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Clause 8—(Transitional Provisions)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendments made: In page 5, line 45, leave out "eighteen," and insert "twelve."

In page 6, line 4, leave out "eighteen," and insert "twelve."—[ Mr. Alexander.]

I beg to move, in page 6, line 7, to leave out Subsection (2), and to insert:

"(2) No person who has been entered or enlisted under the National Service Acts before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and is serving in the armed forces of the Crown under those Acts at the commencement of this Act shall be required to continue to serve therein after the commencement of this Act."
This is a very simple Amendment and needs few words of explanation. The effect, if the Amendment were accepted, would be to put the man who is called up on 1st January, 1947, in the same position as the man who will be called up on 1st January, 1948; that is to say, to give a statutory safeguard that his service will be only of twelve months. I am not sure, but I understood that it was the intention of the Government that it should be so.

The pledge was that they should not be kept serving after any man who was called up on 1st January, 1949. The point is that, under the White Paper now, the service is tapered down, starting from two years for those who enlisted in early 1947, until those who were enlisted during 1948, who will serve not more than 18 months. The pledge which I gave was that we would reconsider that matter and arrange that anyone who is called up -during that period 1947–48 should not be held to go on serving after the end of the service of the men called up under this Bill. We shall have an administrative arrangement to taper it down so as to meet the situation.

I think it is very unsatisfactory that a matter of such great importance to the people called up now should be left merely to administrative action, and I cannot see why it is impossible to put the statutory protection in the Bill. I certainly was under the impression that the pledge given was that the people at any rate who enlisted before 1st January, 1947, would be released by the time this Measure started and that those who enlisted after that, would be tapered off. What guarantee has such a man in the Bill? What is being done to assimilate his period to the period of those who came only a short time after? It is not good enough to say that he will be let out before anybody else who is called up under this Measure will be let out. If that is the only safeguard given, it is manifestly worth very little. It means that a man enlisted perhaps well before 1st January, 1947, can be kept until nearly the end of 1948. He could be made to serve two to three years and it seems to me that if that is the only effect of the right hon. Gentleman's pledge, it is not good enough. I suggest that we should insert proper statutory provisions. I suggest first that we should say that anyone enlisted before 1st January, 1947, should be free when this new Act comes into force. Secondly, we should put in the Schedule the tapering which was promised in the White Paper but which we think should have statutory force behind it. It is with that object that I move the first of these Amendments in my name on the Paper.

I had better recall the actual words of what I said yesterday afternoon on this matter so that the position can be plain to the right hon. Gentleman. I have a copy of the actual words here and perhaps he would like me to repeat them to make it clear:

"In the changed circumstances of the fulltime 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 6831. They would otherwise be serving after the release of those called up in the early months of 1949 under the new Bill."
So that the pledge I have given is that they will under the tapering off arrangement gain in 1948 about six months of embodied service. That will reduce the service for which they were called up by about six months. This is so that they will not serve on after any man called up under the new Bill is discharged.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman talking on the second of the two Amendments, and, since you have ruled, Major Milner, that the Amendments should be taken separately, should the Minister not bow to your Ruling and talk to us on the, first Amendment, and not on the second?

I understand, Major Milner, that you are taking these two Amendments separately, but the first one deals only with persons enlisted before 1st January, 1947, under the National Service Acts. I am sorry, but the Government do not feel able to accept that Amendment. Its purpose is to secure that men called up before 1st January, 1947, are released before this Bill comes into force on 1st January, 1949. It is stated that all those serving in 1940, except those on regular engagements, will be released according to age and service, before the end of 1948. But we think it would be undesirable to give statutory effect in the present Bill.

It is exactly as I thought. I thought that the effect of this was to put into statutory language a pledge which the right hon. Gentleman gave elsewhere. He hotly denied it at the time, but now he points to the pledge which he gave—a Governmental pledge—and says that it is unnecessary to give it statutory authority. I am not prepared to accept it. I think that such a pledge, important as this, should be given statutory authority. This deals with a time very far ahead, and I cannot believe that it is impossible, in order to carry out the pledge, to make the administrative arrangements well ahead which will allow these people to be brought back here in time to fulfil the pledge. The Minister's statement only confirms me in the belief that this ought to be inserted in the Bill.

