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National Service Bill

Volume 437: debated on Friday 9 May 1947

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Considered in Committee [ Progress, 8th May.]

[Major MILNER in the Chair.]

11.5 a.m.

With the leave of the Committee, I should like to make an appeal to the Committee to co-operate in getting the Committee stage of the Bill finished today. In doing that, I am not appealing to one side alone; I am appealing to all parts of the Committee, because it requires co-operation from both sides. We have given an extra day which we thought right and, indeed, necessary, and I would ask the Committee to assist in completing the Committee stage today so that we can be ready for the next stage. I should be very much obliged for that assistance.

If I might follow the irregularity of the Leader of the House in speaking with no Motion before the Committee, I would like to say that, as far as we on this side are concerned, we have certainly no intention of prolonging the proceedings longer than necessary. But, because of what we think has been a wholly inadequate allowance by the Government of time for the discussion of this most important Measure in the past, we certainly could not consent to omit discussions which we think are vital. What I can promise is that we shall not use any dilatory or obstructive tactics, or enter into any discussion which we do not sincerely wish to pursue.

As one who has been rather critical of this Bill, may I be allowed to say that we will never use any obstructive tactics, but I should like to add that the more concessions the Government give to us, the more speedily will the Bill go through.

Before you call the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), may I make a suggestion to the Committee? It might be for the convenience of the Committee if, on the new Clause which is to be moved by the hon. Member for Lonsdale, we could discuss the general principle relating to deferment that arises in the proposed new Clauses dealing with persons engaged in coalmining, distribution of food, agriculture and other trades.

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but in my view the new Clauses deal with quite separate issues. I propose that we should first take the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Lonsdale. Later there are new Clauses dealing with exemptions, beginning with that in the name of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), and on those new Clauses I shall propose there should be a general Debate on the principle of exemption.

New Clause—(Special Provisions For Calling Up Of Farm Workers)

The Minister shall by regulations provide that—

  • (1) where a number of farm workers are employed on any particular farm arrangements may be made to ensure that all workers on the said farm are not called up in the same year.
  • (2) in the case of part-time service farm workers are so far as practicable called up at a time convenient to the harvest in their locality.—[Sir Ian Fraser.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    I thank you for your Ruling, Major Milner, and for calling this new Clause. It is, indeed, so different from the other Clauses to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred that I want, if I may, to emphasise the difference in my brief opening remarks. This Clause does not call for exemption. It does not suggest or imply that farmers or farmworkers would wish for exemption from the responsibilities which will fall upon all citizens. I have made inquiries, and I find that farmers, large and small, and farm workers, while they do not like compulsory military service any more than anyone else, would not wish Parliament to contract them out of their proper responsibilities, and I want to emphasise that my new Clause does not propose that. If we find ourselves voting against the Clauses which propose to exempt those engaged in making coal mining machinery, farming, or food distribution, I hope many of us may feel that we would be equally dis- posed to vote for my new Clause for the very reason that it does not ask for exemption, but does, nevertheless, ask for consideration of some of the farmers' difficulties.

    What are the particular difficulties of the farmer? I have read the Bill, and I cannot see in it any security against the danger that when the Bill first comes into operation, all the farmer's men who happen to be between the ages of 18 and 26 may be called up, and may be called up on the same day. It may be said that this could occur in any small business. But the farmer's business is a very different one. First of all, he works in a remote part. There is no chance of his substituting any labour whatever, at any price, even if he can find it, which is most unlikely. Even if he is prepared to pay a fantastic price for it, it is not there. If men were encouraged to go to him there is nowhere for them to live. Therefore, he is in a very special position. If the six, eight or ten young men on a farm. were called up at the same time, food production on that farm would stop altogether.

    Another anxiety which the farmer has, which is not shared by others, is whether the young men who have been called up will, after a year, return so readily to the land when they have seen wider spheres and different kinds of life. That does not apply to others. I set forth these two reasons as being reasons why we should take special care to embarrass the farmer as little as possible when we invite him and the farm worker to do, as I know he is willing to do, his duty in this matter. I ask fur this Clause to be embodied in the Bill so that there will be imposed upon the Minister a duty to introduce regulations which will stagger the call-up of farm workers by arrangement. The farmer and his farm workers will stagger the call-up over the first few years; and when that period has passed, of course, each new batch of young men will be called up in the following years.

    The next part of the Clause relates to the subsequent periods of years during which the man is a reservist. It may be said that national service is so important an issue that it is for the nation generally to adjust its life to the circumstances of national service. But the harvest cannot be adjusted, whereas the dates for service can be. There is some obligation—which my hon. Friends will develop and argue—upon the Government to see whether, without substantial detriment to the efficiency of the Forces, the call-up for a fortnight or three weeks in the year cannot be so arranged as not to interfere more than is necessary with the harvest. While I am sure the rural areas would wish to do their duty on level terms with others, let this Committee never forget that if there is no food there will be no England for us to defend.

    11.15 a.m.

    I rise at this stage, not for the purpose of cramping any discussion but to put the Committee in possession of information which I think will enable them to come to the right conclusion. I shall ask the Committee to resist this new Clause. However, I think I ought to make the position quite clear, and when the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) has heard the explanation I think he will feel that the position he put forward in his argument is met. I am authorised to say that the deferment of men in the main agricultural occupations already operating in 1947 will be continued throughout 1948, and men so deferred will not be called up later. Therefore, the first part of his argument, that all the men between the ages of 18 and 26 would be called up in 1949, falls to the ground. The intention is, that in 1949 only the age group reaching the age of 18 in that year will be called up. Thus, the first part of the new Clause is met completely by that announcement.

    That is the intention, but where is it in the Bill? I should like to be assured that it was a statutory provision.

    These are not matters for statutory provision. Deferment is not a matter of statutory provision, but is a matter generally, and has been, ever since we have had the military service Acts, a matter for administration. I am indicating that this is how the administration will work. I am giving this pledge on behalf of the Government, and I hope this pledge will satisfy the hon. Member and all hon. Members of the Committee that this is what will happen in practice.

    The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned "main agricultural occupations." As far as I know, that has never been clearly defined. Does it include, for instance, horticulture, market gardening, and so on? There is already some confusion, and I think it most important for the Parliamentary Secretary to make the matter clear now.

    I think the hon. Member will agree that it excludes local gardeners.

    I am corning to that. It includes market gardeners, those people who are producing food, but it excludes those people who are producing agricultural articles which are not food. I hope the hon. Member will be completely satisfied on that point.

    From the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary it would appear that there will be two classes of deferment. First of all, those who are above the age group will be automatically deferred. Would those in the age group to be called up, be open for deferment?

    I was coming to that point. Those who are genuine apprentices—and this point is being dealt with later on under another new Clause—will, of course, be entitled to apply for deferment in agriculture. Like all other industries, they will be entitled to apply for the advantage of deferment. Therefore, the point of staggering the call-up does not arise. I think the hon. Member for Lonsdale will agree that what I have announced does meet the first part of his new Clause.

    With regard to the second part, dealing with the problem of part-time training, in the Debate on the Address the Prime Minister gave an undertaking—it is really a matter for the Service authorities, but I thought I had better deal with it while on my feet—that the period of part-time training shall cause the least inconvenience to the agricultural industry. I hope the Committee will accept the undertaking that has been given by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government. The hon. Member for Lonsdale will know that county territorial committees would probably be brought into consultation on the question of part-time training. On those committees there will be representatives of local industry, who will be able to bring to bear a very great influence in deciding the date and place when training shall occur in the case of men engaged in agriculture or other seasonal industries. I hope the Committee will consider the new Clause in the light of this statement, and, in view of the assurances that have been given, I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree to withdraw the new Clause.

    Although the Parliamentary Secretary has, to some extent, met the position, as between today and 1949, he has said nothing about the inconvenience to come after that time. As far as one can see, men employed on the same farm, may be of the same age, and may become liable to call-up at the same moment after 1949 as much as before, and I cannot accept, and I am sure my hon. Friend cannot accept, the Parliamentary Secretary's assurance that all the difficulties which we have put forward have been met by this statement. I should like to ask the Committee to imagine the position on the small farms. My hon. Friend has mentioned the position on large farms that employ a large number of men. But I think that the small farm is more typical of agriculture in this country.

    Let us take the position of the small farm worked by the farmer and his son and one man, the son and the man being of the same age. There will be absolute disaster if both are called up at the same time, most certainly if the farm is in an isolated area, where it is not possible to obtain substitute labour, and where it is quite impossible to obtain accommodation for workers even if the labour were available. The position today, in which the county executive committees command cohorts of prisoners whom they can move about the country by lorry, and can convey home again at night, is a temporary and artificial position. By 1949 that army of prisoners will have left this country, according to statements that have been made. So I feel that the difficulties after 1949 will be just as acute, in spite of all the assurances that the Parliamentary Secretary has given us.

    Again, there is the question of part-time service. Not for one moment do I wish to belittle the Prime Minister's words to the House, but I think we should be much better off if we could see those assurances translated into regulations, as we should like to do under the terms of this new Clause. No amount of planning, not even by the right hon. Gentleman's super-planner, can alter the seasons, or alter the work in agriculture which results from the seasons. So it does not need any great imagination to think of the disaster that will happen to the small farms, where those employed on them are called up at the time of lambing, or at hay time, or harvest. I would remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the benefit of the advisers who may arrange the call-up, that the work is not the same in all parts of England in the same month. Speaking as an officer in both the old Territorial Army and the new, I do appreciate too the difficulties that we have had and will have on the farms in trying to reconcile civilian interests with the interests of military service. It is obvious that military needs, in a crisis must come first. But, again speaking as an officer, I cannot estimate that great value will be derived from military training by men who are called up knowing that disaster is falling upon their families because work, which ought to be done at that particular season, is being missed, as a result of some futile regulation from some office in London, and the refusal of this Committee today to accept the reasonable proposals put forward in this new Clause.

    I was influenced to a large extent in putting my name to a new Clause which appears later on the Order Paper proposing to exempt agricultural workers, by the fact that the present position in agriculture is likely to continue for some years to come. I am inclined to accept the assurance of the Minister in regard to the call-up of farm workers. The point I want to emphasise to the Committee is that the agricultural industry is dependent to a large extent upon a vast amount of auxiliary labour: No number of prisoners of war can make up for the practical farm workers on the farms of this country. I take the further point, that I regard food, in the present emergency, as of equal importance with coal. I am glad the Minister has given us this assurance that, so far as the call-up for a few years to come is concerned, every consideration will be given to the work on the farms.

    The hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) referred to the fact that farmers and farm workers are not unpatriotic. I want to add to that. The farm workers have never sheltered behind any regulation to avoid doing military service. During the war they stayed at their work because of the importance of their work. I am sure that when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament the farm workers will not feel relieved—just as they did not in the war—at not being obliged to do military training. By being told to stay on the farms they will have the assurance of the House of Commons and of the public that they are performing, in that way, real service to the nation. I am inclined to accept the Minister's assurance in regard to the call up, and I think that that will meet the position for the time being.

    The assurance we have just had certainly helps, but I should like to ask the Minister one question. I assume that the term "agriculture" includes horticulture. The supply of fresh vegetables in this country is obviously of very great importance. I have great sympathy with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane). One has to remember that, in farming, people have to plan ahead, in regard to the farm itself. The other day a young fellow came to me and said, "I have just bought with my savings a small holding. Do you think I am going to be called up within the next few years? I have one or two young friends who are going to work with me, and we all want to know where we are." People like that want to have a clear view of their prospects for some years ahead, in order that they may work the land as profitably as possible for the sake of the community. I should like to add that there is among the young people in the farming communities great enthusiasm, whether they are agricultural workers or young farmers, and a desire to do their best to get the country through the difficulties with regard to food, in which, as the people all fully understand, we are now placed.

    I support the point made on the question of part-time service. I am sure the Minister realises that the character of the labour force on the land has altered very much as the result of the war. Agriculture is very much more mechanised. The number of regular farm workers is only just sufficient to maintain what one may describe as basic mechanised agriculture, month in month out. We rely on a pool of labour at the peak periods. It enables the final operations resulting from the cultivation of the regular workers with their machinery, to be undertaken. We do not want to have a pool of labour of that kind as a permanent feature in the farming industry. The labour problem is, therefore, going to become much more acute than ever it was before the war—the problem of getting the extra labour that will be needed—because we intend to continue with a mechanised agriculture, to grow more food at home. I think it will be extremely difficult to stagger the call-up for the part-time service of farm workers when this pool of labour ceases to be as big as it is now, without doing damage to the food production of the country. Therefore, I think the Minister would be well advised, as soon as possible, to issue to the farmers some statement on how it is proposed to carry out the Prime Minister's undertaking, I am sure that it would be of great value to the industry if this were done.

    11.30 a.m.

    I agree with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), but it is a little difficult to feel complete reassurance, because we haw not the advantage of the presence of the Minister of Agriculture here to say that he is quite happy about this position. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not here, because I am a little concerned about this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that there would be arrangements for consultation between the industries and the County Territorial Associations. I should have thought that, in view of what he said, it would have been possible for him to put something of that nature, outlining the structure for building up the arrangements for part-time service, into the Bill itself. I think that would give us great reassurance. Obviously, it is not possible for him to indicate a cut-and-dried procedure, but it should be possible to say what sort of general structure would be set up, so that such consulta- lions could take place. I ask him to consider that point.

    I appreciate that the assurance which the Parliamentary Secretary has given will assist us, but I should like to know whether he has any estimate of the number of men involved in the 18-year-old call-up in 1949. As I understand this Bill and the Government decision to reduce the period of service from 18 months to 12, there must be in the background some idea of how many men are to be called up. I am perturbed about this matter, because this decision is not being based on the needs of agriculture. If it has been worked out on the basis that, by calling up a certain number of men who become 18 in 1949, the overall needs of the Forces would be met, it appears to me that the agricultural interest has not been considered at all. I think it is only right that we should try to obtain an assurance from the Government that they will consider the agricultural interest as being nearly as high in priority as the means of defence. If we have soldiers to defend the country, but no food with which to feed the people, we shall not be much better off. If there is one industry which should have the same priority as defence, it is agriculture. For that reason I hope the Minister will give us some indication of how many men agriculture must produce each year, in the years following 1949.

    There is one other point. I ask the Minister to bear in mind the special position in regard to land drainage. There is a great deal of work to be done in the coming years, and it is already difficult to secure people like pumping engineers and the men who run pumping engines, because they are being called up. There are also some ancillary trades—

    On a point of Order. This discussion is taking place on a new Clause which proposes that workers 'on the same farm shall not be called up in the same year. This discussion is very much wider than that, and, I should imagine, would be better if it took place on another new Clause which is to come later.

