HC Deb 08 April 1970 vol 799 cc518-9
2. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent the Government keep under review plans for reintroducing conscription.

26. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what study he is making of contingency plans involving the reintroduction of conscription.

The Minister of Defence for Adminitration (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

None. As I said during the defence debate on 5th March, I have no doubt that with concentrated effort we can expand our recruiting to meet all the obligations that this Government accept.—[Vol. 797, c. 650–2.]

Mr. Marten

Is it not a grave dereliction of duty not at least to keep it under review? Will the Minister confirm, whatever he thinks about that, that if it was in the national interest to reintroduce conscription the Labour Government would not hesitate to do so?

Mr. Hattersley

The Labour Government have never hesitated to do what was in the national interest, but the Labour Government take the view that realistic commitments can be met by a voluntary professional Army.

Mr. Dalyell

However strenuously the Opposition may seek to deny it, is it not a fact that the obligations which the Opposition say that they would undertake mean, whether we like it or not, that a degree of selective conscription at any rate would have to be introduced?

Mr. Hattersley

I think that that is the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the figures. Were they to get the opportunity, it would be up to the Opposition to decide whether to abandon their policy or to introduce conscription.

Mr. Rippon

Are the Government aware that the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition is exactly the same as that of the Government in this respect? We do not envisage that our present policies would involve the introduction of conscription.

Mr. Hattersley

The policies that the right hon. and learned Gentleman outlines in terms of conscription or voluntary service are the same, but the policies that he advocates in terms of obligations are very different; and he has yet to convince the House and the country that those obligations can be met with voluntary service.