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National Service Bill

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

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Again considered in Committee. [ Progress, 6th May.]

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

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

3.53 p.m.

It might be convenient to the Committee if I intimated at this stage that I propose to call the Amendment standing in the name of the Minister of Defence—in page 1, line 15, to leave out "eighteen," and to insert "twelve." I think it would also be for the general convenience of the Committee, if the Amendment on the same lines in the name of the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir S. Holmes)—in page 1, line 15, to leave out "eighteen," and to insert "nine,"—were discussed at the same time.

I ask for your guidance, Major Milner. The Amendment to be moved by the Minister of Defence concerns those Members who want the period of service reduced from 18 months to 12 months but there are others who want it reduced to nothing. For the convenience of the Committee, could you say whether we can debate the latter aspect of this Amendment, or whether we must wait until the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?

That question is not appropriate for discussion on this Amendment. We must confine ourselves to the precise terms of the Amendment.

Will such debate be allowed on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?

That is a matter which will arise later and certainly is not one for decision now.

I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, to leave out "eighteen," and to insert "twelve."

This Amendment, together with consequential Amendments to other Clauses, has the effect of reducing from 18 months to 12 months the period of whole time service of men called up for the armed forces of the Crown after the provisions of the Bill come into effect. Without exaggeration, I think I can say that the tabling of these Amendments by the Government has provoked a lively, and even controversial, discussion. Not unnaturally, in this process the period of 18 months has been vested with a rigidity and a sanctity beyond its true deserts. It is entirely true that the Government, for reasons which I am about to explain, changed their mind on the period of whole-time service. On the other hand, it is entirely untrue for anyone to suggest, either that 18 months was visualised as the irreducible minimum for whole-time service under the Bill, or that there was a clear-cut and inescapable answer on what the initial period should be. The decision always had to be based on a balance of conflicting considerations. The Prime Minister when he dealt with this question on 12th November last during the Debate on the Address, indicated that it was far from easy to determine what the period of whole-time service should be. He said:
"It is difficult to lay down exactly what the time should be. We should propose to take power that it shall not exceed a period of one and a half years. Whether we shall want that or not depends very largely on the amount of voluntary recruiting and the condition in which the world is settling down. I cannot insist too often on the fact that in all these matters we are dealing with a vast number of entirely unknown factors. However, as at present advised, I consider it will probably be wise to start at one and a half years and to come clown. I would rather not start at a lower rate and have to go up. My hope is that it will be able to come down."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1946; Vol. 430: c. 41–42.]
The original decision to embody in the postwar National Service Scheme a period of 18 months full-time service in the Forces was in fact taken by the Government, after consultation with their expert advisers, in October of last year. In the interval, a good deal has happened. The survey of the economic position of this country, which the Government published as a White Paper at the end of January, and which was subsequently the subject of a three day Debate in this House, brought home to Members and advertised to the country and to the world the seriousness of the current and prospective situation in the economic sphere. However, opinions in the House and the country might vary on the root causes of our present economic problems, there was a consensus of opinion that only by the most energetic efforts could a healthy and sound economy in this country be restored.

Let me mention a few relevant dates. It was during the Debate on the Economic White Paper that the National Service Bill was published and given its First Reading. Within the next 10 days each of the three Service Departments' Estimates was considered in Committee of Supply; and on 19th and 20th March came the Debate on the Defence White Paper. A further week elapsed, and then the National Service Bill had its Second Reading Debate, on the last day of March and the first day of April.

All these Parliamentary occasions which I have mentioned had this in common: they were, to a greater or lesser extent, the opportunity for Members of this House to consider, and to express their views upon, the defence commitments of this country, the size of the Armed Forces necessary to carry out those commitments, and the all-over provision, in men, money and materials, which the country should provide for sustaining the Armed Forces both for the immediate defence needs of the coming year, and in the years that lie ahead of us when the world will, we hope, find itself in more settled conditions of peace.

From their further study of the economic situation, and from the series of Debates to which I have referred, the Government drew the moral that the long-term demand which a peace-time system of national service in the Armed Forces must inevitably make on the manpower of this country, and, therefore, upon what is probably the most important factor in our economic rehabilitation, must be reconsidered; and reconsidered, first and foremost, in the light of the urgent need for husbanding our strength, and directing it to those requirements which come first in the order of things necessary to put us firmly again on our economic feet. I will even risk quoting to hon. Members opposite the Defence White Paper published last February, because to my mind it puts into one sentence the crux of the problem we are now discussing. In paragraph 7 it reads:
"a successful defence policy must find its roots in healthy social and economic conditions."
It goes on to add later in the same paragraph that the Government
"are fully resolved to strike a considered balance between the needs of the defence of this country and the urgent requirements of the post-war national economy as a whole."
It is in the exercise of that responsibility for balancing the needs of defence and the national economy that the Government have decided to recommend to the Committee that the period for which men called up under the present Bill should be removed from civil employment for continuous full-time service with the Forces should be 12 months, and not 18, as originally proposed in the Bill.

4.0 p.m.

Was the right hon. Gentleman not aware of all these facts when he asked us for our support on the Second Reading of the Bill?

If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to restrain himself throughout my speech, I do not think that he would have asked that question.

This decision does not affect the Government's intention to terminate the liability for part-time service, as stated in Clause 2 of the Bill, with the expiration of the seventh year after the beginning of whole-time service. But it does mean that the aggregate of 60 days' part-time service and of 21 days in any year of that service, which liabilities the Government do not propose to vary, will be spread over a period of six years after the termination of a man's whole-time service, instead of over 5½ years, as it would have been had the period of whole-time service remained at 18 months.

Before dealing with the military implications of the Government's decision, I ought perhaps to mention one consequential effect of the reduction to 12 months of the term of full-time service proposed in the Bill. In the White Paper on the call up to the Forces in 1947 and 1948 issued in May last year the actual period of service of men called up during 1948 was specified, such period tapering from two years in the case of men called up in January, 1948, down to 18 months for those called up in December, 1948. The release of those called up during 1948 would have been spread over the first six months of 1950.

In the changed circumstances of the full-time service of men called up after 1st January, 1949, being limited to 12 months, there is clearly ground for reconsidering the periods of service of men called up in 1948 as set out in Command Paper 683I. They would otherwise be serving after the release of those called up in the early months of 1949 under the new Bill, though on the other hand it must be remembered that they are under no liability for reserve service. Nevertheless, it will be the aim of the Government to ensure that so far as practicable all men called up before the new Bill comes into force on 1st January, 1949, will be released from whole-time service with the Forces before the first of the men called up under the Bill. But I should make it clear that it may not be possible to avoid exceptions to this aim in individual cases and for short periods. For example, where it may be administratively impracticable to bring a man home from overseas in time to release him by the due date, or where some unavoidable delay occurs in the provision of reliefs. It should also be understood that periods of non-effective service, such as periods of desertion or imprisonment, will not be taken into account in determining due dates for release.

With that exception, the major provisions of this Bill do not affect the call-up to the Forces, and do not therefore begin to affect the numbers in the Forces, until the beginning of 1949—a date which is still over eighteen months ahead. As the Government have indicated in their Defence White Paper, it is hoped that many of the current overseas commitments of our Forces will have been liquidated before the expiry of that time. What we have every reason to think will still persist are those longer term defence commitments which are concerned primarily with the security of the country, with the safeguarding of commonwealth communications, including the security of our overseas trade routes, and with our obligations to the United Nations. Later in my speech, I hope to deal in more detail with the effect of the reduction of full-time service, proposed by this Amendment, on the ability of the Forces to meet our likely overseas commitments in peace-time.

The point I would make here and now is, that an essential purpose of the proposals in the National Service Bill is to build up a body of trained reserves, who will stand ready to take their part in our defence in an emergency without requiring the lengthy training which the auxiliary forces needed in 1914 and in 1939. If the international position worsened in the next two years, and if, against all our policy, plans and desires, we were again threatened by imminent war, the Government of this country would have to consider whether the plans they had made for building up the Forces, which in their long-term aspect are largely reflected in this Bill, were adequate for a new and changed defence situation. But on a reasonable forecast of the defence needs of the next few years ahead, the Government are satisfied that the security of the country and the adequate safeguarding of its defence interests are not placed in jeopardy by the change in the Bill proposed by the present Amendment.

This is, naturally, not a matter on which the Government have reached a decision without consulting those who, by the appointments they hold and their professional experience over a lifetime in defence matters, are most competent to advise them on the defence aspects of the change now proposed in the Bill. There has been a good deal of ventilation in the Press of the relationship of His Majesty's Government with the Chiefs of Staff on such matters as the present proposal, and, in case further references are made in the course of the Debate, it might be well if I define that relationship as the Government see it.

I ought perhaps to add that the Prime Minister has approved the terms of the statement I am about to make—[Interruption.] I should not have thought that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he was Prime Minister, would have regarded it as irrelevant to mention that he had approved something of this nature. The Chiefs of Staff are responsible as professional advisers on defence policy to the Government and it is the practice to seek their advice on all defence matters or matters with defence implications. The Government, of course, always have the absolute right to reject or adopt in a modified form the advice tendered by the Chiefs of Staff. But in order to preserve the confidential relationship between Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff, and in view of the secret and often delicate nature of the questions involved, the advice which the latter give would not normally be disclosed.

In certain circumstances it might be desirable to state specifically and publicly that the advice of the Chiefs of Staff had been sought on some particular question. But such a statement would merely emphasise that the normal routine had been followed and would not in any way be an indication of what advice the Chiefs of Staff had tendered. If the Government proposed to make a statement concerning the advice they had received, the Chiefs of Staff would be consulted beforehand on the proposal itself, and on the form of the statement. The Chiefs of Staff were in fact consulted by the Government over the change proposed in the present Amendment.

I must interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. He used the word "consulted." A great deal turns on that. What did he mean by "consulted"?

4.15 p.m.

Exactly what it always meant when the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Chiefs of Staff. The decision to make that change was however that of His Majesty's Government, for which they take full constitutional responsibility.

I come now to certain of the more detailed considerations which the Government had to weigh before deciding on the reduction of full-time service under the Bill. There are two reasons for a system of compulsory national service in peacetime. The first, and, I myself should say, the main reason is the one I mentioned a few moments ago, namely the production of trained reserves readily available for service in the event of a major emergency. The second is to enable national service men, during any period of their full time service with their ships or units to make some contribution to the fulfilment of our defence commitments.

It is of course, self-evident that for these purposes 18 months' full-time service would be more satisfactory to the Services. First, it would provide greater -numbers of national service men in the Forces at any one time than would the shorter period. Secondly, it would admit of national service men giving a greater degree of useful service in units or ships in assisting the regular forces in meeting our current defence commitments. Thirdly, it would undoubtedly admit of a generally higher standard of training being reached by a national service man before he is transferred to the reserve.

I should like to deal with the last point first. The original proposals in the Bill contemplated 18 months' full-time service, and the Service Departments saw their way clear to attaining within that period what they considered would be an adequate standard of military efficiency for men constituting the reserve. It was, however, always arguable that the object of building up the necessary numbers of trained reserves, ready to take their part in emergency without delay in filling up the ranks of our Defence Forces, could be achieved on the basis of 12 months' whole-time service, followed by adequate refresher training in the succeeding years of liability for part-time service prescribed in the Bill. Training programmes are not rigid; they can be—and, twice in a generation, against the urgent background of actual war, they have been—pruned, condensed and intensified so as to produce the same standard of military efficiency in a shorter length of time. Faced with the urgent economic necessities of this country, the civil population has got to work harder and more intensely if we are to win through to our object of again attaining economic stability. Similarly, the men in the Forces, and those who train them, will have to approach their tasks with a heightened sense of urgency, and will so order matters that little actual training efficiency is lost by a more intense training over a period of 12 months, as compared with a more leisurely spacing of the training programme over 18 months. I would add that I believe that they can do it.

I believe that they can do it. It goes without saying that, just as the training programmes of the Services will have to be intensified for this purpose, so the Service Departments will have to give particular attention to the process of selection and posting in order to ensure that the fullest advantage is taken of the specialised aptitude of a man when he is called up—

—and that broadly speaking his service employment is aligned as nearly as possible with his civilian trade. In this way not only will there be some continuity of experience for a man during what is a relatively short interlude in his civilian career but the Services for their part will be able to reduce to a minimum the amount of specialised training which they will require to give to fit men for the Service employment to which they will be posted, and for which they will be destined during their reserve liability as against the needs of a future emergency.

The main effect which the reduction of full-time service under the Bill will have is to reduce the period, after completing the ground work of his Service training, which a man will spend applying that training as a working member of a unit or of a ship's complement. I am not in any way going to minimise the great value which accrues from that later period, when a man applies the instruction which he has been receiving and, in combination with his fellows, learns his job as a part of the military machine. [Interruption.] I do not minimise that at all. The aim of the Service authorities will be to condense the earlier part of the period of basic instruction to the greatest extent possible, and to allow the longest practicable time within the 12 months' limit for a man to do effective service as a member of which of the three Services he is in.

I come now to the second of the two objectives of the Bill, that is to enable national service men to make an effective current contribution, in aid of the regular forces, to meeting the defence commitments of the country. As was made clear in the Defence White Paper, and during the debate on it in the House, the regular component of the Armed Forces ran down to a dangerously low level when regular recruiting was discontinued (except in the Navy) during the war years. As the House will know, the Government have embarked in these last few months upon a publicity campaign to attract recruits to regular engagements in the Forces. Conditions of Service and the scale of emoluments, as revised and improved in the last year or two, are such that the Government feel there is a satisfactory career, reasonably well rewarded as compared with civil life, for young men who are attracted to a professional life in the Services, and with the willing help of the Press they have been at pains to set out the advantages of a Service career to the youth of the country. There has in recent months been an increasing response to this campaign; but the regular forces are still well below their pre-war numbers.

This means that for some time yet, national service men will be required to supplement the regulars in meeting the current defence commitments of the country. The lessened availability of national service men for overseas service will of course mean that a more difficult problem will face the Government in sustaining overseas garrisons at the necessary minimum strength. But there will be a greater reason for the Government to sustain and indeed to intensify their efforts to attract men to regular engagements in the Forces, and that is our intention. One result of the reduction of full-time service to 12 months will be that national service men will normally be sent out of this country only to the nearer overseas stations, mainly to units in Europe, since it would be uneconomic to waste weeks of their limited service on long sea voyages. While Service training must continue to be based on this country and must have here all reasonable facilities, by way of land, etc., required for the purpose, the Services—and most of all the Army—will have to train their national service men to an increasing extent in the Armies of Occupation in Germany. I hope those who have urged this particular suggestion will feel some small satisfaction that circumstances have enjoined upon the Services a training policy which will go some way towards carrying out their desire.

In closing this part of my statement on the military effects of the proposal in the present Amendment, there is one point I wish to state with emphasis. The actual number of reservists who will, after their period of full-time service is finished, be passed to the Reserve, and thus become available to meet the first objective of the Bill, will not in any way be made smaller by the reduction in the period of full-time service. Incidentally, the reduction will mean that the process of building up a National Service Reserve will begin six months earlier than would have been the case with 18 months' whole-time service.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why he does not make the period of training six months, and so start another six months earlier?

As I have already stated, twelve months is the period selected in which we can use some of them for overseas service.

There will, of course, be a substantial financial saving resulting from the proposed reduction of the period of whole-time service from 18 to 12 months. With an 18 months' period, assuming an intake of about 200,000 men into the Forces each year, the total number so serving at any one time would have been about 300,000. The reduction of whole-time service to one year means that there will not be more at any one moment than 200,000, and therefore the maintenance cost of 100,000 men with the Forces will be continuously saved throughout the period of currency of the provisions of the Bill.

His Majesty's Government have to make a realistic approach to this problem of the peace-time security of this country and the maintenance of its essential defence responsibilities. They were forced to the conclusion—[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members will wait for the rest of the sentence.

They were forced to the conclusion that only a system of peace-time national service could achieve the necessary standard of defence—

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what date?

Perhaps I may finish my sentence? I am entitled to make quite sure, after all that has been said on this matter, that I am perfectly clear and accurate, and also, I am not to be drawn. His Majesty's Government having, as I say, come to that decision, there were two main considerations which they had to reconcile. The first was to obtain from a system of peacetime national service the essential results for which it was to be introduced, or in other words, to provide for the Forces their minimum foreseeable requirements in manpower year by year, both for the active troops and in reserve. And, secondly, they had to weigh very carefully the optimum needs of the Services against the disadvantages unavoidable in removing appreciable numbers of the youth of the country temporarily from its civilian economy. Their original decision taken after careful consideration of the circumstances as they then presented themselves last autumn, was to ask for 18 months' full-time Service. Five months later—[An HON. MEMBER: "Last March."]—the Government have tabled this Amendment to reduce that period to 12 months.

Like many major decisions of policy in the past which appeared, on the face of it, to have been taken precipitately, the considerations which led to this one had been building themselves up for some time. In the light of the facts of the economic situation and of the views expressed in the successive Debates on the Service Estimates, on the Defence White Paper, and on the Second Reading of the Bill itself, the Government decided that this 18 months period must be reviewed against the great stringency of the resources of the country in the next few years, and more especially as regards its manpower. The Government came to the conclusion that the maintenance of 18 months' whole-time Service from 1949 onwards, however desirable from the point of view of the Services, could no longer be justified in the face of the substantial advantages which would accrue to the national interest from the adoption of the shorter period.

It was clear that the longer period proposed originally in the Bill was a matter of considerable concern not only in Parliament but in the country. It is essential, when a Measure of this kind involving a radical change in established policies, is introduced, that it should not only be necessary in the interests of maintaining the Services to meet their commitments, but also that its essential relation to our defence needs and its priority in relation to other competing demands must be demonstrably clear to the nation as a whole. Only if it satisfies this last requirement, will the scheme embodied in the Bill obtain ready acceptance by the great majority of the people in the country, and will its young men accept the obligations of the Bill as their bounden duty in the national interest. It is the privilege of democratic governments to lead and, on the other hand, to consider public opinion.

The Government commend this Amendment of the Bill for approval by the Committee as a proposal designed to reconcile the two essential requirements of sustaining the Armed Forces in their role of national defence and of pressing forward with the rehabilitation of our national economy.

4.30 p.m.

I have been looking around for something upon which to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. After some difficulty, I have found at least one point on which I can offer him my compliments, and that is the control of his facial expression, which enabled him to deliver the ridiculous and deplorable harangue to which we have listened, and yet keep an unsmiling face. Indeed, there were moments when I was not quite sure whether he was not taking his revenge on the forces which compelled him to his present course of action, by showing them how ridiculous their case was, and how absurd their position would be when it was presented to the House of Commons. I spoke yesterday of the care and thought given to the social and industrial side of the Bill as explained by the Minister of Labour, and I am willing to believe that equal attention was given to the military side. That is the foundation of the complaint which we make. Let me read what the right hon. Gentleman said, not in the autumn of last year, but on 20th March of this year of grace, 1947. I must read to the House what the right hon. Gentleman said, because I was naturally greatly impressed by it:

"At the direction of the Prime Minister, the Chiefs of Staffs in the autumn prepared their considered appreciation of the defence requirements of this country. They put forward their detailed Estimates of the manpower requirements of the three Services as the minimum necessary to implement the defence commitments. The Chiefs of Staffs—I want to emphasise this point strongly—did not produce their considered p10posals without relation to considerations of the available manpower re- sources of the country and of all the realities of the manpower situation. They presented to the Government a severely practical statement from their point of view of the manpower requirements of the Services, not based on the numbers ideally required to carry out those commitments satisfactorily, but upon an appreciably lower scale on which they thought they could manage … To put the matter in a sentence, I would say that the numbers required by the Armed Forces to carry out the defence commitments of this country have been very carefully screened by the Chiefs of Staffs in their report to the Government."
That is a curious phrase which has crept in. "Sifted" would have been a more natural word, and would avoid any ambiquity with the word "concealed." "Screened" is a modern vulgarism. I continue the quotation:
"Those proposals were, in turn, considered in relation to the realities of the economic position. The report of the Chiefs of Staffs was scrutinised with extreme care and in great detail. So was the initial sketch estimates prepared by the Service Departments on the basis of that report, and of the production programmes put forward by the Joint War Production staff. The main burden of that examination fell on myself and my Service colleagues assisted on the production aspect by the Minister of Supply. Discussions subsequently took place in the defence committee and in the Cabinet. As a result very substantial reductions of the original proposals were achieved, with the full co-operation of the Service Ministers and of the Chiefs of Staffs. The Estimate, in its first form, as submitted to me, envisaged a total expenditure of £1,064,000,000 and that figure was eventually cut to £899,000,000, involving a reduction of £165,000,000, or more than 15 per cent. of the original p10posal. Substantial reductions were also achieved in the manpower figure for the Services themselves and for their production. In particular, the size of the Forces, already put by the Chiefs of Staffs below which they regarded as necessary for our commitments, was fixed at a still lower level."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1947: Vol. 435, c. 610–11.]
I think I am justified in saying that great and close attention was also given to the military side. This, I repeat, was said not in the autumn of last year, but on 20th March, 1947, and it was the right hon. Gentleman who was speaking. He will not deny that it was he who said that. I have HANSARD here—a real copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT. Only five or six weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman used those heavy, serious arguments, showing the care with which everything had been examined, and the refinements and judgments at each stage by the natural and normal processes of Parliamentary government, and showing at every point, how the Chiefs of Staffs had produced what they thought necessary, until finally an agreement was reached on which all could in saying that it was the minimum. I do not think any one can fail to be impressed by the powerful character of the statement made to the House, and we on this side of the Committee were impressed by it. But now the right hon. Gentleman comes down and tells us in elegant language that what he said on 20th March was all "piffle and poppycock." [An HON. MEMBER: "Touché."] I would not dream of using terms like that unless they were quoted on the high authority of a Minister of the Crown.