    The Parliamentary Secretary this morning mentioned a certain group of men to be called up in 1949. I was only asking that some consideration should be given to the needs of land drainage before the group is called up.

    I do not think anyone who has spoken on this new Clause has put forward any suggestion to the effect that it is designed to allow farm workers to avoid national service. I think the whole discussion has proceeded upon the basis that it is in the national interest that there should be some special provision in the case of those employed in agriculture. For myself, as representing an agricultural constituency, I am quite certain that the last thing which those engaged in the agricultural industry, whether farmers or workers, desire, is to avoid fulfilment of their national obligations.

    I now come to what the Parliamentary Secretary said in reply to the speech of my hon. Friend who moved this new Clause. The hon. Gentleman did not really go much further than he went in his statement in Committee on 6th May. He then said:
    "Here, again, the position is one of considerable difficulty. It is not intended to call up agricultural people this year and next year. It may be that, in 1949, when this Bill comes into operation, there will have to be block deferments—one does not know."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 259.]
    When 1949 comes, that will be the critical period. The German prisoners will have gone. Is it the case that the Ministry of Labour has no plan in mind with regard to dealing with that problem at that time? Today, the Parliamentary Secretary said that there would be no call-up until 1949, and he added to his previous statement in this respect. He said that, after 1949, only those reaching the age of 18 will be called up, or will be liable to be called up in that year, and that the same will apply in 1950 and 1951 Only those reaching the age of 18 in those years will be liable to be called up. I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, among those 18-year olds, there will be the possibility of deferment. The hon. Gentleman went on to deal with the question of genuine apprenticeships. In regard to farming, a genuine apprenticeship is a difficult matter to determine, and, while I recognise the difficulties and the way in which the hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to meet the point, I would like him to say, in development of his original statement, whether, under the heading of "genuine apprenticeships," there will be included those young sons of farmers who are learning the industry, who are working on their fathers' farms, and who are genuinely learning agriculture, even if there is nothing in the nature of an apprenticeship between them and the farmers. I should like an assurance on that point.

    In regard to the actual terms of the new Clause, with which the Parliamentary Secretary did not deal in any detail, it must be recognised that there is a strong case for not calling up the farm workers employed on a particular farm at the same time in the same year, and I should like to know whether the machinery of deferment is not clogged up by red tape and is sufficiently flexible, and speedy, to make it easy to obtain deferment speedily, in the cases in which such deferment should be granted speedily, without those to whom it applies having to travel many miles at inconvenient times to make representations before a remote body which would have to adjudicate on the conditions in a particular locality.

    Subsection (2) of the new Clause is also of vital importance. There, again, the practical effect which one wants to see achieved must be to enable applications to be dealt with extremely promptly, and extremely favourably, in the appropriate cases. In conclusion, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give a further assurance, in relation to areas such as those I represent—where the whole system of agriculture has changed from pasture to arable, where the manpower shortage is even more acute than in many other parts of the country, and where it will be even more serious when the prisoners of war go home—that particular regard will be had to the nature of that change in granting deferments to young men attracted to the agricultural industry. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to meet those points when replying to the important discussion on this new Clause.

    With due respect to the Chair, I think that this discussion has gone far outside Subsection (1) of the new Clause. The only point involved is whether or not all the farm workers on a given farm, if they are all 18 years of age, shall be called up at the same time. I would give an immediate assurance on that. In the case of a farm which cannot be carried on because all the workers on it are in the same age group, and are liable to be called up at the same time, the farmer and the farm workers affected will have the right to make representations to the agricultural executive committee for the deferment of one or more of those men. That is apart from the question of apprentices. That procedure would function quickly, and I think it completely meets the point put forward. County executive committees are composed of representatives of the agricultural industry, and the National Farmers' Union is actively represented on them. I can assure the Committee that there will be no difficulty at all about dealing with cases of this type. There are just one or two other points oil which I should like to say a word. I said that horticulture—

    I am sorry to intervene, but will the Minister undertake that those dealing with the matter will bear in mind that there are cases in which people grow both flowers and vegetables, either at the same time or in rotation, and that it is very often the best way to use the land for the benefit of the community?

    In so far as those people grow food, they will be entitled to make their representations to the county agricultural committee, and the matter will be considered on that basis. We cannot say that everybody engaged in horticulture will be deferred, but those growing food will certainly be entitled to deferment.

    11.45 a.m.

    I come next to the difficulty with regard to part-time training dealt with in Subsection (2) of the new Clause. On this, I can do no more than stress the undertaking given by the Prime Minister. On the point of issuing a statement in the form of a White Paper, I will certainly consider that, and see if it can be associated with the other White Paper promised last evening, at a different stage of the Committee. With regard to genuine apprenticeships, I should prefer to defer what I have to say on them, until we come to the new Clause dealing with that matter. Indeed, I think that it would be out of Order to speak on them at this stage. The other new Clause is intended to cover a very wide field, and it would be out of Order, before it is reached, to deal with the whole matter on the two narrow points of the Clause we are now debating. In view of the undertakings which I have given, I hope the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Motion.

    The Parliamentary Secretary has repeatedly said that there will be the right to make representations. Of course, that right exists today. The whole point at issue is not the right to make representations, but what attitude will be adopted towards the representations made. I hope that such representations will be listened to sympathetically, and will receive a speedy answer. In the past, the rule has been applied pretty strictly, and there have been many difficulties in obtaining deferment for people engaged in agriculture, even where the cases appeared, at first sight, to be pretty strong. I rise again merely to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to go a bit further than saying that there will be the right to make representations, and to say that instructions will be given to see that applications are speedily investigated and dealt with on a broad and sympathetic basis.

    I will certainly give that undertaking, but I must warn the Committee that we cannot agree to give deferment to a young man of 17 years of age who goes into agriculture, or whose father buys him a plot of land and registers him as an agricultural worker. We cannot agree that such a person should be enabled to escape his obligations. But, with regard to the genuine agricultural workers, I give the undertaking that their representations will have sympathetic consideration, and that the recommendations of the county agricultural committees will be accepted. With those assurances, I think that we have completely met the points put to us.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for the assurances he has given, but my hon. Friends and I feel that a right to apply for this or that is not enough, and we would like to see written into the Bill an obligation on the Minister to stagger the call-up in such cases. In these circumstances, I feel—and I hope that my hon. Friends will agree with me—that we should carry this matter to a Division.

    Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time", put, and negatived.

    New Clause—(Cadet Forces)

    The service authorities shall by regulations make special provision for the training of persons who at the time when they are called up have reached a prescribed standard of efficiency in the sea cadet corps, the army cadet force, the junior training corps or the air cadet force.—[Brigadier Prior-Palmer.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    I suggest that it is up to the Government to do everything in their power to make up for the officer deficiency which will now be unavoidable on the reduction from 18 to 12 months. I believe that in the cadet forces there is a great opportunity for carrying that into effect. I do not think that in the past the cadet forces they had the sympathetic treatment which they so richly deserve, and we appeal to the Government to give them some incentive. There are two other points which I would like to raise on this new Clause, if I am in Order. One is the question of uniform for these cadet forces. These forces must be allowed a decent uniform, which is readily available, without having to fight everyone in authority to get it, or having to go out into the streets to buy clothing. Secondly, the question of instructors is a matter of vital importance. In the past it has been the habit to send old "sweats" to look after the boys. That should not be continued. They should have the finest material available in the form of instructors—people who are good judges of character, and leaders of men, as well as being experienced in their own job. I press very strongly for that.

    Apart from that, the object of this new Clause is that there shall be some further incentive for these boys, and that when they join the Army, they will find some recognition of the hard work which they have put in. It must be remembered that they give up a lot of their spare time to these forces. They go to a drill hall rather than to a cinema, and, on a lovely summer evening, instead of walking on the beach with their girl friends, they are drilling. Therefore they thoroughly deserve a certain amount of recognition. We considered a suggestion that they should get accelerated promotion or some recognition of that sort, but we realise that that is not now practicable. The words on the Order Paper are intended to include some form of recognition and I suggest that, if something specific is not done in that way, within 24 hours of a boy joining his unit his service in the cadet forces will be entirely forgotten. The first moment that he goes into the orderly room and the commanding officer looks through his papers he will see, possibly, that this fellow was a cadet. But in the pressure of work, and with the changing of units that will be forgotten in a few days or weeks.

    Therefore, I would ask the Minister to introduce some regulation which will ensure that it is kept repeatedly before the authorities that this man was a cadet originally. One might go so far as to suggest that he should wear some token on his uniform. There might be something to that effect marked in his pay book in red ink so that every week it came before the company sergeant major and the officer who was paying out. I suggest that they deserve some recognition, and that it will be to the good of the Cadet Forces as a whole and the Army as a whole if something in that nature is done.

    I support very warmly indeed what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has said. I would go even a little further than the hon. and gallant Member. He has said that he hopes that members of the cadet forces when they enter into national service will there find some recognition. Surely the important thing is that they should know in advance that they will have some recognition. It must be made clear to them in advance that, if they have reached an appropriate standard of efficiency in the cadet forces, they will, when they go for national service, obtain definite advantages. By definite advantages, I do not mean differential treatment in the way of the training they receive. It was suggested originally, that there should be a remission of service for those who had obtained a requisite standard. That was in connection with the 18 months' service, but now that it is to be 12 months, that cannot apply, and it would be wrong in the circumstances to press for a remission of service.

    On the other hand, it is obviously desirable to make clear that if they have reached an appropriate standard before' hand their chances, for example, of being commissioned during their period of national service will be very greatly enhanced, and their chance of getting admission to the branch of their choice will be greatly enhanced—not only the Service of their choice but branch of their choice. In addition, there are many branches which actually require pre-Service training if boys are to reach any standard of efficiency during the period of their 12 months' service. During the Debate on an earlier Amendment, it was made clear that quite apart from training as a unit, it would be impossible for a man to reach the standard of personal efficiency, say, in the Royal Armoured Corps, in 12 months, but if he already had an aptitude for wireless, for instance, before joining the Royal Armoured Corps he would be well on the way towards reaching proficiency in that service.

    During wartime, it is possible for men to be called up into the Services and become enthused quickly, and they attain an aptitude and a keenness in whatever branch of the Service they enter in a much shorter time than is possible in peacetime. If they have an aptitude for learning the technique of the Service it is only human nature that they should wish to apply that technique and become more efficient soldiers, sailors or airmen. Therefore, it is a question of encouraging the maximum number of people to enter the cadet corps and at present very little encouragement is being offered to these people. Already there are signs of the grants being cut down. That process must be reversed and there must be the fullest inducement to boys to enter the corps knowing that when they go into the Services it will be a definite advantage.

    12 noon.

    I support the new Clause proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). I realise that there is a difficulty in making a regulation which will ensure the object of this new Clause, but that might be overcome by providing so that young men know, before they are called up, that the fact that they have been attending the cadet corps does pay and that those who have attended such a corps will, during the period of their call-up, get some sort of advantage or will be given a good start, as a recognition of the hard work which they have put in. I cannot suggest the exact way in which that could be done, but I do make one suggestion which might have some immediate effect. Suppose all those who have been in the cadet corps were excused fatigues, there would be a rush to secure that privilege. That might be impracticable, but certainly some inducement should be offered. First it would be a sign from the Government that they approve of the cadet corps and hope to keep them going; and, secondly, it would provide some who will leaven the lump of ignorance and help others on their call up.

    I think the object of this new Clause is to try to fit square pegs into round holes as regards the call-up for the Army. I do not think that it will achieve the object lion. Members have in view, because the people responsible in the past for running the Services have been hide-bound traditionalists. I would give the Committee one or two cases in point. One was a case of my own son. He was a specialist engineer and he placed his knowledge at the disposal of the Army authorities. They directed him to drive a Bren gun carrier. Another young man I know well was interviewed by a psychologist who was a lady. She said to him "Can you explain what a crank-shaft is?" Being an engineer he asked her, "Do you know what a crank-shaft is?" and she said, "No." He said that it would be very difficult for him to explain, and she immediately wrote down, "Not adaptable."

    While I have some sympathy with this new Clause, I see very big difficulties in connection with it. In the first place, some of us raised the question of the cadet corps on the Service Estimates and I understood—and the Secretary of State for War can correct me if I am wrong—that there is at the present moment a ceiling for the sea cadets and a ceiling for the A.T.C. Is it possible to offer an incentive for a force, which has a ceiling? It was different during the war. During the war, one in five coming forward to the R.A.F. were from the A.T.C. A cadet there did arithmetic called celestial navigation, because he knew that in a year or two he would have wings on his tunic. There was then a definite incentive. What the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) is trying to ensure, is that we offer an incentive which is bound to be somewhat artificial in peacetime.

    There is the further difficulty that at present we are trying to see that scouting is encouraged not only in the old-established secondary schools, but in the new county secondary schools and that this is to be reckoned to them for righteousness, Incidentally, there are the sea scouts. There seems to be a little confusion under all these heads, for if we tried to mould the whole of the youth of this country into a certain type of proficiency for the Army it might create difficulties. It is probably to the general advantage that a well-educated young man will have some efficiency in these matters, but I see great difficulties ahead. What happens to the people who do not come in under the ceiling? Would the Under-Secretary of State for Air be prepared to raise the A.T.C. ceiling from what it is at present—I think it is 25,000—to 50,000? As I say there are practical difficulties at the moment in making definite regulations on this subject.

    The hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Lindsay) has indicated some of the difficulties which will prevent me from accepting this new Clause, but let the Committee understand that I am in complete agreement and sympathy with all that has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite and in sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) in the case of his own son. Incidents will happen, however carefully we draw a Bill or a regulation, as the right hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite, who have spoken on this new Clause know only too well. What I think we have to keep in view on all these matters is the spirit lying behind them, because the Bill has to be translated into action some time. As far as the cadet movement is concerned, all three Services recognise the great value of it and encourage it. If I may speak about the Army about which I know myself, we are making a very prominent feature in our auxiliary defence of the cadets. In passing, may I say that when I was a cadet in the Church Lads Brigade—and I think that organisation is still running—I was a boy in quite a poor neighbourhood of London. On the other hand that was really the only outlet for me, whereby I got some sort of disciplinary training and also physical training in sport. I can speak with practical experience of the value which that cadet movement gave to me, and I think hon. Members will understand that I shall do all I can to see that it is fostered and is encouraged in the Army.

    Let us now come down to practical politics. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) mentioned two salient points—uniforms for the cadets and instructors for them. I can understand that the cadet is enthusiastic—of course he will not be otherwise, or he would not join the movement—and likes to see himself and likes his friends to see him in his smart uniform. That is why recently in the Army, we have been able to approve an issue of greatcoats, which they did not get hitherto, and also boots.

