asked the Minister of Defence whether he is aware that National Service men are now serving for approximately the same length of time as did men of age and service groups 70 to 78, but do not get the same release benefits; and whether he will review the release benefits of National Service men. with a view to removing the disparity.
The point to which the hon. Member refers received careful attention during the recent review of the scale of release benefits for National Service men and no undertaking can be given to reconsider the question.
Can the Minister give no logical explanation of the distinction, or are the men concerned to assume that whereas the earlier scheme was introduced by a Coalition Government and is more favourable, the latter scheme was introduced by a Socialist Government and is less favourable?
The inference is quite unwarranted. The whole of the earlier scheme was related to war service and was worked out on that basis. We came to a decision, which was announced as far back as January, 1947, and it is only in the recent months that any question has been raised about the differentiation between the position of these men and those who had war service and were being released under the age and service group scheme of demobilisation.
In January, 1947, a shorter period of service was contemplated.
The National Service Act had not been introduced.
Is the Minister trying to tell the House that groups 70 to 78 had war service? Is that correct?
I was saying nothing of the kind, but I am quite sure that hon. Members with long experience of the House know that when a change of policy takes place, from wartime, there must be a dividing line somewhere, and the date was fixed.
In view of the adverse vote at the Co-operative Party conference, will not the Minister withdraw National Service altogether?