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Clause 1—(Liability To Be Called Up For Service)

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1947

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I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "eighteen," and to insert "twenty-one."

On a point of Order, Major Milner. Do you not intend to call the first Amendment on the Order Paper?—in page 1, line 9, after "subject," to insert:

"except the only son of a widow living with and supporting his mother."
I submit to you, respectfully, that is a point of very great importance, in view of the experience of many hon. Members during past years.

I was not proposing to select that Amendment. In the first place, it is not in the right place, and in the second place the point is dealt with in a new Clause, and I have so advised the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), whose name is the first of those down to the Amendment.

Everything comes to those who wait and I hope it will not be long before we see the end of the Bill. There are three main arguments for the Amendment I have just moved. There is the argument from the standpoint of the lads who will be conscripted; the argument from the standpoint of the country, and the argument from the standpoint of industry. I think I can put the arguments in each case in very brief form. If we take a lad and put him in the Army, we should at all events not take him until he has a fair idea of everything that is involved in the great thing he is to be asked to do. While some lads of 18 are fairly mature, generally speaking, lads of 18 are in anything but a settled state of mind. Their thoughts and emotions are disturbed, their moral and religious convictions are still in a state of development. In that stage, a lad needs all the freedom he can get in the normal atmosphere of the home and in society, in order that ultimately he may be able to find his feet. Instead of that, we take him and put him in the Army, subject him to rigid discipline and to a new servility which often leads to sterility of achievement. Discipline is good, but it should be self-discipline. Obedience is good, but it should be willing obedience. Otherwise, it is slavery. In this Amendment I ask that adolescents of 18 should not be placed in the Army under rigid Army discipline, but that at least three more years should be given to them to get more settled in their ideas and convictions, so that they may be better able to meet the emergencies and temptations of their new lives.

My second argument is from the standpoint of the country. Parliament has decided that the lad of 18 is not a fit and proper person to be allowed the franchise. He lacks experience; he lacks knowledge; he lacks understanding, and he lacks judgment. But the Bill imposes on these lads the most terrible responsibility that they will ever have to face during the whole of their lives. It is a responsibility that has to be carried out by methods which will have to be completely unlearned when they return to civilian life. I want to submit that that is a bad interruption to their lives. In my opinion those three extra years enable a lad to differentiate between the ethics of society and those of war which are, in many respects, opposed to one another. This country is not in need of automatons turned out by a drill sergeant. It is in need of men who have minds that are fresh, and who are full of initiative and adventure.

My third point is that the additional three years in industry will prevent a great deal of hardship if we allow an apprentice to finish his apprenticeship without interruption. I understand that if a lad is indentured the Minister proposes to give him certain opportunities for deferment. In my own trade—engineering—the indenture has almost faded out. A lad with initiative and spirit will often serve seven years under two or three employers. I myself had three employers during my seven years. When one is indentured one is indentured to a person, but when one is apprenticed, one is apprenticed to a trade, and the greater the amount of experience one can obtain in the seven years with regard to the trade the better. The lad himself is all the better for it, and to break into his apprenticeship and prevent him from consolidating his knowledge and skill is bad from the standpoint of industry. Every engineer will confirm that the last three years of a lad's apprenticeship are the most important. To break into that at 18 and condemn the lad to a year of discontinuous employment under military discipline will be the greatest deterrent to the resumption of steady and continuous work which depends upon a man's own volition. So far as his trade is concerned—especially in the precision engineering industry— he will have become so much out of touch with his tools as to have to start all over again. That means frustration for the lad and waste to industry to say nothing of loss to his employers. If we are to have conscription then let us have it in a way which does as little harm as possible to the men upon whom it is imposed, to the country which allows it to be imposed, and to the economic system upon which the life of our people depends.

4.15 p.m.

; I trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister will not accept this Amendment. The Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles), submitted three tests the interests of industry, the interests of the young man concerned, and the interests of the country. Although I should put the interests of the country first, I agree that these are the right three tests, but perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I first protest against the insult to our young men and women which was implied in a certain sentence of the hon. Gentleman's speech. He seemed to indicate that those who had been called up at the age of i8 since 1939, and had done their service, had become automatons. That has not been our experience on this side of the House. I am not now arguing whether or not compulsory military service is, on balance, a blessing or boon, but it gives a totally unjust picture of the young men of this country to suggest that their recent experiences have turned them into automatons. If the age of i8 is chosen as the age for performing the duty of preparing oneself for the defence of the country there is really no reason whatever to suggest that they will lose in the qualities of initiative or self-reliance. I think it is the greatest pity that such language should have been used.

I protest also against the insult to the Service which was implied in another of the hon. Gentleman's sentences. Nobody could accuse me of being a particularly military figure, but I had the honour to serve in the Army during the war and it is a totally grotesque and perverted picture of military discipline and service which the hon. Gentleman has sought to put forward. To those who experience it it is a noble thing to undergo discipline. May I say this to the hon. Gentleman? Although we should all admit that self-discipline is the best kind of discipline some of us have learned a certain amount by being disciplined by others. Hon. Members opposite may think that they do not need it, but others who observe them from outside may form a different conclusion. To regard the discipline of the modern Services as something rigidly imposed and producing automatons shows that hon. Gentlemen opposing various portions of this Bill are living in the past. That is not a picture of the modern Services. It is, in fact, a grotesque caricature and distortion of the truth.

I turn now to the three interests which the hon. Gentleman has put forward. First, the interest of the young man himself. I represent a constituency which, although not a university is a university town, and although we are much wiser than the constituents of the Burgesses, we do take a certain interest in the affairs of the university in the city of Oxford. I venture so say, with some assurance, on these matters that if this Amendment were carried, the very first thing that would happen would be that nearly all the learned bodies in this country responsible for university education would immediately protest to the Government and ask that the original figure should he reinstated in the Bill in another place. I know that some hon. Members think that those who either deserve or receive—and I make no point about that—a university education, are not worthy of attention, but I think that in a democracy the needs and requirements of universities in relation to national service, are among the very first considerations we should have in mind in a Measure of this kind. I venture to submit that the interests of the lad—properly safeguarded as they are in this Bill in the case of apprenticeship— would be totally disregarded in the case of those desiring to enter the universities, should this Amendment be carried.

Then we come to the interests of the country. I understand the specious and attractive character of the argument which tries to establish a connection between the privilege and right of voting, and the privilege and duty of serving one's country in time of war. None the less, I consider that the argument is a misleading one. Both are obligations which come to all of us should we reach maturity. The exact age, whether it be 18 or 21, is a matter partly of tradition and partly of convenience, and while it applies equally to us all, there can be no necessary or immediate relaxation of the date upon which one obligation is imposed rather than the other. If there is an argumènt to be drawn from that I should have thought it would be that the convenient date at which to confer the right and duty of voting would be that at which the military service obligation had been faithfully performed in time of peace. I should however prefer to say that this is a question which must be determined in the light of experience and of practical considerations. So far as I can see, the practical considerations and the experience in recent years indicate that the first stages of preparation for military service can be properly undertaken at the age of 18. Nothing is gained and probably a good deal is lost, both from the point of view of the young man and of the country, by postponing an obligation which has in any event to be undergone.

Lastly, the hon. Gentleman put forward the interests of industry. I do not claim to be a great expert upon industry, but I do present to the Committee the argument that the directly opposite conclusion, to that which the hon. Gentleman sought to advance, is true. Is it better to break off a lad's career after he has become safely engaged upon some trade, industry or profession—after he has already made a start in it—or, on the whole, before he has done so? Those of us who, in the last war, had to break off our careers in the early 20's to perform this sacred obligation, learned to our cost how very fatal to our prospects that can be. If we consider the interests of industry, which must have a proper supply of people to serve it, and the interests of the young men and of the country, I am convinced that 18 and not 21 is the proper age.

I support the Amendment. The State recognises that at the age of 21 a young man is capable of exercising a vote and forming a judgment on national affairs. If the State is not prepared to recognise the capabilities of a young man before that age, it should not require him to be conscripted for national service before that age. Furthermore, it is not carrying out the principles of democracy, because it the State is seeking, by compulsion, to take away part of a young man's life, he ought to have some say in the matter, and that will not be the case if this Bill goes through in its present form. At the age of 21, the young man is not only more mature in his judgment, but has greater stamina, and will, therefore, be better able to stand up to the rigorous training which seems to be accepted as the standard for the modern Army. This rigorous training seems to me to be inevitable, if these young men are to he fully trained within 12 months.

In the Bill, we agree to the granting of deferments to students, taking up university careers, and to indentured apprentices. These deferments are important and very necessary, but I suggest that the completion of all training, whether indentured or otherwise, is just as important. Skilled craftsmen in the engineering industry are agreed—and this applies to any other industry—that continuity in training of apprentices is extremely important. They say that' if an apprentice breaks off in the middle of his training, even for one year, his training will be adversely affected. Where this happens, a man is often put back years before he can reach the high standard of skill which is necessary in a highly mechanical industry like engineering. Experienced craftsmen are firmly of the opinion that what counts most in bringing out the mechanical aptitude, which is so important to the engineering industry, is the groundwork carried out during the years of apprenticeship. If that training is broken, it is likely to make it extremely difficult for a man to pick up where he left off.

Again and again we are being told that the world markets will soon be buyers' markets and not sellers' markets, and that we in this country are dependent on exports to keep up our standard of living. One of the greatest assets, in marketing these exports, will be the skill and craftsmanship of our producers. What happens to a young man when he goes into the Forces? The methods adopted in the Forces, in planning the whole life of the individual conduce to taking away his sense of responsibility. The Services arrange what he shall do, how he shall do it, and when he shall do it. They feed him, clothe him, and even provide him with his amusements and attend to his dependants. There is little left on which he can think for himself. So he tends to become slipshod and careless, with a consequent loss in pride of craftsmanship. The skill and aptitude of the individual is also lost, unless he happens to have retained a certain—

I hope that the hon. Lady will address her remarks to the point before the Committee, namely, whether the age should be 18 or 21.

I am trying to point out that breaking-off training at the age of 18 will affect not only the individual, but the interests of the country. It was from that angle that I was endeavouring to put forward my argument. I know that I have painted a black picture, but I know that what I have said has been only too true in the case of those who had their training broken in the past. Not only have the lads regretted the breaking of their training, but so have the experienced craftsmen who helped to train them, and they are very unhappy about the present situation. There should be no hesitation, on the part of trade unionists, in demanding that the age be increased from 18 to 21. It is in the interest of trade unionists, and in the interests of industry generally, and I hope that we shall have the support of all the trade unions on this Amendment.

