I am sorry that the Government cannot in present circumstances contemplate an increase in the pay of National Service men. I can assure the hon. Member that the decision not to increase their pay at the time of the last pay review was only taken after the most careful consideration. National Service men who have civil commitments which continue on call-up are, of course, eligible for National Service Grants. I do not intend to reduce the period of conscription.
Is it not utterly unfair that a conscript's basic rate is only 31s. 6d. a week as compared with 87s. 6d. a week for a Regular doing the same job alongside him? Should not the Minister relieve the hardship of those in the last batch to be caught in the net, sometimes only by a few days, by reducing the two-year period, particularly since the Forces are to be cut in any case?
The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the fact that only comparatively recently the upper limit of the hardship grant was raised to £7 a week and to £9 in cases of special hardship, and that the cost of these grants during the coming financial year will approximate to £2 million.