I do not propose to call any of the Amendments proposed to Clause 1, and I think I ought to say that the Debate on the Clause standing part will naturally be very restricted. The sole question is whether the period of service ought to be extended from 12 months to 18.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
The difficulty which this Bill is designed to meet. is not caused by world circumstances or foreign affairs. I think that that was well established on Second Reading. Nor is it the result of post-war commitments being heavier than pre-war commitments. We are free now of the commitments of India, of Burma, and of Palestine. Instead we have token forces in Greece, in Trieste, and in Germany. By token forces I mean forces which are inadequate in case of war in their area. Any force less than 60 or 70 Divisions is a token force in Germany.
The real cause of our trouble is the misuse of conscription. Instead of using conscription for the purpose for which it was granted, which was to create a trained Reserve, we have fed conscripts into the Regular Army until the Regular Army has become gorged and bloated with conscripts, to the point where it is impotent. It is these numbers of conscripts which the Army has to train which has made it incapable of performing its proper function of meeting our commitments. We cannot implement our commitments because half of the Army is immobilised by conscripts. That is the situation with which we are faced. That is the paradox—that because of conscription we have to increase the period of service. That is the real difficulty we are up against. None the less, this is a fact. In existing circumstances we have to provide ourselves with additional men. The Bill proposes that we shall do this by extending the period of conscription to 18 months. To my mind, it is a political solution. It may be the most accepable solution politically: economically it is the most extravagant solution possible, and militarily it is the most inefficient solution.
When a man is conscribed, he spends the first six months doing his basic training. During that time he is not an asset: he is a burden on the Army. This is not less so because part of his basic training is done after he has been sent to his unit. To that extent he holds back his unit. Under the 18 months scheme the Army is to have the use of the man for 12 months after his basic training has been done. At any given time more than half the Army will be comprised of these conscripts. In the operational units the proportion will be considerably more than half, because the regular Army has to supply most of the special services.
Therefore, at any given time it means that more than half in the operational units will be conscripts with an average service in the unit of about six months. That means that every one of our units will be permanently inefficient, because we cannot get properly trained units on that basis.
The collective training begins at section level. Then we come to the company and squadron level. As recruits come forward to the squadrons and companies the level of training of each company and each squadron is never the same. That means that the companies and squadrons cannot work together. That means we shall never get brigade training under this system, much less divisional training, or training in the movements of great numbers of men, which is necessary to create competent staffs. All this adds up to a permanently inefficient Army.
Conscript armies in peace time always are inefficient. They are big and soft. As a war goes on they may toughen and become good troops, but they begin big and soft. The Dutch mobilised 400,000 men, and they were defeated and forced to surrender in four days by one airborne division of professionals in co-operation with other professionals up in the air. The Belgians mobilised 9,000 men. They were smashed by 500 paratroopers and 30,000 panzer professionals who broke through at the Albert Canal. The French mobilised 5 million. They, in their turn, were smashed by about 150,000 panzers who broke through in the Ardennes and went on to the sea. The German conscripts in those great battles of 1940 played no more than a walking-on part. It was the effectiveness of the professional army in the manæuvring stages of the war that was decisive. The lesson of the last war is that large conscript armies are obsolete; they are no use today. In the initial stages a war must be fought by immensely efficient professional armies. What the army wants today is not more men but fewer men for a longer period.
Not only is 18 months going to give us an inefficient Army, but it is going to give us that inefficient Army at the maximum cost to our economy. So far as overseas service is concerned, quite obviously 12 months is wildly extravagant. No sooner have we got our man acclimatised, than we have to bring him home. The present scheme calls up more men than are required or can be used. It is thought to get over that by postponing the age of call-up by steps. Obviously, there is no future in that scheme. What will happen will be either that we shall have a system of under-the-counter medical examination and individual deferment, or we shall call up far more men than we can use and keep them marching up the hill and down again.
I mean by that creating various medical standards for calling up only half the men we really want, instead of the whole lot, as we are proposing to do under this Bill. In point of fact, I expect that we shall get a bit of both these systems. If the service chiefs were offered a quarter of these men for twice as long, I believe that they would jump at the suggestion. It would be a far better system. Equality of sacrifice, although a splendid principle, does not work very efficiently in practice because sacrifices never can be equal. Equality of sacrifice here means taking from industry double the man hours needed by the forces. But when all this is said the Service Departments, having got themselves into this mess, I do not see how we can avoid the 18 months' period at this juncture. That is the only point on which I really disagree with what the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) said on the Second Reading. I do not think that we can get out of the present muddle in 12 months. I think that it will take a bit longer and, much as I regret it, I believe that we have to accept this proposal at this juncture.
I know that it is a maximum of 18 months, but there is nothing in the Bill which prevents lowering the period if it ceases to be required, and I think that it is absolutely essential to do so. In supporting the Bill as I think we must at this juncture, I would only do so on the basis of receiving an unqualified assurance from the Government that they will regard this as a temporary scheme, and that they will use the time they are buying so expensively to give us something better. That, I believe, to be essential. Conscription can be used to give us a reserve. It cannot be used to give us an efficient standing army.
I would point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that this is not a question of conscription or otherwise. The question before the Committee is whether the period shall be extended from 12 months to 18 months.
That is what I was going on to say. We want our professional army on one side and a shorter period of conscription on the other in order to create our reserve. Conscription cannot mix with a professional standing Army because it diverts that Army from its proper function of developing supreme efficiency upon which our safety in the initial stages of war depends. Look at our situation today. We have twice as large an Army as in 1938, maintained at four times the cost, and we are not capable of putting into the field today one-third of the forces which were available in 1938. That is the shocking picture today. In 1938, we could put 10 divisions into the field. Today we could put into the field perhaps two Infantry divisions, not a single armoured division, not a single airborne division—indeed, not a single division in this country. When there was trouble in Malaya, we had to send the Guards because there was no one else to send. That is what we are getting for our money, for our manpower and for our conscription. More than half our Army which ought to be serving our needs is immobilised, training conscripts.
What we need is a professional Army, and if we had a professional Army untrammelled by conscripts, a quarter of a million men would be ample. That means that we have to find about 70,000 or 80,000 additional men. We can get these men if we are prepared to pay for them. What I would do first is this: I would, at this stage, operate a five years' engagement with seven years on the Reserve, and I would keep that going until we had got our numbers up. In order to get these men, I would offer a bonus of £500 to every man on coming out of the Army. In addition, I would offer a resettlement scheme which really would guarantee a good job, and, over and above that, I would offer to every married man coming out of the Army the guarantee of a house. In five years' time we shall have broken the back of the housing shortage, and young married men coming from the Forces will not be at all a bad housing priority.
On this basis, I personally have no doubt at all that we can get the additional men, but if the Minister doubts that, let him put the question to selected groups of his present conscripts and see how many would accept that bargain. I believe that in two years we could get 70,000 or 80,000 men quite easily. I believe that in addition we could pick and choose men on these terms because they are attractive enough. If we had a professional Army and Air Force untrammelled by conscripts, I think that we would not want more than 400,000 to 450,000 in both Services.
What is the cost of my proposal? If we estimate that the average service throughout the whole of this Force is 10 years, that would mean a turnover of 40,000 or 45,000 a year. That is at a cost of £20 million to £22½ million. If we estimate that the average service works out at seven years, then the cost would be £27 million or £28 million. That is nothing like the cost of conscription. It is not even the cost of the additional six months. So far as I have been able to work it out—and my calculations are rough, as they are bound to be—the whole cost of this extra six months will be between £30 million and £40 million. That is purely in budgetary terms. It is not making any allowance for the loss to industry or, indeed, for the budgetary loss which is involved by preventing these people from being in industry where they earn taxable incomes. On budgetary terms, covering the six months' cost at between £30 million and £40 million, that is far more expensive than a £500 bonus which would give us every man that we want.
Further, I would reduce the period of conscription to six months. We should do that as soon as we can; six months is quite long enough for basic training. In any event, collective training will have to be begun again when the Reservists are re-embodied. I do not say that when first re-embodied the man who has done 18 months will not be a bit better than the man who has done six months to begin with, but that difference will disappear long before finishing the collective training. As far as the reservist is concerned, any period over six months is really so much waste.
Secondly—and I believe this is the most important point of all—we should keep the conscripts entirely separate in organisation from the professional Army. Form them into training battalions, which would be commanded by pensioner colonels, with pensioner company officers and pensioner senior N.C.Os., taking the junior officers from O.T.Cs.—the six months men themselves—and the junior N.C.Os. from cadet corps. There would be primary training units, in which young energetic adjutants would be wanted. My adjutant was Oliver Leese—and he was a jolly good one, too. That is the sort of man we want; and he is the only man who need be called from the professional Army.
In these circumstances the morale of the conscripts will be infinitely better. They will be in their own show——
The hon. and learned Member is now going far beyond the purview of Clause 1. He appears again to be discussing the question of conscription and National Service, and suggesting conditions under which men shall serve. That is quite out of Order on the Question that this Clause stand part of the Bill.
With great respect, what I am discussing is surely this. I am saying that we want a shorter period of conscription; and I am going on to explain how we can have that shorter period of conscription. Surely, that must be in Order. I am saying that we can have that shorter period of conscription by having training battalions, and that that organisation will create among these six-months chaps a morale infinitely superior to their morale when mixed up with the long-service men. The shorter period of conscription I am asking for——
I shall not be many more minutes, depending of course on the number of interruptions.
After the shorter period of conscription is completed the conscripts can be passed into the Territorial Army, where they become a Reserve. I believe that we need that Reserve so urgently that at the moment we ought to form a home guard from our present veterans. But perhaps that is outside the scope of this Clause, so I will not develop the point.
We shall then have a professional Army which will be able to meet a blitzkrieg. We shall have a sort of fire brigade which can go promptly to deal with conflagrations before they spread. That is what we have not got now; and that is what this mixed system of conscription will never give us. We shall have cadres of really supremely efficient forces on which to expand in the event of war. We shall have a Class A Reserve from the Regular Army which, when the system gets working, will enable us to double the Regular Army at the outbreak of war; and behind that we shall have a Territorial Reserve from the conscripts, which will be merely garrison troops—and I do not think they can ever be more; but they will form a reservoir from which bodies can be drawn to fill out the cadres of the professional Army. I believe that to be the way to do it.
Before concluding I would just say this to the Minister of Defence. I think that we have had a wretched tale of weakness and incompetence. The story of our Army at the present moment is quite shocking, and is what he has been warned about continuously from these benches during these past years. If he has not a better story to tell us when we get to the Estimates there will be a storm on these benches——
Without saying it again, I would just point out that I was endeavouring to indicate that, unless better use is made of Clause 1 between now and the Estimates than has been made of the conscription system which preceded that laid down in Clause 1, there will be a formidable storm on the benches behind the Minister, because nothing which has so far happened is not something about which we have been warning the Minister for two years.
I shall endeavour to keep strictly to this Clause, but I hope that before we part from it we shall hear something from the Minister of Labour, who, after all, is responsible for presenting this Bill. This Clause is the kernel of this amending Bill, and so far we have heard nothing from the Minister of Labour whose name appears at the head of the sponsors.
In considering what is in this Clause we must go into some detail to examine the reasons why this amending legislation is introduced to increase the period from the 12 months inserted in the 1947 Act to 18 months. Why was the 12 months decided upon 18 months ago? I believe that it was decided upon, in the first place; because of the economic situation of the country; and in the second place, because it was considered to be the minimum possible period for the military training of National Service men. I do not see any change in our situation today to remove those reasons which were considered valid by the Minister of Defence when he accepted the 12 months' period in May 1947.
In considering this Clause we must bear in mind that this is not the first amendment that has been made in the scheme decided upon in the Spring of 1947. I hope it is in Order to mention that the scheme presented for National Service in the Act we are now asked to amend—the 1947 Act, which was consolidated in 1948—has been amended by other means in the intervening period, the most important amendment being that the age of call-up has been raised, and is being raised progressively despite the assurances that were given. At the same time there have been the deferments in the demobilisation scheme, and the Minister of Defence has also departed, to some extent, from what he said regarding inducements to volunteers.
This Clause embodies the period of 18 months that was originally proposed, and it will, no doubt, receive a great deal of support from Members opposite. But I would point out to Members opposite that they have not, by any means, taken a consistent attitude with regard to this question, notwithstanding what was said by the Leader of the Opposition on the Second Reading of the Bill. They have also blown hot and cold on the question of the pace of demobilisation. Just before the National Service Act, 1947, was presented, when the strength of the Armed Forces was certainly well below the basic minimum of 1½ million men referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, a Member on the Opposition Front Bench was pleading for more manpower to be released from the Armed Forces because of the economic situation. That argument has also been used on several occasions by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler).
I believe the economic reasons for retaining the 12-month period are as valid as they were in the Spring of 1947, and that the argument which was accepted then by the Minister of Defence, that it was possible to give military training within the 12-month period, is also valid. There are Members in this Committee who can argue that they always said a minimum period of 18 months was necessary for military training, but the Minister of Defence and the other Service Ministers cannot argue that, because they accepted, when the Act was passed, that a 12-month period was adequate to give military training to the National Service men. I want to hear from the Minister of Labour about this Clause, because I should like to know what improvements in the general manpower situation of the country have taken place, as compared with the Spring of 1947, which now make it possible for more manpower to be retained in the Armed Forces and for this longer period of military service to be imposed.
I have read the manpower statement in the Economic Survey for 1948, and I would draw the attention of the Minister of Labour to the fact that among the necessities laid down in the Economic Survey for 1948, relating to this question of the period of service and the amount of manpower in the Armed Forces, was the recruitment of 32,000 more coal miners and 100,000 more textile workers, as compared with the previous year. So far, as reported by the Minister, there have been recruited about 7,000 miners, instead of the 32,000, and about 30,000 textile workers, instead of the 100,000. There will be a considerable debit balance when the Minister of Labour comes to report on his scheme for recruiting additional manpower for the essential industries of the country.
I believe, therefore, that the manpower situation, as far as essential industries of the country are concerned, is just as difficult and as problematical for the Minister of Labour as it was in the Spring of 1947, as also is the whole question of the balance of payments and the economic situation of the country. It still remains true to say that we must have the minimum possible period of military training, if we accept the principle of National Service, as I do, and that that minimum period should be 12 months. For these reasons, I hope that the Clause will be rejected.
I very often notice that when good arguments are put from these benches, as they very often are, Ministers are very careful to dodge them. For instance, I have never heard better arguments used than the arguments of those who opposed this Clause and the other Clauses of this Bill the other night. They were very good arguments, but not one of them was dealt with by Ministers on the Government Front Bench. All of them were very successfully evaded. The best arguments I have heard on this question of 12 or 18 months—and it is not often that I have reason to commend the particular Member—were those of the Minister of Defence. I think everyone will agree with that, and that these very sound arguments have never been answered. I ask the Minister of Defence why, when he was speaking the other day, he did not deal with the very powerful arguments that were put by himself last year. Only the Minister of Defence is capable of answering, in a clear and logical manner, the arguments of the Minister of Defence, and until he has answered the arguments, we ought not to be asked to grant this extension.
How is it possible for Members on this side, having listened to the Minister of War talking about the appalling waste of manpower in the Army, to give powers for the Army to take more manpower? Let them clean up the waste before they ask for a further six months. That is the big job upon which they should be engaged. Not only should they clear up the waste, but they should give up commitments in which this country and our lads should never have been involved. As I said to the Prime Minister today, the Foreign Secretary gave a pledge when the General Election was being held that the lads would be brought home from Greece. What are our lads doing over there? Bring them home, and then we shall not need another six months.
As I also desire to raise the same matter may I ask whether it is not proper and desirable that, in discussing what is now being asked for to meet our commitments, we should discuss our commitments and how they should be reduced, as to what extent we can limit 18 months' conscription by limiting our overseas commitments?
is not your Ruling, Major Milner, that it is wholly out of Order to discuss the Greece situation on its merits, but that it is perfectly in Order to say it would be possible to save the need for this extension if the men now in Greece were brought home?
I think I am entitled to give vent to this simple statement, that if the Foreign Secretary and the Government had kept to the pledge given at that Box by the Foreign Secretary, there would be no need for this demand for an extra six months. It would be much better to allow the lads to be relieved from that six months, and that the Government and the Foreign Secretary should keep their pledge, than that we should have such a situation as we have here. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that the back of the housing programme would be broken in five years. At the rate they are going it will not be broken for 500 years, but if instead of the extra six months in the Army, we had these lads directed for an extra six months to building houses what an advantage it would be to the people of this country. It is not the Army and war, but houses and homes that people want.
Take the question of cost. This extra six months will mean a lot of money, and yet when the question of an increase in pensions for the old folk was raised in this House there was no money available for that. How is it that we get a letter sent out telling hon. Members not to support the old age pensioners in their demand for pensions, but to support the question of this extra six months? I say to hon. Members on this side of the Committee that they are not showing too much courage in the support they are giving to the Government on this question.
The Government first said that 18 months was sufficient. They were persuaded that 12 months was enough. So they changed from 18 months to 12 months. Then the Tories got after them, and kept pressing, and now they come away from 12 months and say it shall be 18 months. Everyone knows how willing and ready the Communists are to change their line. I ask hon. Members on this side to stand firm by the statement that was made when the Bill was introduced last year. Twelve months is quite enough—far too much from the point of view of most hon. Members—and there is no justification whatever for this extra six months.
I do not propose to deal with Greece. I wish to deal with the question whether this Clause should stand part of the Bill. I believe it to be a thoroughly bad Clause in a thoroughly bad Bill. I am ashamed to see a Labour Government introducing a Bill entailing such a Clause. I can understand the Tory Opposition agreeing with the principle of conscription, but to me the Debate last week was mere shadow boxing. The real opposition to the Bill will come from the rank and file of the Labour Party in the country and from the people who object to their youth having to stay in the Army for 18 instead of 12 months. This was not in "Let Us Face the Future." No by-elections have been fought on this question. The Government are betraying the people of this country——
I have heard arguments on this Clause described as a personal conflict between "Arsenic and Gold Lace"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Old Lace."]—"Arsenic and Old Lace," as epitomised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton) and the Secretary of State for War. I do not know which is supposed to be "Arsenic" and which is supposed to be "Old Lace."
The underlying idea of this Clause is that the boys must serve for 18 months instead of 12. When this controversy began there was a very interesting article in "John Bull" by that well known military expert, Captain Liddell Hart. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Why do hon. Members say, "Oh!"? When I dared to quote him on a previous occasion, Captain Liddell Hart was dismissed by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) as a "fireside fusilier." I have been looking at his past record since then and I find that he was wounded in the first world war. It is just as unjust to call the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition a "fireside fusilier." But if Captain Liddell Hart is a "fireside fusilier" I do not know what is to be said of the Secretary of State for War.
The article in question is headed, "Conscription is a flop." If conscription is a flop—and this is the view of a gentleman who has not only been a military expert and a military writer for "The Times" and the "Daily Telegraph," but is also military editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica—surely that is a very good reason why we should not extend such a system. In this article, which appeared on 29th May this year, he writes, about this system that we are strengthening by this Clause:
When it was adopted and fastened on us, by Chamberlain in the post-Prague panic of April, 1939—as part of his sudden turn about, following the failure of his appeasement policy—his precipitate step was opposed by Attlee….
In this article this gentleman, who is read abroad, and read in the Kremlin as one of our great military experts, argues conclusively that from the point of view of military efficiency alone conscription has been an absolute failure so as——
The hon. Gentleman must forgive me, but under the guise of dealing with the question of the extension from 12 to 18 months he appears to be dealing with the question of conscription generally, and that of course is not in Order.
My line of argument is this, that if it is a bad and inefficient system for 12 months, that is a sound argument for not extending it to 18 months. It is from that point of view that other hon. Members in the Committee have seen the logic of raising that point in this way.
I will leave Captain Liddell Hart alone. I will finish with him and turn to a military expert who will be listened to, perhaps, with a little more respect—General Giffard Martel. In an article in the "Daily Mail" for 1st September he said—and I am quite sure that if he were arguing about this Clause he would argue that the same points raised for 12 months are ample——
I really cannot accept that. The hon. Gentleman must only adduce arguments relating to the extension from 12 months to 18 months, and not seek to put forward arguments on the general question of conscription.
I will say no more on this point except that General Giffard Martel, who is one of the leading exponents of tank warfare, is absolutely against the principle of extending the period of conscription from 12 to 18 months, especially as conscription has already proved such a failure. With the military experts arguing in this way, is it any wonder that those who have no pretensions or ambitions to be described as military experts should regard this as a bad Clause in a bad Bill?
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) put forward an alternative scheme. He argued that if the soldier were promised a house at the end of his service, that would be a better alternative than the one suggested in this Clause. I would point out to the hon. and learned Member certain practical difficulties with regard to that alternative. One of them is that, as far as Scotland is concerned, the housing problem about which he spoke——
I would not have dreamed of mentioning this had it not been for the unfortunate arguments adduced by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton.