7.0 a.m.

I hope that the Minister will think again about this. There is a state of exhaustion which sets in at a certain moment, and I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to give an answer immediately. But I have, I think, in the past, understood this matter almost as well as it can be understood, at least by me, and I have, I think, followed all the various promises and pledges, and so on. What my right hon. Friend has just said is strictly true. We are asking that statutory form should be given to what is a strict Governmental pledge. The only reason alleged why we cannot be given that is that the Government wants to have a free hand and to be their own judges in their own case about which and how exceptions shall be made. That cannot be a proper argument for refusing an Amendment, in any circumstances and upon any matter. Conscription, as has been said more than once, is the most odious form of taxation and the one which comes home most intimately to the bosoms of men and women. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) wish to be witty? That is what conscription is, and conscription is being placed now on our country by a Government which has spent two years planning everything else, but shows no sign whatever of having planned this. It is plain that Ministers, in a great many cases, do not know what the different provisions in this Bill mean. They have already in their power through what has become a rather grisly legal fiction that "the present emergency" is continuing since 1939, the people called up two or three years ago. It is only by maintaining the legal fiction that the emergency, which was the war against Germany and later Japan, has not passed, that they are still able to continue to hold these men. Even at this moment, when they come and tell us that twelve months is quite long enough to hold a man. It is a curious paradox that they should continue to refuse to these older, longer-held men any kind of statutory limitation upon their term of service. That is precisely what the Government are doing. I am not sure that the hon. Members who are so certain that they have got this right have attended all the business during the last 10 hours or so. If they have, they may be tired too. But I think I am getting this right, and if not I ought to be clearly corrected. Some hon. Members opposite claimed that not more than a year can decently be claimed from a young man; at the same time he is using this rather grisly legal fiction to deny to the men already under the control of the Service Ministries, any term being put on the period of their service. That seems to me a highly paradoxical situation.

I cannot accept entirely the answer made to this Amendment. As the Government gave a pledge to the House some 12 months ago, I am disturbed by the Minister's statement that there may be individual exceptions, and his use of that argument as a reason for not accepting the Amendment. As I understand it, men who were in the Forces up to 31st December, 1946, if they have not been demobilised by the end of 1948, will in any case have served a period of two years or more.

Under the administrative scheme produced by the Government the men called up this year serve for a period of two years and those called up next year—1048—serve for a period reduced to 18 months. Some change is required in the arrangements, since in the Bill as amended, the period from 1st January, 1949, will be 12 months, in order to taper the period for those called up, for instance, in December, 1948, who will be called up for 18 months. I can see there may be some difficulty in introducing that tapering and there may be some individual anomalies. It may be necessary that some of those called up in the latter part of 1948 will still be in the Service a little longer than some of those called up in the early part of 1949 but I cannot understand why those in the Forces up to 31st December, 1946, should continue serving after the 31st December, 1948, when they will have done more than the two years' period of service which the men called up from 1st January this year will have served. If that is the position, clearly the men called up during this year should serve longer, in order that those in the Forces in 1946 might be released first. Thus, it seems to me, we should have a definite assurance from the Minister of Defence on the categorical pledge given by the Minister of Labour, that those who are still in the Forces before the bringing into effect of the new scheme will, without any exceptions whatever, be released before the introduction of the Bill. I see no reason why the Minister of Defence cannot reassure us on that point.

May I strongly support the point put forward by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler). This is a matter. which causes a considerable amount of concern among men who were called up before the war came to an end and will still be in the Forces in 1948. The remarks of the Minister of Defence tonight that there will be exceptions, will cause grave disquiet among these men. For that reason, unless this pledge is renewed by the Minister categorically and in the fullest terms, this Amendment should be pressed.

I should like to reinforce the request made by my hon. Friend. I do not see why there should be any individual exceptions to the pledge made by the Minister of Labour. It would seem that this is a case in which individuals should not be required to bear the onus of any administrative shortcomings of AQ staff. Those Members on the other side of the Committee as well as on this side who have had some experience of service in the Forces know that this business of administrative difficulties can be made to cover a multitude of sins and we on this side see no reason why this pledge given by tile Minister of Labour should not apply in every individual case.

