§ Lieut.-General Sir AYLMER HUNTER-WESTON
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words,in order to determine the most economical and most efficient method of directing and administering our Army, it is desirable that the Government should set up a Commission or Committee to consider how the resources of our country can best be utilised for defence; to consider how the operations and administration of our sea, land, and air forces shall be co-ordinated in war and peace; and to make recommendations as to the best form of directing organisation both in the Government and in the Ministries and Departments concerned.I feel sure I am expressing the feelings of everyone in this House when I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) on an excellent speech which has arrested the attention of every Member of the House during the all too few moments he has been speaking. I believe that only once before in the history of the House have we had a Field-Marshal amongst our Members. For that we have to go back to the time of General Wade, the pacificator of the Highlands—
§ Sir AYLMER HUNTER-WESTON
Whose name still is kept in remembrance by the roads that he made. He was made a Field-Marshal during the time he was in this House, but I think it is particularly appropriate that we should have the present Field-Marshal in the House because it was in the precincts of this very Palace of Westminster, at a dinner given to him by Members of this House, that the Prime Minister in one of his most brilliant and eloquent speeches made the announcement that His Majesty had been graciously pleased to bestow the baton of a Field-Marshal on Sir Henry Wilson. In that speech he referred to the great services Sir Henry had rendered to the State, and I feel sure that we who have heard him 2259 to-night here will feel that the great services he has rendered to the State as a soldier during his long career in the Army will be equalled by the services he will render to the State within the precincts of this House as a politician and a statesman. Though he is what is popularly called the baby Member of Parliament, he is not a baby as a politician, and no baby statesman, for he has sat in the council of the Empire with the War Cabinet during the greater part of the last part of the War. He was told by the Prime Minister in the speech to which I have referred that he had arrived at his position in spite of the gift of humour. It sometimes is a dangerous thing to have a too highly developed sense of humour, but I think we may say that in this House a sense of humour will be very much appreciated, and we shall rejoice to have certain glints of humour to lighten up the dull debates to which we have to listen. I therefore wish to congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman on his brilliant speech and to hope that he will often be a participator in our debates.
Turning from that, and regretting, as I do greatly, that I cannot follow my Hon. and gallant Friend in the line he has taken owing to the fact that I have unfortunately put down a Resolution and therefore must confine myself to that Resolution, may I say that I trust we shall have other opportunities of talking on the all-important subject that he has brought to our notice on Vote A. I shall confine myself to the Resolution which stands in my name. I wish to begin by emphasising the fact that the Army Estimates to-day cannot now be adequately considered if the Army be looked upon as being in a watertight compartment. Our Army Estimates can only be properly and intelligibly considered if they are looked upon in relation to the Estimates for the other Services of the Crown which are necessary for the defence of our Empire. It is for this reason that I would, if I might, appeal to the Government to consult with you, Mr. Speaker, to see whether in future years it might not be possible for some Parliamentary procedure to be found by which the Estimates for the Imperial Defence Committee can be taken before the Estimates of the three fighting Services. If we were able to do this, we should be able on the Estimates of the Imperial 2260 Defence Committee to have a general discussion of our defence requirements as a whole, and then subsequently to confine our remarks to details as applied to each of the three fighting Services on the Estimate for that fighting Service. As, owing to the courtesy of the Government, the Opposition are given the choice of subject of Debate in Committee of Supply, might I appeal to those concerned to see that later in the Session we get a day for the discussion of the Imperial Defence Committee Vote, which is, I believe, in the Treasury Vote, so that we may be able to talk over the larger matters of Imperial Defence which are so absolutely important to the well-being of the country and of every individual in the country?
So long as the Army and Navy were the only Services it was quite possible and quite logical to keep these Services separate. Between the sea and the land there was a logical line fixed. But between the sea and the air, and between the land and the air, there is no such division possible. Aircraft are, and will be, increasingly necessary to the adequate prosecution of war both on sea and Iand. Without them we are blind, and against certain hostile attacks defenceless. We cannot make our ordinary proper modern reconnaissance without them. We cannot direct the work of our artillery. We have only anti-aircraft guns to protect us against the disastrous physical and moral effects of a hostile air attack. Protection from the air has become an absolute necessity both for the land and the sea forces, and the method of the utilisation of our flying machines has a very important effect on the other Services. The Air Force must have a direct effect on our Estimates of the future, both as to land and sea.
Take an extreme case. If, as advocated by some, the Ministry of Air is abolished, and you have the Air Force divided between the Army and Navy, it is evident that the Estimates for the Army and Navy must be increased by the amount necessary to provide for the flying requirements of each Service. I think, however, it is unnecessary to elaborate this point further, for the Geddes Commission has brought very prominently to the attention of the whole nation the fact that in order to get economy and efficiency in these Services we must first of all consider the pro- 2261 blem of defence aa a whole. I think, therefore, that everybody will concede my first point, which is that any revision of the Army must be accompanied by, and indeed preceded by, a revision of the whole of our defence organisation, taken as one. But it will be said, "Why should we have any revision at all?" Have we not won the War? Is not that proof that all is for the best, in this the best of all possible defence forces? We have won the War it is true. We have emerged successfully, but at what a cost! The higher commanders know that on more than one occasion it was only by a miracle that we pulled through.
We won, but at what a cost! We have lost countless millions of treasure. Far more than that we have lost the flower of the younger generation. Make no mistake about it. The most enterprising, the most go-ahead of our race, the potential leaders of the future, are lying amongst the dead, and the nation is irreparably poorer for their loss. Is it not, then, our duty to take stock of our resources, to consider how our man-power and our manufactories can best be utilised in case there should be another national emergency? Ought we not to see how we can utilise our great and terrible experiences so as to prevent the recurrence of such losses? Can anyone, however ignorant on the one hand, or however self-complacent on the other, believe that our defence forces and our Army is so perfect as not to need revision? To give specific cases would never do. It would be going into controversial matters, but anyone who has anything to do with the Army during the War will know of specific cases in which the great machine creaked, and creaked badly. To say that our Army and defence forces require revision implies no censure, either on those who devised the machine before the War or on those who worked it during the War. No praise can be too high for the work done in every theatre of the War. The more one knows of pre-War conditions the more full must one be of admiration for the work done for the army by the Esher Commission, and for our defence forces as a whole by the Committee of Imperial Defence under the three premiers who are still in this House, and by the able secretariat that assisted them. But for the able review which was made of our Army and our directing organisation by the Esher Commission 2262 and the consequent institution of the general staff and the logical organisation and allocation of duties in the War Office and in the commands, it would have gone very hardly with us. I am not alone in considering that there would have been a very great possibility of our losing the War.