This Bill is a betrayal of the ordinary man by a Labour Government, and I regret it. I believe that in pursuing this line the Government are advocating a policy which will become part of a general Coalition between the two parties. I would remind the Government of what happened last week. Not only did certain hon. Members go into the Division Lobby in opposition to this Clause, but there was a very large number of abstentions. I do not believe that the rank and file of the Labour Party want this Clause; I believe that it is strongly resented by them and that the Government would be wise to withdraw the Bill and to think out other methods of National Defence.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) pointed out—and I do not think anyone will contradict him—that this Measure will be received by the country without much enthusiasm, and will indeed be a source of unpopularity to those who advocate it, particularly in the Labour movement. Of course, I would not suggest that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire would himself be deflected by that consideration, for if we believe it to be a desirable or, indeed, an unavoidable Measure, we should certainly not be deflected by that consideration either. Indeed the case which I want to put to the Committee this afternoon is that the proposed extension to 18 months is wholly deplorable, but that we have no alternative but to accept it. I would argue that it is wholly deplorable for several reasons, many of which have been ventilated either this afternoon or during the Second Reading Debate. In the first place, I very much regret the additional interference in individual lives caused by this Measure; I regret the delay caused to young men who are anxious to begin their careers, and to organise their lives.
Secondly—and this point has been emphasised again and again, but cannot be over-emphasised—let us not forget for one moment that these additional six months mean a definite and grave setback to our economic recovery. I do not suggest for one moment that that consideration can have been absent from the mind of the Government, but it cannot be emphasised too often. Thirdly, I consider that this additional extension is deplorable because, in effect, it is playing the Russians' game. Let nobody suppose for one moment that this Bill is going to stampede Mr. Stalin into a mood of amenability. On the contrary, in so far as it is part of Kremlin policy to oppose Marshall Aid, and, therefore, to delay the consequent possibilities of Western recovery, this Bill helps that purpose. In other words, this Bill is a battle lost for us in the "cold war," and let us not interpret it in any other way.
The fourth reason why I deplore this Bill is because I believe conscription should be regarded as a long-term measure. That was a point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). The purpose of training conscripts is in order to have a population that can be called upon if necessary to form a vast kind of army such as is needed nowadays in total war. I suggest that the principle ought to be accepted that it is uneconomic and in- effectual to plan conscription for short-term purposes that should properly be the function of a Regular Army. This extension of six months is, in point of fact, directed precisely to such purposes. The necessity for the extension is because the Regular Army is inadequate for the purpose of current commitments.
How much training is needed for a conscript is a matter about which there can be no absolute answer. There can be many opinions. Neither the War Office nor even the platoon of brigadiers who assist our debates on defence can give a really authoritative answer for the simple reason that a man requires more training for one Service than for another, more training for one trade inside a particular Service than for another, and that one man, as an individual, requires more training than another. Therefore, all that we can say—and this is relevant to the extension—is that a minimum of six months is probably necessary for a basic training, and that, after that six months, there begins to operate a law of diminishing return: the utility of training after that period, although sometimes useful, in certain cases begins to diminish.
It is important that my hon. Friend's case should be made, and that those who support the Bill should not seem to be doing so in a light or negligent way, or give the impression that they are ignorant of it. If we think it is a deplorable Bill, we can only be supporting it from necessity. The necessity is simply this. We are told in terms of simple arithmetic that, in so far as an equivalent of three or four divisions of the Regular Army are at present being wasted in training conscripts, there are, partly as a result, not enough men in the Regular Services to carry out our commitments.
If, by returning those Regulars to active service through suspending conscription altogether, we did have sufficient troops, I should be advocating not an additional six months but the complete suspension of conscription altogether. Unfortunately, we are given to understand that even the suspension of conscription and the resulting return to active service of three or four divisions would not be sufficient for the purpose. The only alternative left to us therefore is the one which I suggest we have to accept.
I readily admit that this argument assumes that these somewhat nebulous commitments which we accept half blindly, and which are rather vaguely referred to by my right hon. Friend, are inevitable. But you, sir, have given a Ruling that we must not discuss them in too great detail. I do not want to go through all of them, but at least one of them, namely Greece, could surely be dispensed with. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), however, has been completely disingenuous in suggesting that this saving of 5,000 men would solve the problem. Of course, it would not do anything of the kind. In discussing this problem I must not—and do not wish to—range over the whole field of foreign policy, but it might be in order to say that, although I think there is little purpose in canvassing might-have-beens, some of us on these benches have always argued that there would be a multiplication of commitments and frictional spots if our foreign policy did not succeed in establishing three major groups of nations instead of two armed camps. This Debate, whatever else it is, is a melancholy commentary upon the success of our foreign policy. And incidentally there is surely a lesson to be learned here, since foreign policy is the one department of Government activity which has earned the consistent support and approval of the Conservative Party.
If it is true that these commitments are necessary and that they can only be provided for in the way suggested, I still say that it is of the first importance that we should accept the additional six months only with the worst possible grace. We should accept them with a bad grace and conditionally, and we must ask the Government to reassure us most solemnly that they intend energetically to reduce the conscription period at the earliest possible moment, and that they intend therefore to recruit the Regular Army with much more vigour than has been displayed so far.
There are only three ways of doing it. One is to improve conditions. Something has been done in that direction, but the process must be accelerated. The second way is related to the question of pay. We have already had an advance in the announcement made only last week, but I venture to predict that advance will not be large enough to do the trick. We are given to understand that the cost of these increases will be about £12 million or £12½ million a year. Even if we doubled that figure we should still be in pocket as compared with the cost of this additional six months. These six months will cost, according to my calculation, six or seven times £12 million. My calculation is based upon figures which the Minister of Defence gave to the House when the three months' delay in the demobilisation rate was announced. He told us that the three months' delay would cost us about £8 million for six months for about 80,000 men. The figure given us now is for an average of 200,000 men held for an additional six months. I work that out as coming to an annual rate of £80 million a year. [Interruption.] If that figure is wrong, then the figure given by the Minister of Defence must also be wrong.
In addition to that £80 million, there is another calculation to be made, covering the loss to the national income by the withdrawal of so many men from industry. If we are withdrawing 200,000 men or about 1 per cent. of the working population, and that population produces wealth which is equivalent to about £8,000 million a year, then the withdrawal will cost us another £80 million a year. The total cost of the additional six months, therefore, in round figures would be about £160 million a year. For a small proportion of that sum it would be incredible if we could not have an adequate Regular Army.
To sum up, I would ask the Minister to accept in principle the differentiation in function which I have suggested between the conscript and the Regular Army and to keep the definition very clear in his mind. Secondly, I would ask him definitely to pledge himself to reduce the conscript Army and to bring up the Regular Army at the earliest possible moment. Thirdly, I would ask him to watch the new pay code which he has just instituted, to see what effect it has upon recruitment, and to revise it very early if his observations lead him to suppose that revision is necessary.
I do not intend to go into the argument which I put to the House on Second Reading. I shall confine my remarks to the question of a 12 or an 18 months' period. Practically everyone who has spoken has regarded the 18 months as a deplorable necessity. I fully understand the attitude of Members of the party opposite. They recognise that the Government have lost a period of two years or 18 months, and that the Government should have re-orientated our defence policy earlier and been much more generous in their treatment of the Regular Forces, thus stimulating recruiting. Nevertheless, it is their duty to support the Government and try to get them out of the difficulty. I understand that, but I cannot understand people thinking that that is the attitude of anybody in the Opposition.
I say quite frankly to the Committee that we have to put our feet down, the Opposition's feet at least, on this question of Defence. We have to say to the Government: "You must do something now and quickly in order to build up professional Armed Forces." Why we should give the Government this extra six months' leeway I cannot see. We now have 13 months in which to establish a policy to be put into operation quickly and to get more volunteers. The Secretary of State shifted the whole basis of the Government's case in his speech on the Second Reading. I was glad he did. He said:
If we have a large enough Regular Army there would be no need for conscription."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2126.]
That was not the case put forward 18 months ago by the Government or by the Minister of Defence when he started out on his speech on Wednesday. The Liberals have been saying it, and so have hon. Members above the Gangway recently, although I know that a great number of them have been thinking about it for some time. The fact is that once we have built up our professional Forces we shall not have to depend upon conscription.
Why should we give the Government a blank cheque for the next five years? Why not put them up against it, and tell them they must come to the House within the next three months with a scheme for building up the voluntary element in the Armed Forces, instead of these fiddling little schemes like attempting to remedy existing hardships by giving officers extra allowances and subjecting them to Income Tax. That is not the way to get extra recruits. I can understand loyal hon. Members opposite wanting to support the Government at this difficult time, but who will force the Government to come forward with a proper policy? By giving them the 18 months period, we give them an excuse for doing nothing about the professional Armed Forces for the next five years. That is why I want to see a combined Opposition vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. That would make the Government sit up and take notice. It would be a message to them from the Armed Forces of the country that they want the priority to increase the voluntary element. If we pass this Bill the Government can laugh and say, "We have got through that one and have another five years to think about it."
We were told that the total for the Army would be 345,000 in March, 1949. That was the figure given in the last Estimates. The Minister of Defence said that if we had a 12-month period, on 1st January, 1950, there would be 195,000 Regulars and only 110,000 conscripts. If that total for the Army is correct—we have never been told that it has been changed—on the basis of an 18 months' period we shall have 195,000 Regulars and about 160,000 conscripts. Is that correct? Mathematically it is correct, but we can never tell with the Government. If that is so, we have to provide 50,000 more men, volunteers or conscripts on the basis of a 12 months' period. That is the measure of the Government's task with the Army. Are the Government prepared to work out a scheme now in order to secure 50,000 more volunteers rather than use conscripts? If they will do that by 1st January, 1950, we do not need the 18 months' period. That argument is supported by the Secretary of State for War who has said that if we can get the volunteers we do not need the conscripts.
I suggest that we have to make a stand and ask the Government to produce a policy to provide a much higher percentage of volunteers and a much lower percentage of conscripts. If we pass the Clause and the Bill there is no reason why the Government should go ahead and design that policy. That is why we are opposing the whole of the Bill. We feel that the Government must be put up against it.
I hope that hon. Members on all sides of the Committee will realise how the House has changed its attitude of mind about conscription. It is a different attitude from that of 18 months ago when the Liberal Party talked this sort of thing. We were talking it in the country and were laughed at. We were told that we were trying to weaken the Armed Forces. Now we have a consensus of opinion that conscription itself is weakening the Armed Forces. The Government must be forced to make up their minds now and come forward with a comprehensive policy for more volunteers, and then we shall not need an extra six months.
I hope the Committee, and especially the Treasury Bench, will be a little indulgent to me. Hon. Gentlemen will know that it is not always one's own fault if one cuts a Debate. I have arrived just recently and I have to leave the Chamber rather soon, and I apologise. I generally try to attend the Debates in which I participate.
I want to ask two questions which are closely connected with each other, and which my hon. Friends and I have debated with the Minister of Defence at considerable length in the past one way or another but about which we had no explanation at all on Second Reading. I think that this is the proper place to ask for an explanation on the two points I have in mind, which, indeed, are connected with each other. One is the problem of finding among our conscripts and putting upon the Reserve as officers those of the conscripts most likely to make good subalterns if there should be a warlike emergency within the next five or ten years. Hon. Gentlemen who have served in the Armed Forces will agree with the Army proverb that there never was a bad regiment with good officers, and they will also agree with the corollary of that, that the greatest interest of the private soldier, apart from getting his rations every day, is that he should have competent and decent officers. If we are to have rapid expansion of forces at the beginning of a war——
I think so, with respect, Major Milner. If you will permit me one minute longer, I think you will see the point of the argument. The point of the argument is this. Let us take x as the number of months for which a conscript is called up, whether it is eight or 80. It is extremely important that the authorities should be looking during those months for the people they want to be officers later on, and it is extremely important, from the other angle, that the persons conscripted should not think that x is likely to be lengthened and that they are likely to be held for x plus months if they look like turning into apprentice officers or cadets or anything of that sort. I think that the relevance is really clear.
I am sorry, but I do not really see the precise relationship between the hon. Gentleman's arguments and the question of the extension from 12 to 18 months. If he will make that clear, no doubt he will be in Order.
Surely the connection is plain enough. The connection is this. If we expand the Army in war-time, it will be a bad Army unless we have upon our Reserve a good selection of officers from among the people who were conscripts for x months, whatever the x was. The way of getting that will vary according to whether x is eight days of eight years, to take an extreme case. The variation will not be so obvious if it is as between 12 and 18 months, but it will be there.
The right hon. Gentleman has experience of it at present in the period of something like 18 months now required for these men to get a commission. What I want to know is what plans he has made for finding the right men and getting them on the Reserve on the assumption of 12 months, which is still the assumption until the Bill becomes law. What are the plans? Are there regulations which have been published and which I ought to know about, or if not, were there recgulations on the basis of 12 months which have been in draft, and if so, could they be indicated to us? What alterations are now necessary in the plans of the right hon. Gentleman in order that that problem shall be properly dealt with on a basis of 18 months as the normal conscription period instead of 12 months as the normal period? I am convinced that on the human side of organising an Army this is a thing that matters most.
I pass to my second point. The second point I put is in terms of young men wishing to go to the universities—not that I have any great tenderness for any young men wishing to go to the universities or that I have ever tried to get them off any of the hardships or difficulties their coevals have been going to face, as the right hon. Gentleman will bear witness. Here again it makes a very great difference. University courses all begin in October every year and it is a matter of great importance that people who are called up should get out in the next but one September.
There will be very great interference with education and the supply of Reserve officers unless some way can be found of dealing with that. Clearly, this is quite different under an 18 months period from what it was under a 12 months period. We get a spill over into a new year and therefore a risk of people being held up longer. There was authority for regulations under Section 15 of the present operative statute to cover this point. I wish the right hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee what regulations have been framed or, if none have been framed, what regulations are in draft on that point. What changes of plan are necessary in order to make the thing work under the new system?
That is the technical and minor way of putting it, but the general and major way of putting the question is this: Is the right hon. Gentleman now—because I think he was not when we had those all-night Debates as fully convinced of this as I thought he ought to be—is he now fully convinced that we shall interfere both with the efficiency of the Army and with the morale and good will of the Army, which depends on subalterns more than on any other single rank even including sergeants—is he now convinced that we shall not get that right unless we can work in the people who have to go back and spend three, four or five years on academic and professional qualifications, and not merely leave them to work this in as best they can?
The present arrangement has been quite unsystematic for professional people: Dentists, doctors and clergymen, just as in the manual field farm workers and miners have been exempted; they have done what they liked, for their professional training, and come in at a convenient moment. There are other professions, not so obviously of immediate interest and value to each one of us but, in the long run, just as necessary to society, where there have been immense difficulties and hardships imposed by a two or even three-year interruption. In time of peace, that any people should start their university careers three years later than normal, is a terrific additional tax. Can we be certain that this will not happen to such young men—whether or not they wish to become qualified as officers—that they will not be held more than 18 months, that their call-up will be adjusted e.g. so that they may go in six months earlier; or, at any rate, so adjusted that they may come out in August or September?
These are not matters which one can discuss in detail very well here. Really they are not matters susceptible to amendment and, therefore, I did not seek to put down an Amendment. But they are matters about which, now, there is no excuse—there was an excuse two or three years ago—if right hon. Gentlemen have not now got exact plans how these things are to be done. Unless they can convince the Committee that those plans are exact and not unreasonable, they have, in my submission, no right to this Clause.
It has been said in the course of the Debate that the principle of conscription was conceded 18 months ago and is not in issue on this Bill or on this Clause. That, of course, is true, but it is also true that this argument about whether the period of conscription should be 12 or 18 months raged over the Debates which the House and the Committee had about the principal Act, and that a great many people who on that occasion voted for the Government, did so on the express understanding that the period of conscription would not be 18 months but 12 months. If on that occasion the Government had indicated that they would stand by their original proposal that the period of compulsion should be 18 months, the number of Members who voted against the principal Act would have been much larger than it was. Indeed, it is scarcely too much to say that, but for the indication of the Government on the Second Reading of the principal Act that they would themselves propose an Amendment to reduce the period from 18 months to 12, it is even doubtful whether the House of Commons would have accepted the Bill at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Slough——
And Eton. Sometimes I think he is rather more the Member for Eton than the Member for Slough. However, I think I am right in saying that he was one of the Members who took an active part in persuading the Government 18 months ago to reduce the period then contemplated of 18 months to 12 months.
He was one of a group who did so. There were also the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man), the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), and the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). I think I am right when I say that they were generally known as the "Keep Left" group. With the honourable exception of my Friend the Member for Reading, who remains of the opinion he expressed 18 months ago—at least, so I understand—the others seem now to have demonstrated that the words "Keep Left" are not so much a political slogan as a marching song.
The hon. Member has made quite a number of misstatements already in the course of his speech. First, the "Keep Left" group took no corporate view and made no corporate decision on this matter. Secondly, I myself was not one of those who were prominent in persuading the Government to make the reduction. Thirdly, it is completely libellous for him to suggest that I represent Eton more thoroughly than I represent Slough. My constituents have no such illusion. I might have replied that the hon. Member represents Colne more than he represents Nelson.
I readily accept all the disavowels of my hon. Friend. In doing so, might I remind him that there is rather more difference between Eton and Slough than there is between Nelson and Colne? I am sure my hon. Friend does his best to represent all his constituents, but I rather think that his speech today would be more satisfactory in some portions of his constituency than in others.
To return to my point, although my hon. Friend says that he personally was not involved, I understand that he does not contest my point that a great many people voted for the major Bill 18 months ago expressly on the understanding that the period would be 12 months and not 18.
Certainly, but all we are concerned with at the moment is whether we ought now to agree to extend the period from 12 months to the original 18 months. It seems to me quite clear that all the arguments which weighed with people in opposing the principal Measure, must apply with even greater force to a proposal to extend the period. If it is wrong in principle to compel people to serve in peace time, then it must be rather more wrong to compel them for 18 months than for 12 months. If it is a dangerous thing, at a moment of economic crisis, to withdraw a generation of young people from industry and keep them out of it for 12 months, then it must be even more mischievous to keep them out of industry for 18 months. I can think of no argument which is relevant on the main principle of conscription which does not apply with even greater force to a proposal to extend the period by six months.
I hope that, without offence, I may refer again to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy). He made, I thought, an extremely eloquent and convincing speech—[An HON. MEMBER: "Against the Bill."]—against the Bill. I do not know what is the argument which anyone could advance against all that part of his speech in which he sought to demonstrate that the Bill was wholly deplorable, What I could not understand about his speech was its conclusion. I understand his argument, that in spite of all the mischief, all the danger and all the inconvenience of this Measure, it may, nevertheless, be necessary; and therefore, if it is necessary, in spite of all the cost and all the mischief, one must perforce accept it. That was his argument. But I think his argument broke down utterly in that he never for one moment sought to explain why it was necessary to increase the period from 12 to 18 months. I know he said—I made a note at the time—that it was in order to meet our current requirements, but he did not explain what they were.
I am not the Chairman, but I venture to doubt that. Nobody was precluded on Second Reading. The Secretary of State for War, in fact, did so. He made a very remarkable speech in winding up the Second Reading Debate. He dealt most faithfully and effectively with the Opposition. He made one of the best debating speeches I have ever heard in the House of Commons; but the most remarkable thing about his speech was that he could not, in the space of the 45 minutes available to him, find even two minutes in which to explain why it was necessary to increase the period from 12 to 18 months. As that was the only thing the Bill was about, it was a rather remarkable omission. At that time nobody was precluded from saying what were the commitments. I hope I am not out of Order, Sir, in saying that, so far as anybody here knows, our commitments today are not greater than they were 18 months ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are less."] Eighteen months ago we still had forces in India and Palestine. We have not got them there now. In what way have our current commitments increased in the last 18 months?
Is my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) now saying that we are increasing the period of conscription from 12 to 18 months. beginning on 1st January, 1950, in order to meet our commitment in Malaya?
No doubt the hon. Member will make his speech if he wants to. I should have thought that either our commitment in Malaya will have been successfully discharged long before the Bill comes into operation, or it will never be discharged at all and the men will be back home. For my part, I prefer the second possibility to the first. In any case the increase in the period of conscription from 12 to 18 months under this Bill can have no bearing at all upon our present commitment in Malaya. Even if I am wrong, however, and we bring Malaya into the overall picture—even if I concede that point to my hon. Friend—we are still left, on balance, with the conclusion that, even including Malaya and supposing it has a bearing upon the Bill, our current overall commitments are substantially less today than they were 18 months ago.
They should be, if they are not. We have to deal with the actual facts. If anyone were to say that he knew what was the increased commitment, we should want to know from what source he had derived his information, because no such information has been given either to the Committee or to the House. If anybody relies upon increased commitments today as compared with 18 months ago, he will have to rely upon his inner conscience, because no information is available.
Even then, one would want to know how and why. What I say to my hon. Friend—and I am sure he will concede it is a reasonable point for me to make—is that if we are prepared to swallow this Measure on its merits, then commitments have nothing to do with it. If, on the other hand, it is regarded as a bad Measure to which we give our support only because of dire necessity, then we must be quite clear what is the dire necessity, and the facts and figures which make the necessity dire ought to be equally available to all of us. No such facts and figures have ever been made available to us. It may well be that what has happened in the past 18 months is not an increase in commitments at all, but a general deterioration in the international situation as a whole.
It is remarkable how often the point changes. It looks as though some people are so determined to have this period increased from 12 to 18 months that they do not care what the point or the reason is, and when it has been shown that the point or the basis of the increase so far advanced has not been demonstrated, there is somebody always ready to come forward with some new hypothesis and basis.
Is the hon. Member really suggesting that the retrograde international situation has not been put forward as one of the principal grounds for this Measure, and that it is not upon that argument that many of us are reluctantly voting for a Measure for which we should not otherwise vote?