    Boots are also essential for civil life, and I should not be at all surprised if some of the cadets might want to use those issued by the Army for everyday wear. Being a father myself, I can understand the difficulties that mothers have in finding coupons to buy boots and shoes for their children, and I feel that this might perhaps be an inducement to mothers to encourage their sons to join the cadet movement. However, we have done our best within the limited material available to provide these cadets with a full uniform, including greatcoats and boots, so that they will have some self-respect and be able to carry out their training duties efficiently. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's point about uniform.

    With regard to instructors, the cadet movement in the Army and the Air Force at any rate—the sea is somewhat different—will be linked up with the Territorial Forces. As a result the cadets will have opportunities of being instructed by the instructors attached to the Territorial Force. The Reserve Forces are provided for in this Bill, and since they are the main Reserves of the country it is obvious that if we are intending to ask for a compulsory reserve training liability on the national service men we in the Services will have to see that they are properly trained—and we shall. The cadets will have the benefit of that. One other point is that we are arranging that for two months in every year the Regular Army is to drop its own particular training and turn all its efforts on to the Territorial Army. This will have two effects. It will ensure that Territorial Army training is speeded up and improved during that two months period—roughly the camp period—and it will also have the indirect benefit to the cadet for which the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing has asked.

    Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that for two months in every year the Army would be turned over to training the Territorial Force, and if so what will happen to the training of the conscripts recruited to the Regular Army?

    Obviously, the training of the Army at the depots will carry on. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not take my statement too literally. Of course we have to carry on the ordinary training of the national service men and that is done in the primary training centres during the initial six weeks after they come in. That will carry on throughout the year, and what I am trying to point out is that for a certain period of the year the regular Army will give more intensive training to the Territorial Force, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will understand my statement in that sense. The cadet movement will benefit by being linked up to the Territorial Army. I hope that I have answered the two points which were raised and have satisfied the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the cadets are to receive first uniform, and, second, good training. I come now to the other point concerning the ceiling mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the universities.

    12.15 p.m.

    That is fixed just as there is to be a ceiling fixed in the Territorial Army and the Regular Army. There are various forms of cadet movement and there will be plenty of outlets for these young men, but we have fixed a ceiling because we cannot carry out more than a certain amount of training in the limited stages. If, however, there is a sudden rush to volunteer for the cadet forces I hope provision will be made to meet it, but I cannot accept this new Clause because we need to have elbow room to make our plans and do not want to be tied down to making Regulations. There is no provision anywhere in this Bill for training Regulations, and I think it would be a mistake if we were forced by this new Clause to say in the Bill that we have to make Regulations in order to give some preference to the cadet when he joins the Army.

    If you give substantial preference to people who have been in a cadet force and then there are no places in that force, so that there is a very distinct limitation, it is positively unfair. There must, therefore, be a guarantee that the number of places in the Cadet corps will be increased, if the demand warrants it.

    I should have thought that that was a very suitable point to discuss on the various Service Estimates.

    The hon. Gentleman must try again next year. With regard to the preferential treatment which this Clause provides for cadets who have some pre-Service training, the point is that we already give them preference. It would, however, be very difficult to say what form that preference should take.

    I really must get on. I am trying to deal with this matter as comprehensively as possible. Providing always that he is still up to standard, a cadet who has had pre-Service training has his primary training period reduced from six weeks to four when he comes into the Army. That is the first preference he receives. Then—also if he is up to the standard required—he is immediately marked out for leadership, but leadership can take various forms.

    That is the point. Is there any form such as an efficiency certificate that follows a cadet so that the fact that he has reached that stage of efficiency is kept before the Service authorities?

    I thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite desired to do away with as many forms as possible, but let me tell the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing), if he does not know, that there is a Ministry of Labour interview when the recruit is asked various questions by the military interviewing officer. We have charge of him when he comes into the Services and there he fills up a great many more details concerning things such as pre-Service training. In addition we have a specialised type of personnel selection in the Army by which we can be reasonably sure that, generally speaking, we shall be able in the first six months of the primary training of a recruit to spot the potential leader. During that period and with these methods we shall be able to determine which are the good cadets, and they will be marked out both for promotion in the non-commissioned ranks and as potential officers.

    I am impinging on a later Amendment when I point out the difficulty of giving a man his commission during the 12 months training period, but I should just like to say that he will be marked out as a potential officer if he makes the grade. I hope that I have shown the Committee to their satisfaction not only that we will do what is desired, but that we are already doing it in the Services. We are making provision to see that those with pre-Service training in the cadet movement shall receive preference when they come into the Army, providing always that they maintain the necessary standard.

    I am sure that we are all grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's interesting survey, but I do not think he has given any reason why this new Clause should not be included in the Bill. We are asking for special provision, not for any preferential treatment. We want to ensure that these boys, who have put in a great deal of work in the cadet corps, get some recognition for that work when they join the Forces. That work will be of great benefit to the Forces. It might have an influence on the branch of the Service they go into. For example, the sea cadets reach a high standard in signalling and wireless. That should help a lot in deciding the branch for which they should be selected. There should be some guarantee in the Bill that a boy who has served in one of the cadet forces shall not have hanging over him the possibility of being called up for one of the other Forces.

    I do not think the hon. and gallant Member can go into that question on this Clause.

    I think that the Secretary of State displays an ignorance of the purpose of legis- lation. He talks about wanting elbow room and about "accidents will happen." The purpose of passing Statutes is that Ministers shall not have elbow room, which also by many soldiers is considered a thing to be drilled out of. The Secretary of State talks about accidents happening. The purpose of legislation is to decasualise the impingeing of compulsion on. His Majesty's subjects, the unpredictability of the ways in which their lives may be affected by legislation. I hope that the Secretary of State, who I think might have given the rest of the Committee more chance to explain their reasons to him before he announced his decision, has not been excessively influenced by the two speeches made against the new Clause. They were two very good speeches, one from the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) who talked about female psychiatrists being hidebound—

    That is technically inaccurate. It may well be that female psychiatrists are hidebound. That is a speculation which may lead the imagination very far.

    I hope that the hon. Member will not attempt to take the Committee quite so far.

    It was not even I. The argument that because, as present arrangements are, square pegs do not get put into square holes, therefore, the Minister ought to resist a new Clause designed to make it more likely that pegs, having reached a certain stage of preparatory squareness, should be directed towards holes of a more or less square shape, seems to be an argument which should not have carried weight with the Minister. Similarly, I think the argument about a ceiling was rather like an earlier argument which I thought reduced Socialist ideas to the point of parody, that because everybody cannot have the best cheese no one should have anything but the worst cheese. The argument that because not everybody can have preparatory shaping for military training—

    That was not my argument at all. There is no overall selection in the cadet corps. Boys join as and when they can. The hon. Member has missed my point.

    I do not know whether one can miss the non-existent. There is a selection for the cadet corps by reason of the fact that persons chosen to go into them are, by presenting themselves, selecting themselves as persons likely to have an aptitude for military service. Whether or not they have a congenital aptitude, having been through the cadet corps, they will certainly have a better aptitude than the generality of the population can be presumed to have. That being so, it seems to me obviously right that there should be some legislative provisions that these poeple, being more likely to be useful for military purposes, should be used with a particular eye upon their aptitude and preparation. That is all for which the Clause is asking. I ask the Secretary of State to reconsider, whether he is really wise in resisting it.

    In dealing with this new Clause the right hon. Gentleman made an interesting speech, covering a wide field, tempting one, perhaps, to divert one's remarks from strict application to the proposals contained in the new Clause. I do not propose to follow, in any great degree, the temptation which he has put before me I am a little alarmed about the announcement he has made that for two months of every year the Regular Army will be diverted to training Territorials. I am not sure that that will operate to the best advantage in the national interest, but I do not that this is the right occasion to discuss that. I merely put the matter on record.

    In the whole of his speech, which lasted a considerable time, the right hon. Gentleman devoted only his last few observations to the particular point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend when he moved this Clause. He then said that the War Office does give preference to cadets but that it was difficult to say how it was given Then he went on to say that it was given in two respects, one, that the basic training was, in the case of pro- ficient Army cadets, reduced from six to four weeks. Is that a maximum reduction? Is there a possibility of any further reduction, depending upon the efficiency of the cadets?

    No, it would perhaps mean reducing the primary training period almost to zero if we did that. Obviously, the cadet's training will not be quite the same as a soldier's training, and he must carry out a minimum of primary training. The maximum reduction is two weeks.

    I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for stating that fact. Turning to the second point, the right hon. Gentleman said that they would be marked out for leadership. It is obvious, from what the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) said, that the marking sometimes goes wrong. We should have heard a fuller explanation of how that marking out is done. The point which is raised by this Amendment is to ensure that the proficient cadet, whether he be an Army, Air Force or Naval cadet, shall have that fact brought to, and kept in front of, the attention of his superiors, and not merely have it filled in on a form which is filed away and forgotten. That is the danger of what might happen through a multiplicity of forms. Whether a form or some other method is used, we hope to get some assurance that it would be kept throughout before the attention of the cadet's superior officers. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that. He might have meant it. I hope that may be the case.

    2.30 p.m.

    I hope that the Secretary of State will agree that now that whole-time service is being reduced from 18 to 12 months, the importance of the role to be played by the cadet forces is greatly increased. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is in complete agreement and in sympathy with the aim behind this new Clause and I hope that he will, consequently, in view of that enhanced role, give greater encouragement to the cadet movement than is now provided.

    But he can go a little further than that, and I hope he will, to encourage people to join the cadets. The Minister mentioned the question of instructors. I was hoping that he would say something about the officers' position in the Army cadet force, because it is very important that these cadet forces should be well officered. At present, there are discrepancies between the treatment of officers of the cadet forces and officers of other branches, and I hoped the Minister would have said that these differences were to be eliminated. It is only by getting the right officers, and securing that these people are properly marked—if I can use that expression—that the Minister will be able to give the encouragement to the cadet forces that is so urgently needed. However; in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and in the hope that he will put more elbow power behind what he has said, we do not propose to divide the Committee on this Motion.

    I do not wish to take up more than half a minute of the Committee's time, but I am completely puzzled to understand the attitude of my right hon. Friends on this side and Members opposite, who claim to be supporters of this Bill, towards this series of Amendments. We have now spent 45 minutes on a proposed new Clause which merely asks that the Service authorities shall, by regulation, make special provision—

    In view of that interruption it will be another 15 seconds. Unless there is a determination to talk the Bill out, I should have thought that complete satisfaction could have been given much earlier. The long discussion on what the provisions were to be, for what persons and in what manner, kind and degree, need not have arisen, because there was complete agreement. We have wasted nearly 45 minutes of the Committee's time.

    The Minister does not seem to have appreciated the full significance of this new Clause. He mentioned incentive and recognition. Why not give a little more incentive to the sea cadets—the most important and senior group of cadets? At present, they join groups at the age of 12, and the Admiralty does not recognise them until they are 14. Some will serve until they are 18. After six years of trying to do their best to get sea training there is a great possibility that many of them will go into the Army, and peel potatoes. During the war, I saw uniforms covered with flags and insignia of every description. I imagine that these chaps will be going into the Services without anything on their uniforms. Why should they not have a small sign to show that, in the cadet movement, they achieved a standard of efficiency? Such a sign would be of help to their officers. The Minister of Defence was very fond of the sea cadets when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and I hope that he will do a lot for them in his new position.

    We shall watch very carefully to see whether the assurances given by the Minister will be implemented. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    May I ask for your guidance, Major Milner? We have already taken up one-third of the time allotted for our deliberations today, and I wonder whether it would be possible, at this stage, for us to have some guidance from the Front Bench as to their intentions.

    I wonder whether we might have your guidance, Major Milner, on a preliminary point. I do not challenge your action in not intending to call the second new Clause—(Attainment of commissioned rank)—standing in my name, but I should like to ask you whether there is any doubt about that new Clause having been in Order and, therefore, conceivably discussible on the Report stage? In that case, may I refer to that new Clause in my remarks about the new Clause—(Commissions)—standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and myself?

    In the exercise of my discretion I have selected the proposed new Clause dealing with commissions. The hon. Member can make references to the previous two new Clauses standing in his name of he desires to do so.

    New Clause—(Commissions)

    The service authorities shall by regulations make provision whereby any person to whom Section one of this Act applies may, if selected for the purpose, receive a commission either during, or immediately upon completion of, his term of whole-time service.—[Mr. Pickthorn.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    I hope the Committee will not think I am pompous, or have entirely lost my sense of proportion, if I say that this seems to me the most important new Clause we have to deal with today. I have no right to complain of the paucity of the audience, but I am sorry that we have not been able to fill the Committee. I do not blame those who are not present, although I may blame the Government for the way the proceedings have been discussed, so that we come to this point on a Friday morning. The reason I am sorry that more people are not present here is that I believe that if I can explain the point properly—and I should not dare to be over confident—I should have the complete agreement of every Member on the other side of the Committee, as well as most Members on this side. I am sorry that there are not more persons present whom it might be possible to convert.

    I think that never before has there been a conscription system set up in any country on a more or less permanent basis. I think that has never before been done, without public and Parliamentary discussion of the relations between conscripts' service and the officering of the Reserve, especially the officering of the Reserve by the promotion of conscripts to the Reserve. I think it is a remarkable thing, and it is the only matter which I should make a matter of reproach against the Minister of Labour, although I understand that he was in the hands of advisers from the Service Department, that although something was said on this subject on the Second Reading, we did not hear a word about it from him on that occasion. We do now deserve a very candid and open-minded consideration of the point.

    Young men are called up in the immediate present for two years; in the immediate past for an indefinite period, and some such young men are still with the Colours. Under the Bill, they are to be called up for a period of 12 months. They will include all young men fit to be officers who have not already chosen to set out on other machinery, the path for becoming Regular officers.

    It is therefore most important that those who are most fit to become officers should be earmarked as, so to speak, officer material, at the earliest possible stage, and that they should be trained to become officers. It needs little argument to show that that is equally important for all civilian occupations. If, therefore, the sort of young boy of 18 or 19 who is most likely to become a good officer in His Majesty's Armed Forces is also the sort of boy most likely to have initiative, those boys should get into their civilian careers as early as the inferior boys who are not to be officers. I hope that the whole Committee is with me in the argument as far as that point.

    It happens at present that these young men find that if 'they set themselves out to become officers, whether upon their own initiative or upon the suggestion of commanding officers or adjutants, they run very serious risks that the whole-time interruption of their civilian careers will be longer than it would be if they were not prepared to be considered for promotion to commissioned rank. That is a bad result, from the point of view of the Services, as well as of getting our ordinary normal civilian economy back at least to where it was 10 years ago and ultimately to much further on than that. That is the first stage of the argument. I hope I have made it quite clear.