I think it would he to the advantage of the Committee, if at this stage I indicated the views of the Government. The Government do not propose to accept this Amendment. The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) put up his reasons for this Amendment, under three heads, most of which were answered adequately by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). It is apparent that the hon. Member for Southall has not realised that deferment is not restricted to indentured apprentices, but also covers non-indentured apprentices, and, what is more important, those who are called just "learners," who have not the privilege of being apprentices, but are being taught a trade. All who are going through a course of instruction for a trade, or who are going up to the universities, shall have the right to ask for deferment.

Will the Minister indicate who is going to be affected under these conditions?

If the hon. Member had waited to hear what I am about to say, there would have been no need to ask that question. I was making clear what was already indicated on Second Reading, that any apprentice, learner, or student going up to a university, may himself make application for his service to be postponed until after his training has been completed. Therefore, there is no question of the employer having the right to say "I want this lad deferred." It is the right of the young lad himself to ask for deferment. The Government, on their part, will want satisfaction that there is not only a bona fide apprenticeship, but a bona fide opportunity for a lad to learn a trade. In my own experience, I know of firms which have taken on four or five lads as apprentices. I know of one firm in South London which claimed to teach lads how to be compositors. This firm had one journeyman and six apprentices, and was not really teaching the lads anything. Such lads cannot claim to he deferred, nor can a firm claim for them, unless we are satisfied that there is real opportunity for the lads to learn their trade, and not be exploited as cheap labour—

4.30 p.m.

I understand that apprenticeship covers 5 per cent. of the workers. The right hon. Gentleman has now introduced the word "learners." Can he define what he means by "learner"? Who will determine whether there is such a thing as a bona fide learner?

It will be the duty of the manpower boards to satisfy themselves that there is a genuine learnership, or apprenticeship, in existence. These boards had great experience of dealing with similar work during the war.

The right hon. Gentleman says that the manpower boards will decide this issue. On what principles will they act? What will be the definition of "learner," for them to consider? What test will a board apply to determine whether the case before them is the case of a genuine learner? What the right hon. Gentleman has said may be valuable, but it is extremely vague. Cannot he be more precise?

We want the manpower boards to use that which is most useful in cases like this—common sense. What would apply in the case of one firm, might not apply to another. There must be a genuine contract of learnership or apprenticeship, and that contract must be in a place where the lad has been apprenticed in accordance with the regular custom of the trade, and where there is an opportunity for him to learn his trade. It will be for the board to say, "This is a genuine case. The lad wants to be reserved for the time being to finish his training, and we think that he has made out his case."

; If this matter is to be left to the common sense of the board will it be left to the common sense of different manpower boards throughout the country? In other words, will there be no law governing these cases, but merely the discretion of each board?

There are many industries, and many kinds of learners. In the printing industry an apprentice is bound by an apprenticeship deed; in Scotland, he is not, but the apprenticeship is just as genuine even though there is no deed. There are other lads who are taken on as learners, and each industry or each office may have to be considered. It can be left to the manpower board to decide. They will have latitude in deciding what is the right thing to do in a particular case. The boards will, if necessary, take into account representations by employer and worker; there is no other way to do this, except by laying down rigid rules and regulations, to be interpreted in the letter rather than in the spirit.

Now we come to the question of whether this calling up of apprentices will ruin their career by taking them away before they have finished their term of training. There are two schools of thought about this matter. I have heard it said by craftsmen that it ruins a boy to take him away in the middle of his apprenticeship. On the other hand, others have said that it is far better that the boy should go away in the middle of his apprenticeship, and come back and pick it up again, than that he should be taken away when he is just beginning to practise his trade. There are excellent schemes in operation, initiated by the Coalition Government, for apprentices who came back to their trade. If an apprentice goes away and comes back, it is agreed, in many cases, that he should serve only 18 months to complete his apprenticeship, instead of the usual term. That is an indication that he is coming back with a wider knowledge of the world, and of life. That has been proved to be the case. It has also been argued that these lads do not know what they are being asked to undertake. Well, they may not have known what they were being called upon to do during the war but, nevertheless, they did it. Many lads of this age volunteered, before the war, for such bodies as the Territorial Army. Many of a younger age are now joining the Auxiliary Training Corps, the Sea Cadets, and organisations of that kind. If they know what they are doing now, surely they will know what is expected of them when they go into the Forces.

There are other factors which have influenced the Government to stick to their proposal. If we adopt this proposal there will be nobody to call up for three years, because, as I would remind the Committee we are amending the existing Act, which provides for call-up at 18, and not making new law. If we called up these lads at 21, they would not be free from Service and Reserve obligations until they were 28. If we call them up at 18 they will at least be free three years earlier. We must adhere to our decision to call them up at 18. There is the question whether these lads will be helped in their future life by this call-up. They will get out of the rather narrow restricted circles of home life, and meet other men; they will see life from another angle; it is our belief that service in the Forces now —not as it used to be—will broaden their minds, will widen their education, and give many of them a chance of learning a new trade, or continuing to practise their present trade. For these reasons, the Government must ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

I must compliment the Minister of Labour on the admirable speech which he has made, showing the great care and attention to detail with which the preparation for this Bill has been undertaken. A very pliant and flexible structure has been erected, one which enables the needs of individuals to be fitted in, with the least possible injury or inconvenience, with the hard requirements of the State in these severe times. As to the age at which men should be called up for service, there is no doubt that to call up at 1S will be a less severe tax on the community than to call up at 21. At the age of 18, a year in His Majesty's uniform, and in what we hope will be the improved conditions of new Army life, may very well fill a part of their continuous education. Also, how good it is that there should be at that time, when people's minds are so pliant, a mingling of classes, on terms of equality, without the slightest regard to class differences or the fortunes and accidents of life. It seems to me that 18 is a very valuable age from the social point of view. From the military point of view, 19, perhaps, would have been better. A youth has more physical endurance as a fighting person, a fighting creature, at 19, and is probably worth more than at 18; but from the social point of view, and the point of view of adaptation —and it is hard to reconcile the Service machine to the ordinary life of the people and the ordinary bringing up of individuals—there is no doubt to my mind that to begin at 18 is a less severe form of national service than to begin at a later date. As to 21, that seems to me very severe. I think that the hon. Gentleman, who, with charming Victorian ideas, has spoken to us about the wicked Army and all that has not measured the differences in the sacrifices demanded of an individual British male called up at i8 to run through this course, and of one called up at 21.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is doing me an injustice if he attributes to me any such terms as "wicked Army." What I said was "The ethics of war as opposed to the ethics of society," which is quite a different thing.

As to the ethics of war and the ethics of society, we are all in favour of the ethics of society. The reason why this Bill was brought forward is that we were so worried lest the ethics of society should be upset by the ethics of war. I must return to the question, and the Committee must consider it, of how much greater sacrifice it would impose on citizens to begin this strain at 21 and run on to 28, than to begin it at 18, when it is part, almost, of the educational system. There can be no comparison of the two. From the point of view of the social application of this compulsory service, I certainly do not wish to fasten on to the hon. Gentleman, who made his speech from the highest possible motives, any desire to cast a slur upon the Army; but things change as time goes on. The Army is a very different business now from what it was in the days when a red coat was not allowed inside a public house, and was treated as the scum of the population, until a war broke out, and he had to go and fight, and then he was a hero. It is very different now. A national Army is quite different from an Army of volunteers, who were produced largely by the pressure in the economic market. I am all for volunteers who come from some uplifting of the human soul, some spirit arising in the human breast, but to create a modern Army on a voluntary basis, by the mere pressure of the economic system, is entirely contrary to the kind of world on which our outlook is now fastened.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister gave very good and effective answers. I was very much struck by the care and pains which he has taken on some parts of this Bill. I wish we could have similar good treatment on other aspects of our affairs, but this was evidently thought out behind the scenes, in very great detail, and with very great knowledge of the weak places and the danger points of attack. Clause 14 gives very great latitude. I compliment the Government on the internal structure of this Clause, about which I shall have something to say later in these discussions about the sudden changes that have been made in all these calculated complications; but that would not be in Order now. I cannot use up, at this stage, any ammunition which I am reserving for another occasion.

I consider that the Bill has been drafted with great care and knowledge of the life of the people. It is a pity that we have to do these things at all. If we have to do them, on the whole the texture of this Bill as originally drafted, and this fixing A the age, seems to me to reflect an unwonted credit upon His Majesty's Government. Of course, when we come to the conscripted Armies of Europe, 19 to 21 has been the three years' service usually operated. That is very hard. Take a man of 21; he is probably going to get married. At 21 he is supposed to have Finished his training for a great many of the arts and crafts, or he has become settled in his point of view, and then to take him away for 18 months, or even for 12 months, may be a great interruption. But youth is flexible and pliant, and I think that the Government have acted wisely in this matter. I had not noticed the arrival of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence on the scene. He is a sort of culprit arriving on a bench to which we are offering our compliments.

I trust we shall not attempt to prolong the age of calling up to 21. I cannot think of anything more dislocating to the ordinary life of the country than that. I cannot think of any countries before the war, which had to defend great land frontiers and the soil they lived on from invasion at any moment, and which began at such a retarded age as that. The hon. Gentleman has been right to raise this point; it is one which should be brought out in open debate. But I hope he will feel as a result of this discussion that it is possible for him to defer to the view expressed by his own leaders on this point, a view with which the Opposition associates itself.

4.45 p.m.

When I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, who has just been so effectively complimented by the Leader of the Opposition, I first realised what was the point of the Amendment. The point of the Amendment is not that it is in the interests of the young men, or of industry, that the age should be raised to 21. I am sorry that the mover of the Amendment seemed to think that that was the case. The real case for the Amendment was made by the Minister of Labour. The real case, he said, is a practical one. If you raise the age to 21, then for three years there will be no one to call up under the Bill. I, as an opponent of the Measure in the interests of the safety of the country, would welcome the argument of the Minister of Labour. He has really made a case, which I did not believe existed until I heard it, for postponing this matter, and giving the country some time to reconsider it.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I first saw this Amendment on the Order Paper. Then I saw who was proposing it, and I realised that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) was an uncompromising opponent of military service.

The only discussions on the question of age which I have heard were concerned with the ages of i8 and 19, but the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has made the case for the Government, in addition to the words spoken by the Minister of Labour. I happen to be one of those who came back to the university after the first war was over, and it was the experience of those at the university then, as indeed it is the experience of those at the university today, and at every emergency training college in the country, that the two or three years in between school and university enabled the students to come back very much refreshed and on the whole better students.