I heard the Minister of Defence open the Debate on Second Reading and I heard the Secretary of State for War close that Debate, and think I am entitled to say that, if I am looking for the Government's reasons, I prefer to take them from the Government Front Bench rather than from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale). The Government did not give those reasons. They could not have given those reasons. No one from the Front Bench, at any rate, has put forward the proposition that it is necessary now to increase the period from 12 months to 18 months because of the deterioration in international relations during the interval. Had anybody done so, I would have referred him again to the most effective reply to that argument which my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough gave in his speech today. He ought to take my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham into the Corridor and explain the point to him. If my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham is really voting for this Clause and for the Bill on that assumption, and my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough is voting for it on the opposite assumption, their arguments cancel each other out, and both ought to go with me in the Lobby and oppose the Clause. We really ought not to play with this matter.
Is not my hon. Friend playing with the subject? He has spent 20 minutes replying to his own rhetorical points with rhetorical observations, but he knows quite well that no Member of the Front Bench could say that we are increasing the period vis-à-vis any particular aspect of the international situation. He knows the rapidly deteriorating international situation is an essential factor.
The last person with whom I would quarrel, or attempt to quarrel, is my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham. I opposed the principal Measure and gave my reasons, and I am opposing this Bill and am merely giving my reasons and trying to examine the reasons given by friends of mine in this House who accept my general approach to these matters, but who, nevertheless, feel compelled to vote with the Government on this occasion. I am very sorry that my hon. Friend finds my analysis of their reasons, and my seeming to see a conflict between their reasons, so irritating. That is not my fault. If the analysis is wrong he will be able to demonstrate how it is wrong. I say that, as far as I know, the Government have not put forward any case which we can examine, or which will bear any kind of analysis, for increasing the period from 12 to 18 months Therefore, it seems to me that all those who are against conscription in peace-time will vote against the Clause and all those who were in favour of conscription on the Government's undertaking to reduce the period to 12 months ought to vote against the Clause. All those who feel that the extended cost of this Clause is so great that it cannot be supported, except on proof of dire necessity, ought also to vote against the Clause, because no dire necessity—indeed, no necessity at all—has been demonstrated by anyone.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has carried on quite a quarrel with his hon. Friends sitting two and three places away from him and I was getting very sorry for the hon. Member for North Eastern Derby (Mr. H. White) who sits between the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale).
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne did not surprise us when he told us the real reason why, 18 months ago, the maximum period came down so suddenly from 18 months to 12 months, and if I had to follow some of his arguments in detail I should detain the Committee for too long. Perhaps I should content myself with reminding the Minister of Defence that it is no good trying to compromise with people who have not the same aims as oneself. I believe the reason why the right hon. Gentleman has come to the Committee with this Clause is that without it we cannot have strong Defence Forces. He realises that the real trouble is that the Army, particularly, has got into a mess because of the quick reduction from the two years' service, which men are now serving in the Forces to 12 months' service, which will stand unless this Clause comes into operation from 1st January.
I wish to make a point in connection with the observations of the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) who unfortunately is not in his place, although I see two of his Liberal colleagues present. I think he was guilty of the Liberal fallacy in Defence Debates that because we may aim at no conscription in the active forces, in peace-time—which is my aim—we must prevent the Army, Navy and Air Force from being as strong as they ought to be. He seemed to me to give no argument against passing this Clause. We may share his aim and also share the view, which no doubt the Minister of Defence will put to us, that 18 months' service is now essential. I see nothing conflicting between those two points of view.
I do, however, think that the Liberal Party, particularly the hon. Member for North Dorset, ought to try to think out more clearly the problem which faces us at the moment. He and other hon. Members are apt to think of Service manpower merely in terms of numbers. It is quite wrong to do some multiplications and additions and to suppose that 110,000 men serving 18 months instead of 12 months will produce 150,000 trained men. There is a difference between a trained man and a recruit and the Liberal Party, who think that merely by getting 100,000 or 50,000 Regular recruits at once we are getting trained men, are making a great mistake. So is any hon. Member who thinks in that way. The problem which all the Forces have to face at the moment is the lack of trained men. A man who has done 18 months' service, or even 12 months' service, as a National Service man is at present more valuable to the Army, Navy and Air Force than a raw recruit, even though he may be a Regular recruit.
Of course they will. I think the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) understands what will in fact happen. It will be much easier for the Government to reduce the number of National Service men rather than to reduce the period during which they are asked to serve. If the object is to get more trained men, as the number of Regular troops goes up they will find it easier to reduce the number of National Service men they call up, rather than the length of the period for which they call the men up.
I wish to reinforce observations I have heard from various sides of the Committee and to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he is aiming at an all-Regular Army, an all-Regular R.A.F. and an all-Regular Royal Navy for active force purposes. I do not ask him to give the answer in regard to the training of Reservists, but I should like a positive answer in regard to the active forces.
The speech of the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) must have been very welcome to the Government Front Bench because it is the only speech this afternoon not directed either straightforwardly or indirectly against the objects of this Clause which seeks to increase the period of service from 12 months to 18 months. The reason why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War indicated assent to the views of the hon. Member with such zest was that it must have been a great comfort to him to have some sugar after all the pills he has been swallowing since half past three.
I will not go into that, but I am bound to say that it appeared to me that my right hon. Friend was enjoying the experience, for the first time in two hours, of not being disagreed with. He was obviously enjoying it a great deal.
I have listened to every word of every one of the speeches today and I heard every word of every one of the speeches made in the Second Reading Debate last Wednesday. All the speeches but one today, and many of those which were made in the Second Reading Debate, adduced some reasons against the raising of the period of national service from 12 months to 18 months. One of those reasons, which was put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and by some other hon. and gallant Members, is that this increase in the period of service will make the Forces inefficient. I will not enter into a discussion upon that for the very good reason that I am not qualified to do so.
Many of the other reasons put forward against the increase of the period of service proposed in this Clause appear to me to be, whether valid or not, irrelevant as reasons for opposing this Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said that the Clause was bad because it would be unpopular, which seems to me to be inadequate reason for opposing it.
I do not wish to misquote my hon. Friend, but that is what he appeared to me to be saying.
Others have opposed amending the period of service on pacifist grounds, and though many of us do not agree with them we respect their sincerity, but they are grounds which are relevant in considering the fact of national service but not the length of national service. Some have opposed the increase as a means of expressing disagreement with the Government's foreign policy and the commitments which have arisen therefrom. It seems to me that this is not the right and logical place to do that, however much one wants to disagree with the Government's foreign policy. One hon. Member condemned the extension on the grounds that it was bad for the morals of 18-year-old boys. My own experience in this matter is that 18-year-old boys are much less likely to be morally seduced than some 40-year-olds, and on the whole are generally quite capable of looking after themselves.
Finally, my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) and Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), among others, have argued that this extension must now be wrong because it was argued to be wrong 18 months ago.
My point was not that it is wrong now because it was argued to be wrong then, but because no case whatever has been made out for saying that what was wrong then is right now.
That is just the point that I am trying to make, that a thing which was the case in the spring of 1947 might well cease to be the case in the autumn of 1948. One really ought not to say, therefore, that for the reasons which were given against the extension some 18 months ago the extension is not now needed.
Having said that, I wish to say that in the same way that I cast a vote against the Second Reading, I propose to cast a vote against this Clause, and for two reasons which have scarcely been mentioned in the course of the Debate. The first of these is that in my view this extension will defeat the purpose which it sets out to serve. The second reason is that the purpose which it sets out to serve can be served in a much simpler and much better way.
Let me deal first with the contention that this extension of this Clause will defeat its own purpose. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne became involved in an argument with some other hon. Members about what was supposed to be the real purpose behind this Clause. The Minister of Defence said something about this in moving the Second Reading last Wednesday. It is time we stopped being mealymouthed about the thing and said quite plainly what some people seem to want to say all the time in anagrammatic phrases like cross-word clues. The purpose of this extension is to show a front of military preparedness against the Russians. What this extension does is precisely to play into the hands of the Russians by playing their own game and by playing it on the ground upon which they can always beat us. It is playing their game by weakening our economic position and above all by weakening our ability to play a leading part in welding Western Europe together as a coherent political and economic force.
The Russians have a great deal more manpower to play about with than we have. If we are to sit at a table with them at this silly poker game, with one side trying to bluff the other, and with each player shoving some manpower chips into the middle of the table each time to support his bluff, they have a lot more manpower chips to push into the middle of the table than we have. If they want to carry out the nefarious purposes which some hon. Members and some others think that they have in view—I make no comment on them—all that they have to do is to keep on cooking up one scare after another which will put us in a panic so that we shall divert more and more of our manpower and materials into military purposes, lower our economic standards, lower our standard of living, and create what we have never had in this country, a really powerful, effective Communist force arising out of the lowering of the standard of living.
The Russians are in a very strong position in France and in Italy without having fought any war against those two countries. They have done it entirely through the lowering of living standards, which has encouraged and in fact created an effective Communist movement. That has always been the attitude of the Kremlin to France and Italy. In passing this Bill with this Clause included we are making it easy for the Kremlin to adopt just the same attitude to us as they have adopted towards France and Italy. We are giving them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) said, a bloodless victory, a victory in the "cold war."
There have been one or two references to the economic cost of this Clause, to the many ways in which this increase in the manpower of the Services represents a drag upon our economy. I hope that I may be forgiven if I say that it sometimes seems to me that we do not pay sufficient attention to this drain on our economy which is represented by the increase of manpower in the Services, and that we do not try to understand the many ways in which that drain is made up. In the first place 100,000 or so extra men will be put in the Forces. In the second place, for every 100 men put into uniform, between 40 and 45 factory workers are engaged in the most direct way in making clothing, shoes and armaments for those 100 men in uniform.
But in addition to those people directly engaged there is a whole host of what the economists call multipliers at work, a whole host of people indirectly engaged either for the whole of their time or for part of it in meeting the needs of the Armed Forces, and whose work is to that extent diverted from productive industry. Every coalminer who this week is hewing coal which will go to heat barracks is as much lost to the mining industry, and to the service of industry in general, as if he himself were in uniform. Every time a train carrying military supplies runs along a railway line it occupies track space and track time which ought to be occupied by a goods train carrying export goods to a port from which they can be sent overseas. Every time a civilian telephonist puts through a military telephone call that is one fewer civilian call which can go from one factory or office to another to serve the export market.
We here may not always understand the enormous economic cost involved in all this, but the workers in our factories understand it well enough. I do not know how anyone can go to a factory—as I try to do sometimes—and say, "Come on, boys. The Prime Minister has asked you for another 10 per cent. to support the nation's recovery, to hasten our day of economic independence," when such a large proportion of that 10 per cent. is being diverted to purely non-productive purposes.
May I quote as an example something which happened to me a few months ago, in the summer? I was in a large foundry, examining the work done there. It was a blazing hot day and, as Members will know, a foundry on such a day can be a hot, dirty and uncomfortable place. It was all the more uncomfortable and more difficult on account of the fact that the foundry was badly undermanned. More than half the workers were over 45, and one-third were above 55. The men at this foundry were working hard in bad conditions. Yet less than a mile away there was an Army camp in which several hundred fit and healthy young men were lying in the sun. Ostensibly they were being trained, but they complained that their training time was negligible. When the men in the foundry saw these young soldiers walking past they said, "We could do with some of those chaps here." How can factory workers be asked for extra effort when they see that sort of thing happening?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we obtained last year, more dollars from Malaya than from the whole of Britain's industrial output, and that unless we have troops there to prevent Malaya being overrun by Communists it will be impossible to maintain and increase this business development?
At the time of which I am speaking the Malaya situation had not developed. I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman is willing to give lessons to Members of the House on how to talk to factory workers and on any other subject, but I do not require them from him. What I was saying was in support of my contention that this Clause will defeat the purpose which it sets out to serve.
I want now to say a few words about the second argument against this Clause. Its purpose could better be achieved in another way, by getting 18 months' value out of 12 months' service by the better utilisation of manpower in the Services, and by improving and speeding up training methods. The major part of this National Service is for training purposes. I know that in recent years there have been great improvements in training methods and the utilisation of manpower, but it is still true that the effective utilisation of manpower in the Services is much below the level which has been achieved in any other fields in which manpower is used to any great extent.
During the war, and since, we learned to train people for complicated vocations demanding great manual skill and technical knowledge. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour knows, we taught them how to handle complicated tools and machinery. My right hon. Friend knows more than any one else here, how people were trained in a matter of weeks for jobs for which, formerly, they had to be trained for months or even years. In the Services there is ample evidence to show that training starts much more slowly and continues at a much more leisurely pace. I doubt whether there is one Member who has not had letters from constituents complaining that they are not being put to good use in the Services, and that they are wasting a great deal of time. There must be many who have had the experience that I have when I go around the country and give a lift to young Service men going to and from leave. I hear them tell one tale after another, not so much to me as to one another, of how their time is wasted and how little time is effectively used in training.
Some time ago I received a letter from a young constituent of mine whom I happen to know, and who is one of the brightest and most intelligent young men I have come across for a long time. He went into the Royal Air Force, took a trade test and was told that he would have a year's training course as a radar wireless mechanic. Ten weeks later he
was still confined to camp, doing foot and rifle drill and what he calls "much polishing." In the following four months, at the end of his 10 weeks, he was given eight periods of leave amounting to 70 days. On one occasion he was home on leave for seven days when he got a telegram authorising a further seven days, which was cancelled by another telegram the following day. He went back to his unit and, four days afterwards, another telegram arrived at his home authorising a third extension of leave. About this he said:
On this third telegram, which arrived four days after I had gone back to duty, my family and I were completely mystified. They thought I was back at camp. I thought so, too. I was.
When I last heard from this young man—and this is a sad commentary on training in the Services—seven of the 12 months' course which he was taking to be a radar wireless mechanic had passed and his training had not even begun; indeed, this fine piece of young manpower was being used to issue vests and knickers to W.A.A.F.S Any training manager in a factory who deployed his labour in that way would have been fired in a month. and he would have deserved it.
The trouble is that the people who are responsible for the deployment and utilisation of manpower in the Services are never fired. If they fall down on their jobs because they have not enough labour their remedy is not to deploy their labour strength more effectively; it is to push to the head of the manpower queue and scream their heads off for more labour. The Services must now fall into line with industry, realise there is an overall manpower shortage and do what every day the Front Bench are asking industry to do—make more use of their existing manpower, introduce new methods to obtain better results per head and, in consequence, reduce the need for more men.
We talk to engineers about motion and operation study. We talk about it in the newspapers with prettily illustrated advertisements. We go to the textile industry and say, "redeployment"—the magic word. We say, "You must redeploy your labour so that you have not got skilled men doing semi-skilled jobs and semi-skilled men doing unskilled jobs." Managers of cottonmills have had to revolutionise the whole of their outlook. They have now learned that there is not a dole queue of surplus labour and that they must get more out of the labour which they have got. I see no reason why the admirals, generals and air marshals should not be compelled to revolutionise in the same way.
The Secretary of State for War indicated in the closing passages of his speech last Wednesday—passages which I am sure were greatly appreciated by everyone—that he is applying his mind actively to this problem. The House must have been grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his frankness. He did not try to cover anything. He said that partly because there was a shortage of facilities, and doubtless partly because of other reasons, this mental revolution has not taken place and there is not first-class utilisation of manpower in the Services. I do not doubt the sincerity of his desire to tackle the problem or the energy and ability which he will bring to it. However, I want to put this point to him. We really will not get the people responsible for manpower utilisation in the Services to roll up their sleeves and tackle this job until we create the same constriction of manpower, the same shortage of manpower which in industry has compelled industrial managers to roll up their sleeves.
I hope that no one will think that I am carrying too far this comparison between the Services and industry. Nowadays the three Services consist of a comparatively small spearhead of effective fighting troops, who are backed up by a large background of people who are not troops at all but merely workers in uniform. I do not use that description in any derogatory sense: it is an honourable term. We have doctors, nurses, wages clerks, stores clerks, storekeepers, lorry drivers and cooks and a whole host of workers in the Services whose work is exactly the same as the work of doctors, nurses, wages clerks, stores clerks, storekeepers, lorry drivers and cooks in other jobs outside the Services. It is these workers in uniform who represent the bulk of the Services manpower. I have been told, though I have not been able to check the figures, that in the R.A.F. there are more cooks than there are air) crew. That may well be necessary when we have this large background of workers in uniform who are not always used to the best effect.
I quote the case of another constituent of mine who is a sergeant in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He served as a volunteer from 1940 to 1946, was demobilised, revolunteered at the end of 1946, and has been in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers ever since. Before his service in the Army this man had worked in an iron foundry and had reached the highest skilled level. In the Army from 1940 to 1946 he was a motor mechanic and he became a sergeant instructor. Since his re-entry at the end of 1946, in spite of repeated applications, he cannot get in any technical course. He is now being used to teach ordinary foot and rifle drill. There is one man whose effective utilisation could certainly be increased by 50 per cent., as could the utilisation of tens of thousands of others. If that were done we certainly would not need a 50 per cent. increase in the length of service.
There is one other way in which it appears to me we could make a better use of Services manpower. We could do it by the rationalisation of common trades, skills and services between the three Arms. I have always thought, as have many of my hon. Friends, that that was what the Ministry of Defence was set up to do—or at least that was one reason. As far as can be seen by a layman on the outside, the Ministry of Defence instead of acting as a rationalising force between the three Arms, has merely become a superstructure on top of the three Services which adds something to the weight but does not appear to add anything to the power.
Much could be done by inter-Service planning and rationalisation. If we nationalised transport in order to rationalise rail with road transport, why cannot we rationalise R.A.F. transport with Army transport? Why do we see so often on the roads overloaded Army lorries passing empty R.A.F. lorries and overloaded R.A.F. lorries passing empty Army lorries? Could we not save labour by having a common medical service and by having one common organisation and piece of machinery for training lorry drivers, nurses or cooks? Could we not get a better use of barracks and buildings if they were controlled by a single authority? Are there not many other ways in which the work and organisation of the three Services could be reduced if the common features between them were planned in a simple way by the Ministry of Defence which was supposed to do that job?
These are the reasons why I say that this Clause defeats the object it ostensibly sets out to achieve. If we want to achieve that object of showing a stronger front, the best way is to encourage, by creating a manpower stringency, a better use of manpower in the Services. It is laziness and unwillingness to think out problems of deployment of Service manpower which has led to the demand for this Clause, and, therefore, I shall oppose it.
The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), was certainly correct when he said that this was a Clause which, so far, had been almost without friends or supporters. I do not think I can remember in my experience the first Clause of a major Government Bill being so ill-received by all those who are nominally its supporters. It may be that at some later date the Minister will find a friend on behalf of this Clause from his side of the House. I am bound to say to him and the Government that I think this position has arisen very largely through their own fault. It is not the merits of the case that have brought them into this trouble: it is their own shuffling and the order, counter-order and disorder in which they have indulged. In the process of this order, counter-order and disorder they have manufactured a whole series of pretexts for their manifold changes of policy. As the pretexts have been varied ones, confusion has merely been worse confounded.
For instance, on Second Reading we had an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman that this return to 18 months instead of 12 was in the main caused by a deterioration in the international situation. I agree that the international situation has deteriorated, but personally I and my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee do not regard this necessity for a period of 18 months' service as being caused by that. We have always thought that if we were to have a conscript Army at all, men would have to serve for about 18 months. What has happened is that the Government have been compelled to go back to the position from which they originally ran away. Their troubles are due to that. I thought that the hon. Member for Reading also had a point when he said that he was worried about the waste of manpower. I think there is a point there, because under this new scheme the Government will have a surplus in excess of what they budgeted for before. We have been given no indication as to how this 18 months' surplus is to be used, and I hope that such an indication can be given in this Debate.
We on this side of the Committee were never convinced that 12 months would prove a workable period in order to have a National Service scheme which would assist the Minister of Defence in his task. We reluctantly supported the 12 months on the first occasion, although we made it clear, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree, that we did not think it was workable, and now we are back to the 18 months period. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy), whose speech was perhaps the greatest curiosity of this Debate. I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough made an overwhelming indictment of the Government's policy and then proceeded to show how, on the basis of that indictment, he would support them. [Interruption.] Whenever I have been a supporter of a Government and did not agree with it, I usually contrived to give a silent vote.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to wastage and the waste of time in the Army, but I am quite sure he would not say that it was due to stupidity or incompetence on the part of the fellows who run the Army. He must recognise that there is an awful wastage in the Army, as was admitted by the Minister, who says that there are more men than the organisation can handle, and, recognising that, says "Shove in some more."
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but I was coming to that point. One of the arguments of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough was that, by extending the period to 18 months, we were giving Stalin a present in the cold war, and I know how anxious the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) would be not to do that. I was only anxious to reassure him as soon as I could that, in my judgment, we are not by this extension giving Stalin any present in the cold war, because the 12-month period was really completely useless. It is much better that men should serve for 18 months if the result of it is that their service is of more value than service of 12 months would be, because, in our judgment, that service is of no value at all. It is our view that 18 months does afford a chance of building up an Army under certain conditions, but that 12 months gives no hope at all of doing so.
We never got the 12 months. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it has never been brought into force. The Government first suggested, and quite rightly, a period of 18 months, it was reduced, quite wrongly, to 12 months, and has now been advanced, quite rightly, to 18 months. I am sorry that I have to explain the Government's actions to their own supporters.
Let me repeat our position in this matter. We say that the best course the Government can pursue, in order to get that Army built up, if we are to have a National Service Army, is to have 18 months, but there are one or two points about it that I want to make. First, there was a cryptic reference to the Regular Army by the Secretary of State for War at the end of the Second Reading Debate, when he said that, if we had a large Regular Army, this extension would not be necessary, and even conscription itself might not have been necessary at all. [Interruption.] Well, this is very important, and we should like to know a little more about it.
