Clause 1. — (Substitution of eighteen months as term of whole-time service.)

Part of Orders of the Day — National Service (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th December 1948.

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Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne 12:00 am, 6th December 1948

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.

5.0 p.m.

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.