How can the right hon. Gentleman now bear, with composure, the fact that he used those words, which we thought were used in good faith, which we thought were based on a real solid decision, and conviction, and study of the question on its merits? How can the Prime Minister sit at his side, with all this great responsibility, and now pretend that, owing to a study of the economic position achieved in 48 hours—after 70 or 80 hon. Members below the Gangway had voted against him—the whole scene is transformed? One can only leave these matters to the broad judgment of the country as a whole, and I am quite sure that nothing could have more weakened confidence in the present Administration than the light-hearted way in which they immediately respond to the pressure of their tail below the Gangway. This is a scorpion organisation, with a sting in its tail. How can it be pretended that the new 12 months' system has been thought out carefully, in proportion to our needs? On 20th March the right hon. Gentleman was speaking in the words which I have read to the Committee. He then based himself on the elaborate schemes so carefully prepared in the autumn. Two days later than the Division, he has prepared an entirely different scheme, based on 12 months' service. He must have worked very hard during those 48 hours to make all the tremendous changes and recasting of the immediate and intricate Service problems, in all three Services—all in 48 hours. It is wonderful what great strides can be made when there is a resolute purpose behind them.

The right hon. Gentleman has not concealed the fact that he still thinks that the 18 months was most highly desirable and necessary, but in his statement he made explaining this somersault, or tergiversation—however one likes to express it—he admitted, nakedly and squalidly, that the reason was political He said nothing about this wonderful revelation of economic difficulties in which our country stood, which came to him on the morrow of the Division in the House. What he said was in the light of the Debate in the House of Commons—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Certainly, but one had hoped that the arguments he put before us for 18 months were based on a long and careful study. That they should have been cast aside and thrown overboard as a result of 70 or 80 Members voting against the Government is, if I may say so, a degradation and disreputability of government which has rarely been seen in this House.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman—I do him justice for this—did not pretend that the Chiefs of the Staff were in agreement with what had been done. He used the word "consulted." Well, one can always consult a man and ask him "Would you like to have your head cut off tomorrow?" and after he has said, "I would rather not," cut it off. "Consultation" is a vague and elastic term. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made no pretence that he was acting on expert advice in this matter, or that he had behind him the authority of the Chiefs of Staff. It is not the business of the Chiefs of Staff to decide these matters. I am a Parliamentarian myself, I have always been one. I think that a Minister is entitled to disregard expert advice. What he is not entitled to do is to pretend he is acting upon it, when in fact he is acting contrary to it. I am not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of violating that canon. He has made it perfectly clear that this is a political manœuvre for a political purpose, and founded on political arguments and political arguments solely.

I must say I am very sorry for the Minister of Defence. His naked, squalid confession that all design, planning and expert advice were thrown aside, although he had received a 300 majority from the House, of which we contributed 132, lowers his position as Minister of Defence, and I am afraid that he will never be able to retrieve what he has lost. What confidence can we place in his future statements about the defence of the country when it is quite clear that if 70 or 80 pacifists or "cryptos," or that breed of degenerate intellectuals who have done so much harm, vote against him he is prepared to run away, abandon all his prepared plans, worked out over months, and produce, in 48 hours, anything that can be rushed out to placate his critics?

I have here a quotation from Burke which he used about a Government in bygone days. It does not quite apply; I will show afterwards why it does not. It reads:
"They never had any kind of system, right or wrong, hut only invented occasionally some miserable tale for the day in order meanly to sneak out of difficulties into which they had proudly strutted."
The reason why that quotation does not wholly apply is that, in this case, the Government did have a careful system and argument and scheme prepared, and they have cast it away in order to avoid their Parliamentary difficulties. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman may be quite sure that people will no more, in the future, believe what he says about national defence than they believe what the Minister of Fuel and Power says about the state of our fuel stocks. It is quite certain that all the Army plans, based on 18 months' service, must be completely altered for 12 months' service. This would apply even more to the naval and Air Force plans.

4.45 p.m.

I am rather distressed by the problem which will now be put to many young men. Although a 12 months' period looks easier, there might be an advantage to be gained both by the State and the individual by having an 18 months' period, which will not be gained from the 12 months' period. There is the case of a young man I know, who was an apprentice electrical artificer, a clever lad, who was called up to the Navy the other day. I asked him how he felt about going. He was rather sorry to leave his job for 18 months but he was very ready to go. In 18 months he could have been bent into the electrical work of a ship of war, whereas to attempt to do that in 12 months would be a sheer loss and waste to the Service, without even getting to the point where he would be able to bring his specialised technical acquirements to the handling of the ever-increasing electrical complications of a warship. The effect of this upon the Navy and upon the Air Force, neither of which have stood in very great need of conscription—

How long in war did it take to bend an electrical artificer into the working of a ship? Six weeks.

There is rather an argumentative point about that—what does "bend" mean? I submit to the Committee that there was a chance of making these young men who are called up, and who have to make a considerable sacrifice, much more effective in the technical aspects than they can possibly be in the period of a year's training, the great bulk of which will be used for the more primitive forms of training. Anyhow, it is quite certain that no plan for the 12 months could have been made in 48 hours. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister will admit that. When, I would like to know, did he make up his mind? How long after the Division figures had been published did he take to decide that it must be 12 months instead of 18 months? How was he able to pass this whole vast scheme and system through his head, and make all the consequential changes that were necessary? What happened was simply sheer panic in the face of pressure from a minority, and a minority which had been decisively outvoted by the House of Commons.

The party on this side of the House have suffered a great deal from the taunt of "guilty men," which was made great use of at the Election, and which hon. Gentlemen think they can jeer about today., But nothing I have seen in my Parliamentary experience, and I have a right to speak on this matter, has been equal, in abjectness, in failure of duty to the country, and in failure to stand up for convictions and belief, to this sudden volte face, change and scuttle of which the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence were guilty. They may never be called to account in the future for what they are doing now, but it is perfectly certain that, henceforward, we have no foundation to rest upon in respect of defence. The title of the Minister of Defence should be changed. He should be called the "Minister of Defence unless Attacked." What a lamentable exhibition he has made of himself—one which must be deeply injurious to the reputation which he built up for himself during the war, when he had different leadership.

I am not going to keep the Committee any longer, because many hon. Gentlemen on this side will go more into the details of this matter. As soon as I heard of the change—it was astonishing, considering we supported the Government in the Lobby with all our strength, that not even a word was said to us on a matter of this kind—as soon as I heard it on the telephone, I issued a statement saying that we must consult together to reconsider our position. We have done so. [An HON. MEMBER: "The boys had told you off."] The hon. Member, no doubt, has been snooping around to try to collect information from the meetings of the Conservative Party. I can assure him that I have not changed my view one-eighth of an inch since this business started. We have come to the conclusion that in spite of this change—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) is very hilarious. He is entitled to be. He is the one who has forced this change on the Government. As a matter of fact, for the purpose of our national defence he ought to be sitting in the place of the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence.

When the Question is put, "That the word 'eighteen' stand part of the Clause," we shall vote for it, in exactly the same way as we did on the Second Reading when we were appealed to so strongly by the Government and the Minister of Defence to support this period of 18 months. Then we relied on the assurances of the Government that the 18 months' period was absolutely necessary for our security and the discharge of our obligations. Nothing having been said to relieve us of that argument, we shall continue to vote as they urged us to vote on the last occasion. We are sorry that His Majesty's Ministers and the 250 Socialists who voted for 18 months' service a month ago, will not have the courage to come into the Lobby with us. They have this consolation, for what it is worth. They will be able to say to their constituents, "We voted for 18 months because we thought it was right. But please remember—credit us with this—that we ran away as soon as we heard it was unpopular." When this matter is discussed in constituencies I doubt if the principle will be much a matter of controversy, but if it is, it is not credit that hon. Members will gain by their "right about turn" but widespread and deeply felt contempt.

No one has ever suggested that the Liberal Party have acted with inconsistency in this matter. I was, however, very glad to see that the Parliamentary group in the House had been decisively overruled by the Liberal Conference, who considered that the national interest should prevail, and were quite ready to cut themselves off from the chance of picking up a few stray Labour votes at by-elections or on other occasions.

Before the right hon. Gentleman makes charges of that nature, he might have the decency to read the resolution which was passed.

I was paying compliments. I was complimenting, first of all, the consistency of the Labour Parliamentary Party in what has long been a tradition of Liberalism. I was complimenting also the larger body outside. with whom they are in relation for the courageous and firm steps they have taken. I hope the presentation of these bouquets will not be attended by such violent reactions as seem to animate my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers).

If Ministers should succeed in defeating their own original proposal of 18 months, we then come to the insertion of the word "twelve." If we were looking at this question from a narrow view of party interests, we could have said "As this Bill no longer represents a considered scheme or the conviction of the Government or of their experts, we will no longer support the Measure, and give the Government an awkward Division." But we think that this matter is above party and above Parliamentary tactics. We support the principle of national service because it sustains the moral health and the safety of the nation. We shall, therefore, vote with the Government for the insertion of the word "twelve" while entering the strongest protest against the levity, opportunism and panic-stricken cowardice which they have shown

We have just listened to a speech which is remarkable for at least two things. First, the right hon. Gentleman announces that his party proposes to vote both for an 18 months' and for a 12 months' period of service. Having achieved that somersault, the right hon. Gentleman then fails to give the Committee any reason at all why he considers that either is the correct period. Throughout his speech, I think it is fair to say, we have not heard a single word about the substance of this Amendment. He did venture an interjection on the subject of electrical artificers and was promptly punctured by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He introduced the matter and he should not complain and say that it is a difficult matter to argue when he is told that the appropriate period for training during the war was much shorter than the 18 months of which he spoke. The interesting thing about the contribution from the Leader of the Opposition is that as a Parliamentarian he is in favour of Parliament having the last word. He said, "I am a Parliamentarian," but then he rebuked the Government for having heeded the word of Parliament and the feeling in the country.

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten the fact that the 18 months proposal was carried by an overwhelming majority?

It is within the recollection of most hon. Members, and it ought to be within the recollection of the hon. Member, that a number of us said that we specifically supported the principle of the Bill. There were some who said that they did not support the period included in the Bill, and others who remained silent on that point. Surely, it is not to be contended that when an hon. Member votes for the Second Reading of a Bill he votes for everything in it. If so, why have we all these Amendments on the Order Paper, some of them admirable Amendments which will improve the Bill considerably?

5.0 p.m.

I would readily give way to the hon. Member, but I must make some sort of connected contribution, and I cannot allow myself to be led astray so early. The main issue—the right hon. Gentleman was correct in concentrating on it—is, Who is to decide, and having decided, shall they stick to their decision and not alter it? I have always been in favour of a period of 12 months and I have said so on many occasions. There are many Members on both sides of the Committee who are in the same position. Some hon. Members opposite will be extremely embarrassed when they are asked by their leader tonight to support a period of 18 months. If the period had not been altered, I am willing to prophesy now that there would have been some Conservative Members in the Government Lobby, if such an Amendment had been put down. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] An hon. Member opposite says "Nonsense," but there are writings in existence by Conservative Members, which lead one to that conclusion.

The main issue here of course is that the Chiefs of Staff may not have the final word, That theory was all very well in the 19th century, when the call which the Chiefs of Staff made upon the resources of the nation were of such a small character that they could be absorbed by the nation and a bit of slack pulled up to cover what they needed, but in time of total war the needs of the Chiefs of Staff have to be amalgamated with those of other sections of the community. I suppose that the first time that fact was demonstrated was during the first world war when coalminers serving in the front line were recalled in order to serve in the pits. I imagine that that was the first time we departed from the principle that the Chiefs of Staff were entitled to have all that they thought they ought to have. Certainly, during the war, during the inter-war years between 1918 and 1939, and during the recent war, it was clear that the Chiefs of Staff had to take their share, and their share only, of the full ration available to the nation as a whole of our industrial strength.

There have been many occasions, and the right hon. Member has been closely connected with them, when political considerations have prevailed over military considerations. Was Field-Marshal Lord Wavell wholly in favour of the excursion into Greece, during the recent war?

I am bound, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman says, of course, to accept it; but I can only say that there were expeditions mounted, of which I had some knowledge, and about which we were firmly of the opinion that political considerations had prevailed over military considerations, and quite rightly. For example—and here I revert to the expedition into Greece—one of the reasons why political considerations prevailed so strongly at the time was not because of the feeling in the House of Commons and not even because of the feeling in the country, but because we thought it worth while in view of its effect on the peoples of Europe that political considerations should prevail over the military needs of that time. There is every case for saying that on these occasions and in these matters, political considerations must weigh with us, and often prevail. and because of this, I thought it was a little bad for the right hon. Gentleman to get that snarl into his voice when talking about the politicians who had forced this matter on to the Government as though it were an improper thing to do.

A stronger point which can undoubtedly be made is that when a Government have made up their minds they should stick to it. As the right hon. Gentleman said, this matter, presumably, was thought out extremely carefully and no doubt a great deal of thought was given to it beforehand. But it is not the first time a Government have changed their minds after giving a great deal of time to an important issue. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt remember the 1937 Budget. He took some part in discussing it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was Mr. Neville Chamberlain and he introduced the ill-fated and ill-starred National Defence Contribution. A tax of that kind is not suddenly slipped on to the Table. It is the product of the long, careful, and detailed study, that proceeds for months before a Budget is presented. The right hon. Gentleman will remember, indeed he made some comments on the matter in the Debates, that the tax was withdrawn as a result of representations. That important tax to raise revenue was completely withdrawn, and a new tax substituted after it had been put into the Budget. It was withdrawn because of the representations of the Chambers of Commerce and of the Federation of British Industries. I admit that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day became Prime Minister between the withdrawal of the tax that met with such resentment, and the introduction of a new tax. The right hon. Gentleman will remember how gentlemen in the City of London formed themselves into N.D.C. clubs and resolved upon "No Darned Contribution" to Tory funds.

On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. Has this matter anything to do with the Amendment under discussion?

The hon. Member is using an illustration for the argument he is presenting to the Committee.

There is no need for me to labour the point. The right hon. Gentleman will agree, of course, that there is every precedent upon an important issue of this sort for a Government, including Governments with which he has been associated in the past, to change their minds when they come up against a considerable body of feeling. In this case it happens to be the feeling of the people, and not the feeling of gentlemen in the City of London. In short, my argument is that the decision of the Chiefs of Staff must be subject to criticism and open to revision by Parliament.

Then, with that remarkable fertility of language that he possesses, the right hon. Gentleman went on to comment on "this abject, squalid policy of scuttle." Really, I am not sure that he is not failing a little, He has used the words "demoralised," "squalid," and "scuttle" in at least the last three Debates. The richness of his language is such that I am sure he will be able to find new adjectives. For him to evoke cheers from the party on that side when he refers to us in those scathing terms would lead to the impression that that party had never changed its mind. Was that not the party which was returned to maintain the country on the gold standard in 1931, and then came off it a few days afterwards?

I cannot allow the hon. Member to pursue that argument any further, as it is irrelevant.

On a point of Order. In addition to his irrelevance, is the hon. Member in Order in straying into inaccuracy as well?

Inaccuracy is not out of Order, but irrelevancy may be. It is not for me to judge inaccuracy in speech. I have called attention to the irrelevancy of the hon. Member's argument.

There is enough evidence for my purpose without going through the record of the party opposite to enable us to say that allegations as to an "abject policy of scuttle"—the words which the right hon. Gentleman used—do not lie in the right hon. Gentleman's mouth when he leads a party which betrayed Abyssinia—the party of Munich.

I know it is unusual to do so in these Debates, but I would now like to deal with the merits of this matter. Perhaps I might address myself to the period of time now proposed by the Government. I am certain that history will demonstrate that the Government have taken the right decision. I believe there are many sound grounds for substituting a period of 12 months. I would divide those grounds into three—economic, political and military. On the economic side, it is clear that this nation is as fully strained in its resources today as it was at any time during the war when the Chiefs of Staff had to be rationed. We are scratching round for miners; we are trying to find agricultural workers; we are asking women to go back into the textile factories. On the economic side there can be no doubt—it is part of the Government's case, and it has been accepted by the Opposition—that we are strained for manpower, and, therefore, the Government have to make up their mind whether it is more worthwhile to have 90,000 men in the Services for an extra six months than to have them in industry. To that there can be no two answers. The real foundation for the strength of the country lies in its industrial machine, and not in having men wearing khaki. Provided the men are sufficiently trained in the basic arts of war, provided they can be called up quickly, it is far better to have them in the factories pro- viding this fundamental basis strength than it is to have them sitting in the Army in order to make a prestige demonstration, or whatever it may be, in some foreign capital.

On the political side, there is no doubt that this decision has been welcomed by the country. The Leader of the Opposition said that we had fallen so low and the country knew we had fallen low. Well let us wait and see what Jarrow says today. The by-election there will not be a bad test if the situation is really as deplorable as the right hon. Gentleman's language suggested. On the political side, I have no doubt that by this move we have gained a great deal for the principle of national service. I am in favour of it, and I voted for it on the Second Reading, as did most hon. Members on this side.

On military grounds, there is ample evidence that a man can be trained in the basic arts pf war in the period of 12 months. We know in what a short period of time it was done during the war. We know that when there was pressure on the Services during the war, they were able to train men in a much shorter period than 12 months. We know that the Military Training Act, 1939, laid down a period of six months. If that was not regarded as being adequate in those days, why was six months suggested. I think six months was too short, and that developments during the last war demonstrated that it was too short; but do not let us forget that in 1939 we were going to call up men for six months for military training purposes, and it is now proposed to double that period. In my view, and in the view of many of us who served in the Forces, there is no doubt that basic training and corps training can be done in 12 months, and there can be a margin left over in practically any basic arm of the Services. As regards the specialist arms—for example, the radar operators in the Navy—of course, they cannot be trained in 12 months, but nor could they be trained in 18 months. The pilots of the R.A.F. could not be trained in 18 months, and they will not be trained in 12 months. It is clear that the Navy and the R.A.F. will have to rely mainly upon volunteers, whether the pediod is 12 months or 18 months, and the reduction in the period will make no difference. On the military side there are others who are better qualified to speak than I am.

This is a political decision. We ought not to shrink from it because of that. I think history will demonstrate that we have taken the right decision in reducing the period from 18 months to 12 months. I believe it demonstrates that the House intends to take not only an active but an intelligent interest in the length of time for which the Armed Services will require these young men. We are reinforcing once again the control of the House over every section outside it. During the war, there was no doubt that certain sections tended to escape from that control. I am delighted that the Government have taken this action. I am certain it is a right action. I am certain they have acted wisely and have not been panicked into this decision by political pressure. There are really sound fundamental reasons for reducing the period from 18 months to 12 months, and on those grounds, we shall be very happy to support the Government.

5.15 p.m.

The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) taunted the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition with the fact that he had advanced no reasons for being in favour either of 18 months or 12 months. The hon. Member then devoted a long part of his speech to political considerations, but, unlike the Minister of Defence, he gave some military reasons for the reduction of the period of service from 18 months to 12 months. I think the Committee will agree that not a single reason was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence from a military point of view for the reduction of the period of service. All that he said was that it should be possible to compress the training. In dealing with this matter, there are two considerations that present themselves to me as being the most important. They are, first, how we are to get the best citizen reserve, and, secondly, how we are to get the most recruits for the Regular Forces. I would like at once to say that the Amendment on the Order Paper in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Sir S. Holmes) and myself does not commit the Liberal National Party. It is our Amendment, not the Party's, and the views I am about to put forward are my own views, and I do not in any way commit my hon. Friends on this Bench.

There is one thing which has to be made clear at the beginning. It would be neither possible nor, I think, desirable, to seek in a period of national service to turn out fully trained soldiers, sailors and airmen. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence said that he had been advised that 18 months would give "an adequate standard of military efficiency." I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that that does not mean that they will be fully trained members of the Forces. The training will merely give an adequate standard of military efficiency, adequate, that is to say, for a citizen reserve force. The conditions which I wish to put before the Committee are designed to show that it ought to be possible to obtain that result in a shorter period.

I would like, first, to quote what the Minister of Defence said in winding up the Second Reading Debate:
"What is essential, when it comes, if it ever should unfortunately come, to a major war breaking out again, and coming with all the suddenness with which major wars will come in the future, is that we should have adequate forces available which will not require long training."
He went on to say:
"The number of men that we have had in our Regular Forces, knowing we shall have to maintain certain commitments such as the occupation of Germany for some time to come in addition to the ordinary duties of the Forces abroad, will be such that we may have to call upon certain sections of those who are called up for training, after they have done 22 months, to do the remainder of their service overseas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1947: Vol. 435, c. 1960–2.]
I submit to the Committee that if these men are sent overseas for so short a period we shall never have a force of any efficiency whatsoever anywhere. A force which is continually contracting and expanding as recruits are put into it and turned over will be no use militarily, and what is more, the right hon. Gentleman knows that at the present time the amount of training that force is doing in Germany is negligible. I was very sorry to hear in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech today that in spite of the reduction from 18 months to 12 months it is still the intention to send men overseas to do part of their training. I would put this to the right hon. Gentleman: has he taken the necessary measures to ensure that when they do go overseas they will get the training, or will they be doing as they are doing at the present time, losing such military aptitude as they have acquired, and, what is far worse, losing any taste for future military service. One thing that national service must seek to do is to ensure that the period and the quality of training given will be such as to encourage young men to go into the regular Forces or into the volunteer forces when they come out. Unless that is done the National Service Bill will have failed in one of its purposes.

I would like to put forward one or two considerations, which I hope will be answered, to show that if it is only a question of training—if a period of service overseas doing occupational duties is ruled out —a period of 12 months is too much. I say that because, if the efficiency and the nature of the training given is of a sufficiently high standard, we shall probably be able to attract into the regular Forces enough men to compensate for the loss of the six months' curtailment of service. We shall get sufficient volunteers, and it will then be possible to have a far more efficient standing Army than we are likely to have if the Regular Army in Europe acts more or less as a cadre for taking in recruits and turning them over. The shorter and more intensive the training the better. It must also be remembered that a certain proportion of those who will be trained will never make any use whatsoever of their training, but will subsequently enter reserved occupations; it would therefore be useless to have a longer period of training than is strictly necessary.