The right hon. Gentleman was asked by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) how many men did we want, and how large an Army did the right hon. Gentleman need. We should like to know that, too. Have the Government got a plan by which they say that, if the Army reaches a certain point, there will be no need to extend it, or no need for conscription at all? What is the target on which the Government is working? I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman would make an observation like that without there being some plan behind it.
If certain maximum numbers were made clear, surely the right hon. Gentleman could say whether or not his party would or would not favour the abolition of conscription?
I have not heard anybody advocate conscription for the sake of conscription. National service is necessary to create an Army to fulfil our commitments. I was dealing with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and what I am now asking is what is the size of the Regular Army which the Government consider necessary in conjunction with National Service.Will they tell us the figure which is considered necessary——.
May I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman? He said that he had not heard anybody argue in favour of conscription for its own sake. Surely, that is not so. Surely, a great many people, I think on both sides of the House, though certainly more on that side than on this, have often argued that it is much better for every citizen without discrimination to do his share in national defence, instead of having what was called a recruiting master of destitution and unemployment to make the selection? Surely, the right hon. Gentleman ought to be able to say whether his party wants conscription for its own sake, or whether, on the other hand, if we could get a standing Army without conscription, he would prefer that?
I find no difficulty about that at all. I have never said in my public life that I am in favour of conscription for its own sake, nor, so far as I know, have any of my hon. Friends. If the Government can raise a national Army by other and better methods, then let them do it, by all means. What I was asking was, what is the Government's policy at the moment, and I think the hon. Gentleman will agree and perhaps may help me in that pursuit. What I want to discover is what is this new proposal indicated at the end of the speech of the Secretary of State for War, and what is the figure on which the Government would like to work in order to create such a situation that they would consider National Service to be unnecessary. I think that is a very interesting item which might usefully be explored.
A lot has been said about the wastage of time. One of the things which makes us think that 18 months is preferable, quite apart from the military advantage—and I put this to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, amongst others—is that the period of 18 months would make it possible for more of our young men to go abroad. I would say that those who will get the most out of their service are those who will go abroad, and all the information which I have shows that those who do their service overseas get more out of it and that many people would prefer that to staying at home.
I think that is very important, and we have had reports on the well-being of the Army abroad which indicate that these young men have set a very high standard in the countries where they are. I was confirmed in this by reading the other day a report by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has been with the Army of the Rhine.
While we know that the right hon. Gentleman has been quite reasonable, when he wants to quote, on the merits of foreign service, the Archbishop's argument in favour of it, he ought to remember that the Archbishop said that the moral welfare of the troops abroad is far and above anything which exists in this country, and that that is a scandalous reflection on the state of affairs in this country, so far as the Archbishop's views are concerned.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman is thoroughly dissatisfied with this country, but I am equally sure that the remedies he proposes are not such as would appeal to the country as a whole. I will now deal with what the Archbishop said. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman wants to hear it. He said:
My own feeling was that there is less likelihood of a young man going off the rails in Germany than if he were in Britain.
That seems to be an argument for thinking that it is not a bad thing that these young men should go overseas for a while. All things are relative. I did not read it in the same way as did the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin); I did not read it as an indictment of the conditions in Britain under a Socialist administration. Perhaps I was wrong. The Archbishop went on to say:
Officers are handling the men with care and imagination.
I have no doubt that is true. He said:
The men are getting pretty hard work to do—intelligent and interesting jobs.
It is important, when we have these Debates, that the House should not create a bad impression of what is going on in the Army. I think that, generally speaking, everything that can be done is being done to see that the time spent by conscripts in the Forces is well spent. I come back to my original argument and say that, on the whole, I believe they get more value from their service overseas than they do if they remain at home.
One further subject. One of my hon. Friends and one or two other hon. Members have referred to the seriousness to young men of this change of plan. I will not raise this matter now because we have something down later on the Order Paper. I will only say now that there is nothing more important than that the Government, in extending this period, should have in their minds the position of young men and the bad effect which uncertainty must have upon them.
The Minister of Defence made a speech the other day—I always like to read his speeches—at, I think, Weston-super-Mare. It was as near to the sea as he could get, but there was no real danger of being in a harbour; it was a nice little place by the seaside. There be gave a little advice to the British people. I am going to read it because I think, had he adopted it himself, he would not be in his present difficulty. Having said what a lot of good progressive legislation the Government had given the British people, he went on to say:
We believe the British people are sound at heart, and, if you trust them and give them an occasional crack of the whip, they will pay a fair dividend.
Had the right hon. Gentleman been half as bold as that with his own party when he was originally standing out for the 18 months, he would not be in the trouble he is now. But he did not want to crack the whip then over his own party, so the period was reduced to 12 months. Others have now had to crack the whip for him, and here he is back to 18 months. The right hon. Gentleman has my deepest sympathy, but I hope, having returned to the 18 months, he will now stay the course until the Division is called.
Let me say at once that I welcome the opportunity just given me by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) to comment upon the things which have appeared in the Press concerning the meeting to which he referred. It was held in my own native place, and I was speaking to people whom I knew very well. I think I was entitled to give some account of the great social progress which has been provided by legislation introduced by the Government which I represent. I said that, not only should you trust your people, but they should have a fair crack of the whip. The word "occasional" was never used; that was a complete misrepresentation. It is a common thing among Britishers everywhere to indicate justice and fair shares by talking about a "fair crack of the whip." I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to state what were the real facts on that occasion.
I have listened very carefully to the Debate on this Clause. and I must say that I have not heard anything really new concerning the case which is argued against it compared with what we heard during the Second Reading Debate. In order to reply to some of the things which have been said, I am afraid I shall have to engage in some little repetition of the arguments then put forward at the beginning of the Debate. The reason for bringing conscription into operation at all in peacetime was then stated. First of all, it was required in order to build up reserves, especially in view of the fact that there was such an enormous run-down in the Regular as well as the wartime Service personnel that we should not be able to carry out our obligations without continuing conscription.
Regarding the reduction of the period from 18 months to 12, I have already pointed out that I warned the House on 7th May, 1947, that we could only accept the reduction if it were perfectly understood that, should the international situation deteriorate, we would have to reconsider the matter. That is the reason why we are now bringing the period back to 18 months and presenting it to the House today. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) did me the honour of saying that he had carefully listened to what I had to say during the Second Reading Debate last Wednesday. However, if he will read my speech, I do not think he will find any absence, as he suggests, of reference to the uncertain international tension, and the general deterioration in international affairs. The case on that point was most clearly put during the Second Reading Debate.
I must remind hon. Members who speak in this way that that was also put clearly to the House by the Lord President of the Council on 14th September, when he drew attention to the deterioration in the international situation which then made it necessary for us to extend the period of service of men already in the Service, and who had not at that time been affected by the reduced period which was to operate only after 1st January, 1949. The real fact is that, in order to meet our commitments in the short-term sense for the next two, three or four years, it is essential that we should be able to make use of men called up under the National Service Act for duties not confined to this country.
I should have thought it was agreed by everyone that, apart from the one theatre—the B.A.O.R. in Germany—it would not be possible effectively to use National Service men unless there were a longer term of service than 12 months. I know that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington and some of his hon. Friends feel that the case for 18 months' service is justified on other grounds than the mere fact that the men can be used for service overseas. They hold the view that 18 months is the minimum period required for training men called up under the National Service Act. So far as that is concerned, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that, from time to time, a different view has been put forward from his own benches.
Is my right hon. Friend saying that his case for this increase rests exclusively on the deterioration in international relationships during the past 18 months Is he saying that if international relationships were the same now as they were 18 months ago, he would not be asking for this extension?
It is a very important factor, and in order to meet our short-term commitments we have to take it into account. As I said on Second Reading, there are two factors which occurred after we had dealt with the Act of 1947; first, we had the special financial economies imposed upon us later in 1947, and secondly, there was the need for extending the period of service of those serving under our decision last Summer in order to meet the present situation. Those two factors combined would have so increased the run-down by 1949 and 1950, that it would have been impossible to produce a really efficient force such as we desire to produce in each of the three arms of the Service. Those are important factors, but the increasing international tension was a very powerful factor and remains so.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who is not usually very complimentary to me nowadays, argued, as he always has done, as though he knew more about the way to deal with the organisation, the training and the use of land forces than those who have given a lifetime of service to it. I may, of course, not be able to accept all the advice which from time to time one receives from the highest professional authorities in these matters, but I must say that the enormous confidence with which my hon. and learned Friend addresses the Committee on a subject of this kind seems to me a little strange in relation to the main problem which has to be faced—namely, the Army personnel and, to some extent, the R.A.F. I have had a long friendship with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I have valued his services in the Royal Navy, but I do not think that his views can be held to apply to the general situation which I have to face in dealing with all three of the Services.
I would say further, with regard to arguments put forward by him concerning cost—and this matter has been raised by other hon. Members on this side of the Committee—in my view, it would be quite impossible in the present economic circumstances of the country to adopt the kind of policy which they suggest, of offering bribe after bribe in order to get the forces we need. In fact, we should be helping to destroy one of our fundamental policies, which is to prevent, as far as possible, rising prices and costs of production all the way through. We should be wandering right away from the main basis upon which we should work for our economic recovery, although I should add that we have done our very best in the last few months to bring the conditions in the Services into proper relationship with costs and wages outside.
Does my right hon. Friend really suggest that paying a proper sum for the limited number of approximately 70,000 additional troops which he requires would be anything like as expensive as the conscription proposals which he is bringing forward?
Yes. I do not believe that the conscription proposal would make that fundamental difference in the number of troops actually employed. We shall probably not be able to take in the full number available in any given year, and that can be arranged not by the "under counter" methods which the hon. and learned Member implied—not at all—but by straight and openly published methods—by the dropping of registration in any year in which it might require to be dropped, and by the proper use, fully and publicly, of any special medical check which would tend to increase the efficiency of the Forces and to meet the situation. I do not think that that part of my hon. and learned Friend's speech was by any means one of the best parts of it.
My hon. and learned Friend suggested, as if it meant handing out a few shillings, that we should give a special bonus of £500 to every man released from Regular service in the Army. It should be borne in mind what we had to do in order to give a very much smaller gratuity to the men who had served the country in the heat and burden of the war. True, we added to their war gratuities two months' leave with pay, but when my hon. and learned Friend suggests that on top of increased pay, we should then give a special £500 bonus, I wonder what sort of effect that would have on a situation in which we have to try, within our national economy, to get our industrialists, employers and workers into the groove in order to maintain production without unduly raising costs, and thereby maintain our export markets.
They would enormously have preferred it to conscription. Let my right hon. Friend try it. They would much rather that people should come out of the Forces with £500 than that their own boys should be conscripted.
All I need say is that from all the reports that reach me, the general body of opinion in this country is taking the view that if these things are required in the national interest, they are prepared to accept the burden. I have not found, and I do not believe the Secretary of State for War has found in his recent travels among the troops, any great resentment at having to perform their duties and doing what is required. I am also bound to say that there is no evidence that we should get so very many more recruits by giving large bribes of that character. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bribes?"] I should say that it is a bribe to add such a sum on top of the kind of pay which we are now giving the Forces. I am allowed to use the word, and I adhere to the word. If we go on with that kind of inducement, it is in reality a bribe to persuade a man to leave the other job that he is doing and to join the Forces.
I have listened to other suggestions which have been made, more particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo). We always respect what he has to say about the organisation and management of industry. As I have said before, and as was said in more detail by the Secretary of State for War last week, there is no doubt that in the past two to two and a half years there has been some misuse of the time of men in the Services; but the fact is—and I repeat what I said last week—we are often unfair to those who are in charge of the Services, the staff officers and the unit officers, when we forget the kind of conditions in which they have been handling this matter during the last two years. Whilst we are working with them to obtain every possible improvement and economy in the use of manpower, it has to be said that in the tremendous turnover of personnel which has taken place in the last two years they have had an exceedingly difficult job to do.
The cases mentioned by my hon. Friend today were brought to my notice for the first time. Of course, in cases of that kind an hon. Member no doubt sends them to the particular Service Department for investigation. I hope that has been done in these cases. Whilst it is true that, as the Secretary of State for War has said, there is still some misuse of manpower in the Services, nevertheless there has been great progress made in other directions. If the Committee will allow me to say so, the investigations and research—very modern research—from the personnel point of view undertaken by the Royal Air Force has led to such a reduction in the man-hours now required for the servicing of the modern aeroplanes, to keep them going, that it does them great credit. I am certain it is capable of further development. These planes are being kept serviceable in the air, defeating the blockade of Berlin, and we can see how magnificently that job has been done. How can it be said, therefore, that the mechanics and the management of forces like these are inefficient? In fact, they are doing a very great job indeed.
The senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) asked me one or two questions as to how this would affect the particular kind of case in which he is interested, namely those who are to be sought for and selected as future officers. The Regulations under which those selections are made were actually in draft, of course upon the basis of the period of 12 months, which would have been the case under the Act of 1947, but in view of the fact that we intended to come to the House with this other proposal—for 18 months—those Regulations are now being redrafted. In the redrafting we shall take note of what the hon. Member has said to see if there is anything which can be done to meet his point of view. I do not make any promises.
Can we not at least have an assurance that the regulations shall be such that, normally, a conscript selected for training to be commissioned shall not thereby be held longer on his conscript service, even though he might possibly have to do fuller service on Reserve? Could we not have that assurance? If not, many good officers will be lost.
I am quite certain it would be the endeavour of the Services not to have to keep a man longer than his legal liability under the Act. On the other hand, there will be a great many young men who are going to be officers and who if they can fit it in with their other commitments, would not wish to miss a chance of getting their training as officers and giving subsequent service. We shall look at the point raised by the hon. Member when drafting the new regulations.
Certainly not. There is no question of differentiation at all. People are dealt with on their merits and as to whether they are suitable for training as officers.
Turning to the other question asked by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University, young men liable for whole-time service for 18 months after 1st January will be able, as at present, to apply for deferment to complete their studies before call-up, if they so wish, and their applications will generally be granted. If they choose to do their military service first, they will be able to ask to be called up early in order to be out in time, having done the 18 months, to go to the university in the appropriate October at the beginning of the university year. I hope that has met the hon. Member's point.
Broadly speaking, I should say I have covered most of the points until I come to the special points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who spoke last from the Opposition benches. He said that, of course, the present position was all our own fault. I do not admit that at all. Perhaps it can be said that we were wrong in making the change in the Act of 1947. That may be said, but at the time, in relation to what was then placed before us and having regard to the fact that, as I said last week, we did have hopes that some commitments then remaining would be reduced or liquidated. I feel we had a good case. What we are determined to see is that what is now necessary to put the matter on the proper basis and to make for efficiency shall be done. Therefore, the Government say it is essential in the present circumstances that we should introduce the period of 18 months so that we can make proper use of the men.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Secretary of State for War seemed to have raised something new last week when he said that if we had enough people in the Regular Forces we should not need conscription. There is nothing new in that at all. We brought in conscription in peacetime for the reasons I have given earlier this evening and because, in our view, it would have been quite impossible for us to obtain the required numbers in time in face of a policy of full employment and in the absence of unemployment as a recruiting sergeant. We could not possibly have faced the situation without having conscription, but the period of conscription laid down in the 1947 Act is for the limited period of five years unless it is renewed by an affirmative Resolution of the House of Commons. I do not want to try to give a firm target figure for the Regular Forces in each of these three arms of the Services. That would not be right in the present circumstances. We must do all we possibly can to lead to an increase in the numbers in the Regular Services and the future will depend upon the events and circumstances which will then face us.
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very important point there. Does that mean the Government have given up the idea of having National Service in order to get Reserves rather than merely to get the numbers?
If the hon. Member will wait a moment or two, he will find that I am coming to that point. There are a great many people who would like to see the Regular Forces so increased in size as to obviate the necessity for National Service altogether. There are some hon. Members on the other side of the House and, apparently, some upon this side of the House, judging from part of their speeches, who would like a great increase in the Regular Forces and a kind of conscription of a much shorter period, say six months, for the purpose of maintaining a long-term reserve of people who have gone through primary training. The point is that, as we face the situation today, we have to plan both for a short-term and a long term policy. We have to keep both in mind at the present time. We must, therefore, have a longer term of conscription now in order to be able to use men overseas as required during the present state of the world. We could not achieve, by concentrating entirely upon building up Regulars, the numbers which would give us the Reserves which we are aiming at for the long-term period. In the light of all these events put before us, I submit that the Clause should receive the assent of the Committee.
In 1947 and in 1946 the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister kept telling the House that the Government were not in favour of building up large permanent Regular Forces. Has he changed his mind about that, or not? That is the question which I put to him. He has not really answered it. He has tried to prevaricate. Will he answer it: "Yes" or "No"?
I have never tried to prevaricate. I have tried to put the position before the House as far as I know it. At the present time it is not possible to foretell what the Regular Forces will be as the result of recruitment in the next two or three years. I am therefore not able to give the target that the right hon. Gentleman asked for just now. I do not want to be bound, in the changing circumstances that we may have to face. If the hon. Member asks me whether I am in favour of building up very large Regular Forces, the answer is that I would be in favour of building up what Regular Forces are required. No Government would wish to go further than that.
The right hon. Gentleman becomes more and more obscure with every sentence. We really must know where we are. We were told in the 1947 Debate that long-term service would not be required and that the Government did not want a large Regular Army. I directed attention to the speech of the Secretary of State for War the other night because he said that if only we had a large Regular Army, we should not need conscription. I am asking the right hon. Gentleman not what size the Regular Army ought to be, but whether the Government's object is to get so large a Regular Army that they do not need conscription. Is that the Government's policy or is it not?
I am sorry if I have not been sufficiently clear. The policy of the Government in the matter has been, all the way through, subject to the short-term considerations to which I have already referred, that it was necessary to have conscription because of the inability to get the numbers of Regulars which would be required as a minimum, and in order to build up the Reserve. We are now, as the Prime Minister has had to say once or twice, having to deal with a changing situation very much as it arises. We are bound to do that. Things are changing very rapidly indeed and we have to face it, and plan accordingly the best way we can. Our view, in regard to the nature of any crisis that may break out a long period ahead—a modern war with no notice—is that we should have a number of men who had been trained and disciplined and who would be capable of being mobilised at very short notice.
What my right hon. Friend has been saying has been so important that one need not apologise for prolonging the Debate. We want to vote for this Bill, but we must know what we are voting for. We did know in April when we voted for the 12 months. We thought that we knew the reasons why we were voting for it. Those reasons were put quite clearly, first by us to the Minister of Defence and then by the Minister of Defence to the House. They were, (1) the economic situation. (2) the undesirability of using conscripts for overseas service, (3) that there was a reasonable chance of reducing our commitments overseas. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman said, when I made those observations, that there was no dispute and that those were the three reasons for the reduction.
I think we have to have 18 months now. If we did not, we simply would not have the number of men, not to fight a major war but to undertake the minimum peace-time commitments of this country. We must be told clearly and openly by the right hon. Gentleman that this is a stop-gap Measure. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway never take numbers seriously, but it is literally true that if the Air Force had the 100,000 men withdrawn from it who would be withdrawn next year if the 18 months were not agreed to, there would not be an Air Force at all. That I believe to be the real reason. The right hon. Gentleman has given us seven or eight reasons. For instance, right at the end, he came back to the international situation. It is grossly misleading to the Committee and the country to say that a deteriorating situation is responsible. I do not think it is deteriorating. It is just the same and it has had no effect on the position.
I suggest that if the Malayan affair had not come up and suddenly proved that we had no forces available, no so-called deterioration would have affected us at all. It is grossly misleading to the country. I get letters from people saying: "Heavens above! Are we getting anywhere near war?" The country ought to be told that this is a technical military problem of run-down, and, I may add, the result to some extent of lack of decision. It has nothing to do with the danger of war—nothing whatever.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in the House when I interrupted the Minister of Defence. I asked him whether he was telling the House that the major factor in the increase now proposed was deterioration in international relationships in the past 18 months, and the Minister answered, "Yes."
It is precisely because he answered "Yes" that I am on my feet. I do not believe this to be the true explanation of these proposals. I believe that the real cause for the increase is a technical cause to do with the call-up and with the run-down of demobilisation. It is scaring the people of the country to let them think that this Bill has anything to do with the international situation. My right hon. Friend says that if it were not for the international situation, we should not need all these troops. I want to know in detail which of the commitments he particularly refers to. Malaya? If there had not been Malaya, it might have been Nigeria. The Chiefs of Staff had not sufficient troops to deal with conditions in the Colonies. It happened to be Communists in Malaya, but the fact is that we have not sufficient troops to deal with a Colonial disturbance. That is a possibility for which the Chiefs of Staff have to plan, but that has nothing to do with the international situation at all.
The real reason for the Bill has come out in speech after speech on the back benches. I know that my right hon. Friend says that we do not know anything. I have the impression, having listened objectively to the speeches, that there is some amount of understanding on some parts of the back benches if not on the Front Bench, that the fundamental thing is shortage of Regular soldiers to service our overseas commitments. We simply had not enough Regular soldiers. Is any hon. Member going to tell me—apart from the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who seems to think it is the right principle—that it is a good thing to use conscripts for overseas service? It is very strange that the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) made a tremendous complaint about our sending semi-trained Regular men to Malaya. If they are to be used in overseas service, we are using semi-trained men.