That review was taken in 1904. How different now are the conditions to what they were then. What an immense evolution, if not revolution, there has been in our pre-War ideas of administration, in our pre-War ideas of the necessity for preparation. Is not then a fresh review necessary? Is it too much to ask for a review of our organisation for defence in the light of the experience we have gained during the War? We have had in the past many such reviews, and every periodical review has had good results. After the outbreak of the Crimean War we did away with that curious anomaly which existed up to then of having in our supreme Governmental organisation a Secretary-at-War as well as a Secretary of War. At the sime time we did away with the great division that had existed for centuries in the two branches of our land forces. We had, on the one hand, the infantry and the cavalry and, on the other, the engineers, the artillery and all the ordnance services, one serving under the commander-in-chief and the other under the Master-General and the Board of Ordnance, and they served under completely different conditions with separate administrative services. Each of these two great branches had separate Army Medical Services. The infantry and cavalry had an "Army Medical Service" and the others had the "Ordnance Medical Department." No doubt the same arguments were adduced against any amalgamation of those two branches of the medical services in those days as are brought forward now to prove the impossibility of any proposal made to amalgamate the medical services of air, land and sea into a Defence Force Medical Service.
I have already adverted to the very great good that was done to the Army by the Esher Triumvirate which sat in 1904, nearly 18 years ago. Should we not have a similar but a far more comprehensive review now after a lustrum of war which has enlarged our experience, broadened our outlook and 2263 developed our idea of our national duty and national necessities in war to a much greater extent than was done in the previous century. Are we to ignore all this vast experience, are we not to examine our defence machinery thoroughly and systematically, without hurry but without delay, in view of the experience which we have gained? The epoch-making changes which have occurred since 1904 have rendered all our arrangements for defence before the War out of date. The air has brought problems of the greatest difficulty, complexity and controversy into our conception of the proper directing organisation of our Defence Forces.
I know there are many special points now being dealt with by Sub-Committees of the Committee of Imperial Defence and other Committees. There is the Committee that was announced the other day to go into the question of how far it was possible to amalgamate the Administrative Departments of the three fighting services. We understand that there is to be a Committee to consider the possibility of getting something in the nature of a combined brain. These Committees are of the greatest value as providing data for the Committee which we want which will co-ordinate the whole of this vast mass of information which has already accumulated. All these small Committees may be necessary, but we do want a comprehensive Committee which will deal with the defence problem as a whole. The most difficult and the most arresting problem that such a Committee would have to deal with would be the problem of the relation of this new element of war, the air, with the older sister services. This makes it imperative that there should be such a revision. If it be agreed that such a review of our system is necessary, then any such review must take a broad aspect, and not merely look at one service only but it must embrace the whole of our defence problem. To achieve that we must decide how that revision can best be carried out.
There are several alternatives. There is, first of all, the alternative of this review being carried out by each Department within itself. That is, in the case of the Army, that this revision should be carried out by the Army Council. The members of the Army Council are far too hard worked to be able 2264 to take up duties of this sort which would require months of concentration. They have their own strenuous and responsible work in looking after their own great Departments, and therefore they cannot undertake such a revision as I have indicated, and if they did undertake it they could not do it in the way we want, and therefore I think this may be ruled out.
Then there might be a review by a Cabinet Committee. If you call members of the Army Council busy men, what epithet are you to use in reference to Cabinet Ministers? Under our present system the heads of great Administrative Departments, in addition to looking after all the manifold work of their Departments, have to spend much time at Cabinet Meetings and give much thought to the great problems of government of our Empire as a whole. Therefore a Cabinet Committee cannot do the work which is required. The Cabinet should consider the results of the consideration of the Committee which I have suggested when it has presented its Report in a concise and easily digestible form.
There is another possibility. You might have a sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I would point out, however, that the members of this Committee are already doing work which is of the greatest advantage to the State. By the constitution of the Committee of Imperial Defence the Prime Minister has the power of calling to its deliberations any man whom he considers would be of value to the State, and it is therefore possible for the Prime Minister to call to an Affiliated Committee certain eminent men who could devote time and thought to this subject, and who would be of such standing that their findings and recommendations would command universal confidence.
There is the fourth alternative of either a Royal Commission or an independent Committee such as the Esher Committee, to which I have already adverted, and which did such excellent work. An independent Committee or Commission is absolutely necessary, but as to whether that Committee should be affiliated with the Committee of Imperial Defence, or whether it should be a Royal Commission or an independent Commission on the lines of the Esher Triumvirate does not matter. The essential thing is that it should be untrammelled in its work. It should consist of a few carefully selected 2265 men of eminence in the State whose ideas and recommendations will command confidence. They should be able to devote the necessary time and thought to the subject, and they should be judicial minded and not partisans, and the chairman should be in the nature of a statesman who is not in office and who has time to devote to the subject.
I know the pressure of work in the Department which is so ably presided over by the Secretary of State for War, and I can quite sympathise with him in his reluctance to put any extra work on his Department at the present time, but a Commission such as I advocate, if it did its work properly, would have to study broad matters of principle for some considerable time, and they would not be able to deal with matters of administrative organisations in the Ministries of the fighting services until many a day has elapsed. The main thing is that a Committee of this sort cannot be delayed indefinitely. There is no one who has studied the condition of the world and who has listened to the eloquent speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson), who can say that it is not necessary for us to take stock of what we have and to do our best to make the best arrangement for having our defences in the best possible order Three years and a half have elapsed since hostilities ceased. Although I know the difficulties, the review I have advocated ought not to be delayed much longer.