I should like to support this plea very strongly. I have had more letters about this than about anything else connected with this Bill. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider those cases where families may have so arranged themselves that you have a boy who is already called up, and a lad who is just about to be called up when this Bill comes into force. Families of that nature will be very hard hit. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise that every time he says there are to be exceptions, it at once arouses suspicion and causes many people uneasiness which could be proved entirely groundless if he would make this a statutory provision.

I hope that the Committee are thoroughly alarmed about this. We are continually told by Ministers that they do not accept Amendments because they are not necessary, or Ministers often ask us to trust them because they are such good fellows. I thought if this Amendment were not accepted, it would be resisted by that argument. But the argument is enormously more alarming than that. We have now had suddenly thrown out that this is not to be put in the Bill because there are to be exceptions, and what the extent of these exceptions is to be, we are not told. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) spoke of administrative difficulties covering a multitude of incompetencies, but if things are left as they are, the situation will be intolerably more alarming.

May I explain the position in order to save time? I have the Command Paper which was presented by my right hon. Friend in May, 1946, containing the pledge. It is perfectly plain that when pledges are given in White Papers presented to Parliament, they are carried out. When I referred to the fact that it was not desirable to include this as a statutory provision in a Bill calling up men after January, 1949, the exceptions included such persons as deserters who had joined the forces before 1947. Under the terms of the Amend- ment, they would have to be released by the end of 1948, whatever their service might have been. That is the kind of exception I have in mind. We have given the pledge in the White Paper, and it will be strictly carried out.

There is no more in the Amendment than is contained in this White Paper. None of us wants this to cover deserters, and I do not know whether it does. But it is clear from the argument we have had about it that it would be better to put something into the Bill, about which there could be no argument. All of us would agree that in putting that into the Bill we might depart from the strict letter of the pledge in order to include the case of the deserter for whom we have no sympathy. If the Minister cannot accept this form of words, I hope he will promise to insert something into the Bill at another stage which will set at rest the anxieties which have been aroused in this Debate.

7.15 a.m.

The Minister must realise that the heads of the three Services will be under extreme pressure, when this Bill becomes law, because there will be great demands for new establishments, new training, and new methods. There will be a tendency to try to get men to stay on; there will be grave temptation to quote the exigencies of the Service to compel men to stay on. The Minister did not refer to special cases in his first statement, but, later, he gave a pledge that the only exceptions were to be deserters. Unless that is specifically mentioned in the Bill there is no guarantee that that may be so. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government may not be in office at that time. The Minister should look at this Clause again, to see that while deserters do not get any advantage out of it those entitled to be released under the pledge will be released.

I am prepared to look at it again, of course, but I beg the Committee to remember that the whole of our tremendous demobilisation scheme has been carried out under the White Paper, exactly as pledged. I will see whether it is reasonable, in all the circumstances, to put something into the Statute But, if that is done it will be the first time that Parliament has seen fit to put part of our demobilisation scheme into a Statute. We want to exclude those who have not earned release because they have been deserters, or because they have not earned it for any other special reason.

The difficulty is that in demobilisation schemes there have been great differences between age and service groups throughout. Here we say, "By such and such a date the age and service groups alike will be out."

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the vast number of deferments which have taken place under the demobilisation scheme? It is that sort of thing that we are out to try to prevent.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence made reference to people who have been kept in for special administrative reasons. What does he mean by that? It is easy to put a pledge into the Statute. The right hon. Gentleman in his penultimate speech mentioned deserters and others and then came this reference to people being kept in for special administrative reasons.

I have promised to look at the matter but what I had in mind was with regard to those who have been retained for administrative reasons. I do not want to give a pledge in every case, but there ought to be something, in a case of a breakdown in transport or anything like that. In any case, there is no doubt whatever as to our keeping our pledge which we put down in the White Paper.

I should like to leave the matter, but I think the last point made by the right hon. Gentleman needs emphasising. Why not convert this from a White Paper statement into a pledge in the Statute? If it is a statutory obligation, there will be no administrative breakdown because the reliefs will be sent there in time and they will have to get there in time. If it is not statutory, we all know what that means and we have all suffered from that in the past. I entreat my right hon. Friend to consider this matter, too. I believe it would be a

Division No. 195.]