From this bench a year ago I asked the Government how many trained men they had to send overseas. Now the hon. Gentleman, using exactly the same argument, tells the Committee that nobody has called attention to the matter but he.
I think the noble Lord must have been out of the Committee when the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington said that it was good for men to have overseas service.
As for sending semi-trained troops to Malaya, I do not think anybody who heard my speech could have understood me as being in favour of it. I said that it was not bad for young men to be in Germany and I quoted the Archbishop's speech in support of that statement. I have never served or wished to serve, or to ask anybody to serve, semi-trained, in a situation where one has to fight.
The troops can serve in Germany now, under the 12-months plan. The 18-months plan is precisely to enable them to serve further overseas. Service in Germany is something that we can arrange within the 12 months. We could have done with 12 months. We need not have extended the Service to 18 months to have the men in Germany.
I asked the hon. Gentleman to accept my statement. It is perfectly fair. He has tried to attribute words to me which I never used. I said that I would never be in favour of sending half-trained troops overseas.
We have to face this very unpleasant fact. The reason we are increasing the term of service now is that we have not sufficient Regular soldiers for overseas service, and we are having to make up with conscripts. I do not like that. The right hon. Gentleman does not like it, and no one likes it. We all ought to admit that. We are making do with conscripts who are semi-trained, when we should be dealing with Regular soldiers. I believe that the Committee has to face this fact, which is completely unpleasant, and one which we ought to remedy as soon as possible. The right hon. Gentleman said that he thought that we could not do any serious training without 18 months' service, but the fact is that the 18 months are not being used for training purposes. Less than six months are being used in training these conscripts to take the place of the Regular soldiers in looking after our peace-time commitments.
I believe that there are many hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite who will agree with me that the use of conscripts to make up the gaps in the Regular Forces for maintaining our normal peacetime commitments, is a wholly undesirable practice, and we say that the way we should try to prevent it is by having sufficient Regular soldiers. If we recognise that situation, it is no good preaching that 18 months is perfect. Eighteen months is the stop-gap which we are having to use pending the time when we have the Regular soldiers to fulfil our commitments overseas. I have heard speeches from the other side which fully agree with this point of view—that the aim and object should be, as soon as possible, to have sufficient Regular soldiers, so that we do not have to regard the conscripts as part of our effective military strength in peace time. That is an essential principle; we must not regard the conscripts as part of our effective military strength in peace time. By doing so, we sap the efficiency of the Regular Army. The Regular Army does not like having conscripts to fill the gap. It wants to feel itself large enough to do the job by itself.
I want to hear from the Minister of Defence a clear statement that the policy of the Government is, as soon as possible, to have a sufficiently large Regular Army so that the conscripts will not be regarded as part of the effective military strength of this country in peace time. If we can hear that from the right hon. Gentleman, we should have heard the first statement by him on the principle of our peace-time Army. Our chief difficulty has been that for three years since the war, during which time we have been relying on conscription to fill the gap, we have not thought out the principle of our peace-time Army, and have wandered from stop-gap to stop-gap in the interval.
This has put us on this side of the Committee in great embarrassment this afternoon, because there was no reason at all why the 12 months' period should not have worked, under two conditions. The first was that sufficient Regulars were recruited between April, 1947, and now. If the extra 70,000 men had been recruited, this amending Bill would not have been required. If the extra men required for the Army and for the Air Force had been obtained, no Government would have come forward with this Bill. Why did not we have them? Because the increase in pay, essential to the scheme, was introduced last week instead of 18 months ago. The second reason is the substantial size of our commitments. We ought again to realise that these are not war commitments which we are talking about but normal peace-time commitments. Malaya is precisely the type of peacetime commitment which the Chiefs of Staff have to reckon with.
Germany is not an extra commitment because the men over there are part of the Home Command. If anyone tells me that we have 60,000 men in Germany rather than 40,000 because the Russians are going to fight, I say that that is a very odd view of strategy. It would be madness to believe that the number of troops which we have in Germany has anything to do with the danger of war; it obviously is not.
The first principle which we want to hear from the Minister of Defence is that we are not going to support this proposal as a permanent Measure, but that we are supporting it as a stop-gap, pending the time when we can achieve sufficient Regular Forces to cover our overseas commitments. On that point, I fully agree with hon. Members on both sides who said that the correct period of conscription is that of six months for basic training, leading into the Territorial Army
Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House are asked to vote for this without being told the reason. If we were told the reason, and if the truth came out, there would be no difficulty at all. Of course, we have to vote. If we have not sufficient Regulars, we have to use conscripts. If we knew that the right hon. Gentleman was preparing now his plans for reducing the number of con scripts used overseas and for shortening the period of service, and was planning to have a Regular, efficient professional Service, we should say to ourselves, "That is an inevitable stop-gap, and the last." This must be the last stop-gap of the basis for the first principle. It is a fact that we have to face, that the Defence Minister has to be unpopular with the Chiefs of Staff and unpopular with his colleagues because he has to take unpleasant decisions. I say frankly that in supporting the Government on this 18 months as a national necessity, I am giving no vote of confidence whatsoever in the Minister of Defence.
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Brook, O. (Halifax)||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Allan, Scholefield (Crewe)||Brown, George (Belper)||Deer, G.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Brown, T. J.(Ince)||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Attewell, H. C.||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Dodds, N. N.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Burke, W. A.||Donovan, T.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Callaghan, James||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Balfour, A.||Castle, Mrs. B A||Dumpleton, C. W.|
|Barstow, P. G||Chamberlain, R. A||Ede, Rt Hon. J. C.|
|Barton, C.||Champion, A J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)|
|Battley, J. R.||Chater, D.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Chetwynd, G. R||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)|
|Benson, G||Cluse, W. S||Evans, S. N (Wednesbury)|
|Berry, H.||Cobb, F. A.||Fairhurst, F|
|Beswick, F.||Collindridge, F||Farthing, W. J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Collins, V. J||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E)|
|Binns, J.||Colman, Miss G. M||Foot, M. M.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Gibbins, J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Crawley, A.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Boardman, H.||Crossman, R H S||Glanville, J. E.(Consett)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Daggar, G.||Greenwood, A. W. J (Heywood)|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Daines, P||Grey, C. F|
|Grierson, E.||Mikardo, Ian||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mitchison, G. R||Snow, J W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S||Solley, L. J.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Sparks, J. A|
|Gunter, R. J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Steele, T.|
|Hamilton, Lieut. -Col. R||Mort, D. L||Stewart, Michael (Futham, E.)|
|Haworth, J.||Moyle, A||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R.(Lambeth)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Murray, J. D||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Herbison, Miss M||Nayler, T. E.||Summerskill, Dr Edith|
|Hicks, G.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Swingler, S.|
|Hobson, C. R||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.(Derby)||Symonds, A. L|
|Holman, P.||Oliver, G. H.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, R. J.(Morpeth)|
|Horabin, T. L.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Hoy, J.||Palmer, A. M. F||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W)||Parker, J.||Thomas, I. O.(Wrekin)|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Thomas, John R (Dover)|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pearson, A||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Peart, T. F||Tolley, L.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Perrins, W.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Janner, B.||Popplewell, E.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Price, M. Philips||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Proctor, W. T.||Walkden, E.|
|King, E. M.||Pursey, Comdr. H||Walker, G. H.|
|Kinley, J.||Randall, H. E.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Ranger, J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Reeves, J.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Levy, B. W.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Robens, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Wigg, George|
|Longden, F.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Lyne, A. W.||Sargood, R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McAdam, W||Scott-Elliott, W||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Segal, Dr. S.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Sharp, Granville||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|McLeavy, F.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Yates, V. F.|
|Mallalieu, E. L.(Brigg)||Silverman, S. S.(Nelson)||Young, Sir R.(Newton)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Simmons, C. J.||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Skeffington-Lodge, T C|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Skinnard, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mellish, R. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Mr. Hannan.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Birch, Nigel||Granville, E. (Eye)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Gridley, Sir A.||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Bowen, R.||Grimston, R. V.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Bower, N.||Hale, Leslie||Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Nicholson, G.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Head, Brig. A. H.||Nield, B (Chester)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nutting, Anthony|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hogg, Hon Q||Odey, G. W.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Hope, Lord J.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Byers, Frank||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Carson, E.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Pickthorn, K|
|Challen, C||Joynson-Hicks, Hon L. W||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Kendall, W. D.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Langford Holt, J.||Raikes, H. V|
|Davies, Rt. Hn, Clement (Montgomery)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Renton, D.|
|De la Bère, R.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Digby, S. W.||Linstead, H. N,||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Donner, P. W.||Low, A. R. W.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Drayson, G. B||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Drewe, C.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. Of Wight)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Walter||McFarlane, C. S||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Maclean, F. H. R, (Lancaster)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Thomas, J. P L. (Hereford)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Turton, R. H.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Wakefield, Sir W. W||White, J. B. (Canterbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Walker-Smith, D.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Major Conant and Colonel Wheatley.|
|Ward, Hon G. R||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Fletcher, E. G. M.(Islington, E.)||Marsden, Capt. A|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Foot, M. M.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Foster, J G. (Northwich)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Mitchison, G. R|
|Attewell, H. C.||Gibbins, J.||Moody, A. S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon, C. R.||Gibson, C. W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Morrison, Rt. Hon, H. (Lewisham, E.)|
|Bacon, Miss A||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury)|
|Balfour, A.||Grey, C. F.||Mort, D. L|
|Barstow, P. G||Gridley, Sir A.||Moyle, A|
|Barton, C.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Murray, J. D|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Benson, G||Grimston, R. V.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Berry, H.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Nicholson, G.|
|Beswick, F.||Gunter, R. J.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Binns, J||Hale, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J (Derby)|
|Blackburn, A. R||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Nutting, Anthony|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Odey, G. W.|
|Boardman, H,||Haworth, J.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Head, Brig. A. H.||O' Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Paget, R. T.|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Hicks, G.||Paling, Rt. Hon Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Bower, N.||Hobson, C. R.||Palmer, A. M. F|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J, A.||Hogg, Hon. Q||Parker, J.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Holman, P.||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Peake, Rt. Hon O|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Pearson, A|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Hope, Lord J.||Peart, T. F|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Horabin, T. L.||Perrins, W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C)||Pickthorn, K.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Popplewell, E.|
|Callaghan, James||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Carson, E.||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Price, M. Philips|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Janner, B.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O|
|Challen, C.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Champion, A. J||Jenkins, R. H.||Pursey, Comdr. H|
|Chater, D.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Randall, H. E|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kenyon, C||Ranger, J.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rees-Williams, D. R|
|Collindridge, F||Kinley, J.||Reeves, J.|
|Collins, V. J.||Kirby, B. V.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Langford-Holt, J||Renton, D.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Robens, A.|
|Crawley, A||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Leslie, J. R.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Levy, B. W.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O E||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Daggar, G.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Daines, P.||Linstead, H. N.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Savory Prof. D. L|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Lloyd, Seiwyn (Wirral)||Scott-Elliott, W|
|Deer, G.||Low, A. R. W.||Sharp, Granville|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|De la Bère, R||Lyne, A. W||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Digby, S. W.||McAdam, W.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L|
|Donner, P. W.||McFarlane, C. S.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Donovan, T||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Drewe, C.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Smith, S. H (Hull, S. W.)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Maclean, F. H. R.(Lancaster)||Snow, J. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||McLeavy, F.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Steele, T.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Mon. Walter||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Manningham-Buller, R E||Symonds, A. L|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A.(P'dd't'n, S.)||Walker-Smith, D.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Ward, Hon. G. R.||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Weitzman, D.||Witloughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Thomas, John R. (Dover)||West, D.G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Tolley, L.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||White, J B.(Canterbury)|
|Turton, R. H.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Wigg, George||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Wakefield, Sir W W||Wilcock, Group-Capt C. A. B||Mr. Hannan.|
|Battley, J. R||Granville, E. (Eye)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Bowen, R.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Kendall, W. D.||Solley, L. J.|
|Chamberlain, R. A||McGhee, H. G.||Swingler, S|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Walkden, E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Mikardo, Ian||Walker, G. H|
|Fairhurst, F||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Yates, V. F|
|Fernyhough, E||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Gallacher, W.||Piratin, P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Mr. Byers and Mr. Wadsworth.|
NEW CLAUSE.—(Service outside the United Kingdom.)
A person called up for service under this Act and the principal Act shall not be sent on service outside the United Kingdom (for training or otherwise) unless, before being so sent, he shall have attained the age of twenty years and shall have completed a period of not less than twelve months' training.—[Mr. Emrys Roberts.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The Committee have now decided upon military conscription for 18 months, which is a proposal we have opposed at every stage. Although we have been in a minority, I trust that this proposal which I now make will meet with the approval of all Members. It is based on the principle that, having decided to take these young men out of their civilian life for 18 months, every measure shall be taken for their protection and to safeguard their interests, especially as these people have no vote conferred upon them. The Committee cannot leave the matter solely to the Ministers, but are entitled to put into the Bill a stipulation effectively to safeguard the interests of these young men.
The object of this Clause is to limit the extent to which National Service men will be used as occupation troops in Germany and other occupied areas, and to prevent young men being sent on active service abroad without having received proper training. It has emerged, in the course of our discussions on this Bill, that the primary reason for the extension of military service is to send out conscripts to meet our foreign commitments because the Regular Army is insufficient. Let me state first why we think it right to impose this age limit of 20 years before young men should be sent to take their part in the occupation of Germany. As recently as last week no less eminent a person than Dr. Charles Raven, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University and head of one of the Cambridge colleges, a man accustomed to weighing his words, said, "To send ordinary youngsters of the age of 18 years into occupied Germany is just devilry"——.
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to make my speech in my own way. I propose to come to what was said by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is true that he is higher in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University and the head of one of the colleges is in far closer contact with the young men who go into Germany and come from there. In any case, I should prefer, if there was a dispute or doubt on so serious a matter, to give the benefit of that doubt to the young men. I would remind the noble Lord and the Minister, that the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University said—and he was saying this after many consultations with the college tutors on the effect on the new students of a year's conscription in Germany—that he had all the evidence he wanted of the "disastrous effect"—those were his words—of sending boys to Germany. If we have to chose between the views of two churchmen, and one of them is not merely a churchman but also, as I have said, occupies an outstanding position in the educational world, we should choose that view which avoids any danger of sending young men to Germany below the age of 20.
We also wish to protect and safeguard these young men from being sent on active service to distant parts of the world without something approaching a proper training. Recent events have reinforced my plea that protection for them should be in the Bill, and should not rest on Ministerial assurances. There has been talk tonight of sending the Guards to Malaya. The House will recollect that on 28th October the Secretary of State for War told the House that out of 1,820 men of all ranks sent to Malaya 270 had not had six months' training on the date of embarkation; 67 had not received such training, even on the date of their arrival in Malaya, and out of the total number, 400 were National Service men. He had told the House on 23rd September that not one man was sent without at least six months' basic training.
I am not blaming the Secretary of State. I do not think that that would be right. He was given wrong information by his advisers, although, of course, he had to take the responsibility. The real mistake was not in giving the Minister wrong information. That was a mistake, but the really serious mistake was sending these inadequately trained young men to Malaya at all. I suggest that mistakes of that character are far less likely to occur if there is provision in the Act of Parliament which says that they are not to be sent to serve overseas, unless they have completed a certain minimum period of training. Why do we put the age at 20? Before the war, and even in the early days of the war, it was the generally accepted view that young men below the age of 20 would not be sent to France when called up under the National Service Act. For those reasons I commend this proposed new Clause to the Committee.
I am very glad to support this proposed new Clause. Those of us who strongly disapprove of the Bill are, nevertheless, seeking to improve its provisions in any way that may be possible, and make them less harmful. The human factor which we are now considering is one of extreme importance. For a number of hours we have been considering purely military matters—manpower and the economic situation of the country. Very little has been heard of the human side. Hon. Members in all parts of the Committee have their obligations and responsibilities in this connection. After all, we are here to speak for the fathers and mothers of these young boys in this matter.
I and other hon. Friends had down a much more gentle and modest proposed new Clause, which was intended to make it impossible to send these young men abroad until the age of 19, except with their consent. That was a much less drastic proposal than the Clause now proposed. I entirely and absolutely agree with the sentiments and principles which have inspired the hon. Gentlemen to put down this proposed new Clause. I merely put down the gentler one because I thought it had much more chance of being accepted. I very much doubt whether the new Clause will be accepted by the Government, but I am going to ask the Government, in the event of their not being able to accept it, to give some kind of assurances on a more limited scale on the lines of the proposed new Clause which I had hoped to move.
One of the most pernicious things about this Bill is that it enables the Service Departments to send young boys everywhere, and not only just to Germany. When we had a 12 months' limit it was not possible to send them further afield than Germany and certain other European stations. The serious and pernicious thing about the extension to 18 months is that it enables the Service Departments to send these young boys—for they are no more than young boys—to any part of the world. Indeed, the Minister of Defence and others have made it quite clear that one of the primary objects of this Bill is to enable them to send these young boys further afield, to the Near East and the Far East, if not necessarily for active service then certainly to work there and take the place of the Regular Forces there.
I have said that we speak on behalf of the parents of this country and that these are mere boys who are being sent abroad. Many of us have boys of our own and feel very deeply about this matter. I am not one of those who would seek to underline or exaggerate the dangers and evils that may arise from sending these young boys to Germany. I think that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr. Raven both went to extremes and exaggerated, although I would far sooner accept the view of Dr. Raven than the view of the Archbishop of Canterbury. As the Archbishop put it, there is less likelihood of a young man going off the rails than if he were in Britain. I think that is a slight on this country and on the social system here. Apart from certain exceptional cases where it might be true, in my view it is absolute nonsense. Has the Archbishop forgotten the influence of the home over here, the influence of the friends of these young lads, and, indeed, the influence of their churches and chapels? It does not lie in the mouth of His Grace the Archbishop, who took no notice of these things, to leave them out of account altogeter.
Is it merely with these young men, a matter of going off the rails? That is not the beginning and end of moral influences surely, when so many people, particularly ecclesiastics, are anxious to interpret moral influences in more well-known and more prominent ways—women and drink. We know there are these dangers but there are other great dangers apart from these known moral dangers, for people so young. I myself have been in Germany several times in the last year or two, and I am well aware of the depressing influence of a beaten, battered and conquered nation. I think I know by conversation with these young men both in Germany and at home, that to be part of the occupation troops under those conditions has a very detrimental effect indeed on them.
Then there is the Far East, which seems to be left out of the Archbishop's references. I know he only went to Germany. But whatever one may think about the difficulties and temptations of Germany, there are certainly real temptations of every kind in both the Near East and the Far East. These young men are very far from their homes, parents and friends, conditions are entirely artificial, and anyone who knows the Near East or Far East, as I do, knows that drink there is a terrible danger and a pernicious thing. It is asking too much—and I put this to the Minister on the Front Bench—of these young men to put them into that unnatural atmosphere. Even if they are not actually put there to fight, in other words, not sent to Malaya, nonetheless it is something for which we on these benches should take the responsibility.
With regard to immaturity I do not think that anyone in any part of the Committee will disagree with the view that lads of 18 are immature. In case Ministers wish to brush that aside, let me call attention to the fact that last week the Minister of Defence referred to the immaturity of these boys. He was comparing the call-up of 20 years with 18 years as at present, and he said in a very guarded and moderate way:
There are some advantages in raising the age, as young men may be, perhaps, a little more matured when they are called up."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1948; Vol. 458; c. 2018.]
In my opinion he under-estimated the matter but he did admit it. I have another quotation—with which I will not weary the House—from the Leader of the Opposition, who admitted that there is a big difference between a lad of 18 and one of 19. I very much hope that the Secretary of State for War will not lightly brush aside this consideration.
I do not want to detain the Committee much longer, but I should like to add that, so far as my own view is concerned, these young people should not have to go abroad before they are 19 years of age. It would be comparatively easy for the Minister of Defence to give this undertaking, because, hitherto, these youths were not called up until they were 18 years and three months, and at present they are not being called up until they are 18 years and six months. It may be that 19 years, the modest suggestion that I made, will become the rule. I ask for that, and I, personally, shall support this new Clause in the Lobby if the Secretary of State does not give us an assurance that he will go at least some way in regard to it. This is a serious home problem, and I hope my right hon. Friend will have something satisfactory to say about it.
I sincerely hope that the Minister will be prepared to give us some assurance about this matter, and if he will not accept the new Clause, which I rise to support, that he will make some alterations so as to include this principle. I approach this matter from a rather different angle from that expounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain). In the first place I approach it from the point of view of principle, about which we have heard a certain amount of discussion in the Committee this afternoon. I have always approached the question of National Service from the point of view that National Service was intended to raise men for military training in defence of their country. In other words, National Service was to raise an army or provide trained reserves for the defence of these islands, and should not be a kind of stopgap or supplement to the Regular Forces.
On that ground, I believe it is entirely wrong that a great number of the conscripts, who will be called up for military training, to form part of a trained reserve to defend the country in the event of an emergency should be used in the Armed Forces in order to bolster up colonial and imperial policies in other parts of the world. In support of that argument, I would adduce the fact that nearly all the neighbouring countries with whom, politically, we are co-operating today in Western Europe, and who have had a longer experience of conscription and compulsory service, have embodied, either in their constitutions or in their laws in respect of compulsory service, something which stops them sending conscript troops overseas.