I admit that the logic of this argument would lead me into a very difficult field, because it would almost assume that it was necessary to have a war, in order to have some sort of break between school and university. However, the question really depends on what is to happen between 18 and 19. We come to that in a later Amendment. As far as we are concerned here, if the period between 18 and 19 is not envisaged with a great deal more imagination, and with more educational and technical experience than the Service Ministers at present seem to devote to it, that year is going to be a rather wasted year. I would beg my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee who have already spoken not to have quite such a simple view of the army in peace as they have of it in war. In war it is a different thing. Often men are caught up at 17½. My friends who are at present in the Army in this country are wasting their time and in Germany they are doing something worse.

They are completely losing their moral, and if the hon. Member does not believe me let him go and see for himself. It is not quite a simple matter when we are discussing the question of age. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that this Bill does give very great flexibility, inasmuch as military service can be entered into between 17½ years and after deferment, but we shall have to know a lot more about learnership. I have been going into this question, and I cannot find any definition of learnership. The number of apprentices in the country is between four and five per cent., and what I want to ask is this; Is the right hon. Gentleman going to get his numbers in the right proportions? Suppose all students who are going to be called up say they want to go in at 17½. Incidentally, I do not know what the sixth forms in the schools are going to do if that happens, but that is another matter. Supposing a very generous recognition is given to learnership not five or even 10 per cent., but 20 or 30 per cent., are we going to get very many people at 18 at all?

I daresay that this is rather outside the scope of this Amendment, but I quite understand the hon. Member for Southall putting down this Amendment, because he is against the whole thing. The age of 21 is to him better than 18, although no one has ever heard of any other country in the world suggesting 21 before. I have heard 18, 19 and even 20 suggested as ages at which young men should be called up, but not anything higher. I agree that this is a land of precedent, but as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has pointed out, to defer calling up until 21 would do a great deal of harm to the industry of this country. I cannot see that there is any case for that, but when we come to discuss other questions in the Bill we want to take care over the definition of "learner-ship"; the kind of numbers that the Minister expects at different ages, and, above all, the kind of training the Services are going to give. Those are questions which will be raised on subsequent Amendments.

The question of whether compulsory service should begin at 18 or 21 is not a matter of principle, and it is rather a mistake for people who are opposed to the Amendment, to attribute to the mover the motive that because he is opposed to the Bill anyhow, he is proposing this Amendment. The principle has nothing to do with the Amendment, and even if this Amendment were passed, the mover would still lose on the main question. So many people who have spoken have complimented the Minister on making the complete case against the Amendment that I was left wondering why they spoke at all, because if a complete case were made, it would hardly need any support. The fact that so many people have supported it makes me wonder whether, in fact, they are not shaky about it despite all the arguments that we have heard.

I do not think that the arguments of the Minister of Labour were good and I do not think that a case was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Several of the arguments were patently quite unmaintainable. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour began by saying, "But we could not possibly accept this Amendment because the effect would be that nobody would be called up for three years." Why in the world would that matter? The Bill does not begin to operate until 1950. It comes into operation in 1949, but it will not be in effective operation for the first time, until 1950. Therefore, the loss of time involved does not appear to be a very important matter. If the Bill were to be put into operation immediately after it receives the Royal Assent, I could see some force in the argument, but to accept this Amendment would not postpone calling up for three years. As the Government are not going to call up anybody until 1949, there does not seem to be much in that argument. I may be wrong in what I am saying but if so I should be glad if anyone would point out the error to me. The argument put forward by the Minister of Labour is not a conclusive one and I will leave it at that.

The next argument upon which my right hon. Friend relied seemed to me equally inconclusive. Dealing with the arrangements, he said that it was a mistake to call up people in the middle of their learnership or training but he used mutually contradictory arguments. He said first that many people think it better to interrupt the period of service than to wait until it is concluded, and then interpose a compulsory interval between the completion of their service, and the commencement of the trade. If that is seriously meant, what becomes of the other argument used by my right hon. Friend, that in every case where there was a serious interruption of learnership the manpower boards would in any case defer the call-up until the learnership was completed? The right hon. Gentleman must make up his mind, if this is a disputed question, on which side he is. Nobody can say how these deferments are going to work.

Let us look at it. If we are in favour of interrupting the period of training on the ground that it is better to go back to a period of training, then we do not want the power of deferment, and all that part of my right hon. Friend's speech, which is devoted to showing that everybody inside a certain period would be deferred, was a speech against his own point of view. If, on the other hand, we think they ought to have the period of compulsory service and call-up in the middle of the period of training, then we do not want elaborate provisions and elaborate machinery to prevent that very thing. [Interruption.] Did my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary say "Rubbish"?

5.0 p.m.

I did not say "Rubbish" at all. What I said was that it was optional for the person to be called up.

I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. But I do not follow him, because it is not optional. Optional means at the choice of the man called up, but the Bill does not provide that it is optional at all. It provides that a man may choose to apply, but it does not provide that a man may choose to be deferred. If he chooses to apply there is a manpower board which will decide the question, and presumably, since the National Service Acts already on the Statute Book apply, they will decide on the basis of hardships. The question they will have to consider is precisely the question which my right hon. Friend did not touch upon in his speech, namely, whether it is better for the period of training to be interrupted or whether it is better for it not to be interrupted. If he is coming down on the side of the view that it is better to interrupt, the argument put forward by the mover of the Amendment has not been replied to at all.

This question of 18 or 21, although there is no precedent for it in any of the continental models which we are following in having such a Bill in this country, is really quite an important question on social grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that it was in any case better from the military point of view to have a man at 19 than at i8, and I suppose, by a parallel reasoning, it would be better to have him at 21, from a military point of view, than at 19.

There are people who believe that Conscription Acts are usually passed by Parliaments whose average age is beyond the calling-up age fixed in the Act. [Interruption.] If the hon. and gallant Member wants to say something, he had better get up. I think that is a dangerous kind of retort to make. If it is true that 19 is better than 18 from a military point of view, it would seem to follow that 21, from a military point of view, is better than 19. It would not necessarily follow—the arithmetic is sound but the logic faulty—that 42 or 84 would be better.

I am saying that 21 would be better from the military point of view than 19, and I think it would also be better from a social point of view. It is a great pity to take a boy at the age of i8 and place him compulsorily in a milieu where all responsibility for his actions is removed from him—[HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] Certainly—where hp is treated as a cipher, where he has to do things not because they are right in themselves but because he is ordered to do them, and where the test of good membership of the society to which he belongs is not an individual judgment, a conscientious appreciation and balancing of one circumstance against another, or the proper taking part in a social order, but mere blind obedience to orders, which is the only virtue. There are times when that is a good thing; I am not inveighing against it altogether as a permanent principle, but I am saying that it is better not to do that with a boy whose mind is still in the formative stage. It is much better to encourage people of that age to think and choose and decide for themselves, and do what they think right against all the world. If there comes a time when one is bound by other necessities to compel them into an atmosphere where personal judgment, responsibility and choice are necessarily subordinated to other considerations, it is better to do that when the mind is more formed than to do it while it is less formed. I think, therefore, that on both military and social grounds, the case for the Amendment is made out.

I would like to return to the argument put forward by the mover of the Amendment, the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles); I refer only to his point about the engineering trade. I nave not had the privilege of knowing what the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said about what went on in the universities, but in the engineering trade, the average boy or young man comes in at the age of 16. At 18 he has done two years of his training, and has got through at any rate some of the dirty work. Now, in future, he is to be called up, and will probably return to the trade when he is 19 or 19½ years of age. I put the question to myself whether, when I served my time as an engineer, it would have been better for me to be called up at 18, or to have waited until I was 21. I believe it would have been better for me to be called up at 18 years of age, and I do not believe it would have done me the slightest harm to be in the Army for 12 or i8 months. I think I should have returned with more force of character, with my mind made up to pay attention to myself, and to learn my work, and I think I should have been a more useful man to my employer.

I take it that the trade unions themselves raise no objection one way or the other, but the employers, who are very seldom mentioned in this House, would, I am quite sure, be very glad to have a young man back at his trade again at 19½ years of age having seen something else. Just as, when one goes abroad, one appreciates one's own country better when one gets back, in the same way a young man who has left his trade will probably appreciate it more when he returns again from the Army. He will come back as what, in the old days, we used to call an "improver." A man in the last year of training as an engineer used to be called an "improver" and was probably getting approximately a journeyman's wages. If the Government resist this Amendment I believe they will be wise; it will be in the interests of the engineering industry, of the young men themselves, and of the country in general.

I hope the Committee is now ready to come to a decision and pass on to the next Amendment.

Running through the Second Reading Debate was the desire that we should man our Services by volunteers if possible. The Minister of Labour made that point very clear. He said that the class of young man who would be coming into the Services at the age of 18 would form a valuable reservoir for volunteers. He went on:

"Many of the young men called up to do their r8 months' service may find the Services so attractive to them that they may desire to continue in them, and to continue for a fixed period longer than their 18 months.' —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1947; Vol. 435. c. 1680.]
I consider that serving in the Services, and in the Royal Navy in particular, is an honourable duty, and that we shall find a large number of young men who will volunteer. It will be much more difficult for them to do so if they are called up at the age of 21 instead of at the age of i8. I hope that the Committee will support the Government on this issue.

There are two other points I wish to make. Both the mover of the Amendment and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) made the point that young men coming into the Forces would have their initiative damped down. I have been connected for some time with technical training in the Navy. I assure the Committee, and the two hon. Gentlemen in particular, that we have spent our entire time trying to teach young men to think for themselves. At the end of a year's training many of these young men display an enormous difference not only from what they were when they entered the Service but from others of the same age when joining up straight out of private life. I cannot speak for the other Services, but I expect they work on exactly similar lines. We have not been unsuccessful in our endeavours in this respect in the Navy.

The second point is that I am a firm believer in discipline. I believe that far from doing harm it must do good to a young man at the age of 18. I am sure that Mr. Horner, for one, would agree with me. The mover of the Amendment mentioned self-discipline. In my opinion external discipline often leads to self-discipline. For those reasons I cannot but think that it would be an excellent thing if young men of that age were subject to it.

5.15 p.m.