    How much the present arrangement may tend to lengthen· the whole-time service can be estimated by an indication of what happens in some regiments. It varies from service to service. I can see the temptation which exists for senior officers. It costs more money to make a man into an officer, even the lower sort of officer, than simply to train him as an efficient private. If we spend more of the King's money upon these young men there is a temptation to get some of the money back by keeping the men in the services longer than they would remain as privates or lance-corporals.

    Is it impossible to gain a commission immediately upon the completion of the whole time service, after one year. I cannot conceive from this discussion whether—

    On a point of Order. I suggest, Major Milner, that it is impossible to discuss the proposed new Clause unless we are allowed to mention that point. It is because the present system exists and because we want to prevent it from being the system in the future that I put forward the proposed new Clause.

    I need hardly remind you, Major Milner, but perhaps I may venture to remind the Committee, of Heydon's case, a leading case in this connection, in which was laid down what I believe has been the law and the practice ever since, that the first point to be considered in legislating is what the existing position is, and the gap necessary to be filled, or evil removed.

    The hon. Gentleman has already, if he will forgive my saying so, given the Committee a lecture on legislating. I must ask him to keep to the matter of the new Clause.

    12.45 p.m.

    I am very sorry if I am apt to go too wide. No doubt I can be forgiven if I do not understand the exact distinction between a lecture and a speech. Perhaps the Attorney-General wishes to explain it to the Committee. All that I am trying to show is that the proposed new Clause cannot be understood without some understanding of the present arrangement. That is all I am asking you to allow me to do. I do not think that most people fully understand the present arrangement. I hope that the Secretary of State for War may explain to us the Army Council instruction on this matter.

    A very great deal of latitude is left to commanding officers in some regiments. Young men are told in some cases that they have no hope of a commission unless they stay for two years' continual service. In other areas they are told that they have little hope of a commission unless they stay for five years. My submission is that if those arrangements are allowed to go on, either in the Army or in the other Services, many young men who obviously ought to become officers of the Reserve will be unwilling to do so. If, unfortunately, we should have another major conflict in a short period, our Reserve would then start with fewer good officers than it ought to have. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with me that the people who matter most when we are expanding our Services are the officers of the Reserve, and further that they should be the right sort of people. The more previous experience those officers have had of the military kind the better they will be, as I am sure all of us will agree from our regimental experience.

    My first point therefore is that unless the Bill has a Clause of that sort—I should prefer a slightly more mandatory form of my own Clause—there will be that bad result. There will also be on the whole a socially bad result. The young men to whom it is most important because of want of capital or want of connections that they should get on quickly with their professional or their commercial careers, will be those most unwilling to accept commissions. They will fear that acceptance of a commission will mean two, three or even five years' interruption, instead of only one. I do not think that contention can be denied.

    The next, part of the argument is that it would have a very bad effect upon what I may call the officering of the civilian population. That is specially true in connection with the universities. If young men should find that when they go into the Forces that they are likely to get a commission but do not know whether they will be held for two years or four years longer than otherwise would have been the case, it makes the business of registrars and tutors in academic institutions in making up their entries impossibly difficult. Again, it has the bad effect that it makes it even more difficult than it already is for the business of justly administering the proportion between the entry direct from school and the ex-service entry. For all these reasons, it seems to be quite beyond debate that it ought to be the normal thing in anything like a permanent conscript system—and it was the normal thing in all the prewar conscript systems of the continent—that a young conscript can become an officer of reserve without the whole-time interruption of his career being longer than it would have been if he were too inferior to become an officer or had chosen not to wish to become an officer. That is the main thesis.

    If I may say a further word about the technique of the matter, I was assured there was difficulty, both constitutional and administrative, in framing a new Clause with this purpose, since the granting of commissions is a matter of His Majesty's Prerogative. As at present advised, I should be the last to wish to alter that arrangement. I believe it is a maxim of law—I would not venture to explain the law, as there are others better qualified to do so—that when Parliament takes some matter into the statutory field, it thereby excludes the Prerogative from that field for the future. Therefore, it is a matter of extreme delicacy for us to legislate on this question, but I hope that both the new Clauses put down have avoided that difficulty without making themselves wholly ineffective. I am confirmed in that hope by the fact that both the new Clauses are in order. That one of them has been selected confirms me in the first part of the hope, and that there should be any doubt at all about Ministerial acceptance of our suggestion confirms me in the second half of the hope. I hope I have made the points plain. I could adduce many illustrious examples, but if I have made the main points plain, I do not wish to hold the Committee with examples, and I should be the last to wish to repeat myself.

    I have sympathy with the object of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) in the new Clause, but I think the greatest objection to accepting the Clause in this form is that administrative management of the Services, if all the details of that administrative management had to be put in the form of regulations which would have to be laid before the House, and which could be prayed against even in a negative way, would become practically impossible. What we ought to do, surely, is to make certain that there will be these opportunities, as the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, but it should be for the Services to give those opportunities, although not in the way described in the new Clause. To take the Army alone, there are hundreds of Army Council Instructions dealing with matters of this sort issued every year. If those Army Council Instructions—I suggest that this would be the best method of dealing with this, and it would always be' open to hon. Members to obtain a copy of Army Council Instructions—had to be laid before the House and possibly debated at some late hour, that would not help towards the smooth administration of the Service Departments.

    Ministers do not help us to save time if they make this sort of misunderstanding. Nobody is asking that all Army Council Instructions should be laid before the House, or even all the details about granting commissions. What we ask for is a statutory guarantee that the normal method of attaining a commission on the reserve for a conscript shall not mean longer full-time interruption of his normal career. That is what we are asking. We ought to have some argument against it, or should be given something like it.

    The Committee can now see the difficulties we are getting into. I say quite frankly that in certain arms of the Service it will not be possible for national service men within 12 months' whole-time training to get the necessary qualifications and standard which are desirable in commissioned officers in that arm or branch of the Service. I think the best way that I can deal with the Clause is to try to reassure the hon. Gentleman, if that is possible, that we shall give every facility and opportunity to all the national service men within the period of their whole-time training, which is included in the new Clause, or if not within that whole-time training period, immediately after it, when they go on to the reserve, or later on, the opportunity of getting a commission. It must be evident to the Committee that we cannot hope to carry the national service intakes, which will be considerable, with only Regular officers to officer them. We must look for a certain number of National Service men to provide the officers for the National Service Army; otherwise, we simply shall not have the numbers.

    To take the Regular Army alone, we need every Regular officer we can get, or every officer we can get, to look after the Regular Army. That is the reason the Military College at Sandhurst is now engaged in working on an 18 months course, and an intensive one at that, to provide officers for the Regular Army. It is true that some of those officers will have to deal with the National Service element in the Regular Army, but we shall want more than the Regular content in the commissioned ranks for the national service Army. It follows, therefore, that during that whole-time period of training we shall have to look to many of those young men to help to fill the commissioned ranks of the Army and, of course, the other two Services. Let me explain briefly the different categories. There is the Regular commission, the temporary commission and the Auxiliary Forces commission required in the different branches of the Services, the officer for the Regular Army, the officer for the national service Army, and the officer for the Auxiliary Army. In the case of the Regular commissions, it will not be possible.

    On a point of Order, Major Milner. What have Regular commissions to do with this Bill or this Clause?

    I will endeavour to explain it. It was one of the most substantial points of the hon. Gentleman's argument that a national service man could not get a commission unless he signed on for five years. The hon. Member raised that point, and I will reply to it briefly. In the case of a Regular commission, it would not be possible for him to get it unless he undertook a regular engagement which would be five years, because he would have to go to the military g training school and serve at least 18 months before he could be on the way to a Regular commission.

    1.0 p.m.

    The next point concerns temporary commissions which cover individuals called up under this Bill. A certain proportion of National Service men within the whole-time period will be able to get commissions, and, obviously, it will have to be left to the different Services to lay down the standards and qualifications before they can get their commissions. The man who might be able to get such a commission within the whole-time period would then follow into his reserve service with his commission.

    Straight into the Reserve with his commission. We shall endeavour to get as many as we can within that whole-time period, because they will then get an opportunity of understanding the working of the Army before they go out into the auxiliary Reserve as officers. I will not deal with short-service commissions, because I think they are beside the point, but I hope that in the remarks I have made I have explained what we have in mind—and this will need very careful planning—to provide the officers for the three services, as regards both regular and national service men. In effect, it will be possible for the national service men to get what the hon. Gentleman is asking for—their commissions either during their whole-time service or immediately on relegation to the Reserve—but it would be impossible for me to lay down precisely how many will get their commissions within the whole-time period or immediately afterwards. It would be impossible for me at this stage—indeed, I would be taking up the time of the Committee unnecessarily—to specify the branches of the Services. In the technical branches they would not get commissions in 12 months, whether in the Navy, Air Force or Army. However, I hope the Committee will be satisfied that we are going to make provision for that point. We cannot put it in statutory form. Otherwise, it would clutter up the Bill as well as Parliament.

    I rise in an effort to save time and, if the right hon. Gentleman will permit me, to say that the answer he has given is wholly unsatisfactory. He has given no indication that he means to meet the problem that we have in mind, or that he sees what the problem is. We have heard a great deal of talk about Regular commissions and the 40,000 Army Council Instructions. We have had no reference to the short, simple point which we wanted to bring before the Committee and which we regard as important, if not more important, for the future of the Forces under this Bill, as anything else we have discussed. With great respect to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), it is just as important to discuss matters with a view to ensuring the efficiency of the Services in the future as it is to dis- cuss matters, which I agree are of equal importance, concerning the conditions under which the men serve.

    I do not think I said anything which would cause the right hon. Gentleman to think I disagree with that statement.

    We regard this as tremendously important. Unless the system which exists at the moment is changed, no boy who is unable to surrender to military service more than the one year which is forced upon him by this Measure, will ever be able to get a commission in any branch of the Service.

    The right hon. Gentleman should not mislead the Committee. That is entirely wrong. I thought I had made it clear that it will be possible for national service men in the ranks, to get commissions during their whole-time service.

    If that is so, why does not the right hon. Gentleman accept this new Clause and let us have the regulations which show how it is done? He has spent the greater part of his speech proving how impossible it was to do it. We on this side attach the greatest importance to making sure that there are provisions which enable the bright young man to get his commission either during the year or shortly afterwards, and to move on to his part-time service as an officer, thereby providing some of the officers for the Territorials. I do not believe the Territorials will get their junior officers by any other way. I am told that in re-forming the Territorials, while it is comparatively easy to get volunteers in the higher commissioned ranks, it is not easy to get the junior subalterns, and they will have to be provided from the people who receive either all or the greater part of their training as officers during the year.

    We do not want to do anything in this Clause which sets a precedent for having to lay before Parliament a mass of regulations or Orders in which Parliament is not interested and with which we do not want to deal, but we regard this matter as something which does not set a precedent. We are not prepared to part with this Bill unless we have in it something which provides for what we believe to be absolutely vital for the future of the Territorial Army. We have had no such assurance yet. I drew no confidence or satisfaction from the speech of the Secretary of State, and, although we will not stand rigidly on the exact form—we are quite prepared at a subsequent stage for any verbal Amendments to be made which will make it easier from the technical point of view—we on this side insist that statutory provision alone can meet our fears and doubts in this matter.

    I am very anxious that we should make progress and, at the same time, that we should meet legitimate criticism. I think the Committee will appreciate that the acceptance of a new Clause of this kind would create a great precedent in Service administration. Therefore, it has to be given very careful consideration. Moreover, the point covered by the new Clause is intended to be strictly limited. However, I am bound to say that I am impressed from this point of view, that the Bill introduces for a longish period in peacetime the principle of compulsory national service, and, therefore, perhaps, the general conditions of men called up for national service should be considered from the point of view of their prospects of promotion to commissioned rank.

    It would be very difficult for us at the moment to accept the form of words suggested in the new Clause, to provide for the laying before Parliament of regulations in that wider sense, but I would like to consider the point between now and the Report stage and do my best to meet the position. I will have the matter examined. I consider, speaking for myself—I should like to examine it—that if the principle in the new Clause, of laying regulations for this purpose, is acceptable on the basis I have put, for the special purpose of men called up under this Bill, it should not be regarded as a precedent for a general demand afterwards for the laying of whole ranges of Service instructions before the Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance upon that basis—I could not possibly confine myself to the words in the new Clause, because they are exceedingly limiting in that respect—I will have it examined, and on Report stage I will introduce a form of words to deal with the principle at issue.

    I am sure all hon. Members on this side of the Committee are extremely grateful to the Minister of Defence. We are prepared to accept his assurance. I think he is fully seized of the principle, in which hon. Members in all parts of the Committee are interested. It is the principle which matters. If he now, as I understand, gives us a pledge that at a subsequent stage he will ensure that there is included in the Bill provisions for regulations which establish this principle, then we are quite prepared to leave the actual wording of the new provisions to him. That being the understanding, I should certainly advise my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) to withdraw the Amendment.

    I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not pledging myself to include, in anything we might bring forward at the Report stage, words which would specifically mention the principle which has been put forward by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) in his speech. What I hope to secure, in view of the anxiety expressed by hon. Members with regard to the conditions for granting commissions in general to candidates called up under the National Service Bill, is that it will be under regulations to be laid before Parliament, so that there will be the right to raise the matter. I think that is the real concession which hon. Members opposite want.

    in view of the assurance—and perhaps I may be permitted to repeat my understanding of it as shortly as I can—that it is intended to make an honest attempt to put it in the power of this Committee to ensure that it shall be normally possible for a conscript to go to the reserve as a commissioned officer, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    I now propose to call the new Clause in the names of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles)—(Exemption for persons engaged in production of coalmining machinery). I propose to call that new Clause with a view to having a general discussion on the question of exemptions so that all those hon. Members who have put down new Clauses may if they wish take part in this general discussion. I refer to the new Clauses dealing with distributive workers, agricultural workers and students, cotton trade workers, miners, and sea fishermen.

    I should certainly advise my hon. Friends to adopt that course without prejudice to the right of having separate Divisions, if desired.

    I must of course retain my discretion as to Amendments I call for the purpose of Divisions. Some are perhaps more important than others. It is my intention that, if necessary, there should be an opportunity of dividing on the more important Amendments on the Order Paper.

    You will remember, Major Milner, the parallel I have in mind. On the first day of the Committee stage we devoted practically the whole of the time to dealing with territorial Amendments. The principle of all these new Clauses is of exemption by industry. All I am asking for is the same latitude to be given today as was given on that occasion, although on this occasion we shall be more co-operative than were those who moved the Amendments on the previous occasion

    On a point of Order. May I ask whether we can divide on the new Clause standing in my name and that of my hon. Friends—(Exemption for only son of widow in certain circumstances.).

