibility.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

The numbers which will be enrolled in the Home Guard in each district are fixed in relation to the arms and equipment which are or will shortly be available.

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?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

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.