I am convinced that the Amendment is justified, from my understanding of the situation at home, because it will enable youths to finish their apprenticeship. Experience in the Army is not of much use in a factory, from the practical and business point of view. When a young man is learning his trade he can go to a trade school, and he may want to go on to higher classes. His parents may deny themselves many things in order to give the lad an opportunity of learning his trade. Very often that self-denial is accompanied by the receipt of lower wages, if the young man is in an indentured apprenticeship. It is self-denial and discipline of the highest order. Military training may mean a lack of discipline for the young artisan, who needs the discipline of the home, in order to make him into a good citizen.

It is a very controversial question whether 18 or 21 is the best age at which to give service to the State. I think a boy ought to be able to go on with his work, have the benefit of home life and reach maturity before he gives his service, as he is likely then to be a better citizen. I am not a pacifist. I want to see the young men of this nation get the best possible opportunities. From my practical experience at home I am convinced that we shall lose many boys from industry after their Army life if they begin it at 18. When they come out of the Army they will not return to their jobs. Continuation of their studies and learning their trade with their friends in the workshops until the age of 21 would be beneficial to the nation, to home life and to the young men. At that age they would better understand their own weaknesses and would be able to come back better men to their jobs. I do not believe in the interruption of learning, because young people may lose their skill when they cannot continue their jobs. It is essential that men who have to manipulate machinery should be adept in the use of their hands. I am convinced that the Amendment is wise, and I shall support it.

; I will not weary the Committee with any long arguments upon the main points, which I think have been sufficiently discussed. My own conclusion is that there cannot be any doubt that educationally, whether the word "education" is taken in a narrow or in a wider sense, there must be an advantage in there being an opportunity for some boys—I would say a high proportion—beginning their military service at the age of 18. Therefore the Committee would be well advised to reject the Amendment, which proposes to make that impossible for all boys until they are 21.

That seems to me really to be the short point and the main point, but I hope I may be forgiven if I detain the Committee for two or three minutes, in case the Parliamentary Secretary be about to reply, to ask whether we might have a little more clarification of one or two expressions used by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the test of the deferment would be whether, in the opinion of the tribunal—in the common sense of the tribunal, was his phrase— there was a genuine contract of learnership. I think that is rather a horrid word, but I do not blame the Minister for it, and I dare say it was a necessary technical term. Surely, there must be in the Minister's Department—even in his head —some definition of those words with which the Committee ought to be favoured.

What is common sense? I never quite know what is the meaning when one talks about common sense. I take it that it means the general feeling, and finding of people in general., about something or other—that is the common sense of the question; it may be that when you go into it technically, or with scientific instruments, and so on, you will find that feeling or finding not quite right; I think that is the meaning of common sense. If that is the right interpretation of the words, I want to know how the tribunal is to have a common sense. What principles are to be laid down for it? Secondly, I want to know whether the Minister, when he spoke of the contract of learnership, was really meaning a contract in the strict sense, or whether he meant no more than that the tribunal was to make sure there was a genuine process of more or less systematised training going on. I do not know whether that is what he meant. If he will forgive me, that is not what he said. He spoke of a genuine contract. It ought to be made plain whether the thing is to be made a matter of a contract in a strict sense or not. Thirdly, I suppose there trust be some kind of estimate or guess about the percentage, because obviously the Minister's whole argument—that if we accepted this Amendment, for three years he would have no recruits—was an argument of much weight, but if that argument is of weight, the Minister is clearly under a duty to know and to tell us how near he expects to be driven to that by exemptions, because clearly if there were any serious risk that there would be 70 per cent., 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of long deferments on grounds of learnerships, he would be falling into the difficulty of the Amendment, although he was resisting the Amendment. Therefore, I think he owes it to the Committee to give us information on those three points before we part with this Amendment.

. Might I ask the Minister to elucidate one point, which arises partly from what has been said by my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and partly from questions put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. ManninghamBuller) to which he received no adequate answer. The Minister said that common sense would be used by the tribunals. I do not know how many of these tribunals there are to be. Are they to be on a regional basis? Are there to be 20, 40 or 50 of them? If there are to be that number, and if they are to act, not upon recognised principles laid down by the Minister, but merely upon common sense, it is likely, is it not, that there will be differences of judgment and, therefore, inequality of treatment as between one locality and another and between one man and another. I feel sure the Minister would be the first to admit that nothing would be more unfortunate than that some young man felt a grievance because his appeal for deferment had been refused whereas the appeal of another man of the same age, perhaps coming from a different part of the country, had been successful. I ask the Minister to tell the Committee how many of these tribunals there are to be, and what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the common sense to which he referred will work out uniformly so that there will not be injustices and inequalities.

On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. May I ask what is the practice of the Chair in calling hon. Members from different sides of the Committee?

It would be quite out of Order for me to reply to that question. It is entirely within the discretion of the Chair which hon. Members are called.

I do not intend to traverse in any detail the arguments that have been adduced in favour of this Amendment. The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) really put the point in a nutshell in saying that the effect of the Amendment would be to exclude a young man who wanted to get his wholetime service done when he was young from any opportunity of doing so, and so might interfere with that individual's career. There is under this Bill a wide discretion as to the time of service, but as the Minister said, that very largely depends upon the way in which the deferment machinery is operated. I hope we shall get a much clearer statement from the Parliamentary Secretary than we had from the right hon. Gentleman in the Second Reading Debate and again today. The right hon. Gentleman said, on Second Reading, that with the exception of underground miners, no deferment would be allowed on industrial grounds. He is now saying, as indeed he said before, that there will be deferment in the case of a genuine and satisfactory apprenticeship being in operation. He said it must be genuine. How is the tribunal to determine that? What test is it to apply? Is it to be left to each tribunal to apply any tests it likes? If that is allowed to happen, there will be a great diversity of decisions in almost similar cases between the respective tribunals.

Again, if the test is to be whether there is a genuine contract of apprenticeship in accordance with the custom of the trade. in a place where the apprentice can learn, that may be very applicable, for instance, in the printing trade, but what about the man employed in agriculture? Is he to be regarded as being apprenticed if he is working on a family farm, if he is what the Minister calls an honest, square case, and if he is employed on a farm where he can learn? Will that be regarded as a studentship or learnership? I think that, before we pass from this Amendment, we ought to know of what principles deferment is to be granted and, in particular, whether young men who are engaged in learning farming genuinely will also be able to get deferment in the same way as those engaged in printing, to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred. We are entitled to know the conditions and general principles on which such deferments will be granted. Young men who will have to make up their minds whether or not to apply for deferment want to know in advance whether or not they are likely to obtain it. One wants them to make their plans for their own future to a large extent. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with those points as fully as he can, so that we may know how deferment is to operate in peacetime.

5.30 p.m.

It appears that the Committee have rather anticipated the Amendment to Clause 16 standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) which deals with deferment. I do not know how we have got off the road in this way.

I think we have got off the road but I hope we have not prejudiced discussion on that Amendment. It happened because the right hon. Gentleman brought in the whole question of deferment which, of course, becomes relevant in answering the Amendment now before us.

That was brought in by the mover of the Amendment and it had to be dealt with. It seems to me that we have carried the discussion over a piece of ground which is covered by the later Amendment to which I have referred. I do not want to escape from answering the points which have been put. The Committee should remember that this Bill follows on the White Paper on the Call Up to the Forces. That provides for the call up during 1947 and 1948, and the whole position is laid down in regard to the manner in which deferments are to be operated from an administrative point of view. There has been a great deal of debate and difference of opinion on the question whether 18 or 21 is the right age for call up. I assume that the mover of this Amendment, if it was successful, would not accept the consequences of the success of his Amendment and agree to people being called up at 21. However, that is by the way.

It seems to me that the position is divided into two. That point was brought out very well by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). With regard to students, the argument is entirely different. The student who takes his matriculation at about the age of 18 must, if he wants to go to university, first assure himself that there is a place in the university for him. If there is a place and he would rather take his training at the university before going into the Forces, he can then apply for that. We shall be advised by the Joint University Recruiting Board, which consists of the vice-chancellors of the universities, whether or not options in these cases hall be allowed. Two considerations apply. One is that there are places in the universities, and the second is that the student who is applying has attained the necessary educational standards.

The hon. Gentleman says we shall be advised by the Joint University Recruiting Board on the question whether options shall be allowed. I take it he means whether in any particular case an option should be allowed. He does not mean it is going to be left 'to the vice-chancellors to decide that, after all, there shall not be any options?

They will decide individual cases. The principle has been agreed. That is the position with regard to students. I think it will be agreed that that is an option that should be left to the student. If the student feels that he ought to take his 12 months' service first, and then go to university, that is a right he ought to exercise. In the circumstances, it is a matter for him. In the Bill as it is drafted, that right is given.

Is that quite clear? If so, I misunderstood it. Is it quite clear that the decision rests with the man liable under the Bill subject only to his satisfying the Manpower Board either that he is a student under these terms or that a valid contract of learnership or apprenticeship is in existence?

I was dealing only with students. I do not want to be confused. I think my hon. Friend missed the first part of my statement. We must in 1949 when this Bill comes into operation, as now, maintain for the men coming from the Forces the prior right to the available seats in the universities. We must not allow an exercise of this option by too many students to crowd out the men who have already done their service. I think that that will be agreed on both sides of the Committee.

I had a case brought to my attention today. A second year medical student who has failed to pass in one subject at Edinburgh University only gets the right of the one try and then he goes into the Forces, whereas at Glasgow University the student in a similar position may have the right of three tries at the examination before he is called up. Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the same principle operates in each of the universities?

We would like to look at that matter. We want the same conditions to apply in each university. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that a man who has one try and fails should not keep out a man from the Forces who is waiting for a place in the university.

I now come to the industrial side. We have had a great deal of discussion and have consulted both sides of industry about this matter. The general feeling was that 18 was right but that there should be an option, in certain cases where there were bona fide apprenticeships, for the person to be called up to have the opportunity of exercising an option for deferment of his service. How is this done? There are in this country 60 manpower boards which were set up during the war. They functioned throughout the war and they are still functioning and dealing with problems of this sort. First, they dealt with problems of apprentices in the engineering industry during the war. Since I have been in this House I have not heard any complaint about the functioning of the manpower boards in regard to deferment of apprentices in the engineering industry.

On a point of fact, is the hon. Gentleman correct in saying that the manpower boards which functioned during the war still function in Scotland?

That is what I said. Manpower boards are functioning for this purpose all over the country. There are 60 of them and they will continue to exercise the same functions under this Bill as those which they now exercise under the White Paper.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in the last year I have had cases that I have sent to his Department concerning engineering apprentices who only had a year to serve, and who have been forced into the Forces, and that only recently I had one case where a man had only six months of his apprenticeship to complete and he was taken away into the Forces despite all the protests I made?

