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Clause 17—(Postponement Of Liability To Be Called Up For Service)

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 8 May 1947

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

This is the Clause to which reference was made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour during a discussion on a previous Amendment moved from this side of the Committee. This Clause as it stands is, I think, clear enough. It makes it clear that, in cases where the postponement certificate is granted, in fact there is no avoidance of service but a mere postponement. It seems to do that quite clearly, but the question I want to ask is, does the same consideration apply where it is not a case of postponement but of deferment? I shall be very grateful if the Minister of Labour could make that point clear.

After some of the mistakes I have made this afternoon, I do not know whether I can, but I will try. This Clause, which the hon. Gentleman says is clear enough—I should have thought that "clear enough" was "clear enough" he seems to mean clear enough—

My hon. Friend went to a great deal of trouble this afternoon to try to clear up in the minds of hon. Members the difference between postponement and deferment. The statutory postponement of liability is to be distinguished from deferment, which is granted administratively in pursuance of the discretion as to the calling up of a particular individual which the Minister has by reason of the fact that the power to call up for service under the Acts is permissive and not mandatory. Sometimes, we may be asked to grant a man a long administrative deferment. If his application is granted and he gets deferment, he might possibly go beyond his 26th birthday before he is called up. This is of little importance at the moment, when the upper age limit is still 51, though it is not being used, but the Bill reduces that age to 26, with the result that a man may pass out of liability under the Bill during the period of his postponement.

I agree with my hon. Friend that, whether it is clear or not clear, it does not go far enough. I would like to ask a little more about this very important Clause on the postponement of liability for call-up, and. I would like to know what are the grounds for postponement and for deferment of call-up. Cannot the Minister give us some idea of the grounds? I know Clause 9 deals with dentists and doctors, but surely there are other students and other people? Is it automatic so that everybody who wants to have his call-up postponed can have it simply by applying, and a thing for which they are not required to apply? At 7.30 this morning, when we dealt with Clause 5, the Minister answered with great sincerity and thoroughness many of the questions we put, but there was one about medical and dental students, whether they could take their call-up when they wished rather than wait until being qualified, to which the Minister did not give a reply. I think it is rather an important one. I do not think it will be used by many students, but it would be of great value, as I think I said at 7.30 this morning, to those who cannot get into the medical schools, and could do their national service with great benefit to themselves and to the nation.

I will see if I can face the bowling this time. Postponement is statutory, deferment is administrative. The Minister can end a deferment when he wishes and it is the intention to terminate all deferments before the man concerned reaches the age of 26. I hope that will meet the point.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.