My presentation of this case has necessarily been rapid, and I have been obliged to omit many points and many arguments pertinent to this case. However inadequately I have put forward what I wish to put forward in the name of myself and those who think with me, I think I have shown, first of all, that the problems of the Army cannot be adequately considered unless they are considered as a part of our defence problems as a whole. Secondly, that a review of our organisation for defence by some independent Committee is necessary in the light of the experience we have gained during the War; and, thirdly, that the best method of carrying out this review is by a small independent Committee or Commission such as I have advocated. I know the splendid work that is being done by the Secretary of State for War, by the Committee of Imperial Defence, 2266 and by the Lord President of the Council, but far more is needed, and I beg the Secretary of State for War, who I know cannot possibly give a decision straight off over the Floor of the House, to urge upon his colleagues in the Government the imperative necessity of setting up such a Committee and getting it to work at an early date.
§ Major-General SEELY
I beg to second the Amendment.
I hope the Government will accept it, and act upon it without delay. It is particularly fortunate, I think, that the proposal which has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend should have been preceded by an extraordinary speech by one whom we have known under many names, but who is now known to us as the hon. and gallant Member for North Down. Of all the maiden speeches I have ever heard I think his was one of the best delivered and the most interesting, and I am sure the House will await with anxiety the next time he addresses us, although I hope he will not make our flesh creep so badly on the next occasion.
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Down is the greatest proof of the necessity for carrying out the proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend. My hon. and gallant Friend proposes that we should set up a Commission—that has been often proposed and even promised before—in order to find out how best to consider the administration of our sea, land, and air forces, and how they should be co-ordinated in war and in peace. My hon. and gallant Friend said it was a peculiar thing about modern inventions that, so far from making one stronger, they tended to weaken. His argument in the first part was irrefutable, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman might also have said if one man is now worth what 10 men were worth before, it is equally true that one casualty is ten times more disastrous than before. He went on to say, in dealing with savage warfare—a matter which may come more immediately before us in the next year or two—that the same argument applies. I hold the view, which is shared by many better able to judge, that the development of our air power makes us far more powerful and not less powerful. I gave only the other day four instances in Mesopotamia, and only yesterday the Secretary for the Colonies gave an instance in 2267 Somaliland which is almost too good to be true, showing that the presence of two aeroplanes saved a whole expedition. I do not say that the view advanced by the Field Marshal in his speech is wrong, but I do suggest there is a powerful body of opinion who are as strongly in support of the view taken by my hon. and gallant Friend. If there is anything to bring the two together, it may well be that the Secretary for War will be impelled by his advisers to take the anti-air view and greatly increase the other forces, while an impartial reviewer, after listening to what is to be said on both sides, may think that on the whole the air view is the correct view and that money spent on increasing the other forces could be saved.
The same remark applies to the whole argument addressed to us by the hon. and gallant Field-Marshal. He pointed out that before the War we had so many regiments. Now we shall have fewer. He also pointed out, with perfect truth, that while the state of Europe is in some respects more favourable, it is in other respects far less favourable, from this point of view, that with such a number of small States the possibility of war is one which should have great weight with us. That was urged in an extraordinarily powerful memorandum by General Smuts. Reference has been made to the danger at Constantinople and at Hong Kong. The defences of those places is more completely bound up with the sea than with the land, but aircraft are essential and we want to increase our Air Force rather than our land force. In theory, under the arrangement set up by the Lord President of the Council, the Prime Minister should sit on the Committee of Imperial Defence. Once upon a time he did do so, and he adjudicated on these very matters. My hon. and gallant Friend will very well remember having attended many meetings of the Imperial Defence Committee presided over by the then Prime Minister. I have in mind the very good advice he gave us and which we acted upon. Now the Prime Minister cannot possibly do that. He is too much engaged on other affairs of State. There is not the remotest chance of any Prime Minister in our time finding an opportunity to do this co- 2268 ordinating work, to preside over the Committee of Imperial Defence, to listen to the arguments on both sides, and then to come to a decision.
There are two great causes of waste under the present system. One is the overlapping of services. If each service has its own parson and its own hospital, it leads very often to an absurd waste of money. The other great sources of waste is the employment of wrong weapons—the employment of land forces when we should employ air forces, or the employment of air forces when we should employ sea forces. I come to the next point. Can what my hon. Friend proposes be done successfully? Here I shall be on highly controversial ground in what I am going to say. Some people urge that it is no use setting up a Ministry of Defence, or adopting another plan which I will adumbrate presently, because, in point of fact, the deliberations of such bodies have done us no good in the past. We were, it is said, utterly unprepared for the late War, and we only muddled through it by luck and by the gallantry of our men. There has been a lot of loose talk about this. I am here to say that, in my judgment, and certainly in the judgment of the Germans, although everybody was more or less unprepared for the War, we were the least unprepared. We were better prepared for the War on the 4th August, 1914, than any other nation that entered into the War, and the reason why we were so much better prepared was because we had given it really more careful thought. It is true that there were times when we were desperately short of shells, of guns and of rifles, but that was not due to the fact that we lacked prevision. It was because we had planned for a war in defence of Belgium on a certain scale When the War broke out the British Empire was spending, approximately, £100,000,000 a year, and when the Mobilisation Order came, approximately, 1,000,000 men stood to arms. I may say, in passing, that the amount the British Empire was spending was a great deal more than was being spent by any other Power, including Germany. Our plan was, and I had a great deal to do with it, so that if anyone is in fault, I am the man to blame; I welcome criticism and am prepared to meet it, for I have presided over more Committees of Imperial Defence than anyone else—our 2269 plan was to keep these 1,000,000 men in the field and to put them in the right places, while our Navy was to keep the sea. In other words, the first problem was to defend the whole Empire from hostile attack, the next was to maintain our communications with a view to securing our food supplies and bringing reinforcements from over the water, and the third problem was to defend Belgium by helping France to do so. One detail was to catch all the spies. When war did break out we did a good deal in these directions, while our Navy put a strangle-hold on Germany from which she was never able to escape. Remember, no single hostile foot was ever put on any part of the British Empire, and that shows that we disposed of our forces in the right way. At the same time, we did give assistance in Belgium in time to prevent the Germans taking Paris. That was not done without thought.