I quite understand that. Deferments under the White Paper and deferments under the original National Service Act were deferments in the national interest and not the individual interest. In the case of the engineering industry, with developing unemployment, it was felt the time had come to stop this wholesale deferment of apprentices. This has been done under previous legislation and under the present White Paper, in the national interest and not so much in the interest of the individual. Now it is proposed in the Bill under the new arrangement—

This arises under Clause 16 where there is an Amendment to be moved from the opposite side of the Committee. The matter is set out very fully there and really we should be having this discussion at that stage. With regard to learnership, this was a term which caused great difficulty. The term is used in paragraph 9 on the White Paper on Call Up to the Forces, which says:

"Articled clerks, learners, those attending certain full-time technical classes, and others in a position similar to apprentices will be treated on the same basis as apprentices."
That seems to me to define the position fairly clearly. The learner must be someone in a position comparable with that of an apprentice. It must be a continuous process. Those attending technical classes must be doing so as part of their training for an occupation. It is not intended to exclude men employed by the owners of small businesses because those employers may not perhaps have the business knowledge necessary to formulate paper documents on which the apprenticeship arrangements are based.

I have one last point which I hope will appeal to the Committee. If this Amendment is accepted, it means that no one will be called up for two years, and if no one is called up for two years, will the Committee accept the consequences—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes"]—that nobody can be demobilised for two years, and that the men to whom this Committee has guaranteed release, must be retained?

The hon. Gentleman has not answered the point I put to him with regard to those employed in agriculture. I would like an answer.

I am very sorry. I was interrupted so many times. I apologise for not answering the question with regard to agriculture. Here again the position is one of considerable difficulty. It is not intended to call up agricultural people for this year and next year. It may be that in 1949 when this Bill comes into operation there will still have to be block deferments—one does not know— but in agriculture there are certain categories of apprentices, men who are articled and men who have agreements who are not quite in the category described by my right hon. Friend.

I was putting to the Parliamentary Secretary the further case of a young farmer or a young assistant who was working and learning on the farm and who had nothing in writing, nothing by way of a document.

The facts of each one of these borderline cases will be considered by the manpower board.

I want to remind the Committee of what has been said about demobilisation. I do not want those who contemplate the passing of this Amendment to forget that it means that from January, 1949, there will be no call-up for three years. That will have to be taken into account in addition to the present circumstances. What I am particu- larly concerned about is the anxiety displayed in all quarters of the Committee as to who should be deferred. I am not one of those who are at all anxious about national service. I am not a pacifist. I agree that in the circumstances we must have national service. I cannot see how the Government can escape their responsibility for looking after the Armed Forces, and all hon. Members should be behind them in that; but I am concerned about this anxiety to defer everybody. I hope that the Ministers who are responsible will not be too much impressed by all the 'claims that are being made. Let us have national service. Let everyone's share be equal. Too much attention is being paid to deferment. Everybody who is eligible should be called up.

I go so far as to say that not even those who desire to go to the universities and other places should escape. Why should the individual who lacks somebody behind him, either family influence or, as the Minister put it rather unfortunately, an employer who is concerned with the learner, be deferred? We ought not to have it as loosely as this. I am glad that the Minister referred to the manpower board as being responsible for determining such a matter as this rather than leaving it to anybody else, because I feel that the board will take the view that there should be no looking at anybody else. When young people are 18 they should be eligible for national service and there should be no deferment for anyone. No one should have advantages over anyone else. It should be national service in the true meaning of the term. We should consider this Bill from that point of view rather than from that of being prepared to dodge service, which seems to be the intention in so many quarters of the House.

5.45 p.m.

I would like to ask how widely the manpower boards will go in the granting of deferments. I have particularly in mind the building industry. In my area only a very small percentage of the boys in the building industry have indentures, or any written evidence of apprenticeship, and the great majority of them have great difficulty in satisfying the manpower board that they are eligible for deferment. I hope that the Ministry of Labour will look into this matter in order to see that large numbers of boys in the building industry are not called up at a time when it is important for them to complete their training.

; Frankly I think the Committee owes a deep debt to the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) for putting down this Amendment because it gives this House possibly the only chance it may have for a considerable time of discussing the right age at which men should enter military service. That point alone is one of very great importance, and I have no intention of giving a silent vote if I can help it. The discussion up to the present has been very largely on the effect of this on university students and apprentices. We have had the opinion of a great many experts and, as happens almost invariably, they disagree.

I am sure that the hon. Member put down this Amendment in complete and absolute innocence. I have listened to many of his speeches and I have always assumed that his innocence was far above that of a normal human being. It can never have struck his mind that if this Amendment were passed, it would completely wreck the Bill. That is what the Ministry of Labour says—we should have a gap of up to two years, it may be a whole two years, with no recruits coming in. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) pointed out that there would also be delay in the demobilisation of the men at present in the Services if exemptions are given to a great many people. In addition to considering the age of call up, we have also to consider how soon we can demobilise the men who are already serving and who will have to serve very much more than the 18 or 12 months. I therefore welcome the fact that the Minister strongly declined to accept the Amendment on that point. I was regretful that the Parliamentary Secretary a little while ago was so hurried or so desirous of stopping the Debate that he did not—

A number of hon. Members seem to wish to intervene, including hon. Members on the Parliamentary Secretary's side of the House. The Parliamentary Secretary did not say the approximate total number of people he expects to be exempted in the universities. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wishes to interrupt me, I will give way. It is only a matter of courtesy and I know hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like that Tory quality. In the interests of the men serving, I think we should have a very clear indication of how far the postponements will go because, if they are to be very wide, we shall be forcing a large number of men to lengthen their time in the Services. For that reason, although I recognise that there must be exemptions, I hope they will not be too wide.

There is a further point in favour of 18 which I think has only been mentioned casually. It is that there will be a much larger number of men married at 21 than at 18, and although family life may not mean a great deal to many people, yet calling up at i8 will mean calling up more men before they are married. From that point of view alone, if for no other, I think the various moral obligations put first on the one side and then on the other, are completely outweighed by the fact that there will be thousands of cases in which the married life of the men will not be interrupted at all.

On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. May I ask why a mysterious stranger on the battlements has pulled down the blinds of two of the windows, thus bringing darkness upon us and our castle?

It was done on my instructions because certain hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench seemed to find the sun rather powerful.

Do you not think that this Committee might take the risk that English sunlight will not be too blinding?

When I think the time has arrived, I will give the necessary instructions for the blinds to be pulled up.

The Parliamentary Secretary made an important statement and I am not sure whether he or the Committee appreciates its importance. I think hon. Members from rural constituencies, however, will realise its importance. He said that the new principle, as far as deferment between the ages of 18 and 21 was concerned, was that the individual would be considered, whereas in the past it had been the national interest that was paramount. Now, however, with conscription in peacetime, it would be the interests of the individual which would be considered by the manpower board. So far, so good. Then he went on, when challenged from the Front Bench above the Gangway on the question of agricultural workers, to say that it might be necessary to have block deferments in the next two years in 1949 and presumably 1950. I think that will be within the recollection of hon. Members. Block deferment means that you are in fact deferring on the ground of national and not individual interest, and I want to challenge the Parliamentary Secretary about which principle is being applied universally, and which principle is being applied as far as the agricultural worker is concerned. Are we to have one rule for people in certain industries, students and so forth, but, when it comes to a question of the national economic interest, are we then to decide that the interests of the individual are to be sub ordinated to those of the State?

I have been quite misunderstood on this matter. What I said was that this year and next year we have a block deferment for agriculture. Then I said that, under the new Bill, individual rights would be considered as being above those of the State. Whatever block deferments may apply in 1949, 1950 or 1951, it will not defeat the right of the individual in the expression of his views in regard to deferment.

If an individual wants to be called up at 18, when there is a block deferment in force, he can be called up?

That is the position now. The individual who has a block deferment now, but wants to volunteer, can do so and is allowed to do so.

If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been here, he would have known that it is provided for in Clause 16 and is the subject of an Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden).

Amendment negatived.

I propose, with the consent of the Committee, that the next five Amendments should be discussed together, namely:

In page 1, line 11, leave out "Great Britain," and insert "England."

In line 11 leave out "Great Britain," and insert "United Kingdom."

In line 11, after "Britain," insert:

"other than in Wales or Monmouthshire."

In line 11, after "Britain," insert:

"other than subjects ordinarily resident in Wales or Monmouthshire"

In line 11, after "Britain," insert:

"other than subjects ordinarily resident in Scotland."

May I be allowed to finish my sentence? I propose that the next five Amendments should be taken together, it being understood that, where appropriate, separate Divisions may be called. I also think it right to inform the Committee that in the event of it being decided that the words "Great Britain" should stand part of the Bill, I propose to call a manuscript Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) as follows:

Clause 1, page line 11, after "Britain" insert "and Northern Ireland".
This is subject to the consent of the Committee, but I think it will mean that we shall have a more concentrated Debate than if the Amendments are taken separately.

With respect, Mr. Beaumont, I do not think we shall have a more concentrated but a more diffused Debate. It is not a question of territorial division; it is a question of outlook on the part of each part of the country. What happens with regard to Scotland I am sure will be made clear by the Scottish Members; we, on behalf of Wales, want to make our position clear; so do hon. Members with regard to Northern Ireland. Instead of having them in proper order with an answer given by the Minister, I should imagine the Chair will be calling hon. Members from various parts of the House, and instead of getting a more definite, clear Debate, it will be much more diffused.

May I be allowed to support my right hon. and learned Friend on this issue, Mr. Beaumont? I would draw your attention to the point that two of these categories of Amendments deal with suggested omissions of part of the United Kingdom, whereas another Amendment suggests the inclusion of part of the United Kingdom in the Bill. I cannot think it is possible to have a good discussion on all those Amendments taken together. It seems to me there will be a great deal of cross-discussion and diffused discussion. I cannot help feeling that it would be more satisfactory to the Committee that each part of the United Kingdom should be allowed to state its own point of view. After all, we are a United Kingdom but we do not take united views on this issue. Let each component part state its view which happens to be different from that of another component part.

May I say a word in support of the convenience of the course you have suggested, Mr. Beaumont? All the Amendments are concerned with the general question of whether the Bill shall apply to the whole of Great Britain, or only to some parts of it and, if so, to which. It seems to me that the best way of deciding that is to discuss all together and then divide separately on the separate questions. I really think that would mean a more concentrated debate, without in any way prejudicing separate Divisions on separate questions.

6.0 p.m.