    I hope I shall not be pressed unduly on this matter of selection. I must see how things go. I will bear that matter in mind sympathetically, but I do not think I can be tied down in this matter.

    I have made a suggestion, and I hope hon. Members will not press me further.

    All we want to be clear about is that the new Clause to which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has referred is not included in the Ruling you have given. That Amendment is not an exemption by industry at all.

    In principle it is the same, and I hope the hon. Member will discuss that Clause at the same time as the other Clauses. It is true that the great majority of the new Clauses deal with industries, but the principle is one of exemption.

    I should like to make it quite clear that I could not agree to discussing the new Clause to which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton has just referred in a general discussion on exemption by industry. It seems to me to have nothing to do with it, and I shall not agree to it.

    New Clause—(Exemption For Persons Engaged In Production Of Coal-Mining Machinery)

    This Act shall not apply to any person engaged in the production of machinery for coal-mining purposes.—[ Mr. Ayles.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    1.15 p.m.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    I shall not take very long—I never do in the speeches I make in this Committee—because I think all the arguments can be put in a very few words. At the present time the coal mining industry is the premier industry necessary for the national economic recovery. The one thing which we must have, if we are to get the coal we require, is machinery, in order to enable us to make up the deficiency of manpower. It is absolutely absurd for us, when we are in such grave need of mining machinery, to take men who are making that machinery and put them into the Forces. Their work in the Forces is infinitely less important at the moment than the making of mining machinery and the provision of coal for the industries and the homes of this country. We have had amazing lapses on the part of the authorities in the past with regard to taking miners out of the mines and putting them into the Army, and then having to bring them back to the mines again. I hope we shall not make the same mistake in this case.

    I hope we shall encourage as many engineers as we can to do the work of producing this necessary machinery for the production of coal. Because of that, I think there ought to be some statutory obligation on the part of the authorities to see that that is done, and that every attraction is supplied to young men to enter the engineering industry to produce this particular kind of machinery. It also has another indirect effect. Today, most of our mining machinery is imported from America. That means dollars. Therefore, we are doing two bad things if we take out of the mining industry these young fellows who are now producing machinery for coal mining purposes. We are delaying—and one does not know how long we are going to delay—the reorganisation and mechanisation of our mines, and, at the same time, we are using up the most precious financial asset that we have. Therefore, I hope that on these grounds the Government will find their way clear to accepting the new Clause.

    I find myself at some disadvantage in that, in an effort to save time and to help the Committee, it has been decided that the proposed new Clauses dealing, in the main, with exemptions should be taken together. I say that, because I feel that the new Clause referring to exemption for agricultural workers and students engaged on an agricultural course is in an entirely different category from that of the other proposed new Clauses concerning the other industrial exemptions that are being asked for. My hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) referred to the pre-eminence of the coal mining industry. In my view, everything that can be said about the importance of coal can be said with equal, if not greater, force with regard to agriculture. I do not wish to oppose any case that may be put forward in support of exemptions in any other industry, though I find myself disagreeing with some of the suggestions put forward. We have the position today that the only industry which is dealt with in the matter of exemptions as an industry is that of coal, and that other industries, in particular, agriculture, are dealt with on a sort of individual basis.

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour today has made an important announcement in telling us that people would not be called up from agricultural service this year or next year. But that does not alter the main principle I wish to submit to the Committee. I have already mentioned coal. Coal and agriculture are the two industries which are the twin pillars on which our whole economic recovery must be built. Coal provides the energy for our machines, and agriculture provides the energy for the people who are going to work the machines; and I think that each is so completely complementary to the other, that they are equally indispensable, and in a class apart from all other industries. I do hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that when he comes to reply.

    I am going to suggest that agriculture is far worse off, relatively and potentially, than coal in the matter of labour supply. It is true that in the mines the current labour figure of 711,000 men is less than it was in 1939, although there has been this important increase in the last five months; but the 711,000 men in the mines are all native, skilled, full-time workers. The agricultural army, which has increased from 711,000 in 1939 to 859,000 is the most strangely assorted industrial army we have in any industry in this country today. If we examine that figure of 859,000 we see that there are only some 470,000 regular, full-time men employees; that there are about 150,000 casual workers of one kind or another; about 150,000 prisoners of war; about 27,000 members of the Women's Land Army; and some 60,000 other women workers. But this labour force will be reduced some time about the end of this year—certainly before the operation of this new Bill—by this total of 150,000 prisoners. We all approve of the fact that they must go. That means a loss of some 20 per cent. of our agricultural labour force. The future of the W.L.A. is quite uncertain, except that it seems reasonable to assume that the numbers will not increase. But, above all, under this Bill we do stand to lose in 1949—and it has been indicated this morning—a large proportion, a considerable proportion, a proportion we cannot afford to lose, of our youngest and strongest workers from the land. It is going to be a crippling, and I suggest, a catastrophic blow to our farms. They are already heavily under-manned. Farmers are wondering what is going to happen when the prisoners have gone. It will be utterly impossible to maintain the present output unless, in some way or another, this labour is replaced. How much worse is it going to be without these young men?

    The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) said that agriculture is in importance equal to defence. I quite agree. It is quite impossible to suggest that these young fellows should be taken away. I hope no one will say—because it will be utterly wrong—that if the young men remain on the land they will not be doing their duty to the same extent as if they were to join the Forces. Let us hope that that suggestion will not be made, because it will be utterly wrong. During the war, and to a far greater extent since the war, owing to the very enlightened attitude taken by the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Labour, the position with regard to the calling of men from the farms has improved. We know we are going to be all right up to the end of 1948. But I wish to submit that the position will not be cured by the end of 1948, that the need for labour on farms will be just as vital—and, indeed, more vital—than it is today, and that it is complete nonsense to suggest today that by 1st January, 1949, we shall be any whit less in need of manpower on the farms than we are today. It will be blinking the facts which we know are true and which we know will arise if it is suggested that that change can be made in 1949.

    Where is this extra labour to come from? We may get some Germans who will stay—perhaps, 5,000. There may be some from the Polish Resettlement Corps; say 10,000. We may get former Italian prisoners who may come back—some are coming back, I know—perhaps, another 10,000. We may get some displaced persons, though I think if we place any great reliance on good farm labour from that source we shall be most unwise. But suppose that from all those various sources we get 50,000. We shall still have a deficiency of 100,000 compared with the present supply of prisoner-of-war labour on our land. If to that we add in 1949 an unspecified number—I should say, not less than 30,000—of young men it will make the situation quite impossible. The economic survey this year showed us that we need another 40,000 more men in agriculture this year. The Minister of Agriculture hoped some time ago he might get as many as 100,000 trainees from the Forces, and he got less than 10,000. It is not only necessary to maintain the numbers on the land: we have to increase them. The present value of home food production is something in the nature of £600 million. It could be increased by another £100 million or £150 million if we had the labour. Think of the effect of our balance of payments if we had more labour on the land. We are told of the vital necessity of coal exports to improve our balance of payments. It is equally vital to reduce the volume of our food imports. That would have exactly the same effect. The Government should do something more to get the men back on the land. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the houses?"] We are doing very much better for housing than was ever done before the war, and I suggest to hon. Members opposite that the less they say about the countryside the better it will be for them, because the one thing for which they will never be forgiven in the countryside is their cruel betrayal of the rural areas, and that is why there are so many more hon. Members from the country on this side of the Committee and why the proportion will continue to increase. Hon. Members cannot betray the land and get away with it.

    1.30 p.m.

    The Government have been doing everything possible to get men to stay on the land and others to go back to the land. It is the first year of this century, where there were more full-time men on the land at the end than at the beginning of the year. There are schemes for electricity, water, drainage schemes and special subsidies for agricultural cottages, all designed to bring men back to the land and all of which will be useless unless it is decided to make the change in this Bill which is suggested by this new Clause. I believe that we shall have to face the possibility of cuts in some of our rations in the next six or nine months. How much worse will it be if our people have the prospect, not of improving home production, but of a worsening of conditions because the land is being denuded of its 'men. It may be objected that this provision will enable men to avoid military service, but that objection can easily be met if it is provided that certificates shall only be given to people who are in full time work on the land.

    This situation is a really desperate one. A little while ago, I learned that 166 school children had left school in North Wiltshire, but only three went to work on the land. In my own Division, some 600 square miles in extent, only 21 boys went to work on the land on leaving school. I suggest that we must do something about that, and must do all in our power to see that more people go to work on the land. The shortage of labour at the present time is extremely acute. I want to refer to the provision in the new Clause for exemption for people who are taking approved courses at agricultural colleges. The Minister may tell us that provision already exists for that, but it does not appear to me that it is sufficiently satisfactory.

    I will quote a case in point. A young man came to me the other day, saying that he was working on a farm and that he wished to go to an agricultural college. He is of military age. He said, "I can get a vacancy, but if I do that, I shall be called up, and I do not know whether it would be better for me to join up now and leave the agricultural course until later." Young men must know how they stand in this matter, and, if they have been working for two or three years on a farm, it should be made possible for them to complete their agricultural education on a higher plane by means of a course at college. If it is absolutely basic that our industries cannot proceed without fuel, it is equally basic that our people cannot proceed with their work without adequate food supplies. In view of the economic set-backs which we have had, and the conditions arising from the bad harvest last year and the disastrous winter this year—and the repercussions from these will be felt for some time, and will certainly still be felt in 1949—it must be realised that there must be an influx of people on the land. I think that harsh economic reality will compel us to suspend the call-up in 1949, and I ask the Minister not to do it in a piecemeal fashion but be bold enough to do it now by accepting the course which we suggest, so that industry knows exactly where it is and the people of this country can look forward to maintaining agricultural and food production on that level which is so vital to the future of the country.

    I hope that, when the Minister replies, he will give particular answers to the special points that have been made. I think that a case could be made out that agricultural workers should have, in every respect, exactly the same consideration and priorities as coalminers, because their work is of equal importance to the welfare of the country, which cannot look forward to prosperity unless agriculture is maintained at the highest efficiency.

    The reason why I have entered into this general discussion of the question of exemptions is to draw the attention of the Minister to a very important number of people engaged in the production of food—the fishermen. I associate myself with what the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) said about the agricultural workers, but I think it must be recognised that, in a conscription Bill based upon conscription for all—however much one might disagree with it—if we have exemption on the grounds of expediency in the case of the coalminers, it must be obvious that many other sections of the community must also have claims for exemption.

    In the case of the fishermen, like the agricultural workers, their labour produces food. We know that coal is essential for our economic recovery, but we do not get very far without food, which we now require more and more to be produced in this country. The fishermen are very important food producers, and they are now fishing on a very considerable scale, and the fish they produce becomes more and more important as the meat ration is declining. It is upon these grounds that I am asking for the support of the Minister, and I am submitting what I think is a commonsense case why the fishermen should be exempted. The purpose of this Bill is to bring men of military age into the Services, but, during the war, as we remember, the part that the fishermen played was a very valuable one in manning the small craft and entering into that dangerous operation of clearing the sea of mines. I have no doubt that if there were another war, the fishermen would again man the small vessels and undertake those hazardous duties. Would it not be better to allow them to remain in their present occupation which, in wartime, would be of such vital importance?

    I should also like to draw the Minister's attention to the case of the inshore fishermen. In their case, a father and usually one or more of his sons very often depend for their livelihood on the one vessel which they possess. If the sons are taken away, the father who, in many cases, is the skipper, would not be able to carry out his fishing duties. There is no unemployment in these little fishing hamlets, and the skipper is nearly always dependent for his manpower on his sons. I hope that the Minister will realise the dislocation which will be caused in the inland fishing industry if he takes the boys away. Finally, I want to stress the great value of producing as much food as possible at the present moment, and I hope that the Minister will consider that when coming to a decision.

    I confess at once that in this series of Amendments I have very great sympathy with my right hon. Friend who is now faced with a similar kind of problem to that which he faced on Monday. Then he was being pressed from all sides to leave out Scotland, Wales, and a great many territorial areas. It struck me then that, if we accept the democratic principle that the majority should have their way, and that the minority should have their way too, as far as it is consistent with the majority having theirs, then there was only one solution—the unanimous decision of the House of Commons to leave everybody out except Northern Ireland. It was quite clear on that occasion that everybody else wanted to stay out and that they alone wanted to come in. We came to the very remarkable democratic conclusion that we would keep in everybody who wanted to stay out, and would leave out those who wanted to come in. The concession that coalminers shall not be subject to call-up is already part of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not yet."] Even if it is not yet in the Bill, it was indicated by the Government that they will, in fact, be exempted.

    I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that coalminers are not exempted under the Bill. It is true that the Government have indicated that they will not, in fact, be called up, but, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, there is all the difference in the world between the two things.

    1.45 p.m.

    I apologise for my error, although, from the point of view of the coalminers, it may come to much the same thing. I daresay that everyone of the movers of this series of Amendments would be content with the same position, if they could get it. It is now suggested that, in addition to the miners, those who produce machinery for coalmining purposes, those engaged in the distribution of food, those in full-time employment in agriculture, and students working on an approved agricultural course, and those engaged in the coal, shale and slate mining industries, and others who may or may not be discussed in these Amendments, are to be exempted. I can understand that my right hon. Friend is bound to say that if he gave everybody what he wanted—and had goad cases for exemption—there would be nobody left for him to call up. I know that my right hon. Friend appreciates that in every one of these claims a sound case can be made out. Nobody thinks that they are artificial claims, and nobody who heard my hon. Friend talking about agriculture would have felt that he was not making an extremely valid appeal to the Minister. I saw my right hon. Friend give indications of assent when he said that the boys and young men engaged on the land, at this time of all times, are doing a far more vital service in the salvation of our country than they would be doing by spending this 12 months in the Army. No one who listened to the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment concerning machinery for coalmining purposes, which we are now discussing, fails to realise the importance of the case he made out.

    Now that I am on the subject of these different competing claims, I should like to say a word about the cotton textile industry. There was a time when coalmining and the cotton textile industry competed with one another as to which rendered the greater service to the total global exports of the country. That competition is over. The coal industry exports nothing at a moment when our need for exports is greater than ever it was, and the great burden of the export drive today is laid on the cotton textile trade which will be much the most important industry in the immediate future for producing the exports which will, to some extent, at any rate, restore our grievous international debtor position. In what circumstances is that being done? It is being done with an inadequate industry, which I am not entitled to discuss at the moment, although it is proper to bear it in mind, with worn out machines, with bad factories, and, what is very pertinent to this Amendment, with a labour force depleted by 50 per cent. The total labour force in the cotton industry today does not exceed 400,000 compared with the figure of 800,000 before the war, and even then it was in a bad condition. Its efficiency has been reduced over a period of two or three generations. I will not pause to consider the responsibility for that, although I will say that a great deal of it rests with the benches opposite. What matters at the moment, however, when cotton has become the main hope of our export trade, is that the industry is equipped with bad factories and bad machines, and is only manned to the extent of 50 per cent.