When I first became Secretary of State for War the Field Marshal who has just addressed the House came and pointed out to me that if Belgian neutrality were violated it was extremely probable our Armies would not get in time to the places where they ought to be. With the consent of the Cabinet I asked four men who, between them, owned the great majority of the A1 steam tonnage of the world to meet me here in this House. They did so. I put to them the problem, and within a few months, with the aid of the Admiralty and of the War Office, they produced an entirely new plan involving an expenditure of a large sum of money for the transport of the Expeditionary Force by very ingenious means which enabled that force to reach its objective in a much lesser amount of time than would in the opinion of the best judges have made the difference between the fall of Paris and its safety. That is just one instance of what can be done by careful thought and prevision, and I claim this, that up till the declaration of war by the operations of the Committee of Imperial Defence presided over by the then Prime Minister, now the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and attended constantly by the late Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council (Sir A. Balfour) as well as by the Chief of the Army Staff, and the corresponding officers in the other Services we thought out our problem better than anyone else. We may have 2270 made great mistakes afterwards, as we made mistakes before, but at any rate we were enabled to get through the first three months of the War.
What I ask is that we should revert to that practice and that we should stabilise it and make it stronger. I do not think anyone ought to support a Resolution of this kind, and least of all one who has been in the responsible position of Secretary for War as I have, without saying what he really means so that people can criticise his proposal. I think my hon. and gallant Friend who proposed this Amendment will agree with me that the proposal which I have ventured to put before the Secretary of State is one worthy of consideration, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will lay it before the Prime Minister. We want to get this co-ordination. Some people say: "Set up your Commission as proposed here, and direct them to consider how best to constitute a Ministry of Defence including the various Chiefs of Staff as well as Under-Secretaries for Land, Sea and Air." That would mean a great dislocation and probably great added expense, but still if the expense saved us from war that consideration surely would be a mere bagatelle. I do not believe in making too sudden changes in these matters. I think the far better plan would be to recognise the fact that exceptionally good work was done by the Committee of Imperial Defence under the then Prime Minister in the times preceding the War. Let us see how we can reproduce that and make it better. This Prime Minister cannot do it, and it is a thousand to one that the next Prime Minister will not be able to do it either. Let us have a Vice-President of the Committee of Imperial Defence, who should be the Lord President of the Council or the Lord Privy Seal, with not only the power but the duty to be informed of all estimates and all plans of the three fighting services, Land, Sea and Air, before those plans or estimates are passed. Let him pass them under review; let him have power to send for all persons and documents to find out the truth; and then let him have the power to decide, subject to the approval of the Cabinet, what is the best way to employ such available defensive forces as we have. Some will say that it would be best that the Chief 2271 of the Imperial General Staff, the First Sea Lord, and the Chief of the Air Staff should be members of the staff of the Vice-President of the Committee of Imperial Defence. There are difficulties about that, but the existing staffs would provide all the material that was required. You certainly then would not have any more expense in the direction branch, but you would have one man, not a soldier or a sailor or an Air officer, one man who would be what we used to call in the Army "a frock"; one of your politicians whom you must have under any system of Government, whose sole duty would be to co-ordinate those services and decide, instead of what happens now, as we know, when all these urgent questions are brought up by very tired Ministers before a very tired Prime Minister, who has not time to consider them, who does the best he can to dispose of them in a little time, but who has not the time to make the best decision nor to send for the right people to tell him all sides of the question. I earnestly commend this proposal to the Government, because I am quite sure, whatever my hon. Friends feel when they are cross about the defence forces, that the defence forces of this country have been the best guarantee for the liberty of the world that the world has ever had, and that by retaining them with due economy and on a sufficient level we shall be doing more for the freedom and happiness of the world than anything else we can do.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Lieut.-Colonel Sir R. Sanders)
It will perhaps be for the convenience of the House that we should dispose of this question proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend as soon as we can, so that it will not deter those Members who may wish to speak on the broader questions. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr and Bute (Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston) gave us an extremely valuable historical survey of the various Committees that have been set up to deal with the matter of the defence of the country, to which my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Major-General Seely) added some very interesting details of more recent history. I think we are also indebted to the hon. and gallant Member and to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for enforcing upon this House, and, through it, upon the country, the great import- 2272 ance of constantly reviewing the relations of the various branches of our defence forces to one another, but my hon. and gallant Friend and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seem to differ as to what they want. I gather that by hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr and Bute wanted a repetition of the Esher Committee, while my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite wanted a permanent Grand Inquisitor, holding one of the high offices of the Government, who would inquire and give a report once for all, and who would survey all the Estimates and defence proposals.
§ Major-General SEELY
I spoke in support of this Amendment in favour of the appointment of a Commission, but one must explain what one means the Commission to do. I supported the Commission, but I said that I hoped they would set up a Vice-President of the Committee of Imperial Defence forthwith.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
I quite accept what my right hon. and gallant Friend has said. I can assure both my hon. and gallant Friend and my right hon. and gallant Friend that this is an Amendment with which the Government have great sympathy, but it is not one on which, I think, an immediate reply can be given. I am only entitled to say a word for the War Office, and I am sure everyone in the War Office will support me in saying: "Give us a little rest. We have just had the Geddes Committee and the operations of that Committee." We have heard, on the minor question of enonomy of administration, that Committees have been recently set up by the Cabinet, under the Minister of Health, to see how far the sea and air forces can be unified. That Committee has not yet given in its Report, but I think it will be something in the direction which my hon. and gallant Friend wants to have carried out. As to the Committee of Imperial Defence, so much has been said about it, that I do not think I need add anything. But I am not sure that any Committee could be set up which could do more than the Committee of Imperial Defence now has power to do. I think the Committee of Imperial Defence or some Committee appointed by it could carry out my hon. and gallant Friend's wishes.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
Of course, that is a question of procedure, and I can only assure my right hon. and gallant Friend that the subject is one which will not escape attention, and that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will give it sympathetic attention and discuss it with the Cabinet. I would suggest that we might now come to a decision on this subject so that the broad Debate on the Army Estimates can proceed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I only want to intervene for one minute to endorse this proposal from the point of view of the ancillary services, especially as illustrated by my own medical service. Obviously, this proposal mainly concerns the ancillary services. You cannot obviously get any more close combination between the combatant services, but in the ancillary services it is more especially required. In that particular direction, I venture to endorse the remarks which have been made, more especially as I have made the same suggestions in regard to the medical service. In March, 1919, I suggested it primarily from the point of view of efficiency and economy. This has already been forgotten, and the danger is that the War Office, to whom this may be referred, may say that it has been already undertaken. It is true that it has been already undertaken in regard to certain obvious, crying opportunities for economy and for adjustment and collaboration, as, for instance, in regard to the general hospitals in a few noted cases.