I wish to support the plea made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies)—

On a point of Order. Am I not right in saying that if the Committee refuses to agree with the suggestion made by the Chair—it was only a suggestion—and if objection is taken, the Chair then, in accordance with precedent, calls the Amendments separately?

This matter is one for the general will and convenience of the Committee, which I wish to follow. I think it is only right that an hon. Member responsible for one of the Amendments should be allowed to address the Committee.

That was not my point of Order, which was to ask you whether it is not the case that if objection is taken to a course suggested by the Chair, the Chair is bound to have regard to that objection? I do not understand what all this discussion is about.

I would point out to the noble Lord that that is possibly so, but I wanted to get the general sense of the Committee, and then to proceed accordingly.

In rising to support the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, I plead that these Amendments, which are wholly different in character, should be taken separately. The position in regard to the Rules of Order, as I understand it, is that the normal procedure is for you to call the separate Amendments, or such of them as you may select, but that for convenience, and with the general consent of the Committee, it is then possible to amalgamate certain Amendments, particularly regarding discussion, if they are subsequently the subject of separate Divisions. First of all on the point as to whether it is convenient to have these Amendments amalgamated, I suggest that it is very inconvenient to make a complete hotch-potch of the Debate. The Amendment in my name and the names of my hon. Friends is of very considerable substance, and affects a population about the size of that of New Zealand who have never had National Service at all. It would be mixed up with entirely contrary Amendments moved by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), who is asking for the same thing in Scotland. If we have interlarded and interleaved discussions about wholly different parts of the country, with wholly different intentions, I can see nothing emerging but the most complete confusion.

If I might use a homely allegory, it is rather like the agricultural device of tying two goats together when they are trying to go different ways—in this case three goats—and it leads to confusion. As to the point about the consent of the Committee, I do not think that is of the definite character which requires a decision, but I think you with your great experience, Mr. Beaumont, will agree that it is normally customary for the general approval, at all events not violent disapproval, of a substantial part of the Committee to be obtained, especially as the course proposed would embarrass the movers of two of the Amendments. I hardly expect that Scotland wishes to be thrown into a general pot boiling with everyone else. In those circumstances, I ask that the Amendments should be taken separately, and at least that the two Amendments which propose to leave out words should nut be taken with the Amendment that proposes to insert words.

We always hear references made to England—England does this and England does that —but here is an Amendment which proposes that it should be the United Kingdom. The four other Amendments refer to England. England takes the credit, let England take the responsibility. If it is decided that England takes the responsibility—

The hon. Member seems to be discussing the Amendment before the Amendment has been put.

No. If we get a decision that England is not to accept the responsibility, then that will bring in Scotland and Wales, and there will not be a question of one being left out. The question at issue is one question. It is not a separate question of Wales and Scotland, but the wide question of whether England will take the responsibility with the credit, or whether the rest are to come in.

I think I am now able to come to a decision. The course suggested by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) that I should leave the decision to the Committee is a course which would not be appropriate. There is no precedent for it. I have to make the final decision, which is that each Amendment shall be taken separately. May I venture to express the hope that we shall not have endless repetition?

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11,to leave out "Great Britain," and to insert "England."

We are quite prepared to allow Wales to come along with Scotland, and have not the same fear about Wales as apparently Wales has about Scotland. We present this Amendment quite frankly not on the narrow national ground. Although I recognise that under Standing Orders I must stick to the Amendment, we are opposed to the principle of conscription. Consequently, if I suggest that Scotland should be excluded from this Bill, then I must do it on the grounds of my opposition to the principle contained in the Bill. The principle contained in the Bill is that conscription should apply to this country. I think that is a very serious departure in national policy. I listened very carefully to the Debate during the Second Reading and subsequently I read the speeches which had been delivered with very great care.

A strong case was made out for conscription, but on examination I cannot find the strong case that appeared to be submitted during the actual Debate. The Minister of Defence was seriously challenged about what our commitments were to be, and, further, what was to be the ultimate strength of the Forces after this Bill is in operation in 1950. On neither of those counts was the Minister of Defence able to submit any sound evidence so that we could argue the case. We have no knowledge of the commitments which I presume will depend on the foreign policy under the agreements—

On a point of Order. Is it in Order to argue the general case on this Amendment? Should not discussion be confined to the terms of the Amendment?

I have been listening to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), and he is now getting wide of the Amendment. His remarks should be about the Amendment, which proposes to leave out the words "Great Britain" and to insert "England."

I am, of course, always ready to bow to your guidance, Mr. Beaumont, but I submit to you that this Committee has the right to enforce conscription in Scotland provided only that there is ample evidence that a case can be made out for conscription. I admit that the Debate is wide, but I would like to challenge hon. Members with much longer experience of this House than myself to say how it can be demanded that Scotland should be involved in this responsibility without first debating that responsibility very seriously. The point I am trying to make—

The principle of conscription was decided upon by the House when the Bill was given a Second Reading. The hon. Member must confine himself to the Amendment which he is moving.

It is true that the House has decided on the principle of conscription, but I would submit to you, Mr. Beaumont, that it has not yet decided how far it shall extend territorially— whether it shall cover England or Scotland.

That is the purpose of the Amendment, and the point which the hon. Member will be in Order in discussing is whether that shall be so, not the general merits of conscription.

On a point of Order. Is it legitimate and in Order to mention Scotland and to discuss Scotland, when the whole object of the Amendment is England? The word Scotland does not appear in it at all.

I presume that the purpose of the Amendment is to exclude Scotland so that the application of the Bill will be to England. Therefore, the question which is now before the Committee is whether Scotland should be excluded.

If the Amendment is examined carefully it will be seen that it is made quite clear that we are prepared to leave all the fighting to England, and that everyone in Scotland should be excluded. I will try to submit why I think that Scotland should be excluded.

Further to my point of Order. Should not the discussion be on the advisability of having conscription in England, and in no way be concerned with conscription in Scotland?

I cannot accept the hon. and gallant Member's interpretation of the Amendment. If he will allow me, I will keep hon. Members in Order.

It is amazing how much advice is being given to you from all sides of the House, Mt. Beaumont, in relation to an inexperienced Parliamentarian. I hope hon. Members will do you the courtesy of accepting the fact that you understand your job, and will at least allow you to be responsible for calling me to Order if you think it necessary.

My reason for putting down this Amendment was that because of the method by which the Bill was framed we could present our Amendment in no other form. It is obvious from the unity on both sides of the Committee that no one need put up a case on behalf of England. There is complete unanimity, not only on the Front Benches, but on the Back Benches. Even the people who are apparently more Left than the official ranks of the Government are also backing the Government in this Measure. Let me say why I think that Scotland should be excluded. We are dealing with a population of something under four and a half million people. There are two strong reasons why I think Scotland cannot be asked to be associated with this conscription Measure. The first is the economic reason, and the second is the military reason. The economic reason can be examined on the basis of figures submitted by the Minister of Defence. According to the White Paper, we will have a little over one million people in the Armed Forces in 1948. These are the only figures which we have to work upon. The Minister of Defence was asked in the Second Reading Debate if he could give us any idea of the figures for the Armed Forces, once this Measure was in operation. He has not given us any. I am not suggesting that he is withholding them; it is impossible to give them.

I have tried to work on the figures which we have. According to those figures, submit that 100,000 young men will be wanted from Scotland. If people think I am exaggerating let us reduce the number to 75,000, If one adds to that the numbers involved in civil services associated with the Armed Forces, at least another 25,000 can be added. Therefore, I say that without exaggeration 100,000 people are to be required for the Armed Forces of the country. Young miners are to be exempted because their work is regarded as being of national importance. I have listened to the Debate today as to whether the age should be 18 or 21. Before the Debate concluded it was evident that it would be possible for almost every young man to have exemption for a period, in one way or another. It was equally obvious that agriculture was regarded as being so important that it may be necessary to give block exemptions in respect of that industry.

At what industry in Scotland is the line drawn, because there is a close link between coal and steel, and a very close link between steel and shipbuilding? I am thoroughly convinced that the economic position in Scotland cannot be restored if the strong part of the manpower there is drained from the basic industries, because according to the Bill we are taking these young men out of industry not merely for full-time military service, but also for part-time military service, which is not yet defined. Therefore, the young men will at one period or another far exceed 100,000 because over the period of the five years a great proportion of the young men who have served their time will also be devoting part of their time from their employment to their military duties. I do not think any economic expert is needed to argue the case that our country cannot face up to a situation of that kind. Therefore, I say that on economic grounds there is no occasion for including Scotland. I have heard arguments from the other side that we must face up to our commitments. What are our commitments? I think there is too much ambiguity in that phrase. I have to go to the people of my Division—

The hon. Member is getting too wide. I wish he would come back to the Amendment.

I have got to go to my people. Surely, if I go to the Lobby to support this Measure I have to go to the people of Bridgeton to tell them why I supported the Measure? I have to tell them that they have serious commitments, and that they have to face up to them. Let us look at the military position so far as Scotland is concerned. We have never been an aggressive people at any time. [Interruption.] I should like my hon. Friends who are authorities on history to tell me when with malice we ever invaded England.

I say again that the Scottish people, whatever faults we have, are not an aggressive people. We are asked to face up to our military obligations. What are our military obligations today? Almost half the people of Scotland live in the crowded Southern belt, and in modern warfare Scotland, in the economical and in the physical sense, could be wiped out in less than 24 hours. We are quite incapable of producing an Army that could be of service in any foreign field. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I hope I may develop the point, since some hon. Members say it is nonsense. It may be within the knowledge of hon. Members that even the Highland regiments maintain their strength in peacetime—and I hope that they have some relation to the Measure— through the invasion of Cockneys from London. I am speaking of regiments such as the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Highland Light Infantry. We cannot produce an Army in Scotland that can be of any real service in modern warfare. Let there be no nonsense about that. Indeed, the argument applies to the entire country. This country is now incapable of being a force in modern affairs by means of war.

The hon. Member is now discussing matters far beyond the scope of the Amendment, which is concerned with a much narrower point.

I think that rapping was quite undeserved. If it was good enough to bring in a Bill of this kind, which is all-embracing, surely I am entitled to show my opposition, so far as Scotland is concerned, and to include occasional references to the general problem of conscription? But I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont. I cannot see Scotland making any serious contribution. We are quite incapable of providing an Army of any dimensions or of assisting an Army of any dimensions. What did we find in the last war? We have not the resources with which to build the things essential today for modern warfare. What are the things associated with modern warfare? No one is going to say we cannot discuss the atomic bomb in relation to this Bill. Surely, the atomic bomb has some relationship to modern warfare? I say— and no one will dispute it—that one atomic bomb in the West of Scotland—

This Amendment does not deal with the atomic bomb. The hon. Member is now advancing arguments that might have been in Order on the Second Reading, but which are certainly not in Order on this Amendment.