[7.25 a.m.

Adams, Richard (Balham)Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Brook, D. (Halifax)
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Bing, G. H. C.Brown, George (Helper)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Binns, J.Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Blenkinsop, A.Callaghan, James
Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Blyton, W. R.Champion, A. J.
Awbery, S. S.Boardman, H.Chetwynd, G. R.
Bacon, Miss A.Braddock, Mrs, E M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)Collindridge, F.
Bechervaise, A. E.Bramall, E. A.Collins, V. J.

very great fillip to the men who are in the Forces. It was not possible to do that before, under any release scheme for the reasons given by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Macpherson), because the whole thing was flexible. There was nothing that could be put into the Statute. Now we have something definite, and it is definite consolidated statement.

I am sorry to rise to my feet again, but there is one other point to which I must refer. I think that this is a matter to which might well have been given half a day's debate in normal conditions. The Minister of Defence, in saying he would take this matter back for consideration, said that if it were done this would be the first time that that sort of thing had been put in a Statute. But this is the first time that we have considered permanent conscription on a peace time basis. The point I wish to raise is in relation to that portion of yesterday's speech, which the Minister read at a very fast rate, and again today. I can quite understand that a speaker generally reads faster than the listener wants him to, but it is rather difficult for us to follow swiftly-read speeches of that sort. It was the phrase about another category of releases and he made reference to voluntary engagements for fixed periods. I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will look at that, too. I am not quite sure who is covered by that. Quite a considerable number of people have received commissions at one time or another under engagements or half-engagements, explicit or implicit, more or less related to "the present emergency." Incidentally most of them were about 18, still three years below that at which a moneylender would lend them 3s. 6d. I think it ought to be looked at from the point of view of people entering into a promise or half-promise of that sort, either of a Service or regimental nature, and being held now too long.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided; Ayes, 138; Noes, 30.

Colman, Miss G. M.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Comyns, Dr. L.Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Sargood, R
Corvedale, ViscountIsaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.Shackleton, E. A. A.
Crossman, R. H. S.Jeger, G. (Winchester)Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
de Freitas, GeoffreyKeenan, W.Simmons, C. J.
Delargy, H. J.Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. ESkeffington, A. M.
Diamond, J.Kinley, J.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Dodds, N. N.Lee, F. (Hulme)Snow, Capt. J. W.
Driberg, T. E. N.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Sorensen, R. W.
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Dumpleton, C. W.Logan, D. G.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Longden, F.Strom, Dr. B.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)McAllister, G.Swingler, S.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)McKay, J. (Wallsend)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Evans, John (Ogmore)Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)McKinlay, A. S.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Field, Capt. W. J.McLeavy, F.Tiffany, S
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Tolley, L.
Freeman. Maj. J. (Watford)Marshall, F. (Brightside)Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Mellish, R. J.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Gibbins, J.Mikardo, IanWatson, W. M
Gibson, C. WMillington, Wing-Comdr. E. RWells, W. T. (Walsall)
Gilzean, A.Monslow, WWhiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Gordon-Walker, P. C.Nally, W.Wigg, Col. G. E.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Wilkins, W. A.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Noel-Buxton, LadyWilley, F. T. (Sunderland)
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Guest, Dr. L. HadenParkin, B. T.Willis, E.
Hale, LesliePaton, J. (Norwich)Wise, Major F. J
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Peart, Capt. T. F.Woodburn, A.
Hardy, E. A.Popplewell, E.Wyatt, W.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Price, M. PhilipsYounger, Hon. Kenneth
Hewitson, Captain M.Pryde, D. J.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Pursey, Cmdr. H.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
House, G.Randall, H. E.Mr. Michael Stewart
Hoy, J.Ranger, J.and Mr. Hannan.
Hubbard, T.Reid, T. (Swindon)