Another and even more cogent argument is that if the training is simply designed to give a military or naval background, to teach adaptability rather than to teach the use of certain weapons, certain techniques and certain tactics, it will be possible when the time comes, if ever it does, to train them much more rapidly to new weapons and new ideas. What would be fatal would be to do as France did between the two wars and build up a vast bureaucracy within the forces whose function was simply to take in national service personnel and turn them over. It became inflexible; the men were wedded to the weapons they learned, which meant that tactics were wedded to the weapons and made no advance at all with the re- sult that when the war came. France was fighting the last war all over again.

It would be a surprising paradox if the present Government, in this instance alone, were to level up instead of levelling down; I mean by that, if a man can be trained to an adequate degree of efficiency in a period of nine months in nine-tenths of the branches of the Services, it would in my view be wrong to retain him in the Services another three months simply because in the other one-tenth it was necessary to have a longer period of service. This follows to a large extent on what the hon. Gentleman opposite has just said. There is no doubt that there are trades which it will not be possible to man at all under the National Service scheme. I would like to suggest one or two ideas to cover that. If a branch requires a longer period of training it might perhaps be possible, to start with, only to accept into it those who have done a preliminary period of training in the Sea Cadets, the Army Cadet Corps, or the Air Training Corps. I also think, though this may be an unpopular doctrine, that a man called up for national service should not be paid on the same level as if he subsequently volunteers for the Regular Forces—efficiency pay apart. The advantage of this would be that at the end of the period he would have an additional inducement to stay in the Forces. During the period of national service he is doing a national duty; he is continuing his education; he is learning to defend his country, his home and himself; and after that he should have the opportunity of joining the Forces with a substantial increase in pay.

I would like to refer to the obvious impossibility of training an officer in the period of nine months—even an officer who will continue his training later in the Territorial Army. We should have put down an Amendment on this subject if the Government Amendment to reduce the period of service to 12 months had not been put on the Order Paper in the meantime. In the period of 12 months, however, given real national service training, it may be quite possible to turn out sound officers for the Territorial Army.

There is one essential condition, referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, of any reduction of service, and that is that the service must be really efficient and intensive. There is not a little disquiet in the country about the method by which basic training is at present being carried on. Is it really satisfactory that young men, as soon as they are called up, should be allowed to stay out all night and be allowed to go away for weekends? Comparing that with the system by which an esprit de corps was built up before the war, of an initial training period of some 17 weeks before a man became entitled to leave, there is a very great disparity. If a young man goes to Oxford or Cambridge he is not allowed out all night; why should he be allowed out all night in the Forces? Surely it is necessary to get the same idea of duty and discipline in the Forces as at the university?

All these purposes would be achieved if the right hon. Gentleman were to make it clear beyond any dispute what this period of national service is to be for. Is it to be a period of training only, or is it to be a period partly of training and partly of service abroad? If it is to be both, then what are the proportions?

5.30 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is now getting beyond the matters which are dealt with in the Amendment. These are points which arise on other Amendments.

I am much obliged for your guidance, Mr. Beaumont, but the fact remains that we are considering length of service, and I submit that it is inevitable that we should also consider how that service is to be employed.

No. It would not be in Order to pursue that line of argument, because we shall be dealing with that matter later.

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Beaumont, and I conclude by saying that the reason why we put down the Amendment standing in the names of my hon. Friend and myself is simply because the right hon. Gentleman has said that it would be the first object of this Bill to create a trained reserve. We contend that, if that is the main object of this Bill, then a shorter period than 12 months is sufficient. It will be for the right hon. Gentleman to say for what additional purposes he requires these men. There may be strong masons for having a longer period, but I will go even further and say that, if there are other duties than training to be performed, a period of 18 months is not sufficient, and, in my view, the period should either be shorter than 12 months, or more than 18 months.

I must say that it strikes me as a little surprising that the Opposition should have decided to take this action in relation to voting for 18 months, because the burden of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was—and I should have thought he said it with some justification—that they could no longer rely upon the assurance given to them by the Minister of Defence on a previous occasion. How can the party opposite vote for 18 months on the basis of an assurance which they say they can no longer accept? It seems to me to be entirely illogical. If they adopted the logical course, they would abstain from voting.

I agree that there is some doubt in the minds of hon. Members of my party who voted for 18 months and are now asked to vote for 12. It is quite true, and I entirely accept it, that they did not vote for 18 months as such. They voted upon the principle of the Bill, and it is logical for them to say, "We are voting for this Bill on Second Reading, but we will put down Amendments to it, and, if necessary, we are prepared to vote against the Government." That position is perfectly logical. It seems to me that the really serious aspect of this matter has been brought out by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I see that my hon. Friend is not in his place at the moment, but I' warned him that I was going to refer to what he said, and perhaps his private secretary, the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg)—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for East Coventry made a speech which was accepted by the newspapers as a most important speech and one which affected the position of the Government. The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), whose ability and whose qualities of good humour and courage I have admired on many occasions, I thought made a rather serious error in his speech, because he more or less admitted that the Government had acted under political pressure. I do not think that that was the burden of the speech of the Minister of Defence, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that he de- fended this new proposal upon its merits, and not upon the grounds of having acted under political pressure.

The hon. Member for East Coventry, in his speech on a previous occasion, said that foreign policy and defence policy were separate problems. There is no truth whatever in that statement, which is completely contrary to what the Prime Minister said when he told us that foreign policy and defence policy are aspects of one and the same policy. I hope that we shall get a very clear statement later in the Debate on this question of need. I do not really know where either party stands at the present time. Are the Government in favour of national military conscription for its own sake or not? Is the party opposite in favour of national military conscription for its own sake or not? As I understand it—

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman to refer to me—

I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman, in these circumstances, is in Order.

I am grateful, Mr. Beaumont. The hon. Member talked, for instance, about reserves, and the period for which it is necessary to train men, but I think that is irrelevant. I put this to the Minister. Assuming that the Government accept the view that they want to get back to the voluntary system, is it the case that, if the Armed Forces can be reduced to such numbers as are obtainable by the voluntary system, the Government will be anxious to do that at the first available moment? I hope the Minister of Defence does not imply that, because, in my own case, I have been placed in a somewhat embarrassing position. I am fortunate in possessing the largest single divisional Labour Party of any hon. Member in this House—a party with 3,600 individual members, and I am going to meet that public opinion on this question. It is a divisional Labour Party which has already been very much—

The hon. Member cannot discuss the general question of conscription, which has been settled. We are discussing whether the period of service shall be 18 months or 12 months.

With all respect, Mr. Beaumont, the hon. Member is referring to a speech which reviewed the whole principle of national service.

I do not wish to argue the point, but I say that the principle of conscription has been accepted on the Second Reading. We are now discussing whether the period shall be 18 months or 12 months.

Would it not be right for anyone to argue that conscription was more or less objectionable according to whether it was for 12 months or 18 months?

Is it not a fact that the divisional Labour parties up and down the country are completely obsessed at this moment by this question of 12 or IS months,, and that it is upon that issue that a great deal of opinion and pressure are now being used? Is it not in Order, therefore, on this matter, to raise arguments of that sort?

We cannot have a Debate on conscription as such. We must keep to the point of the Amendment, which is a question of 12 months or 18 months.

I will try to keep to that point. At a meeting of this divisional Labour Party, it was carried by 350 votes to 12 that—[Interruption.]

—such a period of conscription as was necessary in order to enable the Government—to fulfil their foreign policy, and that, surely, is the essential point, and, I am bound to say, seems to me a far more sinister aspect of the whole matter. It is felt by many people that here we have had a surrender on defence policy to the critics of the Government on foreign policy: That, is something which will not be tolerated in any circumstances.

I want to emphasise how small is the minority which claims to have forced this concession. First of all, there are a large number of hon. Members who are sincerely opposed to conscription in any form, and then there are the pacifists. I have no quarrel of any kind with them. My hon. Friend the Member for Lady wood (Mr. Yates), who has just come in, and who is a constituent of mine, has earned the great respect of our divisional Labour Party by the way in which he has stood by his principles in this matter from the very beginning. But a substantial number of Labour Members voted against this Bill because the party has historically stood against conscription and militarism as such. Now we get a pressure group which seeks to play the game of power politics. This small group says to the Government, "There are 70 or 80 Members who are going to vote against you anyway. We will add another 20 or 30, or whatever the figure may be, to that number, and we will force you by a tiny minority, with whom the overwhelming majority of the party and the country are in entire disagreement, to do our will." The serious aspect of this—

Is the hon. Member saying, in fact, that the majority of the party is still in favour of 18 months, has always been in favour of 18 months, and is now being dragooned by this small body to accept 12 months?

I am saying that the party, as a whole, is in favour of such a figure in the Armed Forces as is necessary to implement our foreign policy and that when the Minister of Defence came to this House and said that, in order to fulfil our overseas commitments for defence, he needed 18 months' conscription, the overwhelming majority of the party and the country were behind him, as they were in the vote, and will continue to be.

There are many hon. Members in this House who do not belong to the pressure group and yet who welcome the Government's change of plan, and that fact should be pointed out to the hon. Member.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am hoping that we will get a clarification of this issue. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends are suggesting that I should join the other side. May I say that my position is that I regard the Communists and the Tories with equal disfavour, and that I stand between the two? Some of the hon. Members sitting on these benches are far from steering that middle course. Indeed, it is a most significant fact that three hon. Members who are sitting together, the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), and the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), all spoke as though they regarded military conscription as a good thing in itself. I regard that fact as extremely interesting because, in relation to Socialism, it is most important for us to combine individualism with Socialism. I cannot understand the mind of a person who believes that military conscription is a good thing in itself. It is not. It may be necessary for us to have it—and I believe that, at the moment, it is—and for that reason we will support the Government on it. On 31st March, the Minister of Labour said:

"We hope that it may be possible—as I shall explain, there is power in the Bill—to shorten the period of service. There are two ways in which that may be achieved. First, we may find that the campaign to attract young men will be more successful than it has been. Many young men called up to do their 18 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. Secondly, our overseas defence commitments may be so changed as to make it unnecessary for us to have the Forces which we now think are going to be necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1947: Vol. 435, c 1679, 1680.]
On the face of that, there must have been an overall reduction in the estimates for our Armed Forces as, otherwise, this decision would not have been taken.

5.45 p.m.

I am anxious about that, and I hope that we shall have a clear-cut statement that, in no way whatever, are we going to fail to produce the forces all over the world which will enable us to be loyal to the United Nations organisation, and which will prevent the real danger which causes us to have Armed Forces. We do not need Armed Forces today because we are going to be involved in a war. In my mind, there is no idea of a huge war. That is not the technique. The technique today is ideological infiltration, followed by the coup d'état. For that purpose, it is necessary to have troops in various parts of the world in order to ensure that the principles of freedom will continue to be vindicated, if necessary, by British troops who understand the reason for which they are called upon to fight. Therefore, I hope, as I have already said, that we shall have a clear-cut statement that, whatever reduction may be decided upon, will be reviewed, if necessary, to make sure that the foreign policy of the Government is fully implemented.

I hope that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) will forgive me when I say—and he has many admirers on all sides of the House—that I am personally convinced that our present Foreign Secretary has the support of public opinion in this country as no other Foreign Secretary has ever had during the last 25 years. All sections of the community support him, and it would be intolerable if his hand were in any way to be weakened. He is in a very unfortunate position. But, whatever happens, let him at any rate be backed as far as possible by the willingness of each one of us to serve the country in what is still an hour of dire emergency.

I believe that the greatest needs of Britain today are vigour, enterprise and imagination. If this decision means that we shall be able to have young men engaged on non-productive activity for six months less, I welcome the decision, and shall be very glad to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Government. Let us make sure that the true voice is heard of the broad masses of the people of the Labour Party who have fought in many ways, and who will continue to stand for the principles of liberty which we have enshrined in the heritage of this House and of our British civilisation.

I hope that I shall in no way embarrass the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) when I say how strongly I agree with him when he says that there are few hon. Members in this House who like conscription for its own sake. It is important that we should remember why this Bill was carried through the House some five weeks ago, and why we on this side voted with the Government on that occasion. That was done through no love of conscription for itself. It was known that this Measure was untraditional, economically very embarrassing to the country, and also unpopular. But I believe the reason why hon. Members on both sides supported the Government on that occasion was because they felt that here was a subject which was, to some extent, technical, and about which the Cabinet alone had access to the full facts and data by which the situation as a whole could be judged. I think that few, if any, hon. Members were wedded either to conscription or to the period of 18 months. Hon. Members felt that they had to trust the Government in this and to force the Chiefs of Staff to reduce the period to the absolute minimum consistent with safety. That is the point.

It seems that the Amendment which has been placed on the Order Paper today poses two questions; first, has any new factor arisen since then to justify the reduction by six months of what was previously said to be the minimum safe period; and, secondly, is the period of 12 months practical and sound trom the point of view of the Armed Forces? So far as the first point is concerned, I listened very carefully to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence, and he referred to the various reasons which had brought about this change. He mentioned the economic situation; but I do not think the situation has undergone such a drastic change as to justify this sudden reversal of policy. With regard to the foreign situation, to which the hon. Member for King's Norton referred, there again I do not think the Foreign Secretary would suggest for a moment that in flying back from Moscow he was deserving of an escort of doves. It seems to me that if the foreign situation is altered, it is more likely to be altered by this very change.

The right hon. Gentleman referred also to the fact that he had made a very close study of the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill. I read that Debate very carefully before today. I read it through again, and it struck me that although there were many interesting points made, there was no single new factor which could materially affect the situation. There were the views of certain hon. Members—in my opinion, rather naive views—that the best way to make the Russian bear like the British bulldog was to pull out all the British bulldog's teeth. There was the speech by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), which has been often referred to, in which he showed considerable versatility, but I cannot see that it established any absolute reason for this sudden change. I have searched conscientiously to see if any new factor can be found, and I genuinely feel that, so far as this change has been made by the Government, it has perhaps been made in the light of the Debate, that is to say, of the figures which indicated how Members went into the Lobby or abstained.

Turning to the more practical side of the matter, is this period really feasible from the point of view of the three Services? The right hon. Gentleman, very properly, said that although the Chiefs of Staff had been consulted, it was, of course, for the Government to make their own decision. It seems to me that that is very right and proper, but what the right hon. Gentleman never mentioned was that, although, naturally, the Chiefs of Staff were consulted, only some few months ago machinery—namely, the Ministry of Defence—was set up for dealing with a situation exactly like this. In the White Paper on Defence Organisation it was stated that there should be a committee to look into all large-scale personnel questions affecting the three Services, in order that they should be co-ordinated and the maximum economy obtained. That committee was to have the Minister of Defence in the chair, and as its members the three Service Ministers and three principal personnel officers. Was that committee ever consulted when this change was contemplated? I think the answer to that question is "No," and that fact is pretty common knowledge. This does not sound to me like consultation, but more like dictation.

On both those questions it seems to me that no case has been made whereby any Member, taking stock of his conscience, can reverse the decision he was asked to make by the Government five weeks ago—namely, that 18 months was the minimum period of training required for the safety of this country. Nor has such a case been made, from the point of view of practicability, bearing in mind the arguments which were adduced in favour of the period of 18 months. Very recently the Minister of Defence gave two main reasons why 18 months was essential. The first was that this was the only means whereby an adequate number could be retained in the Armed Forces to keep up their strength as a whole, the reason being that during the last six months of their service there would be many men serving within formations and ships, and so forth. With this new period of a year, not only will those people not be available, but a very large proportion of the Regular Forces will spend their time training cadres of people who have been called up. The other argument for the i8 months' period was that only after 18 months' training would there be sufficient numbers of people thoroughly trained and available for rapid call up in the event of emergency.

We have not the full facts to judge whether 18 or 12 months is the correct period, but may I take two examples from my own and, perhaps, rather out-of-date experience? We have been told by the Minister of Defence that practically the whole of the air defence of Great Britain, and thus of London, will be carried out by the territorial forces. They have got to be trained. The majority of their training will be done during that call-up period. The Regular Army will have a very small proportion who will be doing that particular form of defence training, because the majority will be Territorials. Therefore, only a small minority can be trained in that year. They will have only a year to learn the most technical form of warfare, and, surely, of all the forms of defence, the air defence of this country is the one that has got to be in the highest state of readiness? I cannot see that that state of readiness will be achieved in a very technical branch of the Service within a period of 12 months.

The right hon. Gentleman has already said there will be two Territorial armoured divisions. Armoured divisions are highly technical formations. During the war, for one year, I served in a fairly responsible position with General Leese, when we had to convert an infantry division into an armoured division. We started with trained and disciplined troops, and they comprised a formed division. We had the whole of the impetus of war to assist our training. At the end of a year, that division was not fully trained and was certainly barely fit for war. Is the Secretary of State for War or the Minister of Defence going to tell me that with raw recruits in the Service for 12 months, plus these occasional periods of training, we shall be able to have two armoured formations which will be fit for war in anything under nine months or a year? I cannot for these two reasons feel that on the practical side this period is adequate.

It is particularly unfortunate that this inadequate period of training for the defence of the country has been suggested, in view of the fact that so recently as some three months ago, in a shower of good will from every side of the House, there was set up the Ministry of Defence. It was obvious from the speeches of many Members that we all felt that in this new organisation there was something which would hold the balance of the eternal conflict between the requirements of peace and the tendency to draw away men from the Services, quite naturally, into the economic and social structure of the country; and that thereby we should control that tendency if it got beyond the safety margin. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House felt that by taking up this high position, the right hon. Gentleman was holding what might almost be called a public trust bestowed for the nation's safety, and that here, at last, we might have some organisation which would ensure that we should avoid a repetition of that disaster which has so often led to a preliminary humiliation of the British Army in the past.

It is a gloomy fact that after all those high hopes, and all those good wishes from all sides of the House, at the first engagement the right hon. Gentleman appears to us to have yielded in this way. There he was, five weeks ago, the right hon. and most nautical Gentleman in command of his first ship, the 18-months Conscription Bill, which he had to pilot through this House, through the channels of Westminster. There he stood on the deck, and beside him was his chief mate, the Minister of Labour. He looked so resolute, and, although some of us thought that his handling of the ship was a little clumsy, he looked as though he was businesslike and meant to get it through. How wrong we were. Can we not imagine how, during that passage, all the time he must have been scanning the political horizon for the least sign of danger, saying to his mate, "What is that I see over there, blowing and spouting?" His mate says, "It's all right. It's only 'whales'" He would then turn and say, "That is most dangerous. 'Whales' might overturn this frail vessel. Then what's this I hear? Trouble with the crew?" The mate replies, "Oh, it's all right, sir. It's only some fellow travellers." He then says, "Oh, most dangerous. They might cut a hole from within. Then what's that I hear just below the gangway?" The reply comes, "That's only the gushing of sea cocks, sir." Whereupon he gives the order, "Turn it off at once." After the strain of this eventful passage through the House, the vessel comes into calm waters once more. But the thought of a return passage was too much for the right hon. Gentleman, and in a panic he abandons ship in favour of a smaller unseaworthy and under-powered vessel.

6.0 p.m.

He now appears before us once again in this new ship. He is again on the bridge, and below him the crew are softly cursing and trying to make this under-powered vessel go. Luckily, perhaps, those curses are not heard by us today. But the right hon. Gentleman shouts to us, "I consulted the crew," and then, towards the end of his trip, as he comes up to the gangway a signal breaks out from the masthead, "Alexander expects that every rebel this day will do his duty." What a tattered travesty of Nelson. We may laugh at all this, but there may be here the makings of so much trouble and difficulty for this country in the future. The right hon. Gentleman started with universal trust, and he inherited an organisation with a bright reputation. It is a melancholy fact that in him the Government have found somebody who has consented to unlock the door from within. By doing that the right hon. Gentleman has joined a very inglorious company. His sin perhaps is small, compared with others of that company recently. I agree there are many worse men in the company, but that type of man who sells out under pressure has recently been typified by one who gave his name to all. He was a Norwegian, and his name was Quisling.

The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has, with the great experience which we expect from the bevy of brigadiers who sit on that side of the Committee, gone into the technical question of whether a training period of 12 months can be held to be sufficient. I wish to refer to what has, in fact, actually been done in training our men during the period of the war and immediately afterwards. It may have escaped the notice' of hon. Members opposite that yesterday my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence gave a very interesting reply to a Parliamentary Question on the periods of corps training in 1943 and at the present time. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton referred to armoured divisions. Looking at that answer to which I have just referred, we find that in 1943, at a time when we were training our armoured divisions for the North-West European campaign, the period of corps training we were then giving to men who had to face the panzer divisions in Normandy Was a period of 26 weeks.

That is quite inaccurate. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to individual training in training regiments of armoured formations. Nobody on the Government Front Bench would pretend—and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to say so now—that a man with 26 weeks' training is fit to take his part in an armoured fighting vehicle in battle. That is quite a different matter.

The figure to which I am referring is, of course, the period in corps training units, following the initial 10 weeks in the primary training centre. The point I am making is, that if that period of basic training in the primary training centre and in the corps training centres is examined, the great majority of men in the Army will have completed this training in a period of, not 18 months or 12 months, but of six months or less—considerably less in very many cases. In fact in the infantry, which took 18 per cent. of the men called up last year, the period of corps training takes 10 weeks, following the primary training period of six weeks. Therefore, at the end of 16 weeks the men pass into Regular units, and will be available for service in units overseas. In the Royal Artillery, which takes 15 per cent. of the present intake, the present period of corps training takes from eight to 19 weeks; a slightly shorter period than they were given in 1943. Therefore, for all the main arms of the Service it is quite inaccurate for hon. Members opposite to say that a period of 12 months does not allow for an adequate period of training.

