Commons on Defense Policy, 29 January 1951*
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a statement. I must apologise to the House for the length of this statement, but I desire to give the House as much information as possible.
At the Brussels meeting of the North Atlantic Council on 19th December, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that, in view of the urgent need to strengthen the defences of the free world, His Majesty’s Government had decided to increase and accelerate their defence preparations still further and were considering what form and direction that increased effort should take. I am now in a position to give the House a broad indication of the scale of the new defence programme which the Government have adopted.
I wish at the outset to re-affirm the purposes which this programme is designed to serve and support. The Government do not believe that war is inevitable. Their purpose is to prevent war. But they believe that peace cannot be ensured unless the defences of the free world are made sufficiently strong to deter aggression. It is for this purpose, and for this purpose only, that the Government now think it right to take still further measures to increase the state of preparedness of the Armed Forces.
As a result of earlier measures the numbers in the active Forces have already been substantially increased. The total strength of the Armed forces will, by 1st April next, reach 800,000 men—as compared with the figure of 682,000 given in the last White Paper on Defence. We are, however, without the trained reserves of officers and men with up-to-date training who would be required to fill out the existing formations in an emergency. As the House knows, the Government’s long-term plan has been to build up these reserves through the system of National Service; but there has not yet been time to build them up from National Service men who have finished their Colour service.
The Government now propose to fill this gap by calling on a number of selected reservists who have the up-to-date training required, and giving them a period of refresher training so that, if an emergency arose requiring general mobilisation, they would be ready to take their place in the units with which they would have to serve.
We have therefore decided to call up this summer for 15 days’ training with
*Hansard, 5.s., CDLXXXIII, 579–87.