It has always been part of the law of Belgium that conscript troops will not be used in Belgian territory overseas and they may not be sent to the Belgian Congo without their written consent. It has always been part of the constitution of the Netherlands that conscript troops may not be sent to the Dutch overseas territories without their consent. It is true that in 1944 that particular Article of the Dutch Constitution was laid aside by Royal Decree as a result of the war in Indonesia, but it is interesting to note that the members of the Dutch Parliament in 1946 insisted on passing a law to put that provision back into their Constitution.
I should have preferred to see the Government accept the new Clause which I put on the Order Paper and which you, Major Milner, have not seen fit to call. But I entirely support the new Clause which has been moved by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and I hope we shall have some assurance from the Secretary of State that the Government accept the principle of this Amendment that conscript troops will not be used here, there and everywhere all over the world, at any rate without their definite consent, and that they will make an alteration in the National Service Acts to that effect.
I rise to support the new Clause because I think its acceptance would do much to minimise the real evil of conscription as a whole. I regard this as an attempt to reduce the generally evil effect of conscription upon young men in this country. I base the few observations that I shall make tonight on my experience in visiting B.A.O.R. I cannot claim to have made an intensive study of conditions there, but I have visited B.A.O.R. and been in Germany, and I have lived in Service messes and in accommodation provided for troops, officers and others, for as long as a month. Moreover, I have discussed this problem with both junior and senior officers serving in Germany. It is upon my own observations, and on the comments and complaints made by these men, that I base what I am about to say.
I have never returned from Germany in the last two or three years without a strong feeling of apprehension with regard to the fate of the young men we have there, and looking at the matter from the moral aspect, I think the problem is increasing rather than diminishing. I shall tell the Committee why in a moment. I view with some serious objection this element of complacency which has grown up in connection with the problem of our young men in Germany. We have young men sent out there to Germany when they are virtually school-boys. As far as the question of age itself is concerned, much may depend on what a youth has been doing beforehand, and many a young man of 18 is mature; but, on the other hand, we have young men sent out there who only a fortnight or three weeks or a month after leaving school, have been planted in such a place as Essen, Dusseldorf, or Hamburg, and amid a community which is demoralised.
I think the problem is tending to get worse. In the early stages of our occupation of Germany our Occupation Forces were drawn from our community as a whole. They were garrison forces, and their contacts with the Germans were limited. That situation is disappearing. I am not complaining about that, for it is a very natural development, but the change in the situation increases the temptations and emphasises the problem. In Germany today the Forces are comprised of two clearly-cut categories. We have the conscripts and we have the Regular soldiers, and they are quite apart. The Regular soldier is a man of mature age who has served in different parts of the world, a man of experience, a man on whom the temptations which lie in Germany today have little effect. On the other hand, we have the conscript. His life lies on rather different lines. The Regular soldier is usually an N.C.O., has his own mess, has his own community life. The conscript is a young man without any of this experience at all, and, apart from some organised leisure, is left entirely to his own resources.
Two years ago, we had a more mixed military population, amongst whom were young men completing their service in the ordinary way, and the Regular soldiers of varying ages, and there was a community life so that the young man, the young conscript, out there could meet people of his own age and outlook with whom to mix. Now, however, we have these two clearly-cut categories, the Regular soldiers who have their work to do and then want to spend their spare time with their fellow Regulars, and the young conscript soldiers. I feel that, rather than lessening, the dangers to the young men in Germany are tending to increase.
I remember one occasion on which I visited a barracks part of which was devoted to the keeping of soldiers, including officers, under close arrest. I had a chat—not a formal discussion—with some 40 or 50 young men, officers and other ranks, awaiting trial on some of the most horrible offences in the criminal calendar. I came away imbued with the feeling that something ought to be done to reduce the dangers so far as our young boys are concerned.
I think that this new Clause would go some way, not only to ease the anxieties of parents, but to see that those in charge in Germany of the military training would not have their attention diverted from that work, by having to see that these young boys live a decent life. Time and time again officers, junior and senior officers, have said to me, "Our major problem about the young boys when they first come here, for the first few months after they arrive, is to see that they keep on the straight and narrow, and that takes up so much of our energy that the time and energy we could devote to purely military training is undoubtedly reduced." The stay overseas of young boys of more mature age and greater military training would be of greater value from the military point of view itself. Something should be done to minimise the really great moral danger to our young men, particularly those in the B.A.O.R.
I rise to support the new Clause. I think the Committee and the Minister should be extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) for giving us an account of his own experience of the B.A.O.R., because that is of real value to the Committee. We have been told what the Archbishop thought he saw, and we have had that contradicted by Canon Raven. I know Canon Raven and his experience of work amongst young men, and I should be much more prone to give sympathetic adherence to what he has said. We all know, of course, that whenever anyone like His Grace with his retinue visits places like that, everything is laid on for him, and nobody is going to give very much consideration to what His Grace said. Certainly the parents in this country will not have their anxiety lessened by it.
I am very sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton) has gone from the Chamber, because I had hoped for real support from him on this matter. I remember that once when I raised the question of our boys having been sent to Palestine, the noble Lord was very sympathetic, and said they ought not to have been sent to a country which was so full of danger as Palestine. I remember that he supported me in asking a supplementary question. It is certain from the speech made by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) today, that he does not agree with the idea that our boys should be sent to places like Malaya.
I want to speak on behalf of parents. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) was quite right in saying that mothers are really racked with anxiety by the thought that their boys are being sent at this immature age overseas. A boy will go away from this country quite healthy, yet his mother may be met with a telegram telling her of her boy's death abroad. I shall read just a few lines from an extremely poignant letter I have received from a mother who interviewed me only a week ago. Her boy had been sent to the East. She did not even know that he was ill in hospital. I do not know how long he was in hospital. He was allowed to leave hospital, and he fell dead in the canteen. This mother writes to me in terms which show the anxiety and anger of mothers at this kind of treatment. She says:
If he had died in war I could have taken it on the chin; but in peace, to have our lads dragged away from us and sent to a climate to which they are not used, to die without proper care and attention is something to which no English mother ought to be asked to submit.
That case has been sent to the Under-Secretary, and I have asked for the whole circumstances of this lad's death to be examined. His mother asked for his body to be brought home for burial. Some people may think that sentimental, but hon. Members would be shocked to
know the amount of money this working-class mother was asked to pay for her boy's body to be brought home to this country. That is the sort of thing about which parents are really anxious today.
Many parents do not mind conscription. They say: "We do not mind our lads playing their part in National Service provided it is in this country; provided we know what is happening to them; provided we can go and see them if they are ill; and provided they can come home." How many times is a conscript lad serving in Malaya allowed to come home to this country on leave? Let hon. Members ask the War Office their excuse for that. For 18 months parents are to be separated from their lads who are to be sent abroad.
Let me deal for a moment with the question of maturity. Anybody who has had anything to do with young fellows of 18 or 19 knows that they are immature, even if they have been in a workshop. Of course, they are still more immature if they have only just left school; they are only lads. Whether a boy is 18 or 20 makes an enormous difference to his maturity. At 20 young lads' minds are better furnished, their characters are more stabilised, and their physique is more developed; they are able to draw on resources which would better help them to avoid temptation. Parents could see their sons go at 20 years of age with far less anxiety than at the immature age of 17 or 18.
All hon. Members know that I do not like this Bill at all. Indeed, originally I voted against all the Amendments because I felt that a rotten thing could not be improved by the Amendments. However, I see I have now been beaten, and that the Government are determined to have their pound of flesh from these boys. Therefore, if I, together with my hon. Friends, can do something to assist in this regard I am determined to try to put these considerations before the Minister. If my right hon. Friend cannot accept this new Clause, I hope he will accept other Amendments which, while not going quite so far, at least do something to prevent our lads being sent overseas at this early age.
I have held very decided views on the whole question of National Service and the conscripting of our young men: but I recognise, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning), that the views I have held have been out-voted in this Committee, and that today we are pledged by the Government to the form of military service we know as conscription. I do not like to think that under this conscription law our young men will be sent on military service to all parts of the world. In the first place, I am not at all satisfied that a young man of 18 or 19 has the physical power of endurance to go abroad to undertake service of this description in the name of his country.
I have examined this new Clause. I may be dense, but I cannot see how it is possible under the conscription law for any of our Services to send one of these young conscripts to perform service in foreign parts. Ever since this subject was introduced I have taken it for granted that these young men would be conscripted into military service at, or within three months or so of, the age of 18. I have heard it said that their service may be deferred until 19, and in some cases 20, years of age. At first they were to be called up for 12 months' conscripted service. It is now to be 18 months. For the life of me, I can see no value in calling up a young man for 18 months' conscript service and sending him to some foreign country to serve in the military forces; much of the time and money spent on training him would be largely wasted, because no sooner would he reach the foreign station than he would have to return under his terms of service.
The more I look at this, the more I am amazed that a Government such as the present one should allow this kind of service in our Armed Forces. A young chap of 18 or 19 is just at the time of life when he ought to be actively training for his career. If these young men are taken into the Forces and sent abroad, then instead of their service being 18 months it will be very much longer; and the longer that service the more deleterious it will be to their future careers. After all is said and done, whilst we do not want our young men to be unmindful of the service they can render their country, both now and in a future emergency, we must recognise that in these years of their lives, they are preparing for their careers in order to fulfil all the obligations and duties of their future manhood.
I distinctly remember that on reaching the age of 18 I had great ambitions and aspirations. I am happy to say that I had already developed a belief in Christianity, and I was going about preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was a young local preacher; I had enthusiasm, and a burning zeal to win people to a better and nobler life. At that time I thought it would not be very long before this world would reach the time when war would be no more. I do not forget that during the 1914–18 war tens of thousands of our young men were called to the Forces on the distinct understanding that they were fighting a war to end war. Today, we are again discussing conscripting our young men.
I regret the necessity for such a Clause as this being put before the Committee. Although I approve of its objects, I cannot help feeling it is a practical impossibility. I should like the Minister, in reply, to tell me precisely how a young conscript of 18 or 19 can be sent abroad and still fulfil the kind of service envisaged in the course of 18 months.
Hon. Members on these benches regard this Clause as very important and we hope that the Secretary of State will tell us that he is in a position to accept it. Its principle is extremely important. It is one thing for a young man to go abroad to seek ambition, a career and adventure. It is another thing altogether for the Government to conscript him to serve abroad when he has not even the vote to express his own democratic view about it.
My hon. Friends the Members for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) have dealt with the moral aspect, and have been supported by hon. Members opposite. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Clause but that, if he is unable to accept it on technical grounds, hon. Members opposite will come with us into the Division Lobby. We have heard some resounding and critical speeches from the benches opposite, and the Government have been rescued again by the Opposition. It certainly was not rescued by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). We hope, therefore, that hon. Gentlemen opposite will pluck up courage, on this Clause at least, to vote with us if the Government cannot accept it.
I base my opposition to sending these young men abroad not only on the reasons given by my hon. Friends but also on grounds of economy and defence. That is important. I think it is generally accepted by the Government that even by sending abroad young men who are conscripted for 18 months, we cannot police the world. Neither, by such a policy, can we maintain our industrial output and carry on our export trade. Any attempt to follow a bilateral defence policy on such a basis would be disastrous for this country in its present position. Our commitments abroad, whether in Malaya or elsewhere, must be a Commonwealth Defence responsibility. Whether, under the Bill, we send our young men abroad to Malaya, or, as the hon. Member for East Coventry said, to other parts where difficulties may occur, this is a matter which the Minister of Defence should discuss with his colleagues from overseas and ask them to accept their responsibilities for these commitments abroad.
Most of the speeches of today to which I have listened have laid emphasis against the calling up of young men, getting them into training and into khaki and sending them abroad. I believe, however, that industrial war potential is the main defence of this country in its present world position. We cannot compete with the manpower situation and pay our way. If there is one lesson that this country, our Chiefs of Staff and the right hon. Gentleman's military advisors must have learnt from the 1914 and 1939 wars, it is that men were not our main deficiency. During the critical periods our lack was of equipment and munitions. In other words, our critical need was for industry and production. That is why I adduce the argument that it is an obsolete and antiquated defence policy to try——
With great respect, Major Milner, that is exactly the argument I am trying to develop. If, with our present manpower commitments in this country, there is need to conscript, it is a far more intelligent policy to train these young men in industrial war potential in industry and to give them a trade than to put them in khaki and send them abroad to Malaya or to other parts. The Secretary of State for War must know that, if, tomorrow, this country found itself in a difficult position internationally, we would of course not be short of men. We have, as I have said, never been short of men in a war crisis. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has said this over and over again. It is in industry and munitions of war that we have fallen short. I helped to raise a battery——
The hon. Member seems to be devoting his speech to the question of manpower generally. This is a question of youths under 20, and it is to that matter that the hon. Gentleman should address his remarks.
With very great respect, Major Milner, as I see this Bill, its purpose is to conscript and send young men to serve overseas. The argument I am trying to make is that after they have been conscripted—with which the Clause is concerned—instead of being sent overseas, they should be retained in this country until they reach the age of 20 and taught a trade.
The hon. Member refers to the Bill from time to time, but we are not discussing the Bill. We are discussing a specific point about sending youths abroad and I must ask him to keep to that point.
I will endeavour to keep within the terms of your Ruling, Major Milner. The new Clause we are proposing states that no young man shall be sent abroad until he has reached the age of 20 years. We need to have an imaginative policy from the right hon. Gentleman which will enable these young men to go into constructive industry. We are short of apprentices because of the dilution of labour during the war. We are short also of craftsmanship, and if we continue to follow a policy of the kind proposed we shall be shorter still. Instead of sending these young men abroad, instead of such an obsolete and antiquated policy we should keep them here after they have been conscripted on special training in industry as apprentices and craftsmen for a certain period.
Even within the Army or other forces. If we have a corps d'elite in our Regular Army, with specialists in our Territorial force—yes we should have something like a Territorial specialised technologist Army—our young men could be given courses on the things which the right hon. Gentleman knows are important today in terms of modern warfare. Aircraft, radar and technical developments are of course the necessities in a modern war potential. That is the kind of training which these young men should have in special types of industry after being called up, rather than being put into khaki and sent abroad as a police force to Malaya and other parts.
I believe that if the Secretary of State for War had been on this side of the Committee and our present defence policy had been pursued, if such a Clause as that before us had been brought forward, he would have torn the policy he is now defending to pieces. He would support and plead for an imaginative and progressive policy of the kind we are advocating as suitable to this country today. I am amazed to find all that the right hon. Gentleman can do is to go to the pigeon holes of the War Office and produce the old, dusty papers of 1935 to 1939 and repeat the process.
I opposed it. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the Clause and the importance of the training which could be given to these youngsters here in this country. Such a course would be far better for the country, for the men themselves, and from the view of industry, civil and war potential, defence and the War Office must know this. For those reasons, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us a bold, imaginative and modern policy which will implement the Clause we are proposing.
There have been eloquent speeches in support of this new Clause. I have my name down to another proposed new Clause to provide that the age should be 19. I hope that even if the Minister cannot go all the way to meet the terms of this new Clause, he will compromise by at least conceding the extra 12 months.
It is a matter of great grief to me—and grief is not an over-statement—that the Government found it necessary to introduce a Conscription Bill in peacetime at all. As they found it necessary to do so, I feel that the least they can do is to mitigate the worst evils of that Measure by a provision of this sort. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) said that she spoke for the parents, and she spoke very eloquently for the parents. I am a parent. My boy served in the last war but, mercifully, he did not have to go abroad at the young age of 18. It was bad enough to have him training at 20 and when he finally went abroad, the anxiety for me was, as for every parent in this country, almost unbearable. It is true that parents are racked with anxiety now at the thought that their young sons might have to go abroad at 18.
There is all the difference in the world—and no one knows it more than the Minister—between 18 and 19. It is only 12 short months, but in those 12 months a boy grows up in an amazing way. Only parents can see the great development which takes place between 18 and 19 and still more between 19 and 20. That year would make all the difference in mollifying parents to some extent. I realise that I am not using arguments about economics, or industry, but am making a simple human appeal to the Minister to keep our young men here at the age of 18 and not send them abroad when they are too young to be exposed to the dangers which we know exist abroad. If they can be kept under their parents' eyes for that extra year, it would go a long way to help.
Whether the Archbishop of Canterbury is right, or whether Canon Raven is right, is not the point. The very fact that Canon Raven can find something wrong should make this Committee sit up and take notice. I beg my right hon. Friend to go as far as he can in meeting us on this proposed new Clause.
We have some way to go before we complete the proceedings on this Bill. We also have the Report stage and the Third Reading to dispose of. If I intervene at this stage, it is not that I wish to be discourteous to my hon. Friends, but because this new Clause cannot be regarded as a major amendment, although it has important aspects. Therefore, we might dispose of it more speedily than hon. Members had thought. I understand that the principal reason behind this new Clause is the apprehension hon. Members feel about the moral welfare of our young men sent overseas. I can say at once that every Member of the Government is as anxious to safeguard the interests of these boys as are other hon. Members. Some considerable time ago, probably six or eight months ago, I received several deputations from church organisations, from a representative women's organisation, and other voluntary bodies, on the subject of the moral welfare of the troops, particularly in Germany. Without them knowing all the facts, I gave them an assurance that these matters would be carefully investigated. I paid a personal visit to Germany and made careful inquiries and, although no doubt there are occasions when Ministers are——
—I use the language of my hon. Friend—are shepherded in undertaking these inspections, I suspect myself of sufficient shrewdness to detect anything in the nature of deception.
My hon. Friend says, "We all think that." My opinion is as good as his and the opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury is just as good as that of Dr. Raven. We have to consider first, the actual facts about the situation in Germany. I readily admit that on inquiry and investigation both here and in Germany, we were apprehensive, but we did the right thing in the circumstances and sought every possible means of improving the position. And the position has in fact substantially improved.
In saying this I do not rely on the opinion of the Archbishop alone, but, in pursuance of a promise I made to the
Free Church Federal Council deputation which came to me many months ago, their representatives have paid a visit to Germany and I will quote from the report they issued. If some hon. Members are not prepared to accept the opinion of the Archbishop, they might, for various reasons, be prepared to accept the opinion of the Free Church Federal Council. It would be useful to put extracts from their report on record because what I am seeking to do is not so much to mollify hon. Members who in principle are opposed to conscription and dislike this Bill most intensely—although I recognise I must meet their arguments in so far as they possess any validity—but what I am concerned about is removing the apprehensions, the anxieties, the fears of parents and relatives of boys, and that is very necessary. It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) to quote a particular instance, but
One swallow does not make a summer.
Indeed, several swallows would not constitute a summer. Of course there are cases where boys are badly handled. There are cases where boys, whether in Germany or elsewhere, will mishandle themselves. It has nothing to do with conscription. It has nothing to do with being in the Army, the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy. There are boys in industry who treat themselves badly—morally, physically and otherwise and everyone of us recognises that.
Indeed, when boys are at home there is no guarantee that they will not misconduct themselves. A great deal is being said at present about parental responsibility in these days and its relation of juvenile delinquency. I will not enter into that controversy, but I will remind hon. Members that it must not be assumed that whenever boys leave these shores, they suddenly develop a double dose of original sin. It simply is not true. Now I will quote from the report of the Free Church Federal Council. This is quite a recent report, and I hope hon. Members will bear with me while I read it:
The provision of all kinds of amenities and facilities for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of these young men is so well conceived and lavish as to command our highest praise.
Of course, there is nothing the hon. Member does not possess except a little patience and restraint. I will continue to quote:
Indeed, for many of these young conscripts, whose circumstances in civil life are not too favourable, we are convinced that life in the B.A.O.R. is probably an advantage. For here, they are brought into touch with influences for good which might never reach them at home. The B.A.O.R. is clearly out to make not only good soldiers, but also good citizens; and in this aim it is spendidly aided by the C.V.W.W."—
which is one of the most important of the voluntary organisations operating in Germany—
As we have every reason to believe that this enlightened policy is meeting with a large measure of success and will be continued, we have therefore come to the unanimous conclusion, concerning the main issue before us, that the situation obtaining in the British Zone of Germany today, while still not wholly satisfactory, is not so serious as to call for a withdrawal of these National Servicemen, but rather for a steady and progressive continuance of the present policy. We are further convinced that parents, whose sons are drafted into B.A.O.R., need have no undue anxiety as to the results that will ensue.
The report continues:
Their boys are not just being thrown willy-nilly into a kind of modern Babylon; they are brought into a community wherein every care is taken of them by a great number of good, able, and experienced men and women. In this community, we are persuaded their sons will find every inducement to go straight, and every discouragement to do wrong, and they will be given every opportunity to develop their potentialities of body, mind and spirit in the confident hope that they may return later to civil life, better men.
The remarkable feature about this report is that when a deputation came to me from this organisation, I had the greatest difficulty in convincing them that we were making every effort to safeguard the interests of the boys. They were very sceptical and, indeed, brutally frank, but they had been in Germany, they had carte blanche to investigate.
They could go where they cared. No inhibitions were placed upon their movements, none whatever. Nor have I placed any on Members of Parliament. They are at liberty to go. Indeed, I have encouraged them to go, and I have made it quite clear to our authorities in B.A.O.R. that they should afford them every possible facility for conversing with both officers and men and, in particular, of ascertaining whether the welfare arrangements which exist are satisfactory. I am ready to admit at once, as the Free Church Federal Council have stated, that the position is not wholly satisfactory, but it is improving, and it is substantially improving. If hon. Members want an assurance——
if hon. Members want an assurance, I give them this guarantee, that we shall use every endeavour, in cooperation with the authorities on the spot and with the voluntary organisations, to safeguard the moral well-being of our boys.