Surely the Minister of Defence said that he sought the advice of the Chiefs of Staff in this matter, who are real experts, and not the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) or any other hon. Member. It was eventually decided that 18 months' initial training would get an adequate reserve, professionally trained, which was necessary. Is the hon. Member now suggesting that is incorrect?

No. The advice of the Chiefs of Staff has been taken by Members of this Government and the previous Government in determining the periods of training which have actually been given to men who served in the Forces during the war and after. The periods of training to which I have been referring are the actual periods of training that the Chiefs of Staff have been giving our men for the last five or six years. Of course, these periods of training have been determined by the advice of the Chiefs of Staff.

On 28th March a very long and detailed statement was made in answer to a Question, in which the right hon. Gentleman detailed why 18 months was the minimum period for all three Services.

I am well aware of that answer. The argument I am putting forward is, that the initial period of training for the great majority of the Army—and to some extent of the other Services—is complete in a period of six months or less. For the remaining period the men pass on into the ordinary life of a unit. It is true that the Chiefs of Staff have argued in the past that a man needs 12 months or longer in a unit before he is adequately experienced, but they will now no doubt find it equally possible to argue that the six months or more they will now have is adequate for peacetime needs. The 18 months' period was also put forward on the assumption, not only that it was the period required to train these men, but also that there would be a good balance for service to fulfil our general occupation commitments overseas. Therefore, the 12 months' period does not seriously affect the training of these men at all.

Obviously, in some trades, where greater experience and a higher technical level are needed, 12 months or 18 months are insufficient. If we are thinking in terms of commissioned rank, 12 months or 18 months are insufficient. But for the trained man, the highly skilled man, and the officer, surely we should not expect to look to the period of conscription of whatever length it may be. In some cases, where men have comparable experience in industry, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said, we may be able to bend their industrial experience to military, experience. But for the most part it is quite obvious that, with military weapons and military technique developing all the time, to form cadres of really experienced people 12 months or 18 months full training, and then a little part-time training, is quite insufficient The cadres will come from the Regular Army, not from the conscripted men at all. The only effect of this change from 18 months to 12 months will be six months less time for our conscripted men to take part in fulfilling our military commitments overseas.

Really, are hon. Members opposite arguing that six months' service from something like 100,000 men a year is such a radical change of principle as they are trying to make out? My hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) argued that six months' less service from 100,000 men a year was going to upset the whole tenor of the Government's foreign policy. Was there ever a bigger case of special pleading? In any case, does my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton—I am sorry he is not still here—really feel that the strength of the Government's position in world affairs is going to rest upon partially trained conscripts of the numbers I have indicated? The strength of this country in world affairs at the present time is going to depend more on its industrial strength than on the numbers of men in uniform it can parade abroad. From the point of view of our influence' in world affairs, we need much more the training and production of these men in industry, in coal mining, than we need their military service abroad. This Amendment, which the Government have so wisely accepted, is going to strengthen, and not weaken, their position abroad.

Hon. Members opposite talk about being good Parliamentarians and good democrats, and then they come forward to criticise the Government because the Government pay some attention to the state of feeling in the House of Commons. This decision of the Government was taken not because of the attitude of a small number of Members who voted against the Government; and not only because of the attitude of those Members who supported the principle of the Bill, but indicated in the Debate that they felt that 12 months was a preferable period to i8. It was taken after a review of the economic situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "In two days."] It was quite clear from the quotation that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford read out, that when my right hon. Friend was making the speech from which he quoted he was referring to events that had taken place last October. It was clear at the time of the Second Reading Debate, that large sections of the community, and industry as a whole, were extremely perturbed at the idea of the taking away of our young men for 18 months from our national effort at reconstruction. In view of that, this decision has been very rightly taken, I am convinced, and those whom I represent are convinced, that this decision to reduce the period shows the strength of a Government who are prepared, on a review of the position, to change their mind.

6.15 p.m.

I agree with hon. Members on this side that the Minister of Defence retired in confusion just before Easter to a position he finds it impossible properly to defend today. I agree with hon. Members on this side that he retreated in confusion, not in the face of the enemy, but in the face of a disconsolate portion of his own troops. I could not disagree more with the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) than when he suggested that that retreat will not have some effect on international confidence in us. I think that that international confidence by this action of the Government—like so many other actions of the Government since they came into power—has been considerably reduced; and as we are a country which depends more on international confidence than almost any other country in the world I think that is a matter of grave concern. I have had four years' service in a technical corps—longer, possibly than any other Member of the Committee—and I should like to say, as a retired officer who commanded at one time a training establishment, and various technical units, and entirely on my own experience, that it is quite impossible to transform a man into a trained soldier and a tradesman in the course of 12 months. I also say, speaking as a retired Regular soldier, that I have checked and cross-checked with some of my Regular serving friends the figures given by General Martin in the "Daily Telegraph" not long ago, when he drew the conclusion that our old prewar training machine produced an active, available Army of 220,000 men, and that under this Bill a training machine of about five times the size will produce an active, available Army of about half that. In spite of what the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton said, I very much doubt then whether we can meet our commitments fairly.

I shall go into the Lobby tonight to vote against this Amendment for four main reasons. First, I believe that when we reach 1950 those extra 58,000 national service men which we should acquire under 18 months' service would be very valuable in swelling our Regular Army, thus enabling us to meet our commitments which will still be wide ones. Second, I believe that these extra men would increase our security, for in international affairs, as in everyday life, a stitch in time often saves nine; and a few extra men on the spot would be able to prevent a situation from developing which, if it developed, would require the call-up, or the partial call-up, of our Reserve Army. Third—and this is rather a different point—I believe that that extra six months would give 58,000 of our young fellows a chance of serving abroad in the Empire, or elsewhere in the world, before they settled down to the humdrum business of ordinary life, and that the experience they would thus enjoy, added to the ordinary advantages of Army education, would be worth far more than one year added to the school-leaving age.

In view of what the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) has said, and what one or two of my hon. Friends on this side have said, I must be in the minority, because I believe in national service as national service. I made my maiden speech in this House some years before the war, and in it I asked for national service. I suggested that the young men of this country were getting slack, sloppy and unfit, and that they compared extremely unfavourably to the young men of several other nations. I suggest that today, in view of the fact that we have so much of something for nothing, and in view of the fact that soft Govern- ment jobs are being multiplied in every direction, national service will again be a very good thing for the young men of this country. I withdraw nothing from what I said in my maiden speech those many years ago. After months and months of careful thought, and after referring strategic and other questions to the Chiefs of Staff, who, in their turn, must have referred these questions to their technical advisers, the Government, to our admiration, delivered in this House an 18-month baby, and then, 48 hours later, they came to us and told us it was really only a I2month baby. We had already seen it, however, and they cannot be surprised if we refuse now to accept the explanation of these unnatural parents. I have always been an admirer of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence, but I think he must have felt a bit ashamed of himself when he stood up at the Box this evening. For my part, I shall go into the Lobby against him with the greatest enthusiasm.

It is my intention to come back to the Amendment, and not to explore the interesting vistas opened up to us by various Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) made it quite plain that he based his charge against the Government on the fact that there was no time to make the necessary changes in the staff plan consequent on the alteration of the period from 18 to 12 months, and that was implied also in many of the speeches we have heard from hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members opposite have forgotten the elementary fact that the Bill comes into operation in 1949 and that we have the time from now until then in which to make the necessary arrangements. There is plenty of time for this to be done. I would point out that the staffs of all military formations have been constantly engaged upon making changes with regard to the very rapid demobilisation run-down. They have been doing this about every three months. I have visited most of the areas in which troops are deployed in the last seven months, and I have seen the manpower budgets, and have been at the discussions on the arrangements for the future, and also at the discussions whether or not it would be advisable to have conscription for 12 or 18 months. Generally speaking, there has been a feeling that 18 months is a more con- venient period for service than 12 months, and that, I think, is all that it amounted to. I am not saying that having made a decision we should necessarily change it, but the point is that there is now ample time to make arrangements for an adequate defence force. It is not a question of whether there should be national service for 18 or 12 months, but whether we can make our country safe with the 12-month period.

I think my right hon. Friend pointed out that there was no time during that 48 hours for the Government to produce a considered plan, that is to say, whether it was practicable to give the necessary training in 12 months, and how the training should be carried out. It was not the point which the hon. Member is making.

I was pointing out the distinction between what the hon. Member is saying and what was said by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member is trying to show that there is time to produce a plan between now and 1949, and that it is, therefore, perfectly all right for the Government to change their ideas.

I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Member, but surely he knows that alternative plans are made for any eventuality, and that not just one plan is made—I hope that was not the case when he was in a ship. There are always these alternative plans, which can be put into operation according to the final decision taken.

The right hon. Gentleman had better address that question to the Minister of Defence. For my part, I should be extremely surprised to hear that there was no alternative plan, because that is the usual routine in these things.

Is the hon. Member aware that on 25th April the Minister of Defence wrote to me saying:

"Our training plans will now have to be overhauled in order to get the maximum benefit out of 12 months"
Does that show that an alternative plan was already in being?

6.30 p.m.

I am not going to attempt to interpret the correspondence between my right hon. Friend and the hon. and gallant Member, but what my right hon. Friend has written there is quite consistent with having alternative plans. He was not anticipating that the Conservative Party would attempt to get a party advantage from a matter of this kind, and was not, therefore, weighing his words with that in mind. It is quite clear it is possible to get all that is necessary in that period of 12 months. I should like to ask the Minister of Defence to give some information additional to that which he gave in the original Debate. There is clearly going to be a difference of emphasis on this matter with regard to the employment of troops. We shall want larger numbers of Regular troops. I would like to know, from the Minister of Defence, whether he is also contemplating a larger number of Colonial troops for stationing in places like Malaya and Ceylon? I am endeavouring to bring the Debate back to the practical and extremely important matter which we in Parliament have to decide—what is to be our defence? It is clear that in 12 months men will not be available for much overseas service except, of course, for places like Germany and nearby fields, and in Italy, and so on, if we are still using troops there. But at the same time we should not forget that troops can now be carried considerable distances in a very short time by air. Further, there is an advantage of not sending young men of 18 overseas too much. It is much better not to send them overseas until they are are least 19—

How is it possible to train them for the Navy without letting them go overseas?

I do not intend to be drawn into a technical discussion of that kind, because I do not pretend to be an authority on naval training, although I understand that it is possible to train men without them having to make long journeys overseas.

There is also the immensely important factor that if we adopt the 12 months' period we shall have much less interference with industry. It is much more important for us to be firmly established on the industrial front than that men should have an extra few months' training.

Reduction of the period of service from 18 months to 12 months compels us to examine our overseas commitments very carefully. I am quite sure that our present overseas commitments could do with a careful overhaul, to see how far it is necessary to keep them going. Our immediate commitments overseas may be strategic, or consist of police duties, such as looking after dacoits in Burma, or putting down disorders in Malaya.

What about the dacoits on the opposite side of the Committee?

I trust it will not be necessary to have any more forces to look after them than the Serjeant at Arms has at his disposal. It is necessary for us, in considering the deployment and use of our Forces, and their length of training, to take note of the report of the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations, which has just been published. We must consider that report to see whether we cannot turn away from the purely military commitments of the ordinary defence variety to commitments in the directions of a United Nations World Police organisation. It is desirable that this should be done in the interests of peace, and that we should cut down the period of training of our Forces so far as is reasonable and safe. I think it is both reasonable and safe to make the period 12 months in the interests of production, and of world production. I hope that, tonight, Members opposite will not spend too much time in trying to undermine the confidence of the country in the decision which has been taken by the Government. That will do no good from the standpoint of the country, and it is very undesirable that it should be done. We have time now to make all the plans that are necessary, and I hope some constructive proposals will be made in the Debate by Members opposite. We have time to make plans which will make our Forces stronger than before, and I sincerely hope that for the rest of this Debate Members opposite will cease their party bickering, and get down to realities

I cannot reply to the speech of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) because, although it was delivered with sincerity, I did not glean any more from it than I did from the speech of the Minister of Defence. The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) produced an interesting line of thought when he suggested that our Forces were conscripted and trained for police services and not primarily to resist an invasion of this country. I think it is a pity that it was he who gave us that information, and not the Minister himself, because it is extremely pertinent that we should know the general framework of our general defence plan.

In my opinion, in being asked to vote for conscription for 18 months or 12 months, we have not been given adequate information by the Minister on which to base a decision. He came to the House in March, and asserted most emphatically that the period should be 18 months. Now, apparently, 12 months is sufficient time in which to produce the trained man. If we take the right hon. Gentleman's words at their face value, let us assume that 12 months will produce a partially trained soldier, airman, or sailor. What the right hon. Gentleman will have then is a large number of partially trained military, air, and naval personnel. Is that really what we want? The hon. Member for King's Norton suggested a logical reason why that is all we want, but the Minister of Defence has given us no reason, nor has he given us any broad outline of our defensive plans as a whole. The next war, if it comes, will be a sudden atomic affair. It will be waged against people, homes, industries, and lines of communication. Therefore, what we need is a few really highly trained personnel.

We have heard from both sides of the Committee that neither 12 months nor 18 months is sufficient time in which adequately to train a man to a high degree of technical efficiency. Another aspect of the dilemma with which we are faced in trying to make a decision is this: It is extremely important today, from the point of view of trying to maintain peace, that we should get the lifeblood of our country going again and our industries built up. On that basis there is a strong case for reducing the period of service to 12 months. But I still feel that we have been given no concrete evidence on which to vote. What the Minister of Defence should have said is, "We want so many men for police purposes, but for actual warlike defence we want a larger number of men than will volunteer, and they must be highly trained in technical matters."

If that is to be the case, then perhaps another kind of conscription would have to be introduced, conscription by ballot or some such scheme might have to be worked out. I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) when he suggests that conscription is good for the country. I, personally, would resent being told that it is good for me, and I believe that the majority of British people would too and in this they would be quite justified. I am against the person who is against conscription at this particular moment. That is an ostrich-like point of view, and is equally dangerous. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House are agreed on that. These arguments then leave the Committee suspended in mid-air. We have not been told anything by the right hon. Gentleman which, in my opinion, will help us to decide how to vote. I am going to vote on the second Division for a period of 12 months, as it is better than nothing at all. I will protestingly and haltingly vote for 18 months, but for this reason only: A case was made very strongly by the right hon. Gentleman in March that this period was decided to be necessary, on the expert advice of the Chiefs of Staff, and today we have heard nothing to contradict that statement. Certainly, this first Division will be a halting and unhappy one from this point of view, that the right hon. Gentleman has left the Committee in a difficult and unfair position

The Chiefs of Staff never did advise 18 months. The period which the Chiefs of Staff advised was five years, and then they said they would get as much as they could.

I do not accept that. Supposing that that were true, 18 months is nearer to five years than is 12 months. I have always regarded the appointment of the Minister of Defence with a certain amount of satisfaction, but I must say that, after this exhibition, I certainly hope that, if this country is to be involved in a war shortly—and I do not for one instant believe that it will be—the right hon. Gentleman will not be in charge of our defence.

I had the impression just after the Debate on the Second Reading that quite a number of hon. Members of the Opposition would have supported an Amendment for a period of 12 months if it had not been put down by the Minister of Defence, but now that it has been put down by the Minister they find it better political tactics to make difficulties. It seems quite clear that no one, from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) to the ordinary back bencher on the other side, has made any serious criticism of the 12 months' period. I see one peculiar difficulty. It was difficult for this Committee, as the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Astor) has said, that we had inadequate evidence to decide on 18 months; and I think that we have quite adequate evidence today to judge of the 12 months' period.

I would ask the Minister one question the answer to which I think he should give the Committee. It has been stated in the Press that the Cabinet asked the Chiefs of Staff for three alternative plans—a plan of training for one year, a plan of training for one and a-half years, and a plan of training for two years—and that in deciding this they were deciding on three detailed plans. In that case, all that the right hon. Member for Woodford said about the 48-hour panic decision, and "coughing up" a new plan virtually at a moment's notice, would be completely untrue. I feel convinced that the Minister will be able to tell us that detailed plans for one year, one and a-half years and two year were presented, and that it is not true that the Cabinet had to scrap the only plan and go in for something out of the blue. It chose between Plan A and Plan B, both plans having been worked out.

If I am correct in that assumption, I think that it must be poined out that a balanced working out is not a change of principle. It was stated in the speeches on Second Reading that there would be a reduction in the period as soon as possible. All that has been decided since is to acccelerate the return to a peacetime Army. No one will pretend that an 18 months conscription period is something which we can imagine as a permanent peacetime part of our constitution in this country. I could swallow possibly the idea of one year, but to suggest as a permanent system 18 months; which clearly is a compromise between the two years demanded by the Chiefs of Staff and one year, seems to be completely fantastic, What seems to be the proper explanation of this is that the change here is merely a decision to accelerate the return to a peacetime standard of Armed Forces rather faster than was planned some time ago.

The Opposition asked what factors have intervened since last October or even since last March which could change the mind of the Government. I will be as frank as the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) and say that politics are a real factor. I did not notice that the Opposition, when the Government "capitulated" on the subject of C licences in connection with road transport, hollered out, and said that this was a violation of every decent rule of government. When capitulations were made to a Conservative minority that was a perfectly reasonable attitude to take in a democracy, but when a vast majority of Members over here suggest that there should be this compromise, that is regarded as a vile capitulation

6.45 p.m.

I suggest that the issue of 12 months is an extremely serious and important question, which should be considered on its merits. In considering it on its merits, we have to make a calculation of risks. We are in an appalling economic crisis; we are in great strategic danger. We have to weigh up the risks of the dollar position against the risks of cutting our Armed Forces below the level of security. I would like to quote one or two figures. We were challenged by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) on what has happened since March. What was suspected before March, but which was not known certainly is now known certainly. We are now spending our dollars double as fast as we were last year. That was not known for certain in March. We can now say it with sure knowledge, and it is very relevant with regard to the size of the Armed Forces abroad.

May I remind hon. Members opposite that when we study the balance of trade last year we discover that we spent £300 million on Government responsibilities overseas, whether in Germany or the Middle East—the vast majority of it was in those two places. The gap between our imports and exports and the gap between health and bankruptcy was £300 million. I am not saying that we should scrap the whole cost of the Army abroad in order to fill the gap. I am only recording the fact. Any responsible Government has to face the fact that, in that economic situation it has to calculate risks, and see which is the greater and which the lesser risk, and it may well have to change its mind about these risks in a changing world.

Will the hon. Gentleman bring out the fact that, as I think is the case, £100 million of that money was spent because of the Government's calamitous policy, which he condemns as much as we do on this side of the House, in Palestine?

I want to get on with my speech, but I am willing at any time to talk about Palestine. I would remind the noble Lord that even if we are doing badly, we still have to have troops, and the worse we do, unfortunately, the more we require troops in' Palestine. He is not going to accept the principle, I hope, that the worse we are doing the more necessary it is to refuse the Government troops. Therefore, that is a completely irrelevant remark about Palestine. It demands large numbers of troops which cost dollars, and any Government must, therefore, weigh the economic against the strategic risks. That has nothing to do with the Chiefs of Staff. It is absolutely the responsibility of the Government, and having been told of the strategic risks by the Chiefs of Staff and having been told by the Treasury and the Board of Trade what the economic risks are day by day, the Cabinet have the unfortunate job of weighing those risks against each other and saying to themselves, "If we spend millions of pounds on soldiers overseas we go bankrupt, but if we do not spend anything on soldiers overseas our prestige and reputation in the world is reduced."

That leads to a desperately difficult calculation. I suggest that that calculation was fundamentally transformed during the spring, and I believe that the views of the Government on the relative importance of the economic and strategic position were very properly swayed by a series of Debates starting on the Army Estimates, running right through the Defence Estimates and then on the Second Reading of this Bill. It is decidedly to the credit of this House that from both sides there was a pounding away at the idea that a drastic reduction of the Armed Forces was possible without any less efficiency. What is wrong with a Government which, after four Debates and after hearing these things four times, paid some attention and at last drew the inevitable conclusion? We to get clear the political choice between dollars and soldiers. Let us remember that every soldier overseas is an invisible import and every foreign trouble we have costs us dollars. That was for the Cabinet to decide and not for the Chiefs of Staff, and they saw the fundamental change that had taken place this spring. Slowly they came to realise that our foreign policy and our military policy were far beyond the strength of the country. Some of us on these back benches said so in October and we have repeated it since. We am glad to see that at last wisdom is being shown by the Government.

It was not in the White Paper on Defence, and the full details of our dollar expenditure were only disclosed in the White Paper on national income which came out only a few weeks ago.

Coming to the strategic consequences of 12 months, I agree with the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), whose effusions I think would have been of greater propriety and would have given him more hope of preferment under a Coalition Government than under this one. He did say one remarkable and intelligent thing. He said that a 12 months period would make all the difference to our strategy. I agree entirely. If we are to cut the period of service to 12 months and if we also are to lose some of the service of the men from the 1948 to the 1949 period, as we are losing it, we are going to have fewer men in the Armed Forces than was calculated last October and that must effect our strategy., I hope that the Minister of Defence will tell us more about it in his reply. I am glad to see how the Front Bench is, in fact, listening with greater wisdom to those who warned them of the dangers of a foreign policy and a defence policy incommensurate with our strength.

Where are the cuts coming from? Not from India, because we have fewer men in India than before the war. Not from Germany, because we shall be able to train men in Germany and we will save our active troops, leaving only the men in Germany who are being trained, which will allow the trained divisions to be sent elsewhere. There is only one area where we find the overwhelming weight of our troops, and that is in the Middle East, stretching, if I may put it broadly, from the Sudan to Greece. I appreciate that quite deliberately we are proposing—and I think the proposal is wholly sound—that by 1950 there will not be a great British Army in the Middle East. This Government, thank Heavens, have decided that the unilateral responsibility for that great area is far beyond our strength and we cannot continue to hold it.