    Did my hon. Friend submit the figure of 400,000 to analysis to show how many were men and how many women?

    I have not the figures with me, though I appreciate that it is a very important analysis. But there is an even more important analysis to which I am coming in a moment. Of all industries this is one which depends very largely, or sectionally, on juvenile labour. While the taking away of manpower for this purpose from any industry is important, it is far more important in an industry which is the main hope of the export trade, and which has its labour force already depleted by 50 per cent; and all the more important in an industry which depends so largely on attracting young workers to it. I am not saying—I do not want to overstate my case because nothing does more harm to a good case than to overstate it; it is better to understate it if one can muster enough self-restraint to do so—that juvenile labour which is so important to the cotton trade, is necessarily juvenile labour at the age of 18. But what is important, and what makes it so relevant to my present argument, is the necessity which everyone admits—I regret that there is no representative of the Board of Trade present, because this is a very important matter to the Board of Trade—the crying need of this industry at this moment to attract juvenile labour into it, and to stop the drift of juvenile labour away from it.

    Nothing could be a more important incentive for young people to go into the cotton trade than to give them the same incentive as that which we give for an exactly similar purpose to the coal industry. The two things are absolutely parallel. I could understand a Government who said, "We cannot help it,"—I could not understand a Government who said, "We do not care." I could understand a Government saying, "We cannot help it in view of our needs and the demands upon us, and the only way in which we can discharge our obligations in international affairs is to have an Army or Armed Forces, of a size which we could not maintain without conscription, unless we gave disproportionate rewards." I can understand their case very well. The Government's case for doing this is, "We are not going back to the day when people were recruited into the Army by hunger, unemployment and economic conditions, and we are not going to attract people into the Armed Forces by offering an unjustified and disproportionate reward. Therefore, the only thing which we can do, and it is the fairest way, is to even out the burden among everyone and make everyone do his share." I can understand the Government doing that, and saying, "We will make no industrial exceptions at all"—

    Either in or out. I could understand the Government saying, "We will not go the whole hog; we will not bring everyone in whatever the consequences to industry; we will consider the strains on each industry in turn, and where equal claims are made out, we will grant equal exemptions." If they did that they would have my sympathy, which I expressed to the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning, because every one of these industries has more or less equal claims. I have made out a case for the cotton industry, but everyone else has made out a case for a particular industry. I do not know how my right hon. Friend is to distinguish between them. I know that there are people who would like him to say, "Since I can only choose one, I shall choose yours." I should be delighted if that were to happen to my case, but I am not optimistic enough to think it will.

    I would advise hon. Gentlemen who have made out cases for any other industries to be equally cautious in expecting such a reply. See what we are doing in this Bill, if each of these proposals is accepted. Why cannot we accept them all or, at any rate, those for which a valid case has been made out? If the right hon. Gentleman accepted them all, he would not have a Bill, and, therefore, what does he say? Let us look at it from the Government point of view. What is my right hon. Friend compelled to say? He is compelled to say, "I reject all these claims." He will not say that they are bad claims because he knows the situation too well. He will say, "I will reject all these claims because I am bound under the policy adopted"—and for which he is as much responsible as anyone else, a collective Cabinet responsibility—"I am bound to put these crippling burdens on these basic industries at this moment in order to fulfil a potential, speculative need in 1950, "which may never happen at all and which ought not to happen. So the great creative social revolution upon which this Government is engaged—

    I know that some people do not like it, but I hope that everyone will agree that it is one. That is why they do not like it, and why I do. I am not making a party point about this or complaining in the least. I understand that they are bound to attack the Government for all the things for which I praise the Government. I can understand their view. I do not share it, but I understand and respect it. But I am talking to my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side who believe in the creative revolution we are attempting. I have tried to argue that they are sacrificing the success of that great social revolution on which the fate not only of our own country depends, but the fate of the world depends, in order to fulfil a speculative burden which quite clearly, on this argument, is beyond our power. What a tragic irony it would be if the world, looking to this country to see whether collective economic planning on which the future life of the world depends can be reconciled with political and civil liberty, without which it does not much matter whether the world survives or not; what a tragic irony it would be to see the whole of that experiment collapse; that we should fail to prove to the world that it can be done here and can be done elsewhere, in order to serve a military need of a problematic and speculative kind which is quite clearly beyond our powers to perform. That, I think, would be a tragedy not only for this country. I say that the great service which this Government is called upon to perform at this crisis of human history is to prove that our social revolution can and shall work, and that they are not entitled to take risks by making sacrifices to serve ends which are problematical, speculative, not real, unjustified and beyond our powers.

    That is why I have opposed this Bill throughout. I opposed it on Second Reading, and I shall oppose the Third Reading. I hope that I have put my case on this part of the Bill in a constructive way, and have shown what really lies at the basis of conscientious objection to this Bill. I know that there is not much which the right hon. Gentleman can do about these new Clauses. I know that he will give us an honest and not merely a plausible answer to the claims which we have made. I know that at the end of the day he will be bound to say to us, "Your claims are just, but I cannot meet them." What we are really attacking here is not his refusal to accept this, that or the other claim for this, that or the other industry: it is an attack on this policy of the Government, which seems to us as dangerous and as tragic as it is unnecessary.

    2 p.m.

    The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) does not always impress us on these benches with his fund of wisdom, so that I find myself a little uncomfortable in taking the same line as he did when he said it was illogical to suggest making exemptions and then go on to plead for a special set of people. I realise that the Minister of Labour must harden his heart against these exceptions, because one concession leads to another and if he were to make exemptions where-ever a real case could be made out, he would immensely complicate and probably wreck his whole plan. It is for that reason that I would not go into the Division Lobby to press for an exemption in any of these cases.

    However, I should like to bring to his attention the particular case of the inshore fishermen and suggest that perhaps it would be worth considering granting deferment in that case. In that connection there are three points I should like to make. First of all, with the inshore fishermen we get an enormous quantity of food produced for a minimum of labour. In my division in the two towns of Scarborough and Whitby 100 inshore fishermen produce an enormous quantity of fish which if properly handled would make a substatinal contribution towards relieving the appalling food shortage in Germany today. These men do a great deal because they are supported by a devoted band of wives, daughters, mothers and aunts who do so much behind the scenes which enables the men to do the work that they do.

    Secondly, I would point out that to an extent that does not apply to any other trade that I can think of where these men cannot be replaced. If they are in a crew which is largely a family business, and two young men are called up, that boat might not be able to go out to fish. In most industries by attractions of hours, wages, etc., other people can be brought in and trained, but inshore fishermen not only require to be trained, but require to be bred for it. In my constituency generation after generation do this job and so it is from a very small number of people that replacements can be drawn. Therefore, I suggest that the advantages to the food production of this country by the granting of a deferment to these young men might be out of all proportion to the number of men the Minister would lose.

    The third point is that these inshore fishermen afford a most valuable reservoir for the Navy in time of war. They themselves are trained for the purpose of mine-sweeping, and many most dangerous and arduous duties and the boats which they use are available for that purpose too. I suggest that these inshore fishermen in their own business make a considerable contribution towards the defence of the country, and it would make a great difference if they were not available in time of war. For that reason, and bearing in mind how very few men are involved, I ask the Minister to give this matter consideration.

    The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) said, quite rightly, that a sound case can be made out for all the exemptions incorporated in these Clauses. It is, in fact, additional proof, if that were needed, that this Bill, indefensible as it is on other grounds, is also inde- fensible on economic grounds in the present condition of the country. The hon. Member also stated that it was going to be very difficult for the Minister of Labour to distinguish between one claim and another. I hope we shall be able to assist him materially in that choice, before he replies. I submit to the Committee that there are two national priorities which have to be considered, food and coal. It is not really a question of discrimination between one section of workers and another; it is a question of the national need and measuring it by the two things I have mentioned. I think all will agree that miners and agricultural workers are in a special class of their own. Indeed that fact is already recognised by the Government today. In fact, miners and agricultural workers are not called up for military service, so that they are recognised today as being in a special category. We hope very much that the food situation—

    On a point of Order. We are having an interesting speech from the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady M. Lloyd George). Is it in Order for an hon. Member at the same time to read a newspaper concerning the Shetland Islands?

    It is not in Order at all to read any newspaper, unless the hon. Member concerned is going to bring before the Committee the matter which he is reading.

    I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member in his reading. As I was saying, we hope very much that the food position, serious and alarming as it is, will be greatly improved by the time this Measure comes into operation, but is any Minister on the Front Bench prepared to say that by the time the Bill comes into operation, the food position will be such that we shall be able to afford a call-up of thousands of agricultural workers for military service for even such a short period as 12 months? We must remember that these will be the youngest and most virile workers in the industry for whom there is such a tremendous need today.

    The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) gave us some very interesting figures about the great shortage of workers in agriculture. I believe that in the White Paper on manpower the Minister of Agriculture submitted that something like 80,000 men are needed this year. Certainly 100,000 permanent workers are needed to work in agriculture to set against a loss of 150,000 prisoners of war who are going to be repatriated. That is going to be a loss of 20 per cent. of the labour force in agriculture. It will, as a matter of fact, take all our time and all the inducements we can offer in amenities, wages and conditions in rural areas to get that 100,000 permanent new workers which are needed. The Minister will no doubt say that we have got our deferment procedure, and that farmers can apply, as they did during the war, and as they have done up to date, to I think it is the hardship committee or it may be the manpower board. But if the case is such a clear cut one as I believe it to be, it is really a waste of administrative time and farmers' time—and heavens knows they have to fill in enough forms as it is—that they should have to go through this somewhat laborious process to reach exactly the same results in the end. Therefore, it would be better to exclude them in the Bill and have done with it. Planning is essential in all industries, but there is no industry in which long-term planning is more necessary than in agriculture. It is really important that this uncertainty should be removed from the minds of farmers and agriculturists generally. The Minister of Defence justified a very revolutionary change in the Bill on economic grounds. I hope the exclusion of agricultural workers will be incorporated in the Bill, because I believe it can be justified on overriding considerations of national importance.

    I would like to put the minds of hon. Members at rest immediately by telling them that I cannot concede any of these requests. I have to deal with the manpower which is available for distribution to industry and the Services, both civil and military. We are here dealing with that section of the manpower of the country which is aged 18. The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles) asked us to exclude men making coalmining machinery, and shortly afterwards the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said how great was the need of the textile industry for more machinery. Perhaps the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne will meet the hon. Mem- ber for Southall and decide whether it is only men who are making coalmining machinery who should be reserved, or whether those making textile machinery also should be reserved. I do not want to score a debating point, but I must say it is unfortunate that many of these claims for exemption come from those who say that even if these claims are granted, they will vote against the Bill, because they are opposed to the Bill on principle. That does not apply to all the hon. Members concerned with these new Clauses, but to several of them.

    Coalminers are not postponed, but are deferred under the administrative machinery. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) asked why we should not exempt agricultural workers in the Measure and be done with it. It is fairly easy to decide who are underground coalminers, but when one comes to agriculture, the question arises whether it is to be every agricultural worker at the age of 18, or whether it should be different classes—the herdsman, the man engaged on arable farming, the man on a dairy farm, men in forestry, horticulture, and so on. It is not a simple question of saying in the Bill that all agricultural workers would be excluded; one would have to get down to the job of deciding who were agricultural workers. I know that several years ago, when it was decided that agricultural workers were to have a special cheese ration, there was in my village dozens of fellows who got the extra ration because they were jobbing gardeners, and so were entitled to the extra ration.

    As agricultural workers are on permanent deferment almost en bloc, surely there must be some definition which the Minister has?

    That is the point. As it is a deferment we have the right to check up and examine case by case. Some cases are deferred because there is only one fellow on the farm, or there are special difficulties. If the matter were dealt with by an insertion in the Bill, a great deal of definition would be required. With regard to the exemption of agricultural workers, it has been said that the Committee knew what I was going to say, and maybe the Committee does know, but that is no reason why I should not say it. My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) made a thoughtful speech, and I agree with everything he said. We have to look after the agricultural workers, because not only must we keep pace with modern times and meet the future, but we must overcome the shortfalls and shortcomings of years past. Many of our young men and women would not stay in the country. It may be that modern education has given them the opportunity of understanding more about life elsewhere, and that may have been the cause of the drift to the towns. The hon. Member said that if we were to call up the agricultural workers, it would be a matter of 30,000 a year, but I assure him that if we took every young man on the farms at the age of 18, it would not be anywhere near that number—it would be nearer half that number. Nevertheless, that is a considerable number, and the industry must make that contribution, should it be necessary.

    Every lad on the farm who is already under deferment and will remain under deferment until the end of next year, will not be called up in 1949 under this Bill. The industry will gain that number against other industries, and some deferments will still be granted for those at the age of 18. The fact is that there is a need which the Government think has to be met. We have decided that we must have this Bill. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey asked whether it is thought that the food situation at the end of 1949 will be so safe that we can risk calling up these men. The nation has to look at it another way. Are we satisfied that the peace situation will be so safe that we can at this moment risk allowing our forces to slide out? I apologise sincerely to my hon. Friends for not being able to give them what they want, but I ask them please not to force me into the Division Lobby to vote against them.

    You were good enough, Major Milner, to suggest that I might say a few words on the new Clause on the Order Paper in my name:

    "This Act shall not apply to the only son of a widow living with and supporting his mother."
    As we have dealt with the industrial problem and exemptions in coalmining, engineering and agriculture—

    On a point of Order, Major Milner. Does this mean that the new Clause will not be called?

    I had understood that I would be entitled to have a Division on this new Clause.

    I must point out to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that I did not give him a free hand. I had hoped that he would have spoken before the Minister.

    I thought it would be better to allow the question of exemptions in connection with industry to be dealt with before I raised this point; otherwise, I would have intervened before. I want to exempt quite a different class of persons from those covered by the other Clauses—that is to say, the only sons of widows. This is a new proposition.

    On a point of Order. So that we shall know exactly where we are, and to clarify the position, could we not get rid of the issue which the Minister has answered, before we begin discussing this completely different issue?

    As the mover of the new Clause, I beg to ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw the Motion.

    I wish to make one or two remarks before this new Clause is withdrawn.

    The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is in course of addressing the Committee.

    You have not yet ruled, Major Milner, on the point of Order which the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. H. Davies) raised. May I respectfully ask whether you would do so before the hon. Member for Westhoughton continues?