It was largely the result of newspaper reports which contained startling allegations about the condition of our troops in Germany. As a result of those reports, many hon. Members approached me and my Service colleagues and demanded that inquiry should be made. And they were quite entitled to do so. If I were a parent or a relative of one of the boys I should have been equally sorry and concerned at the allegations which appeared in the newspapers.
But there were also allegations about the incidence of venereal disease and the most astonishing allegations were made in that connection. I was able to show subsequently, after making careful inquiry, that the incidence of disease was much higher among the Regular soldiers who had reached maturity, than among the boys who are regarded as immature.
—that is why I say it is no use asking it. I am dealing with a serious matter. I repeat that I am anxious to remove the apprehensions of parents and other relatives. I say that in the matter of this insidious disease, which was one of the causes of many of the allegations, we were able to demonstrate that the boot was on the other leg, and when I met the deputation from the women's organisations they were astonished at the statistics we were able to submit to them.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point of venereal disease, may I ask, without wishing to over paint the picture, is not this contained in the report of the Free Church Federal Council which he is quoting:
Prophylactics are available to all, and it is estimated that 80 per cent of the B.A.F.O. apply and are supplied with them"?
I am not aware of that being in the report, but at any rate it is quite irrelevant. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is quite irrelevant, for this reason: It is well known that in any army the incidence of this disease is higher than it is among the civilian population. I am trying to convey to hon. Members that the position is rapidly improving at least in Germany.
May I be allowed to make my speech? I intend to make it in any event, in spite of these unseemly interruptions. We are trying to improve the position, and a substantial improvement has been effected.
One of the things which we found it necessary to undertake was the continued use of the women's organisations. The Women's Voluntary Service, for example, was not being used to the extent that was desired. Since we have availed ourselves of an extended use of such organisations there has been a marked improvement in the position. I wish to pay my tribute to these organisations for their endeavours.
I turn to the question of sending troops overseas. It seems to be assumed that we only contemplate sending conscripts abroad when the present Bill comes into operation. That is quite fallacious. In fact there have been conscripts abroad since the end of the war, for long periods of service, and they have been sent further a field than B.A.O.R.
The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) raises quite a different issue. He asks "Why do we have to police the world?" This is not a foreign policy Debate. I understand that there is to be one this week, and I advise him to ask that question when that Debate takes place, although I, too, would be very glad to meet him on that basis.
Conscription is in operation, and the principle has been applied of sending these young men abroad at what is called an immature age—at the age of 18 years 3 months. I wish to make it quite clear what is and has been the position of the Government on this matter. We dislike sending abroad boys of this age.
If we could avoid it we would certainly do so. At the same time. provided that proper care is taken of the boys in respect of welfare, and in particular if they are engaged arduously in military training, they are all right. I have seen some of the boys in Germany on more than one occasion. I have been immensely impressed by their bearing, their physical appearance, their mental alertness. They are a fine lot of chaps, if I may use a military expression.
No one knows that better than I do. If I may say so, with due modesty—and I hope that this will not be regarded in any way as egotism—I wish to do as much for the soldiers, officers and men, as I tried to do, very modestly, for the miners. If it comes to a discussion of what has been done for the miners, I will put my record against that of any man in this country. Along with my Service colleagues and with every hon. Member on both sides of the House, I want—we want—to do our best for the fellows in the Services, and why should we not, more particularly when we impose compulsion? At the same time, we must not disregard the fact that many Regulars join the Army either in a spirit of patriotism or because they feel that they want to embark on a military career, and we must render them at least all the assistance which we feel we must render to the National Service man.
A question has been put to me about the position of other countries. It is said that Continental countries do not send their conscripts overseas. In the case of France, France with Algeria is regarded as a metropolitan area, so that argument would not apply. Holland relies mainly on Colonial troops, so that there is no need for her to send large numbers of conscripts overseas. The same applies to Belgium in relation to her territories in Africa, so that there is no analogy in that.
Now I wish to put very briefly what I regard as the principal reason for sending the boys abroad. I have already said that we would prefer not to do it, but we must, and I will tell the Committee why. It does not seem to be recognised in certain quarters—I am making no complaint about it; there is a good deal of misunderstanding about the position, and I only discovered it for myself some time after I arrived at the War Office—what were the results of the very speedy demobilisation and the turnover of men, of the many commitments we have overseas, and last but not least, of the fact that having once accepted the principle of National Service, we have to find ways and means of training the National Service men. All these factors, in the absence of a Regular Force big enough to meet all demands, mean that National Service men must be sent overseas to meet some of our needs.
As I told the House in the Second Reading Debate, the Army has 170,000 men overseas, and a large number of them are conscripts. These boys are coming and going all the time. When they come back to this country, or before they do so, we have to replace them by sending other men out. This constant movement creates a condition of in stability and unbalance. If we are to meet our commitments—I am not entering now into a controversy about our commitments and the reasons for them—we have to be realistic. We have to face the fact that those commitments are there, and clearly we must be in a position to have men whom we can send overseas to meet our commitments from time to time.
The hon. Member asks me what about the Dominions? They are not affected by this Conscription Bill. As regards Malaya, we have undertaken the task of policing that area in the hope that we shall shortly be able to remove the principal difficulties and that the men can safely return.
All that I am prepared to say is that on all occasions the Commonwealth countries are fully consulted.
I do not propose to say any more beyond this. I should be obliged to hon. Members if they would approach me at any time—and I think I can say the same for my Service colleagues—and make suggestions as to how the moral condition of troops overseas should be safeguarded. We have libraries and recreation schemes, and there are a variety of other means which we employ. But if hon. Members, particularly hon. Members with military experience, have any further suggestions to make we shall be pleased to consider them.
Our primary concern is to look after the boys while they are away. The officers are enjoined most strictly to function in that direction. I do not complain of what hon. Members have had to say. I understand that many dislike the principle of conscription and do not like the Bill at all. But I will give them this assurance, if it is any consolation to them, that if this proposed new Clause were carried, our National Service scheme would be of no value at all. I hope it will not be carried. In effect it is a wrecking proposal, and therefore, with the best will in the world, I cannot accept it and must ask hon. Members to reject it. I
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Freeman, J (Watford)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Gibbins, J||Parker, J|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Paton, Mrs. F (Rushcliffe)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Grey, C. F.||Pearson, A|
|Attewell, H. C||Grierson, E||Peart, T. F|
|Awbery, S. S.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Perrins, W.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J (Llanelly)||Popplewell, E.|
|Balfour, A||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Hale, Leslie||Price, M Philips|
|Barstow, P. G||Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Barton, C||Hannan W (Maryhill)||Pursey, Comdr. H|
|Battley, J. R||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Randall, H. E|
|Bechervaise, A.E.E.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Ranger, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Hewitson, Capt. M||Reeves, J.|
|Benson, G.||Hicks, G||Reid, T (Swindon)|
|Berry, H.||Hobson, C. R||Robens, A.|
|Binns, J||Holman, P||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Blackburn, A. R||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Horabin, T. L.||Royle, C.|
|Blyton, W. R||Hoy, J.||Scott-Elliott, W|
|Boardman, H.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H W||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Sharp, Granville|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Shawcross, C, N. (Widnes)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Brown, T.J. (Ince)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. A||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W T||Janner, B.||Silverman, S. S (Nelson)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jay, D. P. T.||Simmons, C. J|
|Callaghan, James||Jenkins, R. H.||Skeffington-Lodge, T C n-Lodge, T C|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin)||Skinnard, F W|
|Champion, A. J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||King, E. M.||Smith, S. H (Mull. S W.)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Kinley, J.||Solley, L. J|
|Cocks, F. S||Kirby, B. V.||Sparks, J. A|
|Coldrick, W.||Leslie, J. R.||Sttele, T.|
|Collick, P.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Swingler, S|
|Collindridge, F.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Sylvester, G. O|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Longden, F||Symonds, A. L|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Lyne, A. W.||Taylor, H B. (Mansfield)|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||McAdam, W||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Crawley, A.||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||McKay, J (Wallsend)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Daggar, G.||Mackay, R. W G. (Hall, N. W.)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Daines, P.||McLeavy, F||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Tolley, L.|
|Deer, G||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Marquand, H. A||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Diamond, J.||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Mitchison, G. R||Walker, G. H|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Moody, A S.||Warbey, W N|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Morgan, Dr. H. B||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Mort, D. L.||Wells, W T (Walsall)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Moyle, A||West, D. G.|
|Evans, S. N (Wednesbury)||Murray, J. D||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.).|
|Fairhurst, F||Neal, H (Claycross)||While, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Farthing, W. J.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E (Bradford, N.)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.|
|Fernyhough, E||Oliver, G. H.||Wigg, George|
|Fletcher, E. G M. (Islington. E.)||Paget, R. T||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Foot. M M||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Williams, R. W. (Wigan)||Yates, V. F.||Mr. Snow and|
|Williams, W. R. (Heston)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)||Mr. George Wallace|
|Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Granville, E. (Eye)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Gridley, Sir A.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Birch, Nigel||Grimston, R V.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S (Cirencester)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Head, Brig. A. H.||Nicholson, G.|
|Bowen, R.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nield B. (Chester)|
|Bower, N.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Odey, G. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Pickthorn, K|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Carson, E.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Challen, C.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Channon, H.||Kendall, W. D.||Sanderson, Sir F|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Langford-Holt, J.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Digby, S. W.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lindsay, M. (Solihuff)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S)|
|Donner, P. W.||Low, A. R. W.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Drayson, G. B.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon, M. S||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Drewe, C.||McFarlane, C. S.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J (Dorset, E.)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Maclean, F. H. R (Lancaster)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Manningham-Butler, R. E||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Gates, Maj. E. E||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Mr. Byers and Mr. Wadsworth|
|Battley, J. R.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Bowen, R.||Granville, E. (Eye)||Piratin, P.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Davies S. O. (Merthyr)||Kendall, W. D.||Walker, G. H|
|Fairhurst, F||McGhee, H. G.||Yates, V. F|
|Fernyhough, E||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Mr. Byers and Mr. Wadsworth|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Brook, D (Halifax)||Donner, P. W|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Donovan, T.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Dower, E. L G. (Caithness)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Drewe, C.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Burke, W. A.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Attewell, H. C||Callaghan, James||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T (Richmond)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Castle, Mrs. B. A||Dumpleton, C. W|
|Bacon, Miss A||Champion, A. J.||Eccles, D. M.|
|Balfour, A||Channon, H.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Chetwynd, G. R||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Cobb, F. A||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)|
|Barton, C.||Coldrick, W.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Collindridge, F.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Farthing, W. J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Comyns, Dr. L.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Foot, M. M.|
|Benson, G.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)|
|Berry, H||Crawley, A.||Freeman, J. (Watford)|
|Binns, J||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E||Gates, Maj. E. E.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Daggar, G.||Gibbins, J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Daines, P.||Glanville, J E. (Consett)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Grey, C. F.|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W)||Gridley, Sir A|
|Beles, Lt.-Col. D. C.(Welts)||Deer, G.||Grierson, E.|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Bower, N.||Diamond, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Digby, S. W.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden|
|Hale, Leslie||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Head, Brig. A. H.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Skeffington-Lodge, T C|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Marquand, H. A.||Skinnard, F.W.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Hicks, G.||Mellor, Sir J.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Hobson, C. R.||Mitchison, G. R||Sparks, J. A|
|Hogg, Hon Q||Moody, A. S.||Steele, T|
|Holman, P||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Sutcliffe, H|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Mort, D. L.||Taylor, Vice-Adm, E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Horabin, T. L.||Moyle, A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hoy, J.||Murray, J. D.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Hutchison, Col. J. R.(Glasgow, C.)||Nicholson, G.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Nield, B. (Chester)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Oliver, G. H.||Thornton-Kemsley, C N.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paget, R. T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Janner, B.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Tolley, L.|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Parker, J.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Turton, R. H.|
|Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Pearson, A.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Peart, T. F||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C W.||Perrins, W.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|King, E. M.||Pickthorn, K.||Warbey, W. N|
|Kinley, J.||Popplewell, E.||Weitzman, D.|
|Kirby, B. V||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Wells, W T. (Walsall)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G||Price, M. Philips||West, D. G.|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Price White, Lt-Col. D||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Lennox-Boyd, A T||Proctor W. T.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Leslie, J R||Pursey, Comdr H||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Ranger J.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||While, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Robens, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Lucas-Tooth Sir H||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)||Wigg, George|
|Lyne, A. W.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|McAdam, W.||Ropner, Col. L.||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Sanderson, Sir F||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|McFarlane, C. S.||Scott-Elliott, W||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Segal, Dr. S.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Sharp, Granville|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Mr. Snow and|
|McLeavy, F||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||Mr. George Wallace.|
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I am in some difficulty in moving this Clause because it relates to the age of call-up which is going to be discussed a little later under another new Clause—[Limit on liability to be called up].
The purpose of this new Clause is to provide that the Minister of Labour must give a period of six months' notice between the date of calling for the registration of a certain age group and the time when the registration actually takes place. Section 6 of the principal Act provides:
The Minister may from time to time by public notice require male persons who have
attained such age as may be specified in the notice.
to be registered for military service under this part of the Act. Section 7 of the principal Act lays down the kind of regulations which the Minister may make for those persons who become subject to registration.
The point of this new Clause arises from the uncertainty regarding registration, which itself is the result of the expedients to which the Minister of Defence has resorted for carrying into effect the call-up under the 1947 Act. We first of all had notice of this in the Defence White Paper for 1948 when it became clear that the Government were not going to carry out the call-up on the lines that I think had been suggested during the discussions on the 1947 Act, namely, calling up all the young men at the age of 18, but by the postponement of registrations they were going to raise the age of call-up without actually amending the Act. By the omission of one registration in
each year, the call-up age year by year under the Act was, in fact, going to be raised. In the words of the Defence White Paper, 1948, which referred to this postponement of registrations because the Forces were unable to take in the whole number of men called up if they were called up at the age of 18, these words appear:
This will be effected by the omission of one registration in each year, which will result in the age of call-up in 1950 being raised to 18 years and nine months.
That has been further qualified by the statement of the Minister of Defence during the Second Reading of this Bill when he said:
It is necessary in the present circumstances not to take in, in a particular year, the whole net number available for call-up. That has to be adjusted from year to year according to the needs of the situation. It may depend to some extent upon any changing international circumstances and upon the growth of the Regular Forces and the ability to train a given number."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 1st December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2019.]
I suggest that this puts us in a state of complete uncertainty regarding the age of call-up and the future registration of young men. We have previously gone by what was in the Defence White Paper, that there was to be a progressive raising of the age of call-up from 18, which was embodied in the 1947 Act, to 18 years nine months in 1950. Now we are informed that under this Bill the numbers called up will be uncertain, and the Forces are not going to take in the whole net number available for call-up at a particular time. Actually the age of call-up is now going to depend upon a whole lot of circumstances which have been outlined here by the Minister of Defence, which means that all young men who have not done compulsory military service between the ages of 18 and 26, as laid down in the principal Act, are in a state of uncertainty because of this constant change in the plans of the Defence Forces as to what the age of call-up is going to be at any particular time.
We do not know that at any time a Defence Service may decide that they do not want a registration on the date when it is due, and they may decide to postpone two registrations a year instead of one, and raise the age of call-up again. There is no guarantee in the Act that the young men who are going to be affected by this progressive raising of the call-up age will in fact get any longer period of notice about it at all.
I regard this situation as extremely unsatisfactory because, as I propose to point out a little later—not in the discussion on this new Clause—assurances were given when the Act of 1947 was passed that the age of call-up would be 18 years and that it was the intention to stick as near to that age as possible. It was regarded as the most desirable age. All the arguments for that are very obvious. In the first place, it enables the individuals concerned to make some plans. If they are to be called up at 18, or are not to be called up until 18½ or 19, they can, to some extent, plan their careers accordingly. It enables parents to make some plans about careers and education so long as they know quite definitely when the young men are likely to be called up.
The same things apply to industry. It applies to employers in industry generally. If the age of call-up over a period of time is definitely known, and the number of registrations likely to take place in any one period of years is known, some plans can be made. I think it is only fair, therefore, that the powers of the Minister of Labour under the principal Act should be qualified and that there should be some guarantee that he will have to give to the young men concerned, to their parents and to industry a period of notice before he carries a registration into effect.
If there are to be these continual changes in the number of registrations and in the age of call-up, there should be a period of time given. The Minister of Labour should say that six months ahead, at a certain period of time, he intends to call for the registration of men who were born in such and such a month. He will have to issue a public notice that a registration has been decided upon, then the registration will take place and later the young men will be called up for service.
I do not think it is asking too much to suggest that the Services should plan six months ahead what the age of call-up is to be, in the period of years which are affected by this Bill, so that they are able to give six months' notification that a registration will take place. I sincerely hope, therefore, that the Minister of Labour will see his way to accept this new Clause so that every man who is affected by this Bill shall know at least six months ahead or rather more than six months ahead, when he is likely to have to register.
I am pleased to support the new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler). I do so because in my view it is a constructive Clause which is designed to lessen the harsh effects of the call-up on the young people of the nation.
When this new Act comes into force the young men will not know whether they will be called up from the age of 18 years three months, or from the age of 19 years. In my submission that is not making either for an efficient Army or for the best will on the part of the people who are to join it. All people who are liable to call-up at the age of 18 are informed in this way. First of all these is a public notice which specifies all those people between certain ages who are liable for registration on a given date. Then there is the actual registration, followed by the medical examination—it may be a month or two months afterwards—followed by the actual enlistment, which, in most cases, is over five weeks, and in some cases as much as three months, after the registration.
All that means that it may be a very long time while the boy is awaiting the call-up. He makes his arrangements on the understanding that the call-up will be at the age of 18, but in actual fact he may be 19 years of age, or even over 19 years of age, when he is called up. That means he is marking time for a considerable period. 'That has a very bad effect on him, on his family, on his employer, and, ultimately, upon the Armed Forces. The Minister of Defence said on Second Reading:
It is proposed that, if it is found to be necessary, we should continue the practice of deferring one normal quarterly registration in each of the years 1949, 1950 and 1951.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) asked him how men will know when they are to be called up, and my right hon. Friend's answer was:
There will be an early announcement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2018.]
That, in my view, is totally unsatisfactory, and needs to be clarified tonight before we can really expect these young people to know where they stand.
Later in the Debate on Second Reading the Minister of Defence argued that it was not possible to fix a fixed age all the way through, and he said we must have a certain amount of flexibility to meet changing circumstances as they arose. I do not dispute that for a moment, but I do not think that asking the Minister of Labour to give six months' notice affects that flexibility. We do not, as has been suggested, say that we ought to call up a man at 18 and six months or not at all, but we say that if it is not necessary for him to be called up until he is 19 it is reasonable to expect the Minister to give him six months' notice. My hon. Friend pointed out the fairness of this to the man, his family and his employer. It is also fair to the Armed Forces, who ought to be enabled to plan more comprehensively than they have been able to do in the past. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give some encouraging news when he makes his reply.
I appreciate the purpose of this new Clause and also the spirit in which it has been proposed. However, I shall ask my hon. Friends to withdraw it, although I shall give them several assurances first. I share completely, without any reservation, the claim that young people and their parents should have definite notice, and as long notice as possible, as to when the young people are likely to be called up. We are moving to that end.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) referred to a statement made by the Minister of Defence in answer to the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden)—a statement by my right hon. Friend that there would be an early announcement. The early announcement to which he referred did not mean an early announcement each time there is to be a call-up but an early announcement to be made by us shortly, setting out if we can—and I think we can—for quite a year ahead when the young fellows will be called up for service. It is true that at the present moment the numbers are uncertain. I personally am rather glad they are uncertain, because I want to see them kept as low as possible so that we shall not take more than really necessary and so shall not interfere with industry too much. I shall very shortly be able to look ahead for at least a year, and I am planning to give as long notice as possible to everybody who may be required.
We do not want this to be tied down rigidly to six months. There are all sorts of circumstances and factors which may emerge that will prevent us from sticking to that arrangement. There must be flexibility. Let me give a rough timetable of how the thing works at the moment. First, there has to be public notice of registration. That is usually a notice three weeks before the registration date. I think it should be longer. We shall plan to make it longer. However, that is how it works now. After the registration the first to be called up for medical examination come in two weeks. They come afterwards, too, because we cannot call every person up for medical examination at once or we should swamp the doctors. We could not tackle them all, and there would not be enough flexibility in taking them into the Services. Nobody is called at present for medical examination until two weeks after registration. After the examination, notice of enrolment is sent out after five weeks' time, and the date of enrolment in another two weeks, and so normally the period is about three months between announcement of a registration and the earliest call up.
There ought to be a longer period than three weeks between the announcement and the registration. However, that is not what my hon. Friends want. What my hon. Friends want to know is the date on which a man is to come up for registration and to know it three months beforehand, so that he may expect in three months' time to be called up after notice of registration. At the present time, they have three months as the minimum after the public notice has appeared. I would ask hon. Members not to tie us down too tightly. I give the assurance that we will give as much advance notice as possible——
Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean that these registrations are planned less than six months' ahead? Is the situation such that he literally does not know, over and above the period of six months, when a particular age group is to be called up, and that it would be impossible to give another three months' notice?
