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National Service

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1954

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Deferments

24.

asked the Minister of Labour in what trades or occupations continuing deferments can be obtained from National Service; and what are the general reasons on which decisions are made.

Underground coal-miners, merchant seamen and seagoing fishermen have their call-up deferred for so long as they remain in those occupations. Agricultural workers born before 1933, whose call-up was deferred under the old arrangements in force until 1951 remain indefinitely deferred so long as they stay in agriculture. The need to maintain the labour force of coalmining and the need of keeping merchant seamen at sea are self-evident. There are also a few hundred highly qualified scientists indefinitely deferred for certain special defence projects.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me in what category racing motorists are deferred or exempted?

As far as I know, racing motorists are not in any special category. They are treated just like anybody else.

Why, then, is the gentleman so often referred to still allowed to be exempt when we cannot get deferment for men with distressed families?

I do not know why we should refer to personal cases, but it is only fair to say that the man referred to has carried out the proper drill. He has been examined by my Department and at the moment is not fit enough to be called up.

Emigrants (Commonwealth Countries)

25.

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the system of allotting assisted passages to Australia to persons liable for National Service.

Yes, Sir. The general arrangement with the Australian authorities until recently was that an assisted passage would not be granted to young men after the age at which they were due to be called up. This has now been modified to allow an assisted passage to be granted where the young man is a junior member of a family which is about to emigrate. Similarly, in the case of emigration to other Commonwealth countries, for which there is no assisted passage scheme, junior members of a family will not be prevented from emigrating with the family.

As far as I could hear the answer, it sounded to me to be the characteristic commonsense which we would expect from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but which is rather exceptional from his side of the House. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take steps to have his answer publicised as far as possible, as it may reduce a great deal of the distress felt by some families?

That was the reason why I answered the Question today before the House rose—so that it will be reported.

Does what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said about assisted passages apply also to those emigrants who pay their own fares?

As I pointed out in regard to Commonwealth countries other than Australia, the concession I was making would apply, and it would apply to Australia too.

Overseas Residence

34.

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are taken to ensure that men who have been abroad and are liable to call-up for National Service on return to this country are, in fact, called-up.

We keep a record of all such men and when any of them return to this country action is taken to test their liability for call-up.

Will the Minister bear in mind that as long as National Service is an unfortunate necessity it is of fundamental importance to see that there is no sense of grievance between one section of the community and another?

I am very glad that the hon. Member has raised this question. I assure him that we try to apply that principle.

The Minister gave a previous answer which bears on this Question and the answer to it—an answer referring to a racing motorist whom, he said, had been examined but had been found to be unfit. Is he aware that many men are called up although they are not as fit as they would like to be and that they are not included in Category I or Category II but are included in Category III? What is the position of this man?

The right hon. Gentleman has not the complete facts, and I will now give them to him. This man has had a proper examination under the Act. At that time he was found not to be fit and his examination was deferred for three months. At the end of the three months he will be further examined and, if he is found fit, he will be called up.

Is the Minister satisfied that some of these people who go abroad do not stop abroad until just after the age of 26 and then come back having avoided National Service altogether? Should not some attention be given to catching those people who go abroad in order to dodge Service?

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. My right hon. and learned Friend indicated some time ago that we were considering this matter.

Cost Of Living

30.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the concern caused by the fact that the cost-of-living index has again risen in June; and what action is being taken to reduce the cost of living.

The Retail Prices Index in June stood at the same level as in April, after a temporary reduction of one point in May. The index has been relatively stable for over a year and is only one point above the figure for June, 1953. The Government will continue to pursue the policies which have been responsible for this satisfactory change from the years of rapidly rising prices.

Does the hon. Gentleman disagree with the statement that in June the index was two points higher than it was on 1st January, 1954, four points higher than on 1st January, 1953, and 13 points higher than it was on 1st November, 1951, when the Government took office? As a Minister in a Government that won power on the promise to reduce the cost of living, how can he be so complacent?

I also agree that from June, 1947, to June, 1951, the index rose by 25 points.

Would the hon. Gentleman tell us why it is that at a time when throughout Europe for the last three years prices have been stationary or falling, in this country prices have gone up so much?

That is not quite correct. Once the economy had won clear of the backlash of the previous Government's administration prices remained stable, as accurately measured by the index.

Owing to the unsatisfactory answer, I give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.