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Class Z Reservists

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 24 April 1951

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for War why Mr. H. S. Chafen, of 33, Braybon Avenue, cannot have the dates of his Class Z recall for training in June altered, in view of his marriage arrangements at that time; and whether expenses incurred with a view to that event before he received his calling-up notice and covering his period of training will be refunded by his Department.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any alteration in the dates of the period of training for Z reservists is now possible.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for War why he has refused to change the training period of the Class Z reservist, resident in Mitcham, whose previously arranged wedding day falls within the proposed 15 days' service and concerning which the hon. Member for Mitcham has already sent him details.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will review the case of Mr. P. D. Goddard, Wembley, who, in view of wedding arrangements already made, seeks alternative dates for his Class Z recall training.

The essential point in this matter is that the majority of Z reservists are being called up for a particular unit which goes to camp on a particular date. As I explained to my hon. Friend the Member of the Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), this means that we cannot change the date of call-up of these reservists. We must call them up for the period for which their unit goes to camp or exempt them altogether if the degree of hardship is sufficient. I regret that the War Department is unable to refund expenses of the kind referred to by the hon. Member for the Brighton Pavilion (Mr. Teeling).

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that people in the position of this man and his fiancee are in work, and therefore it requires quite a long time for them to be able to arrange their holidays at the same time; and that, a long time before the man gets any notice of being called up, they arrange their holidays in order to get married? Does not the Minister realise that it is a very serious matter for them, and that there is also the question of deposits for their hotel accommodation and so on? Will he not try to do something in these cases in which there is real hardship?

I appreciate that there may be cases of hardship, and that some are cases of very real hardship, but we must deal with each individual case. We have, of course, exempted a large number of men, for various reasons. I was explaining why it is a question either of the call-up on that date or of cancelling the call-up.

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that very great hardship will be suffered locally by farmers and farm workers who will be called up during the harvest, and will he look very sympathetically at some cases which I have sent to his hon. Friend and see whether these people could not be deferred or exempted?

There is another question on the Order Paper on that subject, which I shall be answering later. I quite agree that it is a question of great importance, and we should not interfere unduly with agricultural work.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many applications have been received for deferment from those who have marriage arrangements, and if the number concerned is small, could not they be exempted on the grounds of the expense and inconvenience already involved?

I could not say what the number is from that cause alone, but I think we must take each individual case on its merits.

Can my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in cases of hardship such as that quoted in the Question, the most sympathetic consideration will be given to each case?

Why does the Minister say that there is no alternative to cancelling the call-up? Would it not be possible for the man to be called up to another unit in another arm of the Service in the same part of the country, which goes to camp at a different time?

The usual difficulty there is that the men are not interchangeable. If I may give an example from the case which has been quoted, one of these men who is being called up for the Engineers is a quantity surveyor, and we cannot change that man over to an infantry private in some other unit. A great number of these cases are not interchangeable, but we are making some changes of that kind.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the experience of nearly every Member of this House is that the War Office is completely inflexible in this matter, and will he say whether, in fact, there is any known case where, on grounds of hardship, a man has been deferred?

Yes, Sir. A very considerable number of cases have been exempted. Of course they have, and my hon. Friend should know it.

Can the Minister explain why, if it is impossible for the dates of the call-up to be varied, it is the fact that, at the time when a man is sent his call-up notice, he receives an explanatory leaflet inviting him to make representations? If it is not the intention to take any notice of such representations, why does the Minister invite them?

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. We give the man the instruction on how to go about getting exemption. That is an entirely different matter.

Am I to understand from the Minister's answers that the case which I have referred to him is completely closed, or can it be looked into again?

This case was before my hon. Friend, who gave it very careful consideration, but I will look at it again myself.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many days elapse between the receipt of a letter requesting exemption from training and the sending out of a pro forma notice from the Record Office telling the claimer of the steps he should take.

In order that warning for training this year should be given as early as possible, warning notices for all reservists were sent out over a very short period. In consequence appeals were received in an equally short period and there was some delay in dealing with them. As they could not all be dealt with at once, they were dealt with in order of training dates. The number of appeals has now fallen and there should be little delay in correspondence.

Will the Minister answer my Question and tell me how long is the average time of delay, because I have known some cases where it has taken nearly as long as one and a half months before the people concerned have been sent the little form telling them how to claim exemption? I should like to know what is the average time.

I am not quite clear what the hon. Member has in mind, because, as an hon. Member has just pointed out, the original warning letter told the reservist how to make an appeal for exemption if he wished to do so. It is only if he does not give sufficient particulars to the Record Office that a further letter needs to be sent to him. I could not give the average time which elapses before this second letter is sent out in cases where it is necessary to get further information.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War when Reservists now being asked to complete Army Form D406 may be recalled for training under the Z scheme; what is the priority or other significance of the classification Z/2, Z/3, etc., written on these forms before dispatch to Reservists; and whether, to remove uncertainty, he will say when further batches will be required for training.

Reservists who are now being asked to complete Army Form D406 will not be called up for training in 1951. The marking Z/2, Z/3, etc., on some Army Forms D406 does not indicate any order of priority for training. They have been made by some Record Offices as a convenience for internal administrative purposes only.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say on what principle this classification Z/1, Z/2 or Z/3 is made, because it is causing a good deal of concern to people who have already been in the Services and who know the tricks of the trade?

This is a process which has been described to the House and which we have been urged very strongly to carry out, the process of checking through the list of Z reservists to see their age, occupation and availability. It is a process that has been going on since last autumn.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what is the age limit for the Class Z reservists referred to in this Question to whom this Army form has been sent? Is it 40 or 45?

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War the age at which a Class Z reservist will cease to have liability for recall; and in what circumstances men over the age of 45 years will be retained as Class Z reservists.

There is at present no statutory limitation on the age at which a member of the Class Z Reserve ceases to have a liability for recall in the event of general mobilisation. In that event some men such as specialists or senior non-commissioned officers of 45 years and over would clearly be of great value.

May I have an answer to the Question on the Order Paper, at which I have been pegging away with the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends for the last three weeks? I did not ask what was the age limit for a general mobilisation recall; I asked what was the age limit for Class Z reservists being recalled under the present arrangement. Is it 45 years, or what is the age limit?

If the hon. Member will look again at his Question, he will see that he just says "liability for recall." The Class Z reservist is liable to be recalled in the event of general mobilisation, and I have answered his Question precisely. He now asks whether we are calling up this year any Class Z reservists over 45 years of age, to which the answer is "No."

In the event of no general demobilisation taking place and the year-by-year recall of Z reservists continuing, what is then the age limit of a Class Z reservist if he is called back to the colours?

That is quite hypothetical. What has been announced is what is being done this year. I stated quite clearly that on the general question of liability to recall, there is no statutory limitation of the age.

Does not the Minister think that if he could fix some high ceiling of liability to recall it would be advantageous to certain men who would then know for certain if they were clear of this liability?

There might be a case for that, but I was asked if there was a limitation and I answered that there was no statutory limitation at present.