There is a much larger question concerned. The whole question of recruiting the Medical Service, both men and officers, is much the same for each of these three Services, and that has not been tackled at present. It is the same in regard to the position of medical stores and the provision of hospital ships. Hitherto the Army and Navy have each had their hospital ships. This applies still more to the Services overseas. There are many points on which you could get a great deal of saving by virtue of the fact that you could interchange the officers and the men in the respective Services. The Naval Service, as a rule, is one particularly for the younger men, and the Flying Corps also, as regards the Medical Service, is one for the younger men, and it would be obviously an advantage if you could have men easily ex- 2274 changed from one to the other, when they passed the requirements of fitness and agility necessary for the more mobile Services as compared with the quieter and more stationary Services of the Army. I feel that it is in regard to these Services that there is a great need for an independent inquiry ab initio. Let us not be put off by the suggestion the hon. and gallant Member has just given us on behalf of the War Office. The War Office or other Offices may say: "Leave us alone for a bit; we have just had such great changes." That is just the very time when we want to get to work to make further changes in order that we may then settle down for a considerable time afterwards. It is just after the War that you want to make these great changes. You made them in the case of the Esher Commission, and you want to do the same kind of thing now. Although the Government may be jaded, there are those who can take on the work if necessary. Some officers may be unable to start another set of reforms, but it should be done now, whatever happens, and the sooner the better if it is to be done at all. While the wounds of war are still open and bleeding, we want to see that they heal correctly on the right lines, and it is in that light that I, for the Medical Services and, indirectly, for the ancillary auxiliary Services generally—the so-called non-combatant Services—support this suggestion.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) ought to be given great weight in considering any steps that ought to be taken in order to preserve the necessary strength of the fighting forces of this country. I am not always certain that a Committee may not delay matters, but it seems to me that, unless the proposal contained in this Amendment be accepted, we may run the risk of continuing with a reduced Army, such as is proposed at the present moment, until it is too late to remedy what I consider to be a very grave error. I have always been an ardent economist, and I am at the present moment an ardent economist. I was exceedingly glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for North Down make the same statement, because I believe that the true economy is to have such an Army as will enable you, in the first instance, to prevent war, and, if you cannot prevent war, then to 2275 win the war. I have said over and over again that, in my opinion, if we had had a sufficiently strong Army in 1914, we should never have had the War, and I cannot conceive how it is possible that sane men—and I presume that most of us in this House are more or less sane—I cannot conceive how it is possible that sane men, knowing everything that has passed, can consent to the enormous reduction which is proposed in these Estimates. Therefore, holding as I do that true economy can only be carried out by having a sufficient force to prevent war, I shall support the proposal contained in this Amendment. I should like also to point out, to the few Members of the Labour party who are present, not only that the maintenance of a sufficiently strong army will save expenditure both in life and in money later on, but that an extraordinarily good education is obtained by those who serve in His Majesty's forces—not only mental education but physical education. Physique is improved, habits of discipline are learned, and I do not think you could do better for a young man between the ages of 19 and 21 or 22, than put him in the Army for a short time. I know that this Debate will come to an end at a quarter past eight, and so I do not want to take up the time of the House. I also know that it would be very difficult to press this Amendment to a Division. I do not know exactly what would happen to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or to Mr. Speaker, if it were carried. I do not know whether you or Mr. Speaker would have to remain in the Chair all night, or would take advantage of the Eleven o'Clock Rule to say "Order, order!" and leave as hurriedly as possible. I have never seen an Amendment of this kind carried, and I am not quite certain what the result would be. I am a little disappointed that the hon. Baronet, with whom I have had the honour of being associated in bygone days, was not a little more enthusiastic over this proposal, because, as the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) said, this, if we are ever going to do anything, is really the time to do it. I do not wish to say anything unpleasant, but, if the War Office has been stirred up by the Geddes Committee, now is the time to go on with that stirring up. We should not 2276 let the matter simmer and get down into the state in which it was before. I am not at all sure that I agree with the Geddes Committee, or that they were the proper people to interfere with the Army, and, on such a very momentous and important question for a great Empire like this, after all we have gone through in the last eight years, suddenly—not because it was thought necessary, not because it was thought wise, but because money had been unduly spent in other directions—to attempt, I will not say to economise, but to reduce that item of expenditure which might be a saving in the maintenance of our Empire.
§ Major-General SEELY
We have not had any reply from the Government. I was hoping that the Secretary of State for War would tell us what he proposed to do about this business. My hon. and gallant Friend tells me that he does not wish to put the House to the inconvenience of a Division if some definite assurance can be given that some action will be taken during this Session; but, unless we get that, I know that a great many hon. Members would feel inclined to divide. If we could be assured, on behalf of the Secretary of State for War—who, I know, is engaged elsewhere—that some definite action would be taken towards ensuring co-ordination, I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw his Amendment. Otherwise we shall be forced to go to a Division.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
I am not in a position to give an undertaking. I can only say that I will represent the matter as strongly as I can, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will treat it sympathetically.