I will not give way because I am anxious to get on with this speech.

I suggest that this decision, which means that our Armed Forces are to be reduced from 1,400,000, around which they are now, to something round about 600,000 from 1950 onwards, means that we cannot maintain the gigantic commitments to which the Government were heir when they first came into power. Very properly they have decided that someone else must share the responsibility of the Middle East by 1950 whether under power politics or under international control. We cannot do it and we cannot continue in Palestine to be the sole policeman. I draw that conclusion from the Defence Minister's decision to reduce the period of conscription from 18 months to 12 months, and I welcome it as a realistic appreciation of the situation.

The Defence Minister quite rightly said that if things got really black and war threatened, we might have to reserve or revise the period of service in the Armed Forces. I have been informed that the Chiefs of Staff made certain specific reservations with regard to the position in the Middle East when they agreed to 12 months. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister of Defence that they did not make any specific reference or reservation about the Middle East after 1950.

On the last occasion when the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) spoke and persuaded the Government to accept his point of view, he said there was no connection between a defence policy and a foreign policy. Now he proudly claims that there is a connection.

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for King's Norton, who soon will get to the other side of the Committee if he works hard enough. The last time I spoke I said it was vital, when we were discussing whether or not we were adequately armed, that we should give the Government the troops whether we liked their foreign policy or not. That was the central point. I did not say that there was no connection between a foreign policy and a defence policy. Of course there is and any child knows it, and I do not deny that the number of troops has a bearing on strategy and strategy determines foreign policy. In answer to my hon. Friend, I am one of those few people who would agree to let the British Government have the troops whether we like their policy or not, but I would try to decide the number of troops required by analysing the relation between the two.

I want to conclude on this note. I welcome the Amendment wholeheartedly for two reasons. It does show a recognition, which is not too late, that the economic situation is so serious and that the feeling of the Labour movement on these Benches was quite right. We saw the wood but did not see the trees, but we were right in saying that we could not afford these gigantic forces. I welcome this reduction, in the second place, because it accelerates the rate of demobilisation and gives us what we were asking for in that connection. I welcome it, too, because it shows a realisation that the Labour Party foreign policy, whatever may be the Tory Party foreign policy, is going to make our strategy commensurate with the strength of this country, and that we are not going to follow France after the last war and take on for ourselves too big a foreign policy. We are going to see—either by international action or under power politics by sharing with other powers—we get rid of some of the obligations which at present are killing this country's chance of recovery. It is for these reasons that I believe that not only the labour majority, but the people of this country, who have a great deal of sanity, are going to be most uninterested in Tory tactics and profoundly impressed by the commonsense of a Government who intend to make the necessary reduction to bring our strategy into relation with our actual strength.

7.0 p.m.

I do not want to strike a discordant note in this Debate, but I am afraid that I probably shall because I am one of those old fashioned people who believe that in wartime conscription of men, material and wealth is absolutely vital, but that in peacetime, from the point of view of the efficiency and safety of this country, we should rely upon the voluntary method of recruitment. I believe, too, that we could get the people we want by that method and have full employment if we believe—as the party opposite do not believe—in a wages policy.

Tonight, however, I want to deal with the merits of this Amendment. Frankly, I was not impressed by the arguments which the Minister of Defence put forward this afternoon. It was really not treating Parliament perhaps with the respect to which it is entitled to come and advance the proposition that it was the economic situation of this country which had caused the Government to change their minds within 48 hours. Hon. Members opposite cannot get away with that sort of thing, and the Minister of Defence knows that he cannot either. If it is true that it was the economic situation which changed the attitude of the Government, it is a very grave reflection upon the lack of foresight of this Government that it took them from October to March to find this out after they had introduced the Bill. If they are prepared to admit that they did not foresee it, I accept their excuse, but I believe that it was a battle between the "New Statesman" and the old lags—and the old lags lost.

I am not objecting, because I quite agree that Parliamentary democracy requires the pressure of Members of both sides upon the Government, but let us admit it. Do not let us come down, stand at that Despatch Box and say that we have suddenly discovered that it is the economic situation which has caused the Government to change their attitude. Let us be honest about this. As far as the economic situation is concerned, quite obviously a reduction from 18 months to 12 months is in the interests of the country. Similarly, on the same argument, a reduction from 18 months to nothing would also be in the interests of the country. The people of this country want to know this economic argument. Why did the Government stop at 12 months? It may be a question of balancing risks but, if so, let us be told. We have very little information indeed upon which to judge. After listening to the Minister's speech I am no wiser as to the reason why, from the point of view of the economic situation, 12 months has been chosen instead of 18, or instead of six or even three.

Everything that has been said about this country's economic situation proves that conscription in itself is not helping it, and the arguments for 18 months, 12 months or any period are surely governed by two considerations. One is why we need a force of a given size now to meet our military commitments which we cannot raise by voluntary methods. I am not going to argue the point whether or not we could raise it voluntarily, although personally I think we could. The point is that one argument concerns commitments, and the second part of the argument has nothing whatever to do with it at all. It is that we must have adequate trained reserves if an emergency arises in which we have to go to war at a moment's notice. What about this question of commitments? Unless we know what the commitments are, or the actual size of the force which the Government have in mind to meet those commitments, we cannot decide upon an 18 months' period, a 12 months' period, or any other period. During the whole of the Debate on this Amendment we have not been given any indication by the Minister of Defence what the size of the force is to be in 1950 to meet these commitments. Hon. Gentlemen in this Committee, as responsible Members of Parliament, should not allow the Minister of Defence to get away from that Despatch Box without giving those figures.

Various suggestions have been made. We do know that there are to be just over one million men in the Armed Forces by March, 1948. I do not think that that figure will be denied. Nor do I think that it has ever been denied that that figure is to be reduced by 340,000 by the end of 1948 when this Bill comes into operation. That gives us about 700,000 men in the Armed Forces on the 18 months' period. But we were told that every six months' period made a difference of 100,000 men. We have reduced the period to 12 months and, therefore, the total of the Armed Forces will be about 600,000 on 1st January, 1949. Is that correct?

Very well, I accept that—at the end of 1950 when we have got rid of the present conscript element which came in before the provisions of this Bill. Actually, I think it is at the end of 1949, but I will not argue. May I ask the Minister of Defence this? Is it true that that figure, approximately 600,000, is to be the target for the Armed Forces of this country at the end of 1949 and the beginning of 1950? We ought to know. We know that only 200,000, or one-third, of those are to be conscripts. This is where we enter upon the argument about having a voluntary Army. I hope that when I develop my argument I shall have the support of all those hon. Members who have appended their names to the publication called "Keep Left," which advocated bringing down the figure from one million by 640,000 as quickly as possible to about 400,000.

It was stated that the force should be reduced from 1,400,000 by 640,000 to the figure of 800,000 by 31st March, 1948.

On a point of Order. While all this is extremely interesting I thought that we were debating whether we should have an 18 months' period of service or a 12 months' period. What is contained or is not contained in a document called "Keep Left" does not seem to have very much to do with that.

We know that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is very definitely Right, but I do want to follow up this point. I think the Minister of Defence is under an obligation to tell us how this force is to be composed. Is it to be 600,000, of whom 400,000 are to be volunteers and 200,000 conscripts? We ought to have that information as responsible Members of Parliament before we can decide. And can we have an assurance that 600,000 will meet the commitments, because we have reduced the figure in 48 hours by 100,000 men? Can we also have an assurance that the balance of 400,000 men will be raised by voluntary means? Can we know, because that again is affected by the fact that, if the number cannot be raised by voluntary means, the question arises, What are the Government going to do about it? Are they going to raise this period? Are they going to bring in a new Bill in two years' time, or reduce the commitments? Can we have that information, for I believe we ought to have it?

It conscripts are only to be one-third of the Forces in future, I should have thought it was quite clear that the voluntary method was the right one. The Minister of Defence should confirm or deny the figures which have been quoted inside and outside this House so that hon. Members may know exactly what the position is, and give the break-down of the conscript forces to the various Services. Is it true that 10,000 are going to the Navy, about 50,000 to the Royal Air Force and the balance of the 200,000 to the Army? We ought to know these figures before we part with this Amendment, and we should not be fobbed off with any talk of security.

There is also the question of reserves in relation to the period of conscription. It was suggested by one hon. Member that hon. Members on this side should not destroy confidence in the Government over this Measure. Quite frankly, the Government have destroyed the confidence of the country already. The Government cannot escape responsibility for this. Let us be honest about it. Here is a quotation from a Parliamentary answer which was given by the Minister of Defence to the hon and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low). I intervened with a supplementary question and the Minister was good enough to give this statement. This ought to go on the record because this is an amazing piece of evidence in the light of the political volte-face of the Government within 48 hours The Minister said:
"In the Royal Navy the length of training required varies very considerably between the various rating categories. The average period of initial shore training … may be taken as six months. This training provides sufficient grounding for the rating to be drafted to a sea-going ship or an air establishment to gain some practical experience …"
and so on. Then he said:
"… the great majority require 18 months to acquire the working experience without which basic training is of no practical value."
Talk about destroying the confidence of the country. I wonder what the Minister of Defence feels about this question now. Then he went on:
"In the Army, the amount of training which a man must receive varies with the trade and the arm in which he serves."
Of course it does. That shows one how impossible it is to combine economy of manpower with conscription. One is bound to get that sort of anomaly where it takes six months to train one man and 18 months to train another. What happens? One man is wasting his time for six months and the other for 12 months. We cannot combine economy of manpower with conscription. The Minister went on to say:
"The period of basic training varies from 18 weeks to 33 weeks. After this period of basic training a man joins a unit of the arm to which he belongs where his training continues along more specialised lines and where he gains the experience which is necessary as a background to that training. In general, it may be said that the man reaches the required standard after some 18 months' service."

The hon. Gentleman has been reading from HANSARD but he has occasionally missed out considerable chunks.

The hon. Gentleman prefaced his remarks by saying that he wanted the statement on the record, but he is leaving things out of the record.

I did not intend to mislead the Committee. I wanted to save time. This appeared in HANSARD on 28th March in answer to a Question and it can be looked up. So we go on. There is the same implication as far as the Royal Air Force is concerned.

7.15 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman says that there is the same implication as far as the Royal Air Force is concerned. Will he name a single trade in the Royal Air Force in which a man cannot be trained in 12 months, but in which he could have been trained, if the IS months' period had remained?

Air crew, maintenance trades; but I will read another extract:

"So far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, the length of t raining in ground trades depends entirely on the trade to which the man is allocated. At present all N.S.A. entrants receive eight weeks' recruit (general service) training—this will later be increased to 13 weeks—followed by the training course for their particular trade, the length of which varies considerably according to the trade. At the end of his period of full-time service the airman will be regarded as a fully trained member of the Reserve."
That is 18 months:
"The position of aircrew is, of course, different. For them the period of full-time service contemplated under the National Service Bill will be insufficient to enable them to attain full operational efficiency."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 240–1.]
What was the answer of the Minister of Defence to that? It was that they are going to intensify the training, are going to telescope it. What a shocking reflection on this Government that only as the result of a revolt of their own Members have they been forced to make this economy. This is a most amazing thing. Hon. Members opposite have done a great service to this country. If they had not revolted, the people in the Army, Navy and Air Force would have gone on lackadaisically, slowly, with the 18 months' training without anybody finding it out; but they revolted for entirely different reasons. They have saved individuals of this country six months' waste of time, according to the Minister of Defence. On the Report stage those hon. Members should revolt again and get the period down to six months. On the Third Reading they should say that they are going to vote against the Bill entirely, and they will then do away with conscription. If the Government want to create confidence in the country, it is up to them to make a much better case for the intensification of this training. I have suggested that we could get the numbers we want by voluntary means, but I am not going to argue that now. I shall vote against both these Amendments. I think this is entirely wrong in principle. I believe that the conscription principle will wreck the three Services.

I want to deal first with two entirely false reasons which were given by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech. It was first said that the 18 months' period had been the period advised by the General Staff; that the General Staff advice was being thrown over, and that an arbitrary figure was being adopted for political reasons. That is wholly at variance with the facts. The General Staff were asked what their requirements were. [HON. MEMBERS "How do you know?"] They put in their requirements, and those requirements worked out at a period of no less than five years. They were then asked to think again.

On a point of Order. In disclosing these things, is not the hon. Gentleman guilty of a breach of the Official Secrets Act?

We then got a two-year period, which is not a period which has been advised by the General Staff. Then, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said, there were three separate schemes of two years, 18 months and one year, which were not requirements of the General Staff, but were all compromises. It was always a question of which compromise to accept. It is inevitable that it should be a question of which compromise one should accept, because on the one hand there are the economic demands for the security of the country and on the other, the military demands; and the military demands are put at their highest by the General Staff and the economic demands are put at their highest by other people It is always a question of arriving at a compromise between those two. Remember that our traditional policy has always been to be unprepared at the beginning of a war.

Well, we have always won our wars and that has not been mere coincidence. It has been cause and effect. The measure of our unpreparedness was the measure of economic strength which we had built up in peacetime; that measure of our economic strength was the measure of our potential reserve; that, in turn, became conclusive in the final stages of our wars. True, that policy was only feasible when we had a Continental Army to lose the first battle for us and give us time. We cannot afford that policy today, but neither can we afford the policy of France, who so weakened herself by maintaining in peacetime too large an Army that she was incapable of fighting, having expended her Reserves by the time it came to a war. The problem which faces this country all the time is where to strike a balance between those two.

The other suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition was that this Government had been forced to accept this alteration by the people who voted against conscription in the Second Reading Debate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those people who voted against conscription, voted because they were against conscription, against 18 months, against 12 months—[An HON. MEMBER: "Against six months."] Against any period. They will always vote against conscription. What political pressure was exerted upon the Government from this side came from those who were just as interested in making this country strong as any hon. Member sitting opposite. It came very largely from those who had served in the Forces and had actual experience of training men. They were strongly in favour of the 12 months' period because of their experience in this matter and their belief that that was the period which struck the proper balance between our military and our economic needs.

Where hon. Members opposite have been going wrong in this matter is in confusing the problem of unit training with individual training. The object of this Conscription Bill is not to provide ready-made units, it is to provide a Reserve; it is to provide men who have done their individual training and are available for welding into Reserves. That is the distinction which hon. Members opposite have not drawn, and 12 months is ample for that individual, basic training. I would pose this question to hon. Members opposite, and particularly to the one in the middle who seems so amused. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are all amused."] I mean the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low). He has been a commanding officer—[An. HON. MEMBER: "Brigadiers are not commanding officers."] Then I will put it to those who have been commanding officers. Put yourself in this position: You have to form a unit, whether it be a ship or a battalion or a squadron. You are sent Reservists: you are told that some of them have done 12 months' service, some 13, some some 18. Would any hon. Member in the position of a commanding officer, having to form that unit, draw the slightest distinction between any of those people? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes"] I do not believe for a moment that he would do so, nor do I believe that he would be able to distinguish between those various periods. I am certain that, as far as the individual is concerned, it would not be possible to distinguish at all. Of course, it takes much longer to get your unit trained, but what we want from this Bill is to provide that individual training which will make men ready for unit training when they are called up.

As the hon. Gentleman has asked a question, will he let me reply? A commanding officer within 48 hours would be well aware of the men who had done those various periods of training, and would be bound to take account of that.

I doubt whether in practice there would be any distinction at all as one went on with the job of making a unit. Indeed I think the question of how recently they had done their training far more important. In practice it would be the abler men who would do better in that unit, regardless of the training they had previously.

I want to get quickly to the naval question, which is what I want to deal with particularly. During the war, the period of training was six weeks in barracks, then men came to their ships when they had been 12 weeks or nine weeks in the Navy. The ship took some six weeks to work up, and then she had to go into service as a fighting unit. In the case of the specialist trades, 12 months is no good, 18 months is no good; your specialist, key men, have obviously to come, and always will have to come, from the volunteer Navy. As far as technicians are concerned, the electrical artificer, is a trades unionist, a craftsman; he comes into the Navy as a craftsman, he is brought into the ship's company with six weeks training, and he gets his technical training outside the Navy. That technical training, so much required by all the Armed Forces today, is brought into the Forces from outside; it must be; and the problem which the Chiefs of Staff have to solve is to bring the technical skills learned outside into the Army to do the technical jobs there. The basic training is what we require from conscription.

As far the Navy is concerned, what we want to do is to teach these men to be sailers and get them accustomed to being at sea. That can be done in 12 months so long as you get them to sea during that period. We have not the ships to do it now, and I would suggest to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, whom I am glad to see here, that what we want to do is to get some of the Empire shipping lines and use those lines for training men to let them do their period of training in those ships. It will not be economic from a trading point of view, but it will be infinitely cheaper than keeping ships of that size for this purpose.

You could put the training equipment on those ships and you would give those men an opportunity of sea service.

This is a very important point, if the hon. Member will allow me to interrupt.

My final point is concerned with the overseas commitments which we have always had in the past. It was all right for us to have an Army abroad when the position was that we wanted to export our unemployment. Now we must look at this problem in a very different manner. Our possessions abroad are great reservoirs of manpower, and they must be looked at in that light. It must not be a question of our having to provide troops for Colonial defence. We want to make use of our Colonial possessions to have a Colonial Army. That is one aspect of this new state of affairs which we have to realise, and the question of raising Colonial troops is one which will have to be borne in mind by the Government.

7.30 p.m.

There is a point in the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Paget) to which I wish to refer. It is entirely clear to me and, I think, to other hon. Members on this side of the Committee, that his policy, and that of hon. Members who are in sympathy with him, is to use the argument that our foreign policy is too forceful for the amount of our resources. They therefore wish to weaken those Forces in order that they can withdraw from foreign policy still further in that direction. Of that I have no doubt, and there is no illusion on these benches as to what is behind their opinion, which they so forcefully express.

Would the hon. and gallant Member elaborate his last statement a little more fully, so that we can get his exact meaning?

I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) is so slow in the uptake. Unfortunately, I am limited in my time this evening, and I have other things on which I wish to speak. If he would like to read in HANSARD what I have said, and ponders over it, he may possibly come to some conclusion.

Having suffered in the early days of the war from having to train troops with inadequate equipment, and having to train troops at a time when equipment was adequate and in plenty, I feel that I can speak with a certain amount of authority on the question of the time it takes to train a man for modern warfare. Many hon. Members opposite have taken part in the war, I believe some of them know that what they are saying really does not hold very much water. The Minister of Defence said that there were two aspects of training, the basic and primary, and the final, collective training. I support what has been said from the Liberal Benches, that unless there is time for collective training, the whole of the primary training is completely wasted, because, until the man has had experience of co-operation with other troops, and has seen his basic training put into effect in the field, it will not remain with him, but will go out of his head in a short space of time. We had experience in training troops during the war which showed that unless the basic training is of a very high order indeed, we could never get the men to the training area at all. One would see a string of armoured fighting vehicles broken down on the road, and the exercise would never take place.

I am absolutely convinced that a specialist in modern warfare cannot be trained in 12 months, and seven out of 10 men in the Army nowadays are specialists. It may be argued that we are not trying to produce a fully trained soldier, but a man who will go out of the Army with a certain amount of training and if called up in a state of emergency, can then be trained fully in a very short space of time. I think that is a very dangerous thing to do, to gamble on a situation which has occurred admittedly in two previous wars, but who suggests that it would occur again, and that we should be given any breathing space or time to get these men into the Forces, and bring them to the standard requisite to face highly trained forces of other nations? I do not for a single moment believe that the Chiefs of Staff have agreed to this. If any one of them did, I would like to ask him to write out a training programme for 12 months for a member of the Royal Armoured Corps. We have to remember that in wartime we worked seven days a week and 18 hours a day. It is not suggested that we are going to do that in peacetime. There has to be education for four hours a. day, and a certain amount of liberty and leave, I trust. It is utterly impossible. I know that to be a fact. Whether the Government accept that or not, is a different matter.

Personally I dislike the idea of conscription. I would infinitely rather command volunteers, and I would like to see the Minister of Defence obtain his numbers through a voluntary system. Those numbers have to be obtained; we are all agreed on that. I know there are people who say that there should be a surge in the human breast, and a desire to give service to the country, and that that should bring in sufficient volunteers. That will not work unless the men are paid. They must be paid in commensurate measure with industry. There are two very simple examples. The Ministry of Labour Gazette quotes a figure for October, 1946, of the average weekly wage in industry, 1205. 9d.—

The hon. and gallant Member is going far outside the scope of the Amendment.

I bow to your Ruling, Major Milner. I thought I was producing an argument in favour of voluntary service, and that I was allowed to do so. I will conclude by saying that it does not compare in any way, and I am perfectly willing to give the figures at another time, comparing them with pay in the Forces.

Another very serious question which arises is the question of Germany. The Minister indicated in his speech that these conscripts are to be called upon to serve part of the time in near areas, which I understand includes Germany. If that is the case, it will mean that a large number of Regular troops in Germany will have to go to other theatres, where they would not be sent had the conscription period been 18 months, because the conscripts would have gone there instead. We are going to weaken the strength of the Forces in Germany. We know that the units in Germany are down to 80 per cent. of war establishment now. When they go out there, are these men to be concentrated in training areas, and training units, or to be dispersed through the various units in Germany? If so, they will not get any training. They will have to mount guard on the dumps, the factories, and the schools, in exactly the same way as the other men are doing. Furthermore, if time could be found for training them, they would not have the equipment. There is only one way in which to train the specialist soldier nowadays. That is by centralisation of equipment, and concentration of training. If those two principles are denied, we will not get anything like a trained soldier. They will be wasting the whole 12 months, except for the period on the barrack square in England, before they go out.