Birch, NigelLinstead, H. N.Stanley, Rt. Hon O.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Low, Brig. A. R. W.Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Butcher, H. W.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Byers, FrankManningham-Buller, R. E.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. EMorrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)Touche, G. C.
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Peto, Brig. C. H. M.Wadsworth, G.
Head, Brig. A. H.Pickthorn, K.Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Hollis, M. C.Prior-Palmer, Brig O.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Hope, Lord J.Ramsay, Major S.
Lambert, Hon. G.Rayner, Brig. R.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)Comdr. Agnew and Major Conant.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 12, at the end, to insert:

"(3) No person who has been entered or enlisted for service in the armed forces of the Crown under the National Service Acts after the thirty-first day of December nineteen hundred and forty-six and before the commencement of this Act shall be required to serve therein under those Acts for a period longer than the appropriate period in accordance with the Schedule to this Act (Periods of Service for men called up in 1947 and 1948).
This Subsection shall come into force on the passing of this Act."
This Amendment raises a point rather similar to that which has been under discussion, and I hope we shall be able to elicit an even more satisfactory statement—I am flattering the right hon. Gentleman in the hope that he will be conciliatory—from him with regard to his attitude towards this category of men who are now serving in the Forces. This is another case where we have endeavoured to incorporate in the Bill a pledge contained in the White Paper on the call-up. It has been impossible to frame the Schedule which will be attached to this Amendment. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the White Paper on the call-up, he will see at the top of page 3 the run-down which is contemplated, and, indeed, promised, for men called up during 1947–48. We have handed in an Amendment which is not, as yet, on the Order Paper, which is similar in form to the* schedule in the White Paper, only varying the period because the White Paper was published at the time when the right hon. Gentleman thought it right that the period of compulsory service should be 18 months, and because the run-down contemplated was two years for those who joined in January, 1948, and 18 months for those who joined in December. I know it will not be easy for the right hon. Gentleman, not having seen the schedule, to express an opinion on the contents of it, and I am not asking him to say he is prepared to accept it. I am asking him to say that he is prepared to incorporate this pledge in the Bill and especially to make it clear, beyond all possible shadow of doubt to the men in the Services at the present time, that they are not going to suffer by being held in the Forces by reason of the reduction of the 18 months' service to 12.

I am sorry I cannot accept in advance a schedule I have not seen. In any case, I am not prepared at this moment to accept a revision of the schedule beyond the promise which I did make to the Committee yesterday afternoon that we would arrange, by a tapering down process, that no one shall be kept so long as he might have been kept. I am taking the last man who would be called up in, say, December, 1948, if he had to serve a minimum of 18 months which was set out in the schedule to the White Paper. He would have been held until the end of June, 1950. I have given a pledge that no such man will be held after the end of December, 1949, so that he does not, in any case, serve after any man called up under the Bill. That pledge will be carried out, but I want the Committee to remember that in the light of the commitments of the country and the very rapid run-down of the Forces, we have considerable difficulty in meeting these commitments between now and 1950. I have explained that we are taking some risks, and whilst we will carry out this pledge, I want the Service departments to be able to make their own tapering down arrangements so long as they carry out the pledge. The pledge will be carried out but I certainly cannot undertake to have a revision of the kind the right hon. Gentleman has suggested.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer these two questions? Firstly, supposing an Amendment were drafted putting into statutory form the pledge he has given, would he accept that? Secondly, if he were faced in 1949 and 1950 with a shortage of men, which would he choose, to break the pledge which he has given or come to the House and increase the 12 months to 18 months? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer those two questions?

I do not propose to answer questions of that sort more than I have already said in the Debate today. I have given my pledge and I have said that if there were any deterioration in the position we should have to consider the position again.

Cannot the Minister hold out a little more hope than that? My recollection is that he made a pledge, with certain exceptions. He will need to fix the tapering down for each respective Service, and I hope he will see that there is co-ordination, because there has been a great difference in the age groups of the different Services. I really am at a loss to understand why the Minister, if he is prepared to carry out this pledge, is reluctant to frame it in words of his own choosing and incorporate it in an Act of Parliament, where everyone can see it written. Nothing would give greater hope to those called up, and I do ask him if he will not say that, "This is my pledge and to show that there is no doubt about it, I am not reluctant to put my pledge down so that whoever succeeds me will find it binding upon them."

