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Releases (Revised Programme)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

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48.

asked the Minister of Defence whether he is now in a position to issue a revised programme of the age and service group numbers due for release between now and 31st March, 1948; and whether it is still the intention of the Government to have 1,085,000 men in the Armed Forces on 31st March, 1948.

I have been asked to reply. It is hoped very shortly to issue a detailed programme of release from the Armed Forces, by age and service groups, up to 31st December next. As to the second part of the numbers of men it will be necessary to have in the Forces for the remainder of the present financial year, having regard to the continuing defence commitments of this country. My right hon. Friend is not yet able to say whether any variation of the figure of 1,087,000, given in the Defence White Paper issued last February, may he possible.

Does my right hon. Friend mean to say that the Government have not yet considered the implications of the reduction of the length of the conscription period from 18 to 12 months, and the consequent reduction that will mean in the strength of our Armed Forces by 31st March, 1948?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has this matter under most urgent consideration now, and it is hoped to make an early statement as to the figures for March, 1948.

In the framing of the programme to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, in reply to the first part of the Question, will special consideration be given to the case of young men who want to start their university careers quickly, without losing a further year?

Will the consideration to which my right hon. Friend has referred take into account the fact that the foreign currency expenditure on Armed Forces of this size is very much greater than the saving proposed by the reduction of visible imports?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we should save something like a few hundred million dollars if we were to bring men back and reduce these mysterious foreign commitments; and also that for this country to carry on these very large commitments at this moment is committing economic suicide, and that this suggestion for reducing them is the easiest way of getting rid of our adverse balance?