No, I do not say that. The point has been confused because hon. Members referred to the fact that there may be the dropping of a registration. We may drop from four registrations to three. We do not know what are the circumstances. We may even find it necessary to drop from three to two, or to come up from three to four. I am not saying that we shall do that, but I am giving an undertaking quite definitely that this matter is under consideration. I hope possibly by early in January to be able to make a full announcement, and, if the Committee would prefer it, we could arrange for Question and answer immediately the House resumes, and put before the House the kind of plan that we have in mind and indicate how far we are looking ahead. It is because we do not want to be tied rigidly to six months, and I do not want to give a pledge to make it six months, that I assure the House that we shall make it as long as we can beyond the minimum of three months, and give as long a notice as possible beyond the notice of registration.
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government do not now know what the Services' demands are for the future, may be for two, three or four years? Does that mean that when the decision to increase the period of National Service was taken, they were not able to indicate what numbers they would want for the future?
That is not quite the point. Supposing we should find that the changes of pay and condition of services brought forward a great number of volunteers, we might not want to take in all that number of men at a particular moment. The needs of the Services are known and the number of men they would require, but if we can get a sufficient number of volunteers enrolling in the Services, we may find it necessary to slow down the call-up. On the other hand, unforeseen circumstances may arise which may make it necessary to call up the four groups. I repeat, both as a Minister and as an individual, that I am entirely in line with the request that the fullest possible notice must be given, and we shall give the utmost notice that we can.
I appreciate the Minister's assurances, and I am aware of all the uncertain factors which he has dealt with. I must say, however, that I think that it is a highly unsatisfactory and deplorable situation if less than six months notice is given before the period of registration. Having said that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.
Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I have felt, both during the Second Reading and the Committee stage of this Bill, that we have been regarding these young men as if they really were soldiers. They are nothing of the sort. They are civilians in uniform. I think that it is most important in connection with this Clause that we should remember that these young men are civilians in uniform, and that they should be looked after just as they would be if they were at home and not in the Army. I, as the Committee know, do not favour the Bill at all. What I am doing tonight is to try to mitigate what I regard as some of the worst features of the Bill, when these boys, who should be following their civil vocations, are actually in uniform, and some of them abroad.
The proposed new Clause just withdrawn by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) shows clearly the reasons why a Director-General of National Service should be appointed for the first consideration set out in my proposed new Clause. The flow of young men into the conscript Forces should be regulated by somebody other than the Minister of Defence, somebody attached to the Department of the Minister of Labour, but with responsibility for no other tasks whatever. From the Government replies and many of the speeches made from both sides of the Committee, it is obvious that the whole question of the flow into the conscript Army is very confused, and that at the moment nobody knows exactly when they will be called up.
During the Debate it has been said that there will be a great many "under the counter" dealings; that there will be deferments for men in certain categories; and that there will be others in a favoured position, whose service will be deferred so that they may go up to the university and so on. This will inevitably create a feeling of inequality among the population generally. All those factors need careful consideration, and I think that they are best considered by a Director-General of National Service whose sole job this would be.
Nothing has been said tonight to lead me to believe that the welfare of the young men of this civilian army in uniform is looked after as well as it should be. We have had read to us selected parts of a whitewashing report by a Committee sent to B.A.O.R., which has reported the way in which the welfare of these young men is considered. But it is not only in B.A.O.R. where the welfare of these young men is, in my view, not sufficiently considered. I should like to read to the Committee a letter I received today. I know that the Government Front Bench do not like us reading individual letters; they say that one swallow does not make a summer, or as I prefer to put it one robin does not make a winter. But it is the letters we receive from our constituents which make these boys come alive to us, which make them something different from what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) called them this afternoon—" bodies to be drawn from a reservoir."
We think of these boys, not as bodies to be drawn from a reservoir, but as young men who today, because of the action of this Government and because of its foreign policy, are now to become conscript soldiers. They are young civilians who are taken from their proper avocations and turned into soldiers for a period of years. They are not young men who are to fight in a war they understand, but young civilians of a certain age group, turned into soldiers for the time being. I want to feel that they are used and understood as such, so I make no apology for reading this letter, which shows that the welfare of these young men at present in
our conscript Army is not being properly cared for. This young lad writes:
Dear Mum and Dad,"—
they write like that, because they are just boys—
I arrived safe at this God-forsaken hole called R.A.F. Pershore.
I am glad to see the Minister responsible here.
I arrived at four o'clock and I didn't get anything to eat until a quarter to eight.
Well, that is not the way to treat a young man of that age.
They haven't got any plates in the cookhouse so we were given bowls, and if we lose those bowls or break them, then God help us, because we don't get anything in their place.
He goes on to say that there are no baths in the camp; that the camp is closed once a month so that the men can go home to get a bath. They have not even a proper wash place; they have a few taps over a piece of concrete, and they get hot water twice a week. Can any mother be content to know that that is the way the Services treat a boy, brought up in a decent home? We are not talking about "dead-end kids." From the reply given by the Minister of War this afternoon one would imagine that we were talking about "dead-end kids"; that they would all be criminals; that they were not boys from homes like our own, or boys of people we know in our constituencies who live in little villages and always bring up their children decently. If I continued to read this letter the Committee would realise what the difficulties of these young soldiers are. Certainly if they are not verminous—[AnHON. MEMBER: "Tories."]—I hand it to them, because it means they are taking great care of themselves.
The hon. Lady is making a serious charge. I think that charge should be publicly stated. She is asserting that at a well-known R.A.F. Station, Pershore, the condition is such that the men are verminous. Is she prepared to make that statement seriously?
That is not what I said. The noble Lord knows I did not say that, and I will not allow him to twist my words, although he often tries to twist the words of hon. Members on this side. What I said was that if these men are not verminous, then I take off my hat to them because they must take great care of themselves. I have sent this letter to the Minister responsible and I hope he will look into it. If it is found that the young man is exaggerating, then I hope he will say so, because that is the only thing which will reassure parents who get letters of this kind.
So I say it is necessary that somebody other than Army people should care about the welfare of these boys. Over and over again during these Debates we have had declarations from the Front Bench that there is much waste of time in the Army. These young men who are wasting their time are in the prime of their youth and ought to be doing a really good job of work, not picking caterpillars off the cabbages in the colonel's garden. There are much more important things in life for these young men to do. Is that another allegation to which the noble Lord objects? I dare say everybody who has been in the Army knows something about that kind of thing.
Much as I dislike this Bill, I only want to feel that if these young men are to be detained in uniform for a period of 18 months, at least we will do something to make that time really worth while. This is an age group for whom we have a great responsibility and to whom we owe great obligations. These are the young men, now grown to the end of their adolescence, who at eight years of age—and those will be called up at the end of the period, at three years of age—were evacuated from their homes. They lost in those early years the influence of their home life; often they were brought back before the bombing was over, and so they were subjected to the effects of air raids. They lost a good deal of their education. Many of them lost the chance of a scholarship at the age of 11 which would have taken them through their secondary school to the university. So we really owe the boys of this age group more than we owe almost any other age group.
It is up to the Ministers to see whether they cannot put some responsible person in charge of the whole thing. A real Director of National Service would look after their education, their religion, their physical welfare, and their friendships. During the war there was not much time for Army education and it has been much neglected since the end of the war. Whilst they are in the Army I would like to see these young men have a real chance of the best kind of education that can be given to them. They often get very anxious about their relatives. There should be someone to keep their contacts so that the boys know things are all right at home. Very often Members get letters from boys asking us to go and see their mothers and fathers because they have not had letters recently or because they think that their letters have been lost. We want someone who will be in touch with their relatives in order to assure them that the boys are being well looked after.
It is also very important that there should be some regulation of the way in which they go back to civil life. Unless we can have some assurance from the Minister that a director will be appointed who will have the real care of these boys during the 18 months they are in the Army, I do not feel there will be a smooth articulation between leaving the Army and returning to civil life. Many will have gone straight from school intending to go on to the university, but 18 months in the Army will have changed their minds about that. It frequently happens that in such a period one loses the flavour of study. We want them to go on with the career on which they started, unless they find something which interests them much more.
Neither is there any guarantee about employment for more than about three months, but we want them to have a chance of permanent employment and to go back to a job that suits them and not to be square pegs in round holes Before they go into the Army no one wants to employ them because they are soon to be called up and, unless something is done, when they come out of the Army they will not be able to settle down into civil life. We want someone interested in this great new national task and this alone; someone who does not also have the job of getting European workers to go into the textile industry, the anxiety of strikes and many other things with which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are burdened.
This is a job for one man; to see that the flow is properly regulated to the Army and that there is no "under the counter" work such as was suggested this afternoon; one man to he responsible for their welfare, their education, their religion and that their friends are properly looked after and the same man to see that when they come out of the Army they settle back into civil life. I hope my right hon. Friend will give sympathetic consideration to this suggestion and offer to those of us who are interested in the matter some hope that some steps will be taken in the direction set out in the proposed new Clause.
The hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) referred to baths in Pershore. As the Under-Secretary for Air did not intervene, may I remind him that during the war baths were available in Pershore and, unless the Minister for Fuel and Power has had them removed, they are still there.
I am sure we all sympathise with the object the hon. Lady has in view, but I do not think discussion of the proposed new Clause should end without someone on this side supporting the Government's view that it was grossly unfair to accuse anyone in authority in the three Services, of not looking after these men. I could not listen to the attack she has made without replying to it. I do not know about Pershore, but I thought that was greatly exaggerated. I believe she amended the statement and said that it was only due to the cleverness of these men that they were not verminous but I do not think there was a word of accuracy in that statement and it is not calculated to make her very popular with the young men in the Services. Perhaps she does not mind that.
I do not think it is a statement which should be made and I do not think anything should be said which would cause young men going into the Services to think they will have to put up with those conditions.
If the conditions are as reported in my statement, conveyed to me by a constituent in whom I have every faith and who sent it as the statement of his son, it is quite right that I should see that these matters are looked into and the welfare of the young men at this camp considered. I should not be doing my duty as a representative of that father in this House if I did not bring his letter to the notice of the Committee.
I am not objecting to the hon. Lady quoting the views of this young man. What I was refuting and what, as an ex-Service man, I shall refute as long as I sit in this House, was an attack which was unfair, upon the arrangements for the welfare of these young men generally. I am aware that the hon. Lady is perfectly sincere in putting this matter forward but I do not attach the slightest importance to what was said by this homesick young man on his first arrival at a camp.
I wish to put on record, and I am glad to see present an hon. Gentleman who made some critical observations about the treatment of the B.A.O.R. in Germany, that we have read today, in addition to what the Archbishop said last week, of a report by a most influential committee composed of members of the Free Churches—the Rev. S. W. Hughes, President elect of the Baptist Union, the Rev. Maurice Watts, Chairman of the Congregational Union, the Rev. W. Noble, former President of the Methodist Church, and the Rev. Henry Wigley, General Secretary of the Free Church Council. The report calls attention to the immense improvements which have been made by the military authorities—and this is to the credit of the Secretary of State—in respect of the B.A.O.R., and shows that there should be no moral danger to young men going into it. They used the phrase—it is not my phrase but that of representative members of the Free Churches—that life in the B.A.O.R. was probably an advantage for some young men.
I think that is the reply to the sort of charge which the hon. Lady has made. Every one is in sympathy with her point of view that everything should be done for these young men, but it would be wrong for it to go out from this Committee tonight that things were as bad as the hon. Lady's speech would lead people to believe.
I wish to support the new Clause which my hon. Friend so ably moved. This is a very simple Clause, as simple as it appears on the Order Paper. It places the responsibility for all war welfare on to a special department. I am quite prepared to admit that a great deal has been done. I know that the Secretary of State for War has paid special attention and has shown great concern for the welfare of the men in the Army, and that he has gone to great lengths to institute and make a good many improvements. At the same time some of us feel concerned that there are many cases where conditions are not all that may be desired. Even if all were well, it is most desirable that it should be some one's special responsibility, and should not be diffused among a great many well meaning and creditable organisations.
Among the many fine things which this Government have done, one of the finest has been their special concern for the young people of this country. We have recently passed the Children Act, which has given practical expression to that concern, in that it takes special care of a certain section of young people. The after-care of these young people goes on up to the age of 18 and can even be continued to the age of 21. If that is necessary for one section of our young people it is very necessary that this care should be exercised in the case of these young conscripts who go into the Forces. They are a very special problem. They are jerked into military life before they have any proper roots and are sent back again to civilian life, having had their values changed and in many cases distorted.
I should like to feel that the Minister will give some special consideration to this Clause which we propose. It is, after all, a simple Clause asking for someone to be appointed whose special responsibility and special concern shall be the care of all these young men who are going into the Army. Earlier this evening the Secretary of State for War said, "Our primary concern is to look after our boys whilst they are away." That is all right. But we want it to be a special concern whether they are away abroad or are at home. The fact is that they are having this special military training, and will be going back again to civilian life. I maintain that it would be an excellent thing if a special Department could be set up with some trained person to look at all the factors regarding the care which is necessary for these young men who are conscripts and who will be going back again to civilian life.
I have listened to what the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) has said, and to the letter which she has read. I cannot help feeling that it would have been much nicer if she had sent that letter to the Department and had awaited their observations on it before she made the contents public. If what is in the letter is correct, it may disclose some bad physical conditions, but I do not think that it discloses any fault in welfare as we look upon the word in connection with these matters.
This proposed new Clause is quite unnecessary in both its phases. It asks that there should be appointed a director-general of National Service. Well, we have one. That is me. I nearly said, "I am the bloke," but I would not go quite so far as that. I have to carry out this duty through a Department of the Ministry of Labour which we call the Military Recruiting and Demobilisation Department. It is the job of the Minister of Labour, acting under the authority of the House through its Acts, to regulate the flow of conscripts into the three Services and back again into civilian life. That is what we have been doing all the time.
The second half of the proposed new Clause is unnecessary and unwise. It is the proper responsibility of the commanding officer of a unit to look after the welfare of his men. It is a responsibility which I believe is thoroughly accepted and carried out. Quite properly. he delegates that duty to the sub-commanders. We have already heard in other speeches that a good subaltern will make a good unit. It is their job to look after the welfare of their people, and they are doing it. We do not want to intervene. For the Ministry of Labour to appoint some civilian to step in and tell the commanding officer what to do, when to do it and how to do it, would not be welcomed by the commanding officer, and I do not know that the civilian employers would be very happy about it. And what a job for one man! I know that the Minister of Labour has a lot of peculiar sorts of jobs——
If I may for one moment assume that I am a sort of super-man, I would say that I do not want another job on top of all the others. But the fact is that it would not be possible to have somebody in a Department outside the Services telling the Services how they should conduct their welfare work, and so on. These are comprehensive arrangements. It is not a question merely of seeing that hot water is laid on, or that the canteens are properly run, or that there is proper sleeping accommodation and the sanitary conditions are as they ought to be. There are also chaplains in the Forces who have to look after the moral and spiritual welfare of the men. These chaplains must act in conjunction with their own commanding officers and with the welfare officers of their unit. It would be quite impossible for another Ministry, or another Department outside the Services, to step in. We should have to find out whether the chaplains were preaching the proper sermons or whether they were giving out the proper hymns. One never knows where one is likely to arrive if we did that sort of thing.
I do not say this facetiously, but when we come to consider this suggestion we cannot take it very seriously. In addition to the officers, welfare officers and the chaplins, there are these energetic and earnest welfare organisations working in these fields. It would be difficult to suggest that anybody outside should step in and try to interfere. I think that this new Clause is unnecessary. All that it asks for is being done already except that we have not got an individual called the Director-General of National Service. During the war we had a Director-General of Manpower. He was a highly-placed civil servant who did a splendid job for the country in that capacity. We have no longer got an officer of that name, but the Department is still functioning and the work goes on.
The hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) also said that there were no. jobs for the boys when they came out of the Forces. If they want jobs when they come out of the Services, these boys can come to the Ministry and every assistance will be given to them. It is said that some lose their taste for universities while in the Forces. Judging by the great number who, properly, ask for facilities to continue their studies and also for opportunities to leave the Services a little while before their full time is up, it seems to me they are not losing that desire at all. We cannot accept the new Clause because it would cause too much interference with the duties laid upon officers, which they are carrying out honestly and conscientiously, and it would ask us to do something which is unnecessary.
I wish to support this new Clause. It is good that the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) has raised this matter. I ask the Minister to give the suggestion more consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) was very indignant about what was said by the hon. Lady. He took it that it was a criticism of those in charge of the Services. Maybe it was; maybe it was not. He referred to the statement made by the Free Churches. That statement says that the situation is not wholly satisfactory but that there has been an immense improvement. What sort of conditions existed before the immense improvement, and why was there such an improvement? It was because hon. Members like the hon. Lady and others were continuously drawing the attention of the Minister to the letters they were receiving. All kinds of efforts were directed towards getting something done for the lads overseas. That is why it is possible to represent an immense improvement.
When the right hon. Gentleman uses the statement of the Free Churches and presents us with what is claimed to be an immense improvement, he is criticising those who were in charge before that improvement took place. Is that right? Of course, it is right. So what we have against the Archbishop of Canterbury is cant from Canterbury. It is nonsense for him to suggest for a moment that these boys are better off, from the moral point of view, outside this country than they are in their own country and in the shelter of their own homes, and, if any Communist had made a gross and absurd statement of that kind, we should never have heard the end of it. The best place for a lad is in the care of his own home, his own parents and his own teachers.
What has been reported by the Free Church Council, that the situation is not wholly satisfactory, is a very serious qualification. I ask him to give more consideration to the statements made by the hon. Lady, and, even if he does not feel that it is desirable to appoint a Director-General, in the sense in which the hon. Lady suggested it, to take every conceivable step to see that everything that can be done will be done to remove any doubt about the situation not being wholly satisfactory, so that we can get, at the earliest moment, a statement that the situation is satisfactory, so that nobody need have any fears about these lads over there.
I wish the Minister had given a little more serious consideration to this new Clause. The right hon. Gentleman rather put up his hands in despair and bewilderment, and said that he has too many jobs already and that this is piling one more on the others. I am sure that many hon. Members will have a certain amount of sympathy with him.
The new Clause proposes that the duties of the proposed Director-General of National Service should also include directing people in the Forces back into civilian life again. That is a point in which I think those who are concerned about the future economic welfare of the country are greatly interested. I am always pressing the various Service Ministers, though not with a very satisfactory response, about the number of building workers in the Army. If there were such a Director-General, it would be his job to go over the heads of particular Service Departments to find out if there were people in the different Services who could be better employed on the home front. So far as housing is concerned, I want to stress the fact that we are facing a very serious problem on the home front, because we need a Director General of this kind to direct building workers back into the building industry, because they are so badly needed in Scotland. I pass from that point, Mr. Bowles, because you are evidently under the impression that I am going to discuss the housing question.
I am concerned with the moral welfare of these people, and I want to take up the point discussed by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton). I listened with incredulity to the Secretary of State for War quoting a report from the Free Church Council. I have heard of the devil quoting Scripture for his own purpose, but the Minister of War quoting the Free Church Council is absolutely the limit. I challenged the right hon. Gentleman, when he had the report in his hands, to read some of the really relevant parts. I would draw the attention of the noble Lord to the fact that a statement is made in the Free Church Council report, dealing with conditions in the Army on the Continent, that prophylactics were available to all, and also stating that it was estimated that 80 per cent. of the B.E.F. were supplied with them. That is a very sad commentary on welfare work in the Army, though I believe that the welfare officers are doing their job.
Perhaps they are supplied to the Forces in this country, but I do not know that the percentage is the same. I suggest that the conditions to which the Free Church Council calls attention are beyond the ability of the welfare officers to cure. The fault lies in the system and the military organisation imposed under this Act.
I would also draw the noble Lord's attention to the fact that, in this same report, it is stated that one doctor gave it as his opinion, after careful investigation, that promiscuous intercourse was indulged in by anything from 50 to 82 per cent. of the Forces. In spite of that, the Secretary of State for War comes along and selects quotations from this document in order to try to give the assurance that everything is all right so far as the moral welfare of the soldier is concerned. I have heard the brass hats criticised in this House, but there is something that is even worse—brass hats talking through brass necks. We have had too much of that today.
I do not suppose that the Archbishop went the right way about finding out the real facts in Germany. Had he gone disguised as a private soldier, he would have found out the truth. If things are so good in Germany, and if the moral welfare of the troops is so high there, how is it that the Archbishop does not advocate conscription for the gentlemen of his own holy order? Why does he not say that they should go into the Army?
I am disturbed at the way that the Secretary of State for War dismissed this matter. Had he carefully read the figures for venereal disease in the various theatres of war that were given by the Minister of Defence in a Parliamentary reply, he would not be quite so self-satisfied about it. The figures show that, as far as the United Kingdom was concerned, the percentage in 1946 was 7.7 per thousand of the strength. In B.A.O.R. the percentage jumped to 30.4. There is a great deal of difference between 7.7 and 30.4 for the first quarter of 1946. We then find that for the second quarter, the percentage was 41.8 per thousand, for the third quarter 44.6 per thousand, and for the fourth quarter 41.8 per thousand. We are all very pleased to know that the figures are going down, but the statistics show that the more soldiers who go to garrisons overseas, the more their moral welfare is likely to be affected.
I suggest that if we want to take the guidance of any religious leaders in the country who have studied the conditions in Germany, we should go to the people who really know most—the ambulance section of the Society of Friends. In the current number of "The Friend" can be found a point of view of a really religious organisation which does not hesitate to go into the danger areas with the soldiers, and to do its share in ambulance work. This religious organisation urges the Government to think again about continuing the system of conscription, and urges this Parliament and the nation to do everything possible to remove the young conscripts from these places. There is only one way of doing that—to abolish conscription itself.