§ Major-General SEELY
The Secretary of State is now here, and perhaps he could tell us himself. We do not want to put the House to the inconvenience of a Division if he can assure us that some action in the direction of co-ordination will be taken. If, however, we are merely met with a vague statement which does not even admit the importance of the matter, we shall he forced to divide.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
There is not the least, question about the importance of this matter, and I do not deny that it is very urgent, where you are making reductions, to economise your force to the utmost by really good administration.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
On all three services. I have not the slightest doubt about that, and the Government are perfectly in sympathy with it. The first step we are taking, as the House has already been told, has to do with administration, in regard to which a Committee has been set up already. There is a great deal of duplication of administrative services, which may or may not be avoidable. In some cases I am sure that it is. It has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend that there are chaplains and doctors overlapping, and so forth. That is a matter which can be looked into, and will be looked into at once, with a view to economising in that direction. But what this Amendment does is something much bigger than that. It has been most ably supported, not this year only, but last year, and I was very sympathetic to it then. It has been absolutely impossible, however, this year to spare time to go into questions of this class; the staff have been fully engaged, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend, at the War Office on their more immediate work. This, however, comes within the orbit of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment realises, it is not in my power to say that the Government will set up a Commission or a Committee for the purpose indicated. All I can say is that the Committee of Imperial Defence are specially charged with the co-ordination of the three services. They are constantly having before them questions which bring up, for example, the use of the Air Force with the Navy, or the use of the Air Force with the Army, and I will make representations at once that the feeling of the House is apparent that further steps should be taken beyond the mere general statement that the matter is within the province of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I will represent to the Cabinet that the House would like specific action to be taken in the matter, and I need not say that I myself perfectly realise that, where you are cutting down forces, the one thing of which you must be sure is that you use to the best advantage those that remain, and that, where you have the three services, they ought to be treated 2278 as nearly as possible as one service. I cannot say that I will accept this Amendment, though personally I should like to say so, but I will represent to the Prime Minister and my colleagues the view of the House.
§ Sir AYLMER HUNTER-WESTON
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that he will press upon the attention of his colleagues the very great urgency and importance of this subject, not merely from the point, of view of the co-ordination of administrative services, but of what is even more important, namely, the co-ordination of the brain of the general staff, so that we may get our defence forces applied in the very best way, and in view also of the definite promise that has been given to us across the Floor of the House that specific action will be taken, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Sir ARCHIBALD WILLIAMSON
I should like to say a few words on the subject which is before the House, as one who was for some time associated with the Secretary of State for War at the War Office, and who is also able, perhaps, to take the view of the outside civilian as to the position in which we find our selves financially, and the effect that it has upon Army matters. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having been able to produce Estimates which approximate so nearly to the figures which the Geddes Committee set out as desirable. I know from personal experience how extremely difficult it is to make sudden cuts of large figures in a great organisation such as the Army and the War Office, but the reductions that have been made during the past few years, since the War, have been very notable, and I think it is as well that the House and the country should have before them in comparative form the figures for the last four years. In the year 1919–20, the total actual expenditure of the War Office was, in round figures, £411,000,000. In 1920–21 it was £164,000,000, and for 1921–22 the original and Supplementary Estimates to date, including the Middle East, amount to £116,000,000. The amount of the Estimates now laid before us by the right hon. Gentleman for 1922–23, including the Middle East, is £67,000,000. The House must note that these are enormous 2279 reductions and that the last reduction in anticipating this next year is in proportion the largest of the four. It takes time to effect these reductions because many services are entered upon the expenditure of which is spread over more than one year. For example, there are barracks for married soldiers. Married quarters in larger numbers are required by the present conditions. A scheme is commenced for building such barracks, but their erection and the expenditure on them extend over more than one financial year. Therefore it is very difficult, without scrapping work half done, to economise on that item. There are many other items of a similar class, and I can quite well appreciate the very great difficulty the Secretary of State, the Finance Member and others associated with him in the War Office have had in getting down the expenditure in the remarkable way they have succeeded in doing.
We are all taxpayers in one way or another, and we all feel the urgent need of cutting down the burden that falls on the industries and activities of the country. It is essential that these burdens should be mitigated and that we should cut off all unnecessary expenditure, even although some of it might be upon desirable things. Of course, there are items in the Budget of the Army which are desirable but not so essential as others. Such a matter as the education of the soldiers, which I have myself defended and advocated in time past, is a very desirable thing, but not so essential, perhaps, as some others. I could point to one direction in which I think the Secretary of State might go further. During the rise in prices of every commodity we increased very largely the pay of the soldiers, and I am inclined to think the right hon. Gentleman might again revise the pay of the Army. At present, as compared with civilian life, if all emoluments are taken into consideration and valued, they amount at present, for a married private, who may be compared with an unskilled labourer, to the equivalent of £3 16s. 1d. a week. If he is unmarried it amounts to the equivalent of £2 9s. 7d. a week. In the Royal Army Service Corps, which may be compared with more skilled labour, the emoluments of a married private soldier at present amount to £4 0s. 9d. a week, and if he is a sergeant to 2280 £5 17s. 1d. Those are figures which compare not unfavourably with what is being paid outside, and in view of the decreases in wages which we notice on all hands outside as the cost of living falls, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should consider, certainly if the cost of living falls any further, whether he should not review the matter of the pay of the Army so as to keep it at some -sort of relative level to the pay which a similar class of labour could obtain in civilian life.
Another point I should like to say a few words upon is the new developments in warfare, which absorb a comparatively large proportion of the whole Army. The result of having all these new styles of warfare—bombing, anti-aircraft, liquid flame, gas, chemical warfare generally, signals, tanks, and so on—is to take away from your total volume of men a larger proportion than you would have to take away if you had not all these new elements of warfare. In connection with that one finds that the proposal is to reduce the Territorials, and I feel a very great deal of regret that anything should be done to reduce them, because after all, they not only proved themselves very valuable in the War, but there is a great reservoir from which in time of emergency, by volunteering, you could draw certain numbers of men to fill the deficiencies in the regular Army. If the War was not large enough to bring it into consideration at all whether your Territorials should go abroad as Territorials, there might be a war, as there was in South Africa, where you asked Territorials to come forward and volunteer for oversea service and you took certain numbers of them into the regular Army for the time being. In that light I regret that anything should happen which would tend to reduce the numbers in the Territorial Army. It is true that recruiting for the Territorial Army after the Armistice was very slow, and up to the present time I suppose it has not been exceedingly active. But there are in this country, and always will be, a certain number of young men of martial spirit who require no pressure to come forward to train themselves, to a certain extent at any rate, so that they may be fit in case of emergency to take a share in the defence of their country in one form or another.