Are we asking the people to accept responsibility, without showing them all the implication of it? Surely, if the people of Scotland are to support a Measure of this kind they must know all its implications. I do not want now to discuss the atomic bomb, because the Debate on the Second Reading was the time to discuss that. But, surely I am entitled to say that one atomic bomb dropped in the West of Scotland, would immediately wipe out the greater part of the population? That must have some bearing on the mind of those who represent the people of Scotland in this House. So far as Scotland is concerned, we are very prepared to be sufficiently humble to leave all the fighting to the people of England.

I rise at once to make evident beyond any doubt whatsoever what is the attitude of those of us who sit on this side of the House to this Amendment. It was with very great regret that I saw this Amendment on the Paper at all—a regret which has only been increased the longer the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment continued to speak. I must suggest that, really, the whole of the arguments he put forward were entirely bogus arguments so far as the Amendment is concerned. They were general arguments directed against the Bill as a whole, and in no way concerned the Amendment. In saying that I regret the Amendment, I speak not only for myself, but on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends, and particularly those of us who are Scotsmen and represent Scottish constituencies. This Amendment is obnoxious to the whole of the Scottish people. It does not represent either their desires or their feelings in any way whatsoever.

6.30 p.m.

I fought an Election less than 12 months ago, and I specifically included in my Election address my complete opposition to military conscription. My opponents, including a Unionist, were in favour of conscription, but I am in this House today as a result of that vote.

I still stand to my own opinion, and I put it to the Committee that the hon. Gentleman who has just made that interruption stands in a very peculiar position. I do not, personally, believe that he was returned to this House because of his political opinions, but far rather because of the long number of years in which he has been associated with his constituency and the high personal, apart from the political, regard in which he is held in that constituency. From my point of view, at least, the hon. Gentleman does not represent any volume of Scottish opinion whatever. It is perfectly true that there is in Scotland today a universal desire, which has been very much increased as the result of the nationalisation policy of the Government, which removes effective control of the industries and services which are nationalised from Scotland to Whitehall, that purely Scottish matters should be administered from Scotland by people who understand Scotland.

On a point of Order. Now that you have allowed the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) to discuss nationalisation, Mr. Beaumont, I hope that, when I am allowed to follow him, I shall also be allowed to discuss it.

Because one hon. Member has gone off the track is no reason why another should do so.

I was only leading up to a point, and not discussing nationalisation at all. I was merely pointing out the desire of Scottish people in certain respects, and I was going on to say that that in no way concerns defence. We realise in Scotland that the defence of the United Kingdom is one and indivisible. We cannot possibly defend any part of the United Kingdom in isolation from the other parts, and we realise something more than that. We realise that the defence of the Commonwealth and Empire is a United Kingdom trust and responsibility, and that Scotland has a share in that responsibility and trust.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of our Army not being of any real service. I wonder what the men who fought in the recent war would think of a statement of that kind? I wonder what the men who have fought in wars time and again and who came from Scotland will think of a remark like that? I suggest that the services given in the Army and in the other Services by people from Scotland have been of the utmost benefit to our country in her hour of need. The Scottish people regard with absolute scorn the suggestion which the hon. Member made that, in the hour of danger, we should shelter behind the English. That is not the Scottish way of looking at things at all. We are very proud of the fact that our young men and women have always been in the forefront of those who went to join the Colours whenever this country or any part of the Empire was threatened, and it is our desire that that shall always be, but, if if this Amendment were to be accepted, it would not be possible.

Conditions of war have changed in recent years. Today, the need is not only for men with stout hearts and stout arms, but for men skilled in the use of weapons and in the vast amount of technical equipment which is used in modern war. Today war comes very quickly, and men have to be trained and have to be prepared and capable to fit into the machine at a moment's notice. The Amendment simply means that no Scotsman would be prepared to do so, and it suggests that, at the outbreak of war, they would come forward, as they undoubtedly always have done and as I hope they always will, quite unprepared to play their part in the defence of their own country. It means that, for many months after the outbreak of war, the defence of Scotland would be entrusted to men from South of the Border. What an indignity to put upon our people. We should have to rely for defence on English troops when the initial attack is being made and, in modern war, that initial attack may well be the heaviest attack of all.

May I interrupt? If the Scottish people are so warlike, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will get a fine volunteer Army.

I am glad the hon. Gentleman has made that point, and I will deal with it. It is not that we are so warlike, but we are determined to defend ourselves and our own country and not shelter behind the backs of other people. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) suggested that people in Scotland were opposed to conscription, but I take rather a different view. We are a democratic people, and it seems to me that the first duty of a democratic people should be to defend the benefits which they obtain from the democratic system, and that everyone should be prepared to defend these things.

Now let me come to the voluntary system. The voluntary system means that, whenever danger threatens, the most adventurous and the most high-spirited of our people are the first to go and offer their services to their country. That might be all right when war comes once in 100 years. When that happens, it is perhaps right that the best of our citizens should go, but when we have had two wars within 25 years, I do not think it is right that the whole of the first impact of war should fall on the most adventurous and most high-spirited of our people. I believe that it is as a result of the great drain that fell upon these people resulting from the first world war that we have been so lamentably short of leaders in all sections of society through the intervening years. The voluntary system is not a democratic system at all.

May I interrupt? I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is making a very good case, but, on a pure point of logic, may I suggest to him that, when he says that the initial attack is going to be the most important and then says that we should not use volunteers, it becomes just nonsense?

No, I do not. I say that the whole weight should not fall upon people who volunteer. Anyway, I do not suppose that even the hon. Gentleman who interrupted believes that it is a democratic way of raising an Army in these days or that this drain should fall upon those ready and willing to serve, and that they should have to bear the brunt, while others who wish to keep out and slack and laze are given the opportunity to do so.

The hon. Gentleman is including very many more people than are actually resident in Scotland.

You will realise, I am quite sure, Mr. Beaumont, that I was merely speaking of these people in Scotland, and that I was referring the whole matter to Scotland. Scotland feels, and it is a quite sincere belief, that, so long as war is possible, and so long as it is necessary to defend our country, every single one of our citizens should be trained to play their part and that there should be no exceptions whatsoever. That, in my opinion, is the true sentiment of the people of Scotland. I hope, therefore, that this House will reject this Amendment out of hand.

I rise to support this Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) has told us that, in his opinion, Scotland wants this, that and the other. But I would remind him that, in this particular matter, my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) comes more freshly from the electorate than does the hon. and gallant Gentleman. My hon. Friend put this matter very distinctly to the electorate in his election address, and he made it known where he stood. He polled the majority of the votes in the constituency, whereas the candidate who belonged to the party above the Gangway, had a most miserable vote; he polled only half the number of votes polled by the Conservative candidate at the General Election.

Is the hon. Gentleman asserting that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) polled a majority of the votes cast in the by-election?

On a point of Order. As the original assertion was allowed, Mr. Beaumont, is it not possible for the hon. Member now to withdraw it?

I cannot indicate to the hon. Member whether he should or should not withdraw it. I only say that it is out of Order to pursue the matter.

I am very sorry, Mr. Beaumont, that I am not to be allowed to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in this connection. I still stand by what said, that the hon. Member for Bridgeton polled a majority of the votes in the constituency, as, otherwise, he would not be here.

The Committee will know—there has already been some indication that hon. Members do know—that this Amendment proposes to leave out "Great Britain" and to insert "England." I want to deal with that, in view of what was said by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). As Members representing Scottish constituencies, we decided that we would only put the point of view of Scottish people. If English Members in the Committee have a similar view about the matter, we left it to them to move the necessary Amendment. We are of the opinion that the Scottish people are entirely against this Bill, and against the imposition of conscription upon Scotland as a permanent feature of the life of the people there. An hon. Member dissents from my statement—

6.45 p.m.

He might be wrong. My opinion is just as good as his as to the feeling in Scotland. As far as we can judge, there is a very strong feeling in Scotland against the imposition of conscription upon the people of our country. There is a further reason. Some of us feel very strongly that, so far as our country is concerned, we have been treated very badly in many respects since the Treaty of Union of 1770. That treaty—

Perhaps, Mr. Beaumont, if you would allow me to do so, I would make it plain that, since the Treaty of Union has not been respected, I am in Order in claiming that when the terms of that treaty are recognised, the people of Scotland might be willing to accept the imposition of conscription.

The hon. Member is now a long way from the Amendment, and I cannot allow him to continue any further that line of argument.

With respect, I am always willing to accept the decision of the Chair in these matters, and, therefore, I will not pursue the subject.

I wish to stress what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton about the economic position of Scotland. Much of the industry of Scotland is the heavy industry, and the imposition of conscription is going to have very serious economic consequences on that industry. During the years of depression we had to suffer much more than the Midlands. The imposition of conscription in peacetime will have a disastrous effect on Scottish industry, and will greatly increase our troubles. It will impose grave economic consequences upon our people, as the result of its effect on the iron and steel industry. The fact that young men in the mining industry are to be exempted from this Measure will have its consequences on all the main industries in Scotland. I can see that in days to come much of the industry of Scotland will be serving the interests of England. It will mean a big increase in unemployment. We are already experiencing in Scotland a greater amount of unemployment than in any other part of the country. If Scotland is not excluded, unemployment in Scotland will be greatly increased, and the economic consequences to Scotland will be very great. Conscription is morally wrong and, despite what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok, the people of Scotland do not desire to take part in something which is opposed to their belief in freedom. I hope many Members from the other side of the Border will support the Scottish Members in rejecting the imposition of conscription upon our country.

I rise first to state that I am opposed to conscription. I would also like to explain that at the General Election I gave an undertaking that I would oppose conscription in every shape and form, and I believe in redeeming the pledges that I make to the people in my area. On Principle, I am opposed to singling out one part of the United Kingdom and saying that Scotland should be exempted. But I would also point out that conscription has never been made an issue in Scotland and I say to the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) that, as a democrat, I disagree that it has ever been presented to, and endorsed by, the nation. A tremendous departure in principle of this kind ought to have been put to the people, and if they had agreed to conscription, I, as a democrat, would have accepted the mind and will of the population. I firmly believe that if the question was put to the people not only of Scotland, but of the country as a whole, they would relegate this Measure to the scrap heap. I support the exclusion of Scotland, because there is the exclusion of Northern Ireland, of the miners of this country and, of ministers of religion.