This does seem a most unsatisfactory state of things. This is about the most unsatisfactory sort of pledge to cover this class of people. All the Minister says is that anybody not called up under this Act will not be asked to serve longer than those who are called up under it. I do suggest that it will give very little—shall I call it pleasure?—to the people concerned to know that if they happen to be called up on 31st December, before this Bill comes into force, they will be released as soon as those called up on 1st January. Why should some have to do longer than others?

We must allow our Service authorities to "taper down," but I cannot arrange straight away to reduce them all forthwith to 12 months.

The whole of the arguments made yesterday afternoon were based on the assumption that 12 months was a sufficient period. If we are now going to have the Minister, at a quarter to eight in the morning, saying that 1st January is all right, I suggest that he should have said it earlier in the day. Because the Act is being brought in, that does not mean that there can be a rule on the left hand, and another on the right. We want to see some evenness of this burden, but all we have heard is that, if a chap is lucky enough to be called up earlier, he knows he will be no worse off than the chap called up on 1st January.

The right hon. Gentleman has made no attempt to answer the case of all the other people called up in the preceding year, who may well have to do service over and above what the next age-group will have to do. Something should be done in this Bill to even out the burden, and to try and make easier this conscription, which we all know is the heaviest burden which this country has been asked to bear in any sphere for a long time past.

7.45 a.m.

It seems to me that whenever one tries to make a concession it leads one into further trouble. [Interruption.] I am talking to hon. Members opposite, at the moment. Before we came to the Committee with. this proposition, we thought it out very carefully. I also pointed out this afternoon that, compared with the young men who are in the schedule referred to for enlistment in 1948, there are others who will be faced with six years' compulsory training service. In the light of that, and in the light of our commitments, we ought to get some advantage in the tapering off if we meet them handsomely.

I am sorry that I cannot agree. We have to consider the effect on the chap starting his career in the continuous service period. The reserve period is a very light burden compared with the continuous service period. I cannot agree with the Minister of Defence on this subject, and I would ask him to look at this again and try to spread the burden more evenly between those serving under the present scheme and those who will serve under the new scheme.

I do not wish to press this Amendment. It has been impossible for the schedule referred to to appear on the Paper, and of course it would be ridiculous to ask the Minister to accept a schedule he has never seen. When the schedule does appear on another stage, the right hon. Gentleman will see that we have followed as far as we can the words of the pledge he has given. There is no attempt to do away with this run down. We realise that with the commitments we have the Services have to have men. But we will have the Amendment in proper form on the Paper for a later stage, and we trust that if there is any way in which the right hon. Gentleman can do so, he will meet it.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, which we shall put on the Paper for the Report stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 6, line 21, to leave out "provisions of the last foregoing subsection," and to insert, "foregoing provisions of this section."

There are two Amendments here which, I think, for the convenience of the Committee, might be taken together. They are mainly drafting Amendments, and it is hoped that by the alterations proposed we shall make clear the liability of the men in the Service now, and of those who will be called up this year and next year under the Bill. It is proposed that those called up prior to 1947 shall have no liability under the Bill we are now discussing. Those who have been called up since 1st January this year will be expected to do at least as much as the men called up under the Bill. That shortly is the position.

It leaves me still more puzzled about why the Government rejected the earlier Amendments. If it is now in order to make these arrangements to get some Reserve service out of people called up in 1947—and I can see the usefulness of that—you might have done something more useful by legislating to get some Reserve service out of people called up in 1946 and release those people three months sooner than otherwise would be done. You would be strengthening your Reserve of trained men much more than you would by keeping on these people for the short periods they are now being kept on. I cannot see why we should not have Reserve service taken in lieu of those lengthened periods for persons called up a little earlier. I hope this will be considered along with the other matters.

I do not detract at all from what the Minister of Defence has said. What we are doing in these Amendments is to provide for liabilities of those men now in the Services who have no reserve obligations at all. We are providing for the future. If we did what is suggested, it would be asking men who have already done much more than those who will serve under the Bill to take on an additional Reserve liability to the service they have done over and above that provided in the Bill. I think that is one of the obstacles.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page b, line 23, leave out from "the," to the end of the line, and insert "commencement of this Act."—[ Mr. Ness Edwards.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.