2281 We have increased the cost of the Territorial Army—we have given greater inducements—but it is possible to fall between two stools. You are either doing too much or too little. Some people have said we were giving too little, and consequently the policy was decided upon of increasing the payment to the Territorials. There is another view of it, and that is that there is a certain body of people who would be willing to come forward to be trained as Territorials even if they get nothing at all beyond their simple necessary travelling and maintenance expenses in camp. I wonder very much whether we get realy more Territorials by increasing the expenditure upon them as we recently did. I am not quite sure that we do, and if that is so, I regret that we do not try other means of recruiting the Territorial Army apart from giving them more pay. But whatever course is taken it is clear that you will require to allow a little time to elapse before a sufficient number of young men grow up and come forward to recruit your Territorial Army to the point at which you desire to see it. People were tired of the War, tired of soldiering, and very glad for a time to be removed from the atmosphere of drills and weapons of warfare. But in time we shall find that that spirit will revive, and that we shall get more and more men coming forward until we have a sufficiency to fill up our Territorial Army again to the figure at which it stood before the War.
Another point I should like to say a word about is the Government establishments, such as Woolwich. My experience is that the fewer Government works you have the better. They give you an infinity of trouble and I am not quite sure that they produce any better work or produce work as cheaply as private establishments. I know there are other sides to the question. There are specialities and there are times of emergency for which you must be provided. Possibly private works will not be fully equipped to deal with such emergencies. But whatever you do, reduce the Government establishments to a minimum. You had 17,000 people at Woolwich and at the end of the War you had the greatest difficulty in reducing the number. Even now I think you have 10,000 or 12,000 men working there, and you do not require any military weapons at all. You have 2282 these men doing all sorts of other things, doing work they have never been trained to do, which no doubt they can do well, but which they do very expensively. You made locomotives. I suppose it is hardly known what they cost, but certainly they cost a great deal more than they are worth. That is lamentable. It is not economical at all, apart altogether from the pressure which is brought to bear upon a Government Department by having thousands of workmen in its employment—an argument I should always use also against nationalisation of railways—you have this body of votes which is handled to compel you to do things which are uneconomic. It is not right. That ought to be reduced to the very minimum, and my experience at the War Office confirms me in the opinion which I held before I went there, that it is not a good system. If you can avoid it by all means avoid it and reduce to the utmost such establishments as those. You must have them to some extent. You must have a factory for your powder and you must have one or two other things of a similar kind. But reduce it to the very minimum, because to develop that system and to conduct it on a large scale is uneconomic and disadvantageous.
§ Mr. LAWSON
We welcome the reduction in the Estimates which the Secretary of State has announced, and in so far as the suggestion which was comprised within the limits of the last Resolution works in that direction of economy, we would give all support to the co-ordination of the forces to that end. I have listened to this Debate with some misgiving. I heard the gallant Field-Marshal present a very strong case with the certainty that is a characteristic of one who has held high position in the Army, and I noted, too, the remarkable amount of support he received when he painted that very black and terrible picture which must have weighed upon everyone's spirits while he was speaking. I know he spoke with infinite knowledge of his subject, but I could not help feeling at the end of his speech very much like the music-hall artist who used to hang his head and say, "What is the good of anything? Why, nothing," because it seems to me that that frame of mind fails to visualise what is the real position in the country to-day. I know it is not the result of hardness of heart, or anything of that 2283 kind, because it seems to me from what I have seen of these men that they are within their limits the most humane of men. I have sometimes wished from what I saw in the Army that some of the employers of labour would give only half the consideration to their workers that some of the officers in the Army gave to their horses.
I am well aware of the conditions on both sides. What is the situation? Here we have the frame of mind represented by the gallant Field-Marshal the Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson), which speaks about ensuring the defence of this country, but which forgets what seems to me to be the cardinal facts. The Secretary of State for War has announced reductions in the Estimates. Every pound reduced in that direction means that that pound ultimately ought to go to the re building of the physical and mental condition of the people of this country. During the War the military leaders had to face the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of men who were physically unfit to serve, and that we had what was called a C3 nation. We ought to realise that not only was that due to bad housing conditions, but that those housing conditions are worse to-day, that overcrowding is more than ever it was, and that there is a state of unemployment and semi-starvation which will ultimately make the empire at its very heart very uncertain. Every penny that we can save in the destructive side of our life makes for the development of the other side. From the moment that you leave this House until you get to the most remote village in the country you see men who have served in the Army in a pitiable condition. Men who have defended this country cannot get the very means of life. Every board of guardians will tell you that men are asking not only for relief but for public shelter within the walls of the workhouse because they cannot find the means of existence elsewhere. That point of view ought to be taken into consideration by those who stand for the maintenance of strong armies and the maintenance of the sear let tunic spirit. What your army is to be depends a good deal upon the policy of the country. Those who stand for a strong army stand for the extension of our responsibilities in the sense of square miles, and the taking hold of a good deal of the earth's surface.
2284 I should like to know what is happening in regard to the educational system in the Army. Is it effective or not from the civilian point of view? I know what was attempted when the War finished. Many crude attempts were made to carry on educational experiments. I remember one gentleman lecturing on fish, and a soldier asked what a soldier wanted to know about fish. Another soldier drew attention to the fact that the lecturer had spoken about every fish in the sea, but that he carefully kept off kippers, and he supposed that was because if they got the tail end of one that was as much as they could get. Has there been any real attempt to develop the educational system in the Army from the civilian point of view, or has it been made part and parcel of the Army system? How will these new proposals affect the education in the Army in the future. If there is any man who needs to be kept in touch with the civic spirit it is the soldier. The system under which we keep men in barracks segregated has the effect of limiting men to a certain extent and unfitting them for civilian life. Therefore, if anyone needs consideration in that direction it is the rank and file soldier. I should like to know exactly what is going to happen, in view of the reductions that are to be made, to the amount that is given for the education of men who are to be fitted to become officers. Is the old system to continue of giving men opportunities of rising from the ranks and becoming officers?