I must remind the hon. Member that we are at the moment discussing the exclusion of Scotland.

But there are ministers of religion in Scotland, strange as it may seem. I am dealing with the exclusion of ministers of religion in Scotland, because nobody has been so keen on war as they, and nobody so keen on keeping out of it. Therefore, if we are to have all these sections exempted in Scotland, if the defence of Scottish interests is to be dependent upon certain sections of the community who happen to be outside these provisions, the whole of the population should be excluded. To the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok who referred to mandates, and to the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) who intervened on the question of majorities, I would say that there was a complete majority in the Bridgeton area against conscription, because Guy Aldred and the Scottish Nationalist, with Jimmy Carmichael, stood against conscription. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I am referring to the names of people when they were fighting the election, and not when they had become Members of Parliament. There was a complete majority against conscription in that area. I would be prepared to take almost any area in Scotland and challenge the people; I am sure I would get their backing, and the backing of even the Tory young men against this Measure, just as the Tory young men in Ireland and in other places were against it.

No, it is the old men like the hon. Gentleman who interrupted who are keen on it. Hon. Members are probably familiar with the old rhyme:

"If I were but a younger man
I'd don the khaki clothes,
The first and foremost in the van
Against our country's foes,
And I would tell you, what is more.
There'd be no Hun alive,
If I were only twenty-four
Instead of sixty-five."
I am not seeking the opinion of old men. I appreciate that, at my age, I ought to be backing this conscription Measure. But I am seeking neither the opinion of the old men in Scotland nor of the vested interests. I would like to know what the young men in Scotland think of this Measure which proposes to conscript them. If the young men said they wanted conscription and wished to be in the Services, I would accept that position. I have a boy aged 18, and I asked him what he wished to do. I have another son, a conscientious objector. The boy of i8 said, "I want to go," and he is now in the Air Force. In fact, I had to ask the Minister of Labour to have him called up early. That boy said to me, "I also have got to consider my conscience." That is the free house which we have. If they want to go, they go, and if they do not want to go, they do not. Their father did the same thing at that age. Where I differ from my friends, the pacifists, is that my antagonism to conscription is fundamental, but my objection to national defence is not to national defence as such. If I thought the young men of Scotland were being conscripted to defend Scotland, England or Wales, I would be prepared to accept it, but I want to know why they are going to be conscripted. I want to know whether they are to fight on foreign shores, to suppress natives and other people who are struggling for their emancipation. Therefore, if I were to say to the people of Scotland, "Are you prepared to defend your own country?" I believe they would; I believe there would be no need for conscription, and they would all rally to the call.

7.0 p.m.

My fundamental objection to the war all along was that it was not to defend Scotland, England or Wales, but was to fight in a foreign field for some matter about which I knew nothing, and to which I was committed by politicians and diplomats in the past. Therefore, I say that in regard to Scotland I am opposed to conscription. I shall fulfil the pledge I made to the electors, and I will vote for this Amendment if it is pressed to a Division, on the general principle of opposition to conscription, and because, therefore, I am against it applying to Scotland as a whole. As an individual, I believe I am conforming with the will and desire of the great mass of the people who made sacrifices in the war, believing that such a Bill would never be introduced by a Labour Government.

I hope the Committee will not be under any illusions about the Amendment put forward by two of the "three musketeers," so ably supported by the third who has now left them, and will not think that their views represent the views of the people of Scotland. They never have done. They have always represented the views of the three individuals concerned and their constituents, and never any more. Here we have it happening all over again: these three hon. Members, holding again: views with great sincerity—for which we pay them tribute and respect—but in no way representing the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland. The Amendment itself, though sincerely expressed and sincere in intention, does, in fact, cast a slur upon the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland know it, and repudiate the suggestion that they do not want to join with Great Britain in this great act of self-sacrifice to safeguard the nation in its hour of need. I deplore the fact that the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) included a slur against those who joined the Army and served in Scottish regiments, and a suggestion that they were of no value, and could be of no value, to their country in the war.

I have no objection to the hon. and gallant Member making an attack on any speech I make, but I made no slurring reference to any person who joined the Forces, at any time, of his own free will. Whatever may be said of me, whether I disagree with a person or not, I give him the credit of doing a thing honestly and with the best motives. I have no intention of casting a slur on people, irrespective of their walk of life or of the occupation in which they are engaged.

That explanation is acceptable, subject to exact quotation of the words of the hon. Member. I did not suggest he made a personal attack upon a member of a Scottish regiment. Of course not. I said he attacked the reputation of Scotland and the reputation of Scotland's regiments when he suggested—to use almost his exact words— that Scotland is and has been quite unable to develop any army which could be of any use to Scotland in war. I say that is a deliberate slur, and in fact an insult, not so much an individual or personal attack. I recognise that the hon. Member never meant to make a personal attack, but that is a definite slur upon the traditions of Scottish regiments, and a more deliberate slur upon the people and soldiers of Scotland. But do not let us get excited about the views of the "three musketeers," who for long years have represented merely themselves and nothing else but their own constituents in Scotland.

For this Amendment to be accepted one of two considerations would have to be put forward. It would have to be proved, either that the Scottish people were against this Bill so strongly that they were not prepared to march with great Britain as a whole, or, alternatively, that the damage which would be done to Scottish economy would be so great in comparison with the damage done to the country as a whole that Scotland could not bear it. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) did attempt to adumbrate the second argument, but he gave no proof whatsoever that Scotland would be worse affected by this Measure than England. Unless that can be proved the argument falls.

With regard to the former argument, it has a certain force, and it is true that the question has not been put directly to the Scottish people. But we are the representatives of the Scottish people here. The hon. Member for Camlachie argued that the Scottish people were opposed to conscription. Of course, they are opposed to conscription, as, I suppose, are 95 per cent. of the people in this country. But if they can be shown that there is a necessity for it, surely, the Scottish people are stout enough to face up to that and to take their share in it? The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) argued that one atom bomb or 24 hours of atomic warfare would wipe out the richest part of Scotland and make all conscription there useless. I understand that was his argument. What difference would it make whether there were national service or not in Scotland? Does he suppose, if England went to war, that there would be any less likelihood of atom bombs on Glasgow and Edinburgh or of the whole economy of Scotland being wiped out? Surely, that argument is utter nonsense?

Quite apart from anything else, what a ridiculous situation we should be in if there were conscription in England and no conscription in Scotland. There would be bound to be people in England who would be anxious to avoid conscription; what would be easier for them than to go up to Scotland? That might, of course, be one way of carrying out the recommendations of the Montague Barlow Report, and of spreading the population more evenly right up to the Highlands of Scotland. But that is not the issue here. The issue here is simple. Is Scotland to be separated from England in the matter of preparedness? This Bill is not so much a matter of commitments as of preparedness. Is Scotland to be separated from England in that? I am quite certain that the vast majority of the people of Scotland, although they do not like conscription, would not only be proud to take their part in preparing themselves to do their duty, but would demand the right to have a similar Bill if one were passed for England.

I rise specifically because I represent an English constituency. This Amendment proposes to leave out "Great Britain" and to insert "England." It is because I contest that language that I rise to oppose it and protest against it. The issue in this Debate is not, of course, whether or not we agree with the voluntary or the compulsory principle. That is something which was decided on the Second Reading of the Bill. The issue is not even whether we think Scotland as a whole, England as a whole, or Wales as a whole is for or against the voluntary principle. No, that is not the issue. The issue is whether there can be local option for this island in matters affecting defence policy.

We shall be discussing the special position of Northern Ireland in the course of Debate on another Amendment. It is for that reason only that I do not follow the hon. Member's interesting interjection. I do not pretend to know the constituents of hon. Members who represent Welsh or Scottish constituencies better than they. I assume in their favour that what they say about their constituents' opinions is true. But I am perfectly sure that I am speaking, not only for my own constituents in Oxford, or even for many English compatriots, but for all the inhabitants of this island when I say, that whatever our opinions about voluntary or compulsory service, we would far prefer that this question was decided for us all as a whole by this Parliament than that we should seek to try to run away and hide in an attic in matters of defence if the common house started to burn down.

I am rather surprised at the hon. Gentlemen who put down this Amendment, and I think that it rather begs the whole issue. They have taken a stand and have openly declared that they are against conscription for everybody. I can quite understand people who are objecting to conscription for everybody continuing their objections, but what I cannot understand is that they will so denude the resources from which we can draw our Forces in one part of the country as to make it doubly certain that the other part will have a greater measure of conscription. I can admire the pacifist who says, "I am against it for everybody. What is bad for me is bad for everyone." But the hon. Gentlemen do not say that. What they say is, "Let England do the fighting." The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment said, "Leave all the fighting to England."

What I said in the course of my remarks was that if England desires to do all her fighting, then we have no objection.

I carefully noted down what was said. Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman detracts from what he said and now wants Scotland to take part?

It is not the same as my attitude. I have never taken the purely pacifist line in this matter. In any case we are discussing something for the future and let us hope that we are deciding on the merits of the case without dragging in what may have been one's reputation or lack of reputation in the past. Let me deal now with the next point which was made by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment—the effect of the contribution made by Scotland upon her economy. Is it so large? The hon. Gentleman talked about 100,000 men, but the annual contribution from Scotland to the Defence Forces under this Bill is 16,000. Do I understand that the economy of Scotland will fall to the ground because 16,000 young men are going into the Forces?

There are 100,000 unemployed under the hon. Gentleman's Government.

Let us deal with one matter at a time. I do not want to have to refer to what used to be the case in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) said that in his view conscription was morally wrong, and in that statement he found support from a few quarters of the Committee. It is morally wrong for Scotland, but one of the hon. Gentlemen who supported him agreed that this country had to be defended and that Scotland had to be defended. If Scotland has to be defended surely we must have the necessary Forces, and surely Scotland should play her part in her own defence? That really is the position, and I cannot understand why the hon. Gentlemen who have moved this Amendment have not attempted to create this precedent earlier and exclude Scotland from the benefits of the legislation that has already been passed by thin House.

In all the legislation which has been passed by this Government no one has moved that Scotland should be excluded from its benefits.

I overlooked that possible exception. I think that for once the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) was absolutely right. In this House we are met from all parts of the country to decide common policy for the country as a whole and, by and large, to try to do the best we can for the whole nation. Surely what we do is deserving of defence by everybody all over the country? We accept the benefits and privileges decided