    These matters must be left to the Chair. I do not want to have a large number of Divisions if it can be avoided.

    May I say that if the request I made to the Committee to withdraw my new Clause is taken as referring others to the Clause upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is speaking, I withdraw my request, because I wish that Clause to be considered separately.

    Obviously if the hon. Member takes the action he has indicated, he can only do so in respect of his own new Clause.

    May I ask, as a matter of clarification, whether it is not usual, if an hon. Member asks to be given leave to withdraw an Amendment or a new Clause, for the Committee to come to a decision on his request?

    The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Ayles), as I understood him, has not formally asked leave, as yet, to withdraw his new Clause.

    Assuming that my hon. Friend agrees, would it not be better to consider the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is raising as a separate item altogether, as it deals with an entirely different aspect of the matter?

    If the Committee is agreeable we might dispose of the general question on the new Clause which was moved by the hon. Member for Southall.

    Further to that point of Order. I thought it was understood that all those new Clauses dealing with industrial groups would be dealt with, and that we should then come to this separate item. I thought that was your wish, Major Milner.

    I had formed the opinion that whilst the matters were admittedly different in application, they were precisely the same in principle. If it is the wish of the Committee to dispose of the agricultural and industrial matters and then deal with this other matter separately, I am in the hands of the Committee. Perhaps the hon. Member for Westhoughton will postpone his speech.

    It is now for the mover of the new Clause before the Committee to take what action he thinks appropriate.

    On a point of Order. May we understand this procedure correctly? The hon. Member for Southall has asked leave to withdraw the new Clause. Is a speech by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) in Order?

    No doubt a great many of us have reason to suppose that it would be a good thing to exempt certain industries. There is the case of fishermen. I have no doubt that if the Minister of Defence, with his great knowledge of the Navy, was a Private Member, and happened to represent the fishing industry, he could, if he wished to do so, put a case with all that persuasion and charm which we know so well, which would soften the heart of any Minister. I might do the same, but the fact remains that if we exempt one industry we shall tend to draw into that industry labour from others, and thus create a series of bottlenecks throughout industry, as well as a sense of unfairness in those industries which are not exempted. If we exempted the farmer or the farm worker, and did not exempt distributive workers, there might be a tendency for men to leave the distributive industries to go on to the land, thus creating a shortage of distribution facilities.

    The same thing applies to machinery. It might tend to take men out of industries making tractors and machines on to the farms. For that reason all these new Clauses could only have the effect of wrecking the Bill, although we might conceivably make out a case for any one of them. If we proceeded piecemeal in this way, to give exemptions bit by bit, it would have a severe effect on the whole industrial position, and would dislocate the natural flow of labour by drawing it into the exempted industries. Much as I would like to see the agricultural industry doubled in production and in manpower, I cannot think it possible to accept the proposals in these new Clauses. I am glad to have brought aid to the Front Bench opposite. I can see by their smiles that I have done so. For once they had a bit of their Bill practically explained.

    I should like to examine further the Minister's reply, behind which there were many dangerous implications. It indicated that the Government have not thought out the implications of peacetime conscription, In the first place, it is evident that when the Government first made up their minds that peacetime conscription would be introduced, no exemptions whatever were contemplated. That was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Debate on the Address on 18th November, 1946.

    On a point of Order. On this new Clause, are we entitled to go back to what happened in the Debate on the Address? It might open discussion very wide. It is rather difficult, but I thought, Major Milner, that your attention might not have been drawn to the grave danger involved. The Front Bench obviously realise the danger and I am trying to facilitate them. I beg respectfully to draw your attention to that point.

    We are discussing a series of proposed industrial exclusions. There is a policy behind the idea of the industrial exclusions and I am making a submission on the exclusion of an industrial class, as I think I am entitled to do.

    2.30 p.m.

    The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is perfectly right, but if the hon. Member speaking is proposing to lead up to that matter he is perfectly entitled to do so.

    In the Debate on the Address on 18th November last the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, of military service:

    "in our view, it is more democratic that all should bear their share … we reject any suggestion of favouritism or privilege in regard to any of those called up to take this service. The hon. Member for the University of Wales is quite wrong in thinking that, if he had a coalminer instead of a university teacher, he would have got off … we do not propose that there should be any favoured classes—neither colliers, nor railwaymen, nor university graduates."
    My hon. Friend the 'Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) then said:
    "My suggestion was that economic circumstances would compel the creation of favoured classes."
    The Chancellor replied:
    "We do not believe that circumstances will compel us to do anything of the kind. Conscription, however, will apply to all men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th Nov. 1946; Vol. 430, C. 636–637.]
    The Minister of Labour defended his rejection of the new Clauses on the grounds that he could not make provision in the Bill. He said that we were dealing with a difficult economic situation and must deal with difficult problems, as they arose, by administrative measures. That is a dangerous principle on which to proceed in time of peace. In war time it is inevitable that we should allow the Executive flexibility in deferring a class or postponing a call up in particular circumstances. But when you are instituting a measure for long-term peace time conscription, totally different considerations apply.

    The right hon. Gentleman defended his action by saying that in not calling up certain classes that was not exclusion, but deferment. Are deferments total exclusion, or are they not? Large classes of people are deferred from year to year until they attain a certain age, and then are not called up as they are beyond call up age. Thus, in practice, what has happened has been the exclusion of those people. The Government have said they are going to do that in the case of coalminers. I am against the exclusion of any class at all if there is to be conscription. On the other hand, I would be prepared to put down Amendments specifying the 3,000 or 4,000 trade classes recognised by the Ministry of Labour. If you admit the principle that those working in a particular industry should be deferred, you are entitled to look over the whole field of industry and argue that those engaged in the production of food and textiles and so on should be excluded. Food is every bit as important as coal, and there should be exclusion for those engaged on the land if there be exclusions at all.

    Let me refer to the Minister's own argument, that the necessary result could be achieved by administrative machinery. I suggest seriously to the Committee that that is a dreadful and dangerous power of oppression to give to the Executive. I know that we have no need to fear oppression from the right hon. Gentleman, but in peacetime, when we have conscription on a permanent basis, it is dangerous to give the Executive a power of that character. The Government of the day can roam over the whole field of industry—I am not suggesting that this Government would do that—and select certain classes of people for deferment from the Services, thereby, in fact, saying to the rest, "You will go into the Forces". If there are to be any deferments, or exclusions, they should be incorporated in the Bill. If there are to be any exclusions food should be ranked with coal, and the necessary provision made in the Bill. The matter should not be left to the discretion of the Executive.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    As the Committee have now decided the question of industrial exceptions, I assume the principle is decided and I do not propose to call any of the other new Clauses dealing with the distribution of food, agricultural workers, and the like.

    New Clause—(Exemption For Only Son Of Widow In Certain Circumstances)

    "This Act shall not apply to the only son of a widow living with and supporting his mother."—[Mr. Rhys Davies.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    I hope the Committee will allow me to be reminiscent for a moment or two. In 1922 I sat on the benches opposite and, following my success in the Ballot, I pleaded the case of widows' pensions. The House laughed me to scorn for making such a daring proposal. Today, I return to the case of the widow in another sense, but I hardly think that Members will treat me with contempt on this occasion. I am fortified in putting down this Motion, because I understand that most of the conscript laws of the world provide that the only son of a widow should be exempt from military service. I am told that the French call-up is definite on that score, and I do not think that our country should be behind in this matter.

    I dare say I shall be told, on this occasion, by the Minister, that the cases of only sons of widows will be dealt with by the hardship and manpower tribunals. But the promises of Ministers on the Floor of the House do not mean much to me any longer. Ministers and Governments change, and we have to do all we can to secure a legal basis for any change we want to make. In my Division I remember dealing with the case of a coalminer who was lying in bed after being injured in an accident in the pit. He was there 18 months, and during that time his six sons were all called up for the Forces for the last war. I tried to rescue the last one, and the only way I could achieve my object was to expose the manpower board in this House. Several members of the board were of military age themselves and had never served throughout the war. I know of a case of a widow whose husband served in the first world war, contracted some disease but was never entitled to a war pension. She never got a war pension. She had an only son who was conscripted for the recent war and killed on active service, but as he was married his widow receives the pension. Therefore, both the father and son have been lost in the two wars. I know of no case more pathetic than that of the widow in that position. I am pleading her case today by asking that her only son shall not in future be called up for military service.

    The late Lord Asquith dealt with this very problem when the first Military Service Bill came before the House of Commons in 1916 and he very nearly carried the point, to insert it in the law of the land. I have looked up the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is apparent that this matter of the widow's son in relation to military service is many centuries old. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) here, because he may be interested in the quotation which I propose to read. It is from an old ballad concerning the Lord Derby of that day, and it was read by Mr. Asquith on that occasion. The quotation supports my argument better than anything else.

    In those days King Henry V was on the throne, and he wanted some soldiers to fight his battles. There have been many changes since then. In those days, kings, chieftains and statesmen fought their own battles and got their supporters to carry bread, cheese and beer up to the front line. Nowadays, kings, statesmen, chieftains and Ministers are safe far behind, drawing big salaries, and collecting lads of 18 years of age to do the fighting for them.

    These are the King's lines:

    "Go 'cruit me Cheshire and Lancashire,
    And Derby hills that are so free:
    No married man or widow's son,
    No widow's curse shall go with me."

    On a point of Order. Is there not an old Rule of this House that what has been said by the occupant of the Throne, may not be quoted in order to influence Debate?

    In any case, he did not occupy the Throne for very long after he had made that statement. Lord Derby replied:

    "They recruited Cheshire and Lancashire,
    And Derby hills that are so free,
    Tho' no married man nor widow's son,
    They recruited three thousand men and three."
    I am supported in my argument also because this matter has been debated for centuries when Governments have been recruiting men for the Forces. They have always been afraid to recruit the only son of the widow because the Bible told them that a curse would come upon them if they did so. If any Government in the world ought to have compassion upon the widow it is our Labour Government and this Government above all ought to accept the proposed new Clause. The Government have not conceded very much to us, but they have been very patronising about Amendments on the Tory side. I appeal to my right hon. Friend, now that their hearts may be melted in regard to this proposal, so that it may go forth that the Government will not recruit the only son of a widow and may avoid any curse falling upon them in that connection.

    2.45 p.m.

    I will take but a few moments to deal with this case. In his closing words my hon. Friend threw out a sneer that we were rejecting proposals made from this side of the Committee but accepting those made from the other side. I wonder whether he, as a father would give his children edged tools to play with, simply because a friend had given them the edged tools, and whether he would not be glad if, even an opponent came along and took them away.

    I am sorry. I very often wondered whether sons learnt anything from their fathers. The fact of the matter is that my hon. Friend is trying to pre- vent the passing of the Bill. He knows that if we accepted his new Clause he would still oppose the passing of the Bill. We must take it at that. I will say only a few words on the merits of his proposal. In his proposed new Clause he asks for exemption for the only son of a widow. If there were two sons, which of them, I wonder, would be chosen as the son to exempt. Further, should there be a special provision for the only son of a widower. I do not say these things facetiously. There is the husband of a wife, the father of children, and perhaps brother and sister. There might be the only son of a father who is unable to work, or the only son of a father who has a small business. We cannot take action on these sentimental grounds exclusively, but on the broad considerations only. There is a statutory provision for postponement of liability, owing to hardship. It is intended that there shall be financial provision for cases such as that of a young man who has been called up and who has been supporting his widowed mother. Support will be given in that case. I hope that the Committee will agree that it is not necessary for me to adduce further arguments in asking them to reject the proposed new Clause.

    It is obvious that if the right hon. Gentleman does call up this category, financial provision would have to be made. I do not think hon. Gentlemen have been wholly satisfied with the working of the war service grant system in dealing with that class of case. It will be helpful if the right hon. Gentleman will amplify what he has said as to the system of financial assistance. Is that system to be administered by the Service Departments, by the Ministry, or by the Assistance Board under his own Department? In what way is it to be done? Secondly, could he give us—

    The right hon. Gentleman has advanced an argument to the Committee that financial assistance will be provided. Surely the Committee are entitled to ask him what that assistance will be? It may be that upon the adequacy or otherwise of those arrangements, hon. Members will make up their minds whether or not they support the proposed new Clause. I appreciate what is in your mind, Major Milner, and since this may well be not an Assistance Board matter, but a question for a Service Department, the right hon. Gentleman himself may have some difficulty in supplying the information. By a happy coincidence, however, we have representatives of most of the Government Departments on the Front Bench opposite—I think for the first time during this Debate—and it would no doubt be possible for one of them to give the Committee some information in this respect.

    The difficulty is that it is not competent to discuss, on this new Clause, the question of detailed financial assistance. The Minister was, no doubt, in Order in mentioning financial assistance in a general way in passing, and the hon. Gentleman has the right to refer to it but, as I have said, there can be no detailed discussion now.

    I accept that Ruling with great respect, Major Milner, but may I put this point to you? Is it permissible to ask whether this financial assistance to which the Minister has referred will be administered by his Department or by some other Department? I do respectfully submit that since the Minister has called in aid this provision of financial assistance the Committee is entitled to an answer to that question.

    May I just say to the hon. Gentleman, who has been kind enough to give way, that the position at the moment is this. We accept the principle that financial assistance must be provided but we have not got beyond deciding to work out a scheme.

    I thank the Minister for that characteristically helpful intervention, and would merely say this to him. As I understand it this scheme is now in process of being worked out and I do hope that in working it out the right hon. Gentleman will get away as far as he can from the crude imperfections of the war service grants scheme and that a mare humane, flexible and workable scheme will be put into operation.

    I will not detain the Committee for long—[Interruption.] If my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench resent that, I would only say that we on this side have not wasted the time of the Committee. Nearly two hours were spent on the first three Clauses.

    There has been no suggestion so far as I know that the time of the Committee has been wasted, and I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw.

    I am sorry, Major Milner, but I did think that there was rather a hint from the Front Bench in what appeared to be an intervention that I was wasting time. Some of us on this side of the Committee feel very strongly on this issue and it is not merely because—as the Minister appeared to suggest—we are opposed to conscription. We have endeavoured to make suggestions to the Government which would render this Bill more acceptable, and I do not consider that the reply which we have received is very satisfactory. For that reason I resent the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour that my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) had thrown out a sneer. We feel that suggestions which have been made from this side of the Committee have not been given the consideration they might have received.