I ask the Minister of Defence to look into the details of the training of a soldier in, say, the Royal Armoured Corps, a little more carefully. Does he realise that a man in a tank has to be able to fire two types of gun, work two types of wireless, and read a map while going across country at 25 miles an hour? That takes a little doing, and takes a long time to learn. I agree with the brilliant speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). I had the honour of being an instructor helping to train that division, and at the end of a year's training with fully trained men with the highest discipline—

My considered opinion, for which I was asked at the end of the war, having trained two armoured brigades, is that 18 months is the rock minimum. That is my firm opinion. I think the Minister has shown himself very weak in this matter, very weak indeed. Twice in our recent history we Regular soldiers had to see men poured into uniform in a hurry, and sent overseas to meet overwhelming odds, and to fight against very much better trained and equipped troops. We know the result of it, and, my goodness, they fought gallantly. If that ever occurs again, and these little wooden crosses start rising on some beach, or in some foreign country, the responsibility will be laid at the door of the present Minister of Defence.

The effect of this Amendment on the Army would be twofold. It would increase the size of the Reserve and would lessen the period of unit training. As I understand it, every arm of the Service can, in fact, get its I.T.C. and basic training in a period of under 40 weeks, leaving a period of 12 weeks for unit training. It is that part of the problem which worries me considerably, and I am worried about that section of the militiamen who will subsequently be recalled, if they are ever recalled, to serve in a unit based in a locality other than their own. I think that the Committee have a justifiable complaint, not against the Minister of Defence, but the Secretary of State for War in that he could have used the Army Estimates to have given us much wider information as to how the scheme is to work. One has to delve as best one can to gather bits and pieces of information. As I understand it, the anti-aircraft role is to be carried out through units based upon the locality in which the man is serving. So far as the men who serve in those units are concerned, I do not think it matters very much whether they do an initial period of training of 18 months or 12 months. In the first instance, the 12 months could be satisfactorily used for the basic training in their specialised role, and also, as the men are to be based on the locality if they are ever to be called up to serve, the training facilities of the area could be harnessed to the training scheme.

I was greatly interested to see the Ministry of Education administrative memorandum which was published over a year ago, and which gave a proud record of the services rendered to the Armed Forces by the normal civilian educational institutions up and down the country. As the point is important, perhaps I might give one or two figures. In the case of the Royal Air Force 25,750 men were trained in radio, and in the case of the Army 24,661. Army tradesmen trained numbered 86,380. I am merely quoting from the first three of a formidable list of more than 35 items. So it is possible, if the problem is tackled as intelligently as it was tackled during the war, to build up an effective training instrument for those units where the officers, N.C.Os. and men have been given opportunities to get to know one another.

I wonder a great deal about what is to happen to the young men in some of the specialised arms of the Service, such as the Royal Armoured Corps, which the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has mentioned. A period of 40 weeks, and then only 12 weeks in a unit, is nothing like enough, particularly when one remembers that these troops would be by way of being a corps d'élite. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that the proportion of reservists in a unit does not make much difference.

My point was that if reservists were being called up it would not make much difference whether they had previously been 12 months in the Service, or whether they had been in the Service for 18 months at some previous time.

7.45 p.m.

There again it would depend on the arm of the Service. I am sorry I misunderstood my hon. Friend's point, but I think it would make a considerable difference, especially in some of the specialised arms of the Service.

By and large I welcome the Amendment, because in my judgment it indicates a revolt by the Government against the specialised advice given by the General Staff. At the present time the War Office is suffering from a little dose of inbreeding, and it has been the experience of the Army that the General Staff can be wrong on major issues. I wish to quote a specific instance in which the Chief of the Imperial General Staff was not only wrong, but tragically wrong, in 1934. The then Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field-Marshal Montgomery-Massingberd, said:
"It is certain that if we do not go slowly with mechanisation we shall land ourselves in difficulties. I am convinced, therefore, that we should go slowly."
He was a man who loved horses. It is possible for distinguished soldiers to make mistakes. It is possible for Governments to be too much impressed by the officers concerned, and perhaps therefore inclined to take their advice a little uncritically. I am sure that the Army—particularly the War Office—at this juncture, will be asking for as much as it can get, for as long as it can get it. I would much prefer the Government to come along and ask for the period to be a year. The Government have got 18 months to work out a scheme, and to bring that scheme to the House and tell us what it is.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) today was in one of his most irresponsible moods—[HON. MEMBERS; "No."]—and, therefore, forgot the very constructive proposal which he put before the House on a previous occasion. He then said that the House ought to have a Committee composed of Members from all sides of the House to whom, if the Government could not give information to the whole House, it could be given. The Minister of Defence should, tonight, accept that proposal which was made by the Leader of the Opposition so that the House would be in a position to see how these young men are to be used during that period of a year. We are giving to the Services and to the Minister of Defence the most valuable asset which this country has got, the lives of the best and most intelligent section of the community, for a period of a year. We shall be running away from our responsibility if we do not make sure that that year is used to the best possible advantage of the individual and of the community. I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing that we are running a grave risk indeed that we shall take these men into the Forces, give them a little training for a little while and let them spend the rest of their service learning to troop the Colour. It is that of which I am afraid. It did happen. It was not long before the war that the pinnacle of Army training was the slow march and learning to salute on pay parade. Whatever views there may be about the period of service, all Members who have been in the Services would agree that we must avoid that kind of thing at all costs. It would make the troops "browned off" to feel that they were to be used in this way.

I hope that the Minister of Defence will in some way or other—accepting the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition if there is no other way—give information to the House about what the scheme of training is to be, and, if it is found that that period of a year is no good, that he will not be afraid to come back to the House, irrespective of what hon. Members may say, and tell the House that a year is no use. I am sure if the Opposition were convinced that he would do that, they would be prepared to vote for the period of 12 months. It is important to get the greatest measure of agreement on this matter and, at this late hour, I ask the Opposition whether they would agree to support us if the Minister of Defence would accept these proposals.

I would always join with the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) when he complains of lack of information, either from the Minister of Defence or from any of his right hon. Friends. I thought that much of what the hon. and gallant Member has said was really in support of keeping the 18 months' period in the Bill. There is machinery in the Bill itself to reduce the time from 18 months to any such period as Parliament might approve by means of Order in Council. It appears to me that during our discussion in this Committee we have forgotten that the 18 months which the Government propose to delete from the Bill is a ceiling, and not necessarily the definite period of service. We are discussing whether or not the ceiling should be 18 months. It is true that we must consider what is the minimum period required to train a man so that he may take his place effectively in reserve after a period of part-time service. We should not forget that there are other relevant matters. In particular, there is the question whether men called up under the National Service Act should or should not do anything other than mere training. For instance, should they do what the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) objects to—go overseas and do garrison duty? Until we have discussed these matters, I do not think that we can reach a proper conclusion.

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley that it is very difficult for us to reach any conclusion, unless we can have full information. I find myself in some difficulty in considering the minimum period for training. I had been coming to the view that it might be possible to have a period of 12 months for training alone. However hard I may have tried to form that view, the Minister of Defence, both today and earlier, has done everything he possibly could to persuade me that I was wrong. In reply to a Question which I asked him, and which has been referred to by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), he said, in so many words, that it took 18 months to train a man adequately, in the Navy, the Air Force or the Army. Even since he announced the decision of the Government to reduce the figure from 18 months to 12, he has expressed himself as dissatisfied with the 12 months' period and said quite clearly that he thinks that 18 months is more desirable. In those circumstances, I find it very hard today to come to a decision that anything under 18 months is a satisfactory ceiling to insert in the Bill.

When one listens to this Debate with an impartial and open mind, as I have tried to do, one concludes that all the arguments have tended to show that in 12 months one can do little more than give a man his primary and basic training. I was much impressed, and I am sure all hon. Members were impressed, by what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier PriorPalmer) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) had to say. Really, we have had no contradiction from any man in authority on the opposite side of the Committee. We have had speeches from a number of hon. Members opposite, such as that made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). He alleged that he had secret knowledge, first, of what the Chiefs of Staff knew, and then of what the present Cabinet knew, because he told us exactly why they had come to their present decision. Then he gave us an authoritative account of how long it took to train a man in a ship. I do not hold out myself as a man of authority on these matters. I commanded a company of infantry for three and a half years in the war. Therefore, I have a fairly good idea of how long it took them to provide me with a trained man, and then had experience on the general staff, but I do not think that we in this Committee can base our judgment on the experience which we may have had three, four or five years ago in the Forces. Certainly we can put forward our arguments based on that experience but we must rely on what the Government tell us that their technical experts advise.

When I am confronted, as I am in this problem, with the varying statements of the Minister of Defence, I am bound to say that I could not possibly support the Government in their move to reduce the ceiling from 18 to 12 months. Naturally, if they win the day—as I imagine they will—I, like many other hon. Members, being in favour of some period, will take 12 months as the next best to 18. The Minister of Defence has done all he could to persuade me that I was wrong on the matter of 12 months, and as a result of what has been said today, I must say that I have been persuaded.

It is very difficult to reach a decision unless we know what objective the Government have set for the Forces in regard to the training of the men who are to be called up. What state of efficiency do they wish to achieve? If the men are to be expert tank drivers, do the Government want them to be expert at driving Shermans or the newest tank that we may have? Or are they merely to be brought up to a general pitch of efficiency so that with a further period of training, they will be able in an emergency to drive any tank which we may have? What is the actual object of the training? Perhaps we may be told something about that by the Minister who replies. We must be given some idea what state of readiness the Government plan to fix for the Forces. As a result of whatever training period there is for national service men—this large number of trained reserves, which they say, in the White Paper and elsewhere, they consider essential to the defence of the country—do they consider that those men should be ready in one, two, six or nine months? Until we know that I do it see how this Committee can come to a reasoned decision. It is time that we had some information on these matters from responsible Ministers in the Government.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) is not present. It seems to me that if he was logical in what he said in the Second Reading Debate, he would vote against the Government on this Amendment. In the course of his speech on 1st April he said he accepted the view that one year was necessary for training and for nothing else. Today, his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, to whom apparently the hon. Member for East Coventry considers he has taught a lesson, did not appear completely to have learned that lesson. In his speech he said that the whole of the year was not to be confined to training, but that the men called up would do other things in addition. They would spend some of the time guarding the things that have to be guarded; they would not spend all their time on training. If the hon. Member for East Coventry is logical, he too will vote against introducing this 12 months' period.

8.0 p.m.

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not wish to be unfair. If a man does his basic training up to a period of 12 months and then goes to a unit, his training is still going on. He would not be excluded from the normal duties of the unit. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will see that there is no difference between what he s saying and what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman).

I believe that the hon. and gallant Member has previously been referred to in this Debate as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the hon. Member for East Coventry. I am glad of his intervention on behalf of that hon. Member. I quite agree that after a man's basic training is completed he goes to ordinary unit duties, whatever the branch of the Service. If the unit is employed on garrison duties of such a nature that the man spends only one or two nights in bed, he will not do much training. If the unit is free and on reserve, then the man will be available for training. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will see the difference. If he reads the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry I am sure he will recognise that the hon. Member also saw the difference.

I consider that as soon as possible a man called up under the National Service Act should be required to do garrison duty overseas. I do not think we can now say that, by 1950, there will definitely be sufficient volunteers to carry out all our oversea commitments. The hon. Member for East Coventry wants those oversea commitments reduced, but the majority of the Committee do not. When I talk about oversea commitments I may be guilty of some confusion of thought. I am considering our oversea responsibilities. I am not asking that the Government should keep so many troops in Palestine or so many in other parts of the world, provided that our responsibilities are carried out. I agree with the hon. Member for East Coventry that the national service man will not be required to do garrison duty overseas. It seems irresponsible for this Committee to decide now that there will be so many Regular volunteers in the Armed Forces, that it will not be necessary to draw upon conscripts for that purpose in 1950.

I cannot accept the proposition that the Government Amendment is right. If the Government had those Regulars, and if the Government came to us and said that national service would now be for training alone, there might be some case for reducing the period to 12 months. The Government have not given any indication of that sort. They have given us no indication that the state of readiness proposed or of the effectiveness of the service which the young men of the country are being required to give under this pro- vision, will be greater than it would have been under the 18 months' provision. In those circumstances, I am bound to oppose the Amendment.

I propose to make one or two Committee points. Most of the speeches appear to have been in the nature of Second Reading speeches, but during the last hour or so hon. Members have got down to the technicalities of the period of training. There has been some improvement in the Debate and a much greater attention to the realities of the problem. I must, however, first recall the words which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) used, and the hyperbole in which he indulged, when he opened the Debate and attributed the adoption of the 12 months' period to degenerate intellectuals. The proposal actually came mainly from ex-Service Members of the Labour Party. The one non-ex-Serviceman, my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), will, no doubt, be quite pleased to be called a degenerate intellectual when he recollects that that was the term Herr Hitler applied to his opponents in Europe.

Turning to the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low), I felt very great sympathy for him when, in his opening remarks, he referred to the period of training. There is no doubt whatsoever that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence had done his very best to make the case for 12 months an impossible one to sustain. I can only say that the arguments which have been brought forward in his very words are ones which I regret that I cannot accept. In fact, I think it was an attempt to make a case where no case existed. I say that frankly. It is, however, noticeable that although in the statement referred to he spoke about 18 months being necessary for the Army and Navy, he quite failed to refer to any length of period for the Royal Air Force. I am satisfied, and I believe other Royal Air Force Members will also be satisfied, that 12 months is an adequate period for Air Force basic training and trade training in trades which are suitable for national service men anyway. The national service man will obviously be confined to certain trades. Apprenticed trades, and training to become members of air crews will normally be reserved for the volunteers, and the period of that training will be something like three years. Obviously, therefore, the reduction of the conscription period from 18 months to 12 months does not interfere at all with the training problems of the Royal Air Force.

What it does, of course—and this point has been clearly made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool—is to reduce the period during which the national service man will be available for actual service. Even so, there will be a number of trades in which the basic training will be done in something like five or six months, and the men will be available for service at home or in areas abroad to which they can be conveniently transported. I say quite seriously and sincerely that I hope the reduction from 18 months to 12 months will not deprive many of these young men of the opportunity of going abroad. I know that this is a matter which will be discussed later. I am sure that it will be greatly welcomed in the Air Force if some of the period of that training and the actual service can be done abroad. As an ex-member of the Royal Air Force I have no hesitation whatever in accepting the 12 months' proposal and I hope that other hon. and gallant Members will also support it.

I am very glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Bowles. The Royal Air Force Members should have something to say in this very important matter of national service. Had I spoken on the Second Reading I should have done so in support of 12 months' service. That was my own personal view, from my knowledge of the Services, and particularly of the Royal Air Force. Now, one's knowledge is limited. It is two years since the end of the war. One has left the Service and one is not so well informed as to methods of training that have been introduced during the intervening period. I came along to the Second Reading and listened to the Minister. I was convinced by his argument and naturally voted on behalf of conscription for 18 months. In my Election address, in July, 1945, I said that I thought that national service was immediately necessary in the years after the war. The Minister has come here today, and has let the Committee down as a whole. I was more than disappointed. Had he put forward a convincing argument today I should have been with him tonight, and would have voted with him.

It was the worst effort I have heard from the Government Front Bench. I only wish the Minister were present to hear me say so. I feel that his effort this afternoon was deplorable in the scant information which he read from his brief. We are entitled to know something more than we have been told today in order that we may explain to our constituents what has happened. Very few people in this country like the idea of compulsory military service. I do not like it. I was in the Auxiliary Air Force before the war, and I learned that one can get far more from volunteers than one can get even from the Regulars, generally speaking. But I recognise it is essential to have compulsory service for a period. In my view, we must also do everything possible to get a larger volunteer force.

The hon. and gallant Member must confine his remarks to the question of 18 months or 12 months, and not go into the question of conscription versus voluntary service.

I was making the point that if we had a larger volunteer force, the period could be reduced to 12 months. In the Second Reading Debate, the Minister of Labour referred to the Territorial Forces, and for the benefit of the Committee I will quote what he said:

"Now, before the war the Territorial Forces were staffed with a number of enthusiastic men, who were willing to give their spare time to train for the defence of the country. But the training that can be given under those circumstances does not produce a sufficiently efficient individual to take full part in the defence of his country, and, in all probability, not sufficiently well trained to look after his own personal defence."[—OFFICIAL REPORT. 31st March, 1947; Vol. 435; c. 1675–6.]
After the Minister had made that statement, I intervened and asked whether he recalled that in 1940 auxiliary squadrons had fought in the Battle of Britain. In making that intervention, I did not seek to score a debating point, but was trying to point out that volunteers were quite capable, if well trained, of holding their own with Regulars. The Minister said I was making an unnecessary remark and putting wrong thoughts into his mind. I was simply trying to justify the case that if the volunteers were given the right training, they could hold their own with the Regulars. Unfortunately, in the Territorial Army they did not always get the best equipment. The men were good, but they did not get the best materials with which to train. That was not so in the Auxiliary Air Force, in which they were given front line aircraft, and they were ready to play their part when the time came. They were given the right equipment, the right leadership and the right encouragement. Their annual flying hours were higher than those of some of the Regular squadrons. If there should be another war, my view is that the Air Force would have to play the major part in that war. As in the last war, they will be the front line of defence. With modern inventions, the manpower situation will become less stringent in the Services. Even with modern jet turbines, fewer men are required for maintenance, and with atomics still fewer men will be required over a long period.

8.15 p.m.

I should have been happier if we had been told by the Minister what sort of training there is to be during the 12 months' period. Are the men to be hard worked during the 12 months? How much leave are they to have? Are they to get six weeks' leave during the 12 months training? Are they to have long weekends? Are there to be annual inspections by generals and air-marshals? If we were told that they are to have concentrated training, it would give us an indication of what could be achieved in the period, but we have not been told that. The Government have taken too much time in getting the Territorials under way. Only last week did they commence recruiting for the Territorial Army. The Government have fallen down badly on this matter. If they had got that training going a year ago, it might have been possible to accept 12 months' compulsory training now. I do not think they have got the recruitment which they originally thought would be forthcoming. I am prepared to agree that if during the next year or two the Government can raise the voluntary force to a satisfactory level of efficiency and numbers, we could manage with 12 months, but at the moment we have not got that voluntary force. I do not know how I shall vote in the Division. I shall vote for the 12 months' service, but on the question of the 18 months, I may abstain, and I may vote for it. That will depend upon what I hear in the remainder of the Debate. I implore the Government to do everything they can to raise the numbers in the voluntary forces. The people of this country will always put forth a better effort if they volunteer than if they are forced to do something. I beg of the Government to do everything they can to get volunteers into the three Services, and to give the right lead and the right encouragement.

The question of whether the period of service should be 12 months or 18 months must be solely one of opinion. Hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have agreed that, generally speaking, it is not possible to train men to a high state of efficiency or proficiency in 12 months or x8 months. In this matter of training, we must separate technical men and non-technical men. The non-technical men can be trained and be most useful in less than 12 months. I think all hon. Members will agree on that. That applies to soldiers, and possibly to drivers and to people like clerks and cooks. Neither the Army nor the Air Force is composed solely of technical men. A very large percentage of the men in all the Services, although perhaps to a lesser degree in the Navy, are non-technical men who can he trained in 12 months. The question of the training of the technical men is a very different story, and no one will disagree with the hon. and gallant Member opposite who said that it is not possible to train mechanised troops from scratch in a period of less than 18 months. The same would apply to mechanics in the R.A.F. and artificers in the Navy. We must try to clear our minds on the question of what is the right period.

There is one question that must be answered before we can give a reasoned view on this matter, and that is, where are these men to be used? Are they to be used overseas—and when one says "overseas", one does not regard Europe as being overseas? If they are not to be used overseas, there is no doubt that a period of 12 months would be a satisfactory one, since their training would continue when they were transferred to the Reserve after their 12 months' service. If the Minister answers the question on the lines that they are not to be used overseas, it would presuppose that all our overseas commitments will be covered by Regular soldiers, ratings and airmen. In those circumstances I think it would be an acceptable solution that these men should be called up for 12 months and that on that basis they could be adequately trained and employed. We could accept the Amendment on that understanding. I am sure that many hon. Members on this side hope that the Government decided to make the alteration from 18 months to 12 months not because of any feeling in the House of Commons or the country, but on the basis of fact. These matters must always be decided as matters of fact. The Government have the advice of people who are trained to consider these questions and who can prepare schemes and give expert advice. I do not feel that the Committee ought to be in the position of having to decide whether the period should be 12 months or 18 months. In my view, we ought to be able to accept the advice of the Minister of Defence on this technical matter, and it is unfortunate that we have had two periods put before us to decide upon. As we have, it is my view that in the present position of the country, and provided these men are not required out East, 12 months should be sufficient.

I want to confine myself to the narrow issue of whether 12 or 18 months is the suitable period. Like other hon. Members who have spoken on this matter, I find myself in a great difficulty because of the lack of guidance from the Minister of Defence in the course of his statement. I want to reinforce, if any reinforcement is required, the brilliant speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) who, it seemed to me, possibly more than anybody else who has spoken this afternoon, put his expert finger on the crux of this situation. After all, what is the purpose of training? Surely, it is to ensure that a man can, during a short period, be made able to play his part in some formation in the field, ready to go into action. Whether we talk about primary training basic training or individual training, it is all for the purpose of fitting a man in due course to play his part in that formation. In the circumstances of this Conscription Bill there will inevitably come a period when these men will form a very considerable portion of whatever formation into which they are in due course drafted. If an emergency arises, therefore, we have to consider the proposition, can we within 12 or 18 months train these men to play their part in that formation?

I am going to suggest that there is one other proposition on which we should be agreed, and that is, as has been pointed out by various hon. Members, that something like seven men out of 10 in the Army need to be specialists of one sort or another. If I draw on my own experience in this matter it is only to give practical effect to my opinion. It so happens that it fell to me during the war to have four training experiences which, I think, pretty well covered all the types of case which might arise, and as a result of that experience I feel that I can, at any rate, give an opinion which is of some substance.