    On this particular issue I wish to refer to the number of cases which, as Members of Parliament, we are constantly coming up against in connection with instances of the only son of a widow. We are constantly approaching the Minister of Labour for deferment in these cases, but personally I have found in my own constituency that in the main these young men are anxious to perform their service. The point is that they are faced with the fact that they have to go through a procedure every time which makes them feel that they are trying to evade their responsibilities. I had a case in Burnley recently of the only son of a widow who was ill. The doctor had suggested that she ought not to be left alone. The young man went through the procedure to obtain six months deferment and then finally had to go, but the situation was still the same and the anxiety remained hanging over both the son and his mother throughout the whole period. I do hope that the Government will give further consideration to this matter. It seems to me that it is a case which they could deal with as something entirely different from any other.

    I can speak as the only son of a widow and one who can make some claim to satisfy the conditions in this proposed new Clause. I am sure we are most grateful to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for his sympathetic approach to this subject, and we are equally grateful to the Minister who has also spoken sympathetically and said that in certain circumstances cases of hardship will be met. I am sure too that we have not the least desire to be considered a privileged class and that many of us would even volunteer for extended service if we thought that by so doing we should add to the curses on the heads of this Government.

    I appreciate that the Minister is dealing very sympathetically with the points which have been placed before him, but most of us have had letters concerned with young men who are the only sons of their mothers and who are in charge of small businesses. What I am really anxious to know is whether under the new scheme which the Minister is working out their position will be taken into account because these small businesses are a part of the economy of the country and do deserve consideration.

    I should like to correct a misapprehension which might have been caused by an observation from the back bench on the other side. I think that everybody appreciates that the only sons of widows do not wish to be regarded as a separate class or to claim any privileges. This new Clause is not intended in that way. I think that if the hon. Member, at a much earlier age, in the situation which he says belongs to him, had consulted his mother about this new Clause he might possibly have found her views about exemption different from his.

    May I just say to the hon. Member that my mother was most anxious that I should join the Regular Army, and that it took all my efforts to avoid it?

    Of course, there is nothing whatever in this new Clause which would have prevented the hon. Gentleman from doing so. If there are cases in which the exemption is not desired, either by the boy or by the mother or by both in consultation, there is nothing to prevent voluntary enlistment in such cases. All that the new Clause claims is that there shall not be compulsory enlistment in such cases. We think there is considerable importance in not compelling only sons of widows to join the Army.

    3.0 p.m.

    I rise merely to point out to the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) that his case differs from the case which we have in Mind. The words in our proposed new Clause are:

    "The only son of a widow living with and supporting his mother."
    That is the crux of the whole matter.

    Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.

    On a point or Order, Major Milner. I gather it is not your intention to call the proposed new Clause standing in my name, relating to the medical examination of conscientious objectors. I suggest that it might be convenient if we discussed that new Clause. You may have been a little misled in your view of it, by the fact that it was at first misprinted. In fact, it deals with a point which arose in the Second Reading Debate, and is the result of our attempt to comply with the Minister's invitation to draft a Clause.

    I may not have been aware of all those facts, but I have considered the Clause very carefully, and I have decided not to call it.

    I take it, Major Milner, that you do not propose to call the proposed new Clause with which my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and I are associated, relating to prohibition on service outside the United Kingdom.

    Do I understand that you do not propose to call the new Clause concerning parents' allowances, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and myself?

    First Schedule—(Length Of Whole-Time Service)

    I beg to move, in page 14, line 5, after "practicable," to insert:

    "but in no case later than twenty-eight days."
    The first four lines of this Schedule give the power of extension of the term of whole-time service, which may be very great indeed, because the Committee will see that the term of whole-time service can be extended by as long as the particular Service authority may consider practicable. It provides:
    "The term of a person's whole-time service shall … be completed on, or as soon as is practicable after, the expiration"
    of the period. We have been told by the Minister that the reduction of the period from 18 to 12 months will mean that the national service men will not be sent far afield. At the same time, one appreciates there may be difficulty in bringing back those who have gone abroad, so as to release them on the anniversary of their entry into the Services. We appreciate the difficulty about that. There is a strong argument for allowing a certain measure of latitude with regard to the date of expiry of the period of whole-time service. A person doing whole-time service may, at the precise moment, be in hospital. Therefore, it is wise to make some provision for the extension of the period of whole-time service in exceptional circumstances. But the words, "as soon as practicable," without any limitation upon them, are far too wide.

    I suggest that there ought to be a limitation upon them, and that we ought to say, in effect, to the Service authorities that the national service man shall complete his period of whole-time service on the anniversary of his day of entry; but if it is quite impossible to achieve that, there shall be an extra margin of a month during which he can be brought back for release. I do not like giving this complete discretion to the Service authorities, because the words "as soon as is practicable" can cover a multitude of sins. In the interests of the young people concerned, it is important that they should be able to make their plans in advance, and that they should be able to say to themselves: "I have been called up on 1st January. I must make my plans for resuming my civil life, or going back to my work, on 1st January next year." It may not make much difference if that return is postponed a week, a fortnight or even 28 days, as our Amendment would permit; but it would make a great deal of difference if he were suddenly told that his discharge from whole-time service was to be delayed three, four, live or even six months because, in the opinion of the Service authorities, it was not practicable to discharge him before that time. I have put the point as shortly as I can, I hope I have made it clear and that it will be met.

    The purpose of these words "as soon as is practicable" is really to protect the ex-Serviceman whom, for some reason—for example, sickness—it may not be possible to bring home on the exact date 12 months after he joined in order to get his discharge. We feel it would be very unfair in such cases—and I imagine these cases would be very rare indeed; the man would only be in Germany, as I think has already been said—for an ex-Serviceman who cannot get home after exactly 12 months to be taken off the Service pay roll prematurely. In effect, what we want to do is to ensure that, in those circumstances, the Serviceman should be maintained on the pay roll and draw his Army pay. Otherwise, he would be discharged from the Army sick, and would then be thrown on some civil authority. For that reason, I regret that we cannot accept the Amendment.

    The answer of the right hon. Gentleman has completely missed the point of the Amendment. We are not seeking to leave out the words "as soon as is practicable." We are seeking to insert words to limit the meaning of the word "practicable." If the right hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said—or maybe, through trying to put it shortly, I failed to make the point clear—he would realise that I said we recognised the desirability of there being some elasticity about the date of release to cover the very case which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, namely, where a man is in hospital and cannot be discharged on the due date without being put m great difficulties. I referred to that, but I suggested—and this is the point with which the right hon. Gentleman has not even endeavoured to deal—that there must be some limitation on the period of practicability, otherwise, unless there is some fixed date like 28 days, or unless the Schedule is redrafted in a slightly different form—maybe the Amendment is not in quite correct form—there may be an interpretation of the words "as soon as is practicable" covering a further extension of whole-time service lasting for months. That was the point I was putting to the right hon. Gentleman.

    But that would be a question of fact. Surely, if the Service Departments attempted to evade what is in this Bill by methods like that they would soon be called to order? What I do say to the hon. and learned Gentleman is, that he has admitted the substance of the point I have put, that it would be unfair to discharge a man when he is sick, throw him off the payroll, as we should have to do, and move him from a military hospital to some civilian hospital—a man with, perhaps, tuberculosis. So we say that while he is under our care—and that is all we want him for—we are prepared to look after him and to pay him. I should have thought the hon. and learned Gentleman would have accepted that as a very good intention.

    I think what the Secretary of State intends to do is satisfactory, but that does not make the words in the Clause as it stands satisfactory, in my submission. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he wishes to retain a man beyond the fixed period only if, in the interests of the man himself, it is not practicable immediately to release him. But the words "as soon as is practicable" could be construed as meaning practicable in the interests of the Army authorities, and not only in the interests of the man. I think that if the right hon. Gentleman would undertake to insert a form of words making it clear that the extension, where it is required, is an extension in the interests of the man, he could both meet the point that he has in mind, and also satisfy this side of the Committee.

    I did not mention all the cases I could, because I did not want to take up too much time. I could have given other illustrations. Consider a ship or a train bringing a man back for his release on a certain date. It might break down. Anything could happen that we could not control. In those circumstances it would be very unfair to put the man off the pay roll.

    I quite agree. What I am trying to put to the Secretary of State, and what, I think, the whole of the Committee wishes, is that we should exclude the possibility of these words being used to retain men beyond the twelve months merely because that would be for the convenience of the Army. I think that the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers would easily enable him to draft the requisite words if he desired to do so.

    The right hon. Gentleman's last words have aroused all the apprehension his first remarks almost allayed. He has brought out what I thought was behind this Schedule—that the Service authorities are concerned with transport difficulties, and, therefore, want to have an unlimited power of detaining a man, due to their own transport and administrative breakdown. The point of the 28 days is that a man should be brought home on the day, or before the day, that his 12 months' service concludes. The 28 days' margin does seem adequate for those transport and administrative difficulties to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The right hon. Gentleman himself said a man would be no further abroad than Germany. Can the right hon. Gentleman really contemplate an administrative transport breakdown so serious that it would take 28 days to bring a man from Germany? He could walk it in the time—or walk and swim it. The right hon. Gentleman's first answer has a great deal to it. No one wants to remove a man off the pay roll. But as the First Schedule stands, the man can be held for the purposes of the Bill for whole-time service for an unlimited period, for so long as the Service authorities think it is not practicable to terminate his service. If there is even the possibility in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman—as there appears to be—that his Department, for its own purposes, can keep a man for more than 28 days after the time that his services should terminate, that is the strongest possible argument for inserting this time-limit in this Schedule.

    I think there is no disagreement between the Government and both sides of the Committee with regard to the intention. But whatever words may be desirable to carry out that intention it certainly seems that the words in the Schedule are the wrong words, and certainly not calculated to carry out the intention of the Schedule. I think we ought to have an assurance from the Secretary of State that he will put down fresh words on the Report stage, because it must be obvious that these words are not the right words, and it must also be possible for the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers to find words which will more accurately carry out his intention. Surely, we can have an undertaking that he will, on the Report stage, introduce words which will give effect to his intention, with which we all agree?

    3.15 p.m.

    I hope the Secretary of State will say that he will look at this matter again. We, on this side of the Committee, have not been taking up very much time today, and we do not want to take time in pursuing this matter further, but there is a really serious point of substance here, on which I think some hon. Members opposite would support our point of view. The right hon. Gentleman really misconceived the point in his first reply.

    If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me, I am quite prepared to have another look at this matter between now and the Report stage if the Amendment is withdrawn, but I do not want to be misunderstood as to implementing that. As the hon. and learned Gentleman, who knows a good deal about this, will realise, it is a very common form and is very often put in for the very protection of the citizen, and of the kind to which he referred and, in fact, any action by a Government Department against this intention would, I understand, lay them open to the process of law. I will look at it again to see if I can find another form of words before the Report stage.

    I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, and, in the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendment made: In page 14, line 6, leave out "eighteen," and insert "twelve".—[ Mr. Alexander.]

    I beg to move, in page 14, line 17, to leave out from "in," to "no," and to insert:

    "determining when the term of a person's whole-time service is completed."
    This is a drafting Amendment relating to the proviso in paragraph 1,(b) of the First Schedule, and the purpose is to set a period, in cases of desertion, which will not be taken into account in deciding when the man's whole time service is completed. It is a slight change of phraseology in using words to express this precise purpose.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 14, line 21, after "absent," to insert "without leave or."

    I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee, and might perhaps save time, if we could discuss, with this Amendment, the four following Amendments on the Order Paper—in page 14, line 22, leave out subhead (iii); in line 24, leave out from "any," to end of line and insert "day"; in line 32, leave out from "undone," to end of line 36; and in page 15, line 1, leave out paragraph 3. assume that it would be for the convenience of the Committee to do that, and, therefore, I will address my observations to all five Amendments.

    The first Amendment raises a point which I consider to be of some substance. The Committee will see that, in reckoning a period of 12 months, no account shall be taken of any day on which a person is absent as a deserter, or of any continuous period exceeding 28 days during which he was absent without leave. I contend that, from the point of view of whole-time service, no difference should be drawn between absence without leave and absence for desertion, because what is, in substance, the difference between these two offences is merely a matter of intention.

    If a man goes absent with the intention of not returning to military duty, then he is guilty of desertion. If he goes absent without leave and his intention is not desertion, he cannot properly be found guilty of desertion. I think it will be conceded that the proof of intention in those circumstances is often a matter of considerable difficulty. What will happen if this difference continues to be drawn is that there will be a considerable divergency between the results of courts-martial of men charged with desertion and with absence without leave. There will be many cases where the court will find a person guilty of desertion, on evidence almost similar to that, in many other cases, where the court has not found the intent to desert proved, but merely found the alternative, that the man has been guilty of absence without leave. The consequence of that disparity of finding by a court-martial will be extremely serious, as far as the individual is concerned, with regard to whole-time service. I submit that there is really no logical ground for drawing a distinction in the Bill between the offence of desertion and that of absence without leave. The penalties used to differ much more under military law then they do now. There can be no logical reason for extending a man's whole-time service by each day on which he is absent without leave or guilty of desertion, and saying that the first 28 days of absence without leave shall not extend his period of whole-time service. The first point of this Clause is to bring the treatment of deserters and of those absent without leave into line under this Measure. I hope that I have made the first point clear.

    We have said in these Amendments that any day on which a man is absent without leave, or absent as a deserter, shall not count as a day of whole-time service. I appreciate that there is one difficulty about that, and I am not rigidly stressing that every day of absence should count, because there is the difficulty of adding up and keeping a record of a particular day's absence, arid it may be that the right provision would he to say that 28 days of absence without leave or desertion should not count for the purposing of adding the period to the whole-time service. On the other hand, it may be that there should be a shorter period. My point is that there should not be this very illogical and technical distinction drawn between the offences of desertion and absence without leave.

    I would like to hear what the Minister has to say about paragraph 1(c) because paragraph 1 (b) is mandatory, as we have already heard. Paragraph 1 (c) seems to hold a certain threat over the head of a national service man on whole-time service. I should like to hear a word or two said about that, and also about paragraph 3 which states that the Service Authority shall define what is a day for the purposes of paragraph 1 (c). There may be very great variations of definition between the respective Services, but I am intrigued to wonder why power should be taken in a Statute to give a Service Authority power to define what is a day. I suggest that we ought to be told what the Service Authorities regard as a day for the purposes of proviso (b), and that the proper place to put that definition is in this Bill.

    There are three points to which I have to address myself. The first one deals with paragraph (b) which has effect on absence without leave or desertion. Our intention, in this case, is not to consider or take into account absence for what I would call a short period. That is partly in our own interests—the Service interests—and partly in the interests of the man. As to the Service interests, it will create a lot of administrative difficulties if we have to be watching the one to five days absence, and, we do not want to do that in the case of the national service men under this Bill. I imagine that in the vast majority of cases we shall not be troubled with the effect of this provision. The effect of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment would be to make the penalty against the national service man going absent for a short period much more rigorous and much more onerous than what would happen under the Bill in its present form.