At the beginning of the war I had the honour to be given command of a newly-formed battalion which, in the event, had to go into action within eight months and take part in the Battle of France. We were one of the last battalions withdrawn from Dunkirk, and I do not believe that anybody who took part in that experience will ever again want to suggest that men should be thrown into action within a period of eight months. My next experience was of a completely different nature. I had the great good fortune on our return to England to be transferred to a Regular division which had been training in peacetime and which, by then had reached a good pitch of efficiency. It was the purpose to complete the training of that formation to take part in the initial battles in North Africa. We had a great deal in our favour. The men were mature, not men of 18 or 19; they were on the whole men of 23 or 24 who were able to stand up to hard physical training. They were practically all Regular troops who had been embodied since the beginning of the war, and many of them had been in the Army for a considerable period. It was a very close race to get that division ready to go overseas.

After that, my next experience was the one which more than anything confirms in my mind what I. am trying to bring out in the few minutes during which I wish to take the time of the Committee. We had what seems to me to be the crucial test. We were told that it was important to produce within 12 months an armoured division to take part in the North African campaign, and there was selected for the purpose a thoroughly sound infantry division which had fought in France, had been embodied for two years, and was likely, in the opinion of the authorities, to be capable of being trained within that period. We had everything to our advantage; we were given a general who in due course became the Commander of the 21st Army Group, all our staffs were Regular staffs, we had no administrative problems, and all our ancillary troops were Regulars. We were given 12 months to carry out that task, and as other hon. Members have said, at that time we were working under great strain. We worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with one purpose, and one only—to fit those men to take part in the field within 12 months from then. The result was that no single unit in that division was able to pass the test at the end of' 12 months, and fresh troops, more fully trained, had to be put in from elsewhere. That was a test which, I think, puts "paid" to any question of being able to take men and train them to be ready to go into the field within a period of 12 months—for after all, these were mature men who had been embodied for two years.

I had one further experience with a formation—which has already been referred to—of highly disciplined troops, perhaps the pick of the troops in the Army. I took on where my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) left off. They had been training at that time for nearly three years, and the purpose was to complete their training by D-Day. Once again, we all recognised that it was a very close race getting those troops ready. I cannot believe, in the light of my own experience or of anything I have heard in today's Debate, that I should be in any way justified in altering my opinion that 12 months is an inadequate period and that one could not in any sense feel that within that period we were building up a Reserve which, in the reasonable space of time of two or three months, would be able to play its part in a formation fit to go into action. I believe it would be a tragedy if once again we lulled ourselves into a false sense of security as a result of such a decision, and because of that I shall vote against the Amendment.

The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) has shown one thing very clearly, that neither 18 nor 12 months goes any way towards producing a trained soldier. We must be absolutely clear about that point. Therefore, I think a great deal too much has been made of the difference between the two periods. When we have the testimony of the hon. and gallant Member, from his wide experience, that after three years troops are not trained to the point of being fit for the operations for which they are required, the difference between 18 months and 12 months, about which we have been disputing, does seem to be reduced to insignificance.

I hope I shall not be considered excessively presumptuous if I join issue with the very technical evidence given to the Committee by the hon. and gallant Members for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) and Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). Naturally, the testimony which they have brought, from their very wide experience of training troops, must weigh very heavily with the Committee, but I should like to bring to the notice of the Committee one form of words which they both used. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing said that he spoke from the experience of training two armoured brigades. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton spoke of his experience of turning an infantry division into an armoured division. In both cases they were talking about training formations—but that is not the point with which this Bill deals.

8.30 p.m.

This Bill deals with training men, and that is very different. If we were contemplating the type of conscription which the French had before the war, including two or even three years' service, I would say that their point would be material, because we should then have a system in which men would be trained in units and formations, and would remain in those units and formations when they went into the Reserve. Clearly, with the system we are going to have that will be impossible. We shall have 100,000 men in training in the Army under this Bill, and behind these men will be between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 men in reserve. Therefore, the number of formations and the territorial spread of these formations—and the same is true of units—in which the men are to be trained will be entirely different from the lay-out of the units and formations into which these men will go in reserve, and in which these men will fight in the event of war. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Members will agree that part of that long period of training to which they referred was not concerned with basic training—making a man a gunner, or a driver—but with the fitting together of the whole mechanism of sub-units, units and formations.

I think the point which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) was making was that the whole purpose of training was to fit an individual into a formation. He did not refer to formation training, but to making a man an efficient member of a formation.

I appreciate that, but the hon. and gallant Member refers to making a man an efficient member "of a formation"—that is the point. We must also remember this, whether the training is to be for 12 or 18 months, that except, in the case of those people who happen to be under training when war breaks out, these men will not fight in the formations in which they have been trained. They will go into reserve in entirely different formations, and under entirely different commanders. All we can hope to do is to teach a man his trade in the Army, whether it be driving a tank, driving a truck, or manning an anti-tank gun. We can teach him his place as a private soldier or as an n.c.o. within a unit or formation, but what we cannot do, because this is the really long process, is to have a formation with a commander who has the complete confidence of the command under him, through the lower commands right down to the lance corporal in command of a section, with the soldier knowing those above him, and fitting into his particular place in the unit or formation. That is the job which takes the long time, and that is what we are not attempting to do under this Measure. It is for that reason I claim that the expert and valuable testimony which was put forward misses the mark.

I consider that too much has been made of this distinction between a man who is merely training and a man who is doing service abroad. By service abroad, whether the period is for 12 or 18 months, we can only mean service in Germany. That is the only theatre to which it will be worth while transporting men, even if the period were to be 18 months. The object in Germany is to have men there who are capable, if necessary, of carrying out basic military tasks, such as firing their rifles and so on. They are needed on the spot as a demonstration of force, and if these men are in Germany, they can satisfactorily carry out their training there. It in no way demolishes the argument in favour of 12 months' service, to say that these men will have to carry out part of their training in Germany. The fact remains that we shall be able to teach a man his basic job only, whether he is in the Army, Air Force, or in the Navy. We shall not require to weld him into formations, because the units and formations in which he is trained will not be those in which he will eventually have to fight.

I have listened to nearly every speech made in this Debate today, but I have not heard anything from any Member of the Socialist Party, including the Minister of Defence, which in any way justifies the reduction of the initial training period from 18 months to 12 months. In fact, many Members have argued that 18 months is no good; that 12 months is no good; that we might just as well have six months, that there should be no training at all and the country would be just as well off. What is the object of this Bill? We have been told by the Minister of Labour that because the voluntary system did not supply sufficient recruits for the three Services, it was necessary for this Bill to be introduced so that the Government could call up young men in this country between certain ages. It laid down a period of 18 months for initial training, so that the country would have at its disposal for an emergency, should one arise, a body of men, in its auxiliary Forces, on whom it could rely to take immediate action in such an emergency. That was a very important part of this Bill.

We have heard today, from the Minister of Defence, of the careful consideration which was given by the Chiefs of Staff, or their expert advisers, to the question of the time necessary for training men who are to be called up under this Bill. The Government put into the Bill a period of 18 months. Obviously, in their opinion, that was the minimum, and not the maximum, time that was necessary for the initial training period. The 18 months' period was most categorically defended during the Second Reading. We have heard nothing at all today about the Navy, except a suggestion by a Socialist Member that those called up for the Navy should be trained in merchant ships—the most preposterous and ridiculous suggestion I have heard in the Debate. The Minister of Defence, who had a very nerve racking and anxious time as First Lord of the Admiralty during the war, and who knows what he is talking about, also said categorically that it would be impossible to train a seaman to be of any use under 18 months. Today, the Services are becoming more and more mechanised; they require an ever greater proportion of highly trained and skilled men. In no Service is that more necessary than His Majesty's Navy. I fully understand that it is necessary to have a time limit for the calling up of men for national service. I quite agree that the voluntary system is preferable, but there is no doubt that, at this time, this Bill is essential.

A great deal has been said as regards the economic position and the manpower position, and all the rest of it. All this information was at the disposal of the Government before the Second Reading of the Bill. It could not possibly have arisen between the Second Reading and 48 hours afterwards, when the Minister of Defence declared, "Oh, well, 18 months is no longer necessary; we will now have 12 months, which will do very well." That is a preposterous idea; it is misleading the country and is an absolute fraud. The reason why the period has been reduced from 18 to 12 months—and there is no doubt about it, whatever may be said by the Minister or anyone else in the Socialist Party—is that their supporters, or so-called supporters, who voted against the Bill on Second Reading, brought pressure to bear on the Government. The Government were afraid to act up to their responsibilities to the country and the national interests. They pandered to party considerations, placed their party before their country, and ran away from their national responsibilities. By so doing, they have forfeited the confidence of this country. No longer can it be said that this Government will govern in the real interests of the country; they will govern in the interests of party.

I am more than surprised that the Minister of Defence, who must have gone through terrible times when he was First Lord—and we must remember that he and the present Prime Minister, and the whole of the Socialist Party voted against conscription before the last war—

Will the hon and gallant Gentleman please confine himself to the Amendment—18 months or 12 months?

I was trying to show the unpreparedness with which we went into the last war and the war before, and to argue that it would be a disaster it we made the same appalling blunder of unpreparedness again. The way to avoid that blunder is to keep this 18 months' initial training in order that the object of the Bill may be fulfilled. It will not be fulfilled if there is only 12 months' training. Speech after speech has been made by hon. and gallant Members from this side of the Committee, pointing out from their own experiences during this war, the length of time which is required to train men; that 12 months is totally inadequate. Here we have the Socialist Party putting forward to the country the view that it is possible to train men in 12 months. They know perfectly well that that is not so. It is not true; it cannot be done. The Minister of Defence said, "Oh, well, we will get out a plan for training these people in 12 months. They will have greatly increased, intensive training." But it is not only that men have to be trained in the Army, the Air Force or the Navy as such; they have also to continue their educational training. It is to be presumed that they are to have their weekend leave, and night leave—so when is this intensive training to take place? How much of the time will really be given to training in the Services? To suggest that a seaman can be trained to be of any use in 12 months is absolute nonsense. He will begin to know one end of the ship from the other, that is all. He may be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, but the wood will have to be mighty soft or he will not even be able to hew it. It is necessary for seamen to be trained that they should go to sea. You cannot train a seaman by keeping him ashore. Many hon. Members have spoken about the Army going overseas—nothing about the Navy. We must have the naval people go to sea to be trained there. How much time is there to be for that? They are going to have courses ashore, but that will be no good; unless they also go to sea in order to be trained at sea, how much sea time will they have?

My time is up, but before I sit down I must say that I find it quite impossible to vote for the reduction of the period of service from 18 to 12 months, and although I am entirely in favour of this conscription Bill I will not vote for it, because I believe that by reducing the time from 18 to 12 months we are wasting the money of the public of this country. They will not get under this Bill with only 12 months' training the properly trained men to provide whom was the object for which this Bill was introduced. They will only get cannon fodder to be used at the outbreak of war. Therefore, I shall not be able to vote for this Clause with only 12 months' training.

8.45 p.m.

In the very short time at my disposal, I should like to associate myself very cordially with the useful point made by the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) who tried to help the Committee to realise that what we are faced with now is an entirely new conception of the way in which our military forces are going to be used. I am not going to traverse the ground that has already been adequately covered as to the propriety of back benchers daring to influence the Government to come to a particular conclusion. It seems to have come as a surprise to many hon. Members opposite that there were on this side of the Committee numbers of Members who believe that 12 months was as much as this country could afford to allocate for the purpose of maintaining some degree of armed force. So long ago as March of last year, in the Debate on defence policy, I ventured to suggest that one year's full time service at the age of r8 with the liability to rejoin annually for at least a fortnight until the age of 25 would probably satisfy our need.

We are now faced with bringing into effect a new conception of what really is the part which a Regular Army has to play in the defence of the country. The regular Army from now on, under this Bill, will become a training machine designed to turn out trained reservists for the Territorial Army. That is an inescapable role with which the Army is now faced when this Bill goes on to the Statute Book, as it means that our overseas commitments have got to be covered as best we can with our available man-power resources. Who is there in this House so bold as to say that from 1950 onwards, we shall have on our shoulders exactly the same burden of commitments overseas as we have at the present time. That is an assumption which, if it were based upon fact would hold out an appalling prospect. The Territorial Army will be the organisation to provide refresher and reserve training for the national service men, after their initial period of soldiering has been done, and we shall have to secure the best possible training that can be squeezed into that period of 12 months. It is remarkable what can be done by concentrated training. I will quote only one example before I sit down, to show what results can be achieved. The training provided by the various cadet forces make a very useful contribution towards the kind of standard that we are trying to create. It has been discovered that while less than one-tenth of recent intakes in the Armed Forces consisted of people who have got some cadet or pre-Service training, over 50 per cent. of the candidates appearing before the War Office Selection Boards are men with some pre-Service training. To my mind that indicates what can be achieved by concentrated training, either of a pre-Service character or during the 12 months which this Bill is intended to provide. For that and many other reasons I, in common with many other hon. Members, warmly welcome the Government's decision to ask the Committee to agree with the Amendment which is now under discussion.

I have listened in the last period of this Debate to some very well-expressed arguments from both sides on the technical aspects of this question of how much or how little training can be crammed into 12 months, and what the value of that training may be as compared with what might be achieved in 18 months. I do not feel qualified, as others who have spoken in this Debate were qualified, to lay down the law on that issue, but I did think that the speeches by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) threw a good deal of useful light on this discussion.

I must, however, reply to the hon. Member for Bexley. If I understood his argument, it was that there was no need to go further into the discussion of longer training because formations were not required as the result of this training. With respect, that is wrong—unless the Government have changed their minds again, which I can hardly believe. According to the Army Estimates for this year the provision of formations—not merely recruits—including an armoured and an airborne division, is one of the functions of this conscript reserve. If that is right, as I believe it is, I ask the Minister, when he replies, to tell us how much 60 days in six years will add to what has been achieved by the 12 months' training for these formations. It seems to me that either the Government must entirely revise their views upon what is to be achieved under conscription, or the period must he longer than the 12 months. That is all I have to say on the technical side of the matter.

I now ask the Committee's attention to the Debate we have had today. I think that whatever might have been our misgivings about the Government's decision before today, they have been greatly enhanced by everything that we have heard in this Debate and, above all, by two speeches—that of the Minister of Defence himself, and that of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) to which I propose to refer in a moment. If I had the gravest doubts as to the wisdom of the Government's decision in the early part of this afternoon, I am more than ever certain that the Committee is faced with an issue of real gravity now, and I am going to tell the Committee why. First of all, I must say that I have never seen the Minister of Defence look quite as unhappy as he did this afternoon. Gone was all that bluff quarterdeck manner with which we have become so familiar. I have watched him in the years which have gone by at the Admiralty, becoming more and more appropriately fitted for his nautical role. All that disappeared today. There he was, an unhappy apologist for an abject surrender.

In his speech the right hon. Gentleman produced not one single argument for the change that he is now asking the Committee to support, for every single statement he made in favour of 12 months could just as well have been made in March, as now. An hon. Gentleman said, with a loyalty which I respect in spite of his Front Bench, that it should be possible for an hon. Member of this House to accept what the Minister of Defence has to say on these defence issues. I could not agree with him more. That is precisely what we did a few weeks ago, and now look at the position we are in because the right hon. Gentleman changed his mind. There is nothing I would desire more to do than to place my complete confidence in the judgment of the Minister of Defence, but I am bound to say that that confidence is now absolutely zero.

As I listened this afternoon to the right hon. Gentleman developing his reasons for this change of policy, I could not believe that he could seriously ask the Committee to conclude that all those reflections had come upon the Government suddenly in the space of those 48 hours, and that they had never been able to think of any single one of them before. To ask the Committee to think that, is to ask the Committee to convict the Government of a degree of folly which it has never occurred to me to attribute to them. I tell the right hon. Gentleman frankly that I would have respected him more this afternoon if he had come down to the Committee and said, "I am taking this action because of a powerful minority in my party which has so ordered it." That is what happened. Everybody knows that is what happened. Every hon. Member on the benches opposite knows that that is what happened. Everybody in the country knows that is what happened.

Why come down here and pretend, "I thought of this suddenly in those 48 hours. The light shone on me and I thought of this marvellous idea"? The right hon. Gentleman said that he had to give account to the weight of argument. There they are 85 arguments, on the benches behind him, their average weight probably about 11 stone 7 lb. That is just about all the argument there has been on this business.

The right hon. Gentleman produced—I make no complaint of the manner in which he sought to do it—every kind of pretext and excuse. He talked to us about the economic situation. We have all known about that for quite a long time. We have been talking about it and failing to get very much attention given to it. Did the economic situation suddenly undergo such a drastic change in those 48 hours? I wonder what did happen? What did we fail to sell, or what raw materials did we fail to get in those 48 hours to bring about this change of policy between 31st March and 3rd April? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would tell us what telegrams came in to cause such concern about the economic situation between those two magic dates. The right hon. Gentleman talked as though the statement he made in March was based on the situation last autumn. Once again he is making this Government appear more unworthy than I can really believe it is. Is the right hon. Gentleman really asking us to say that he came forward with proposals on this Bill at the end of March based on a review made in the autumn? I cannot believe that there has been such laxness on those benches. There must have been a review between the autumn and 31st March. Or are we to be told that the Bill was based on the survey of the economic situation and military requirements taken last autumn?' That is an ingenious argument, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will on reflection care to press it too far.

9.0 p.m.

The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) had one or two things to say on which I should like to comment. He asked why we on this side of the Committee favoured the period of 18 months, and he said that we had given no reasons. He is quite right. We did not give him any reasons. The Government gave us the reasons. They had the information which enabled them to give the reasons. The Government told us they wanted at least a year for training, and then six months for service overseas—That is what the Minister of Labour said, and I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman. I thought he was talking sense, and that he meant what he said. So why should we give reasons?' The reasons were given. Our mistake was that we thought the Government meant what they said on 31st March. Well, I apologise, and will try not to make that mistake again. The hon. Member for South Cardiff then said that the change was made for sound, fundamental reasons. I would like to know just one of those reasons. Did they discover between the Tuesday and the Thursday any one single reason which then emerged and caused the Government to change their minds, apart from the 85 reasons to which I have already referred?

I have rested my remarks on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. May I remind him of what he said in the Debate on 31st March—not very long ago, after all. I thought it a very clear statement of the position. This matter of 18 months versus 12 was fully debated in the Second Reading Debate and no one dealt with it more faithfully and, I thought, more adequately than the Minister of Labour. I will quote what he, said. I am sure the words are fresh in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. I can see from the expression on his face that he knows what is coming. He said:
"We hope that it may be possible"—
a very proper hope—
"to shorten the period of service. There are two ways in which that may be achieved. First, we may find that the campaign to attract young men will be more successful than it has been."
I ask the Government, Was the campaign to attract young men more successful in those 48 hours than it had been, and if so, to what extent was it successful? We should like to have the figures of the success of that campaign. [Laughter.] I am quite serious about it. I want to know the figures of the success of voluntary recruiting. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am dealing with the reasons given by a Minister of the Crown why he could not agree to 12 months as opposed to 18, and there were just two reasons. The first was that he said he had not yet got the voluntary recruits and I ask, Did he get them in those 48 hours and, if not, why is that reason which he then gave not operative tonight? He went on to say:
Many of the young men called up to do their 18 months' service may find the Services so attractive to them that they may desire to continue in them … for a fixed period longer than their 18 months."
Then he goes on to his second reason. I must invite the Committee to concentrate on this because it is important. He said:
"Secondly, our overseas defence commitments may be so changed as to make it unnecessary for us to have the Forces which we now think are going to be necessary; but this is too indefinite for the Government to assume for the purposes of national planning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1947; Vol. 435, c 1679 and 1680.]
I ask the Government, on this issue, Where are we on this matter of our national commitments? Here is the Minister of Labour on 31st March saying quite clearly, "I cannot agree to 12 months, first of all because I have not the necessary voluntary recruits, and, secondly, because of our international commitments." And the Minister of Defence, a week or two afterwards, comes down to the House and says that 12 months is the right period. We must know what is the truth about this matter of our commitments.

Here I come to the remarkable speech of the Debate, the speech of "His Master's Voice," the hon. Member for East Coventry. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman heard that speech. It was a very able speech, and with some of it I do not disagree, but the arguments it introduced put this Debate on an entirely different plane. We must really ask the Government, as a result of that speech, to reply to certain questions. First of all, the hon. Gentleman referred to the balance of trade having affected this decision. He knows, as well as I do, that the balance of trade did not change in those 48 hours. I agree entirely with his warnings about the balance of trade and the rate at which we are spending our dollar resources. Some of us on this side have talked about it a great many times without much encouragement. But he is not going to pretend to me that the whole of our resources changed in 48 hours in a way to justify the Government's decision.

The hon. Member went on to give another reason for the change, and here I want the right hon. Gentleman to give a clear answer. "His Master's Voice" said that the Government had slowly discovered that the foreign policy and the defence policy of the country were beyond the strength of the country, and that that was why the change was being made. Is that true? We must have an answer on that. Is it true that in some way our foreign policy and defence policy have been modified? The Committee has been told nothing of this. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to it in his speech, and yet the hon. Member, who often proves to be right in his view of what the Government are going to do later, said that this had happened. Did it really happen in the 48 hours, while the Foreign Secretary was in Moscow? Did the Government decide there was a change in the commitments they had to carry? I hope I have not misinterpreted what the hon. Member said—

I think the right hon. Member will find in HANSARD that what I said was that in my view this decision meant that the Government admitted that in 1950 or 1951, no great British Army could be maintained in the Middle East.

I do not know about 1950 or 1951. but he said they had slowly discovered that the foreign policy and defence policy of the country would be beyond the strength of the country. I want to know where we are. If there has been this modification in our defence and foreign policy, we must be told what it is. I give the hon. Member this present, that his attitude is completely logical. If he has forced on the Government a change of foreign policy or defence policy—it might be that they required less force on 2nd April than on 31st March—that is something of which the country should be aware, and certainly something of which the Government have not given the slightest hint. I was asked why, if we had no confidence in the right hon. Gentleman's judgment on defence issues, we voted for 18 months, and accepted his judgment on that. I will tell the Committee why we did that. It was because we believed, and sincerely believed, that in their Second Reading speeches the Ministers were speaking the truth and stating to the House what they believed to be the real case. I equally believe that this Amendment is, in the words of an hon. Member on the other side of the Committee, a surrender to a tiny minority. Therefore, we prefer to stand by what was the Government's decision when they were acting in their own mind, and their own strength.

The hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) said something to which I must refer. He said that if the occasion required, the Government could come back to us to extend the period beyond 12 months. The whole point of the original proposal was a ceiling of 18 months. The Government were not compelled to go to 18 months. It is, in all senses, a political decision forced by a minority of the party opposite. I am not complaining that the Government sometimes read what their supporters say. What is incomprehensible to us, is the reasons for this Government change, and absolutely none have been given. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would make a much more convincing statement today. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) made a good point about not sending these men overseas before they are 19. But what is going to happen now? They will have to go overseas before they are 19, or else the commitments will not be fulfilled.

Before asking the Committee to address itself to the question of what is to be the effect of this Amendment, I wish, on the foreign aspect of this matter, to tell the right hon. Gentleman that what has been said by the hon. Member for East Coventry—this hint that there has been some fundamental change in our foreign policy and defence commitments—seems to me so important as to underline the need for an early Debate on foreign affairs. We must hear what the Foreign Secretary himself has to say on these matters. I hope that the Government, in arranging Business, will take account of that.

I come to the effect of this Amendment. I must presume that voluntary recruiting had not improved in this 48 hours, and that our commitments had not been modified. I assume that, for the sake of seeing the effect of the decision. On that assumption, we are going to try to fulfil the same commitments with fewer men who have been less well trained. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that occupation duties are not always light. We were told by the Minister of Labour, I think, that it was in the last six months of their 18 months that men were to serve abroad. Now, they will have to give their service while undergoing the second half of their training. That is not very satisfactory. It is not satisfactory from the point of view of the training on which the Government are to base their reserve. Nor is it very satisfactory for the man who has to carry out difficult duties when only half trained. If the Government do not fulfil their commitments with too few men, who are too little trained, the only alternative will be to scrap the commitments. That is where we are. However welcome a reduction of our commitments might be to a small minority in this Committee, it will be deplorable to the majority of this Committee, who do not wish to see a surrender of our position.

Only one logical explanation has been given tonight of what the Government have done. That was given by the hon. Member for East Coventry, namely, that they are contemplating, in some measure or other, a reduction of our commitments and a modification of our foreign policy. If the Government have that in mind, it will, in my opinion, be disastrous. I cannot think that they have it in mind, and if they have not, they should say so tonight, and also produce more convincing reasons for this, so far inexplicable, modification of policy. This decision is a surrender to a minority in the right hon. Gentleman's party which will have calamitous consequences. I do not know what the Foreign Secretary thought in Moscow when he heard the decision. I can imagine how it facilitated his task. I know how I should have felt had I been in his place.

We should have a system which is going to work and provide the kind of force which will support our foreign policy and our obligations to the United Nations. I feel that the Government meant that, when they made their proposal for 18 months; I still believe that they did mean it. I still stand by the vote I gave then, and so do my hon. Friends. Because the right hon. Gentleman has changed, we have not changed. I beg him, on account of the far larger consequences of this step, to make clear tonight where we are in respect of our foreign policy and our commitments. I beg him to try to give a reply which will bring comfort to many who must have been made uneasy by the course of a Debate which has reflected no credit on His Majesty's Government, and is a menace for the future of our land.

9.15 p.m.

We have had a fairly lengthy Debate upon this matter and I hope that soon we can make progress with this Clause. I must say I have no complaint to make about the tone of the speech just addressed to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who, presumably, has put up the only really effective set of consecutive arguments against the policy of the Government during the whole of the Debate. I will give him credit for that and presently I would like to say a few words about his speech. First, I would like to say a word or two about a speech addressed to the Committee as soon as I had moved the Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Almost at the outset of his speech he showed how completely irrelevant he can be at times to the matter which is being debated, by making a long quotation from HANSARD of 20th May which anybody could tell, if they examined it, had nothing at all to do with the principle or the facts of the National Service Bill.

What he was quoting from was a speech which I made in the Debate on the Defence White Paper and the whole of the remarks which he quoted me as having addressed to the House were addressed with regard to the preparation of the Service Estimates for 1947. The whole of the long quotation he made was completely irrelevant to the Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the Bill with which we are dealing now relates to something concerned with long-term policy which only becomes operative under this Bill during the years 1949 to 1950. The whole of the argument he quoted was addressed to the financial year of 1947. It was absolutely irrelevant.

If the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious about the provision which the Labour Government seek to make for the defence of our country, I wish he would be more consistent in some of the speeches he makes on the matter He has made great play with the fact—and he does not blame us for it, I admit that—that we have made what he calls a political decision on this issue. In the speech which he quo Led of 20th March I said what process had been followed with the Cabinet and with the Chiefs of Staff on the Estimates, and within a few days of that he was saying that these Estimates were indicative of our incompetence and inefficiency and that he would have liked to have got at these Estimates with a red pencil, with which he could have saved scores of millions. I find that kind of comment upon our defence position today completely inconsistent—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—with the kind of arguments which have been put up today from the opposite side of the Committee about the defence of our country.

The right hon. Gentleman made some very great strictures upon what he described as the running away from and giving way to political pressure. I suppose that he would know as much as most people in the House of Commons about giving way to political pressure. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) made reference tonight to an incident in connection with the Budget of 1937. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ten years ago."] If we are being attacked upon whether or not we give way to political pressure by those who have given way to political pressure before. surely, we are entitled to answer. [HON. MEMBERS; "Is this relevant?"] It is quite relevant to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. I have never found him unwilling to hear answers to the attacks he makes upon people. He is very good at making attacks and also he is quite willing to receive any reply that comes. He made a special appeal to the Prime Minister of the day, and I will quote from his speech, which was a sort of relic of his own past as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said:
"Perhaps the House may remember that only seven or eight years ago I got into some trouble myself about the Kerosene Tax. It was a very good tax. I was quite right about it. My right hon. Friend slipped it through a year or two later without the slightest trouble, and it never ruined the homes of the people at all. Anyhow, the Chief Whip of those days telephoned me—"
[Interruption.] I have been charged with giving way to political pressure, and I am trying to quote incidents from the right hon. Gentleman's past—
"I was resting in the country after the Budget speech. The Chief Whip said, 'You had better come up, all our fellows are against the tax, and all the others, too.' I do not know whether any similar communication has been made by the present occupant of that most important office. Anyhow, I acted with great promptitude. I came up to London immediately. It was said to be very difficult to withdraw the Kerosene Tax—
[Interruption.] I have listened all day without making any interruptions. I think I am entitled to put my case. I will continue:
"I came up to London immediately. It was said to be very difficult to withdraw the Kerosene Tax—
[Laughter.] What are hon Members laughing about?

On a point of Order, Major Milner. Has this reference to what happened in the past anything to do with this Bill?

The right hon. Gentleman continued:

"It was said to me by the experts, who so often turn out to be wrong, to be impossible to withdraw it without wrecking the whole of the oil tax, which was a very good tax … I came down to the House in the nick of time. Lord Snowden—Mr. Snowden he was then—was rising full of pent-up, overwhelming fury, to fall upon me. I got up. I withdrew the tax. Was I humiliated? Was I called weak? Was I accused of running away? Not at all There were loud and prolonged cheers. Not only did people say, 'How clever; how quick; how very well he has outwitted them'; but others came along and said, 'How very right it is to meet with respect the opinion of the House of Commons.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1937; Vol. 324. c. 892.]

I have never questioned the right of the House to influence and shape Budgets and legislation, but here it is a question of the safety of the country.

All the last quotation that I have been making was in relation to a speech, a very powerful speech, which the right hon. Gentleman made on that Budget, when he was pleading for a proper reconstruction and a better form of taxation for meeting the defence provisions of the country. That is what I am quoting, and as it was in connection with the defence of the country, I would like to quote one other short passage The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon made grave reflections upon my leader. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is that?"] That may be regarded as very humorous in an Oxford Union atmosphere, but not here The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon suggested that my leader, the Prime Minister, had been weak in this matter. I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman that in this very speech, addressing himself to the late Mr. Chamberlain who had then just become Prime Minister, he said:

"I hope that my right hon. Friend, at the outset of his Premiership, will show the flexibility and resiliency of mind, and the necessary detachment from personal and departmental aspects, to enable him to take the simple, bold, manly decision which good sense, Parliamentary opinion, and, as far as I can judge, the interest of the nation, urgently require."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1937; vol. 324, c. 897.]
I have no doubt whatsoever that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has taken a right decision on this occasion, having ascertained the views and opinions not only of the House, but of every part of the country, and of the leaders of his own party.

I have already said this afternoon, in reply to that parrot cry which I have heard so often today, that we have had this matter under consideration for months, and that the position which we arrived at finally has been building up for some time.

Now, I propose to refer to some of the points made in the Debate. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) put a number of points with which I shall not have time to deal, but I want to refer to one in particular, namely, his question about training in Germany. The scheme under the Bill, of course, does not come into operation until 1949, and it will be well on in 1949, several weeks or months, before any of the new recruits will be in Germany. We shall, of course, have to draw up plans specifically designed to meet that new situation, and we shall bear in mind just that kind of consideration which he brought to my notice today. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn)—and, incidentally—be replying to a specific question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington at the same time—that it would be quite untrue to suggest that the decision the Government have taken in altering the submissions to Parliament as to the length of the period of whole-time service has anything to do with the question of surrendering on foreign policy. There is no surrender on foreign policy, as was suggested, none at all, but I am bound to add, as I tried to explain this afternoon, that it is quite certain that, because of the change in the period, there will be greater difficulties in meeting the garrison situation overseas. We would only propose to use the overseas part of the period of full-time training of the men called up under the Bill in the near stations such as Germany, and, therefore, the more distant stations will have to be manned, as the present Forces run down, by Regular troops. On that basis, we have taken the risk that between now and 1950 the situation in regard to our commitments will be improved.

9.30 p.m.

That is a political decision we have taken, and I do not think it will entitle the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington to say that we have done something disastrous in that matter. We shall rely more, after 1949 and 1948, in these overseas stations, upon the use of regular troops. I said earlier that we have already seen an improvement in the rate of recruitment to the regular forces. We shall do our best to increase the rate of recruitment sufficiently for that purpose, but that does not alter in any sense the case we have submitted to the House and to this Committee for this Bill; that we also wish to have, in view of the uncertain state of the world, and until we get more stable conditions under the United Nations organisation, and better agreement in international affairs, adequate reserves, and adequate reserves cannot be provided in the time covered by this Bill on any other basis than the method of compulsory service laid down in this Measure.

This is a matter of the greatest significance to us all. The Minister of Labour—I have got the quotation here—made it quite plain, on 31st March, that the reason why he could not agree to the cut was our overseas commitments. That was the reason. The right hon. Gentleman now says that we can agree to 12 months. I am bound to ask what overseas commitments we are throwing overboard as a result of that decision.

I said quite distinctly that we are not throwing overboard any overseas commitments. There is certainly no change in foreign policy. I said that the military changes which will be brought about by the change in period will certainly not be operative until 1950, and that we hope in that period there will be an improvement in the position with regard to the overseas commitments we have had to undertake. We have taken a risk on that, and I was careful to say in my speech today, in submitting the case for this Amendment, that if the position, in spite of our plans in this direction, deteriorates, we shall have to look at the matter afresh, and the Committee may be quite certain that the Government, if they had to deal with that situation, would take all necessary steps. [Laughter.] Evidently that is a matter for laughter. I have heard some pretty hard words said today by Conservatives. The right hon. Gentleman was not very selective in his language, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) used the word "Quisling," which is so objectionable to any decent democrat in this country, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said that by my action, in being associated with the reduction in compulsory service from 18 to 12 months, I might be blamed on any future occasion for the erection of wooden crosses. [Interruption.] I am glad to hear the chorus of approval of language of that kind from Members of the Conservative Party. I would ask any Member in the party opposite this: When did their party have sufficient courage in peacetime to stand up in this House, and defend the kind of Measure I am defending now?

Less than two months before the outbreak of war, the Conservative Government of those days proposed conscription, and the Leader of the party opposite, followed by his followers, trooped into the Lobby against it.

Just let me examine what that means. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Two months before the outbreak of war." I think it was in April, 1939. Already a state of emergency had arisen. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we had been pleading, many of us, month after month, and year after year, for real preparation for collective security. I said over and over again myself in the House, at that time, that if the Government would adopt a proper policy of collective security—[Interruption.] Even the Measure which the right hon. Gentleman opposite quotes provided for only six months' training, just before the outbreak of war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Your party voted against it."] I ask hon. Members opposite to bring their minds to bear on the argument. I am being charged tonight by language of the kind used by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton, and the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing, with being likely to be responsible for a future war when I am defending the first conscription Measure of its kind ever introduced in a reasonably normal peace period, and for doubling the length of full-time training that was provided for in the Measure quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. There is no basis at all for the kind of language which has been used against me tonight.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has indicated that his party still support the principle of the Bill. I welcome that support in getting this Bill passed, which will give us the same number of reserves as we should have had if the Amendment had not been moved. The question whether these reserves will be as well trained as they would be in 18 months, is a proper subject for argument and debate. I have paid attention to what has been said, but I do not think that Members opposite have paid enough attention to all that I said in defence of the Government's reduction of the period to 12 months. The case I put was this: that in the light of the economic situation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Forty-eight hours after the Second Reading."] Many Members opposite have not been here during most of the day. I have listened to those who have spoken without once interrupting, and they are not being very courteous now. I have already stated that the economic position had worsened from the time when the Bill was first in draft, and that we reconsidered the whole position in the light of the four successive Debates in the House. I said that we were entitled to reconsider the position from that point of view, to get a proper balance in the new situation between our economic requirements and what we could afford, in those circumstances, for our defence requirements. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford had been here when I dealt with the reference he made the other day to costs, when he said that he would like to get at our Estimates with a red 'pencil, because he could save scores of millions of pounds.

Here is a way in which actually we shall be saving money with regard to the training. [An HON. MEMBER: "At the expense of defence."] I will deal with that. We shall be saving money at the rate of many millions a year on the number of conscripts called up under the National Service Act for training. The cost of the Forces will be very much cheaper. As regards the results of training, I can appreciate the arguments put up on behalf of the specialist corps, like the Armoured Corps and others, as to the time which it takes to train men, but a great deal of the kind of specialist units quoted by the hon. Member for Worthing will be provided in the future either by regulars, or by ex-wartime regulars who will, I believe, enlist in the Territorials under the new recruiting campaign which we are conducting for that force. With regard to the use of those called up under the National Service Act, I have already stated that we want to improve the efficiency of the selection and the posting of the men to their units so that they will be used, as far as possible, in the trades and occupations to which they have been accustomed, and to which they are likely to return in civil life. On that basis, I believe that all the staffs will work hard,

Division No. 187.]


[9.44 p.m.

Adams, Richard (Balham)Buchanan, G.Durbin, E. F. M.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Burden, T. W.Dye, S.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Burke, W. A.Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Callaghan, JamesEdwards, John (Blackburn)
Alpass, J. H.Castle, Mrs. B. A.Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Champion, A. J.Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Chater, D.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. RChetwynd, G. R.Evans, John (Ogmore)
Austin, H. LewisClitherow, Dr. R.Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)
Awbery, S. S.Cobb, F. A.Ewart, R.
Ayles, W. H.Cocks, F. S.Fairhurst, F.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Coldrick, W.Farthing, W. J.
Bacon, Miss A.Collindridge, F.Field, Capt. W. J.
Baird, J.Collins, V. J.Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)
Balfour, A.Colman, Miss G. M.Follick, M.
Barstow, P. G.Comyns, Dr. L.Foot, M. M.
Barton, C.Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Forman, J. C.
Battley, J. R.Corlett, Dr. J.Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Bechervaise, A. E.Corvedale, ViscountFreeman, Maj. J. (Watford)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Crawley, A.Gaitskell, H. T. N.
Berry, H.Crossman, R. H. S.Gibbins, J.
Beswick, F.Daggar, G.Gibson, C. W
Bing, G. H. C.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Gilzean, A.
Blackburn, A. R.Davies, Edward (Burslem)Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Blenkinsop, A.Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Gooch, E. G.
Blyton, W. R.Davies, Harold (Leek)Goodrich, H. E.
Boardman, H.Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Gordon-Walker, P. C
Bottomley, A. G.Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Grenfell, D. R.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Deer, G.Grey, C. F.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)de Freitas, GeoffreyGriffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Bramall, E. A.Delargy, H. J.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)
Brook, D. (Halifax)Diamond, J.Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Dodds, N N.Guest, Dr. L. Haden
Brown, George (Belper)Driberg, T. E. N.Gunter, R. J.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Guy, W. H.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Dumpleton, C. W.Haire, John E (Wycombe)

and that they will accept the view of this House and do their best to make the scheme work in the interests of the defence of the country. I believe that we can so work this training scheme as to lose very little indeed in the value of the training which we otherwise would have got under the longer 18 months' period by this method of selection and the use of the men in their proper spheres. We shall do that to the very best of our ability, and make that drive all the way through. In the meantime, we can undoubtedly say that we shall be helped a very great deal in the general manpower situation, which we shall have to face in the next few years, if we are to recover our economic position. I repeat what I said this afternoon, and in the White Paper on Defence, that one of the roots of our defence policy must be the rehabilitation of our economic and social life.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 310; Noes, 170.

Hale, LeslieMallalieu, J. P. WSkinnard, F. W.
Hall, W. G.Mann, Mrs. J.Smith, C. (Colchester)
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Marquand, H. A.Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Hardman, D. R.Marshall, F. (Brightside)Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Hardy, E. A.Martin, J. H.Solley, L. J.
Hastings, Dr. SomervilleMesser, F.Sorensen, R. W.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Middleton, Mrs. LSoskice, Maj. Sir F
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Mikardo, IanSparks, J. A.
Hewitson, Captain M.Millington, Wing-Comdr E. RStamford, W.
Hobson, C. R.Mitchison, G. RSteele, T.
Holman, P.Monslow, W.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Moody, A. S.Strachey, J.
House, G.Morgan, Dr. H. B.Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Hoy, J.Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)Stubbs, A. E.
Hubbard, T.Morrison, RI Hon. H. (L'wish'm, E.)Swingler, S.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Mort, D. L.Sylvester, G. O.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Moyle, A.Symonds, A. L.
Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Murray, J. D.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Nally, W.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Naylor, T- E.Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Irving, W. J.Neal, H. (Claycross)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. ANicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Janner, B.Noel-Buxton, LadyThorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Jay, D. P. T.O'Brien, T.Thurtle, Ernest
Jeger, G. (Winchester)Oldfield, W. HTiffany, S
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Oliver, G. H.Timmons, J.
John, W.Paget, R. T.Titterington, M. F.
Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)Tolley, L.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Palmer, A. M. F.Turner-Samuels, M.
Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Pargiter, C. A.Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Parker, J.Vernon, Maj. W. F
Keenan, W.Parkin, B. T.Viant, S. P.
Key, C. W.Paton, J. (Norwich)Walkden, E.
King, E. M.Pearson, A.Walker, G. H.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. EPeart, Capt. T. F.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Kinley, J.Platts-Mills, J. F. FWatson, W. M.
Kirby, B. VPorter, E. (Warrington)Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Lang, G.Porter, G. (Leeds)Weitzman, D.
Lavers, S.Pritt, D. N.Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.Proctor, W. T.West, D. G.
Lee, F. (Hulme)Pryde, D. J.Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)Pursey, Cmdr. H.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Leonard, W.Randall, H. E.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Leslie, J. R.Ranger, J.Wigg, Col. G. E.
Lever, N. H.Rankin, J.Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B
Levy, B. W.Reeves, J.Wilkins, W. A.
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Reid, T. (Swindon)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Lewis, J. (Bolton)Richards, R.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Lindgren, G. S.Ridealgh, Mrs. MWilliams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. MRobens, A.Williams, Rt. Hon. T (Don Valley)
Logan, D. G.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)Williams, W. R. (Heston)
McAdam, W.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Williamson, T.
McAllister, G.Rogers, C. H. R.Willis, E.
McEntee, V. La T.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
McGhee, H. G.Scollan, T.Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J
McGovern, J.Scott-Elliot, W.Wise, Major F. J
Mack, J. D.Shackleton, E. A. AWoodburn, A.
McKay, J. (Wallsend)Sharp, GranvilleWoods, G. S
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)Wyatt, W.
McKinlay, A. SShawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)Yates, V. F.
McLeavy, F.Shurmer, P.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Silverman, J. (Erdington)Younger, Hon. Kenneth
McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)Zilliacus, K.
Macpherson, T. (Romford)Simmons, C. J.
Mainwaring, W. H.Skeffington, A. MTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Snow and Mr. Popplewell


Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Cooper-Key, E. M.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)Bracken, Rt. Hon. BrendanCorbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)
Amory, D. HeathcoteBraithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. GCrookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H. F. C
Assheton, Rt. Hon. RBromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WCrosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E
Astor, Hon. M.Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Crowder, Capt. John E
Baldwin, A. E.Bullock, Capt. M.Cuthbert, W. N.
Baxter, A. B.Butcher, H. W.Davidson, Viscountess
Beamish, Maj. T. V. HButler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Davies, Clement (Montgomery)
Beechman, N. A.Byers, FrankDigby, S. W.
Bennett, Sir P.Carson, E.Dodds-Parker, A. D.
Birch, NigelChannon, H.Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P W
Boothby, R.Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.Drayson, G. B.
Bowen, R.Clarke, Col. R. S.Drewe, C.
Bower, N.Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. GDugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)

Eccles, D. M.Lennox-Boyd, A. T.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Eden, Rt