§ Mr. LAWSON
I should like to know whether that system has gone, or how far the opportunities for men being improved has been limited. To those who stand for a strong Army we say that the increasing destructive force at the present time is such that it ought to be taken into very serious consideration in the future building up of an army in this country. The Geddes Committee said:The units also from the point of view of fighting efficiency are far more powerful than they were in 1914–15. Owing to the introduction of machine guns, the fire power of an infantry battalion is given as six to eight times as much as it was before the War, and that of a cavalry regiment four times as much as it was before the War. The introduction of heavy artillery, gas and tanks have increased the fighting power out of all com- 2285 parison with the number of men engaged, and officers, who are intended to increase the efficiency of the Army have increased disproportionately to the men. Moreover, there has been added to the defence force of the Empire the very costly and highly specialised arm of the Air.It is not only a question of building up the defence of the Empire and safeguarding the communications of the Empire, but it is a question of safeguarding the people of this country against the war mind,, in order that we shall move carefully along those paths which lead to the frame of mind that makes nations consider carefully the rights of other nations, while at the same time we improve the condition of affairs in order to produce men and women rather than blowing them into smithereens.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
Perhaps I might deal with two points raised by the last speaker. Apropos of the question of economy, he has mentioned the greater fighting power of units at the present time as compared with their fighting power before the War, owing to the introductions of tanks, machine-guns, gas, etc. People are, however, liable to forget that that consideration applies equally to any potential enemy. A potential enemy would have the inventions of the last eight years, so that the fact mentioned by the hon. Member does not diminish the necessity of our having an adequate fighting power. In regard to the education of the soldier, one of the great difficulties in the past in regard to ranker officers was that they could not have the same standard as officers who had been to Woolwich and Sandhurst.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
If the hon. Member had been present he would have heard the Secretary of State for War announce that they are to have that chance in future. I think my right hon. Friend said that 35 will be at Sandhurst in future, not for two years, but one year, as they already have a considerable amount of military knowledge. They will, therefore, acquire that polish that can only be acquired either at Woolwich or Sandhurst. It is an excellent idea, and I welcome it most warmly. It will give a chance which has been so extremely difficult in the past. It is an extremely difficult job for a man who 2286 has been in the ranks to get a commission in the Regulars and to make good there. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his success in the extremely difficult task of making these very big reductions in the Army Estimates. He has spoken of the co-operation given to him by the Army Council and elsewhere, but I imagine that his own task has been very difficult. As a back-bencher who is keenly interested in Army matters, I want to congratulate him on the very successful way in which he has grappled with the great difficulties he has had to face, in the very short time that has elapsed since the first volume of the Report of the Geddes Committee was published.
It seems to me that there are one or two points where more economies might be effected without a loss of fighting power. He said it was his object to reduce ancillary services as far as it could be done. I have been at pains to compare the fighting forces now with what they were in 1914. The cavalry personnel will have this year just half the numbers it had in 1914. The artillery will be reduced by a third and the infantry is to be reduced by one-fifth. Therefore I think we might expect that there would be, if not this financial year, at any rate in the very near future, a considerable reduction, say from one-half to one-fifth, in ancillary services; but in 1922–23 the Royal Army Service Corps—which, I admit, rendered most invaluable service during the War—are to be increased from 6,300 in 1914 to 9,146, an increase of rather more than one-third. The Ordnance Corps, which works in close conjunction with the Royal Artillery, are to be increased from 2,400 to 4,200, an increase of well over 50 per cent., although the gunners are reduced by one-third. The Veterinary Branch is the most surprising of all, in view of the introduction of motor transport in the Royal Army Service Corps and the fact that the cavalry personnel is reduced. This branch is increased from 348 to 392, an increase of over 10 per cent. Then we come to the Pay Corps and the Accounting Corps. My right hon. Friend mentioned that there are a lot of post-War things to be settled. Adding the numbers of these two corps together—their work, to a certain extent, covers the same field— I find that the Pay Corps, which before the War numbered 744, will number 2287 1,890, including the accountants, an increase of two and a half times the personnel. The pay has been increased from two and a half to three times, but that should not be a reason for increasing the pay staff to that extent.
A Committee has been investigating the question of pay and records and overlapping there, and I think it might be possible to have a further Committee dealing with the question of the Pay and Accountancy Corps. I have made inquiry into the Accountancy Corps, and my information is that there is a good deal of overlapping in the commands, as well as at the War Office, between these two branches of the service. There is an increase of 2½ per cent, times the pre-War establishment, and that rather suggests that there is overlapping in that direction which might be looked into. There is one other saving which I should like to hear about. On page 5 of the Vote on Account, Army Estimates, mention is made of a saving of £500,000 proposed by the Geddes Committee in regard to replacement of uniform and making uniforms last longer, a proposal put forward also in connection with the police and the Navy. My right hon. Friend says that it is not possible this year to make any such cash saving owing to the existence of War stocks, but it would be of interest if this question were gone into by the War Office to ascertain whether in some future years we cannot count on a saving of this nature, because a sum of £500,000 on our Army Estimates is a serious item, and it would be a comfort to the taxpayer to know that this amount can be saved.
§ Brigadier-General COLVIN
We all feel some apprehension that the reductions which are to take place in the Army may bring it below the safety line. I am glad to find that the Territorial Army is not to suffer very much. It is certainly the cheapest Army which we could possibly have. The suggestion has been made to-night that the pay of the soldier might be reduced, and also the pay of the territorial, but I hardly think that the time has come yet for that, though in future I think that reductions should take place in accordance with the decreased cost of living. What I am concerned about at present is the question 2288 of mobilisation, and what steps should be taken in order that mobilisation should take place rapidly. Before the War we had the National Reserve. It consisted of upwards of 200,000 men, most of whom joined up when asked to. It was a large organisation compared with the small sum of £45,000 which was allowed for it on the Estimates, and it would be a great Service now if there were some 200,000 men available when mobilisation should take place. In the old days it was divided into three classes. There was one class which volunteered for service abroad. It got retaining fees of about five or six shillings, capitation grant. There was another class which undertook service at home which received a smaller fee, and a third class which only registered without undertaking any obligations, and which obtained a capitation grant of 1s. These men were administered by the County Associations, and I trust that my right hon. Friend will consider the advisability of reconstituting this force.
In the Territorial Army I notice that the field ambulance will be one of the chief sufferers by the reductions. For a long time the War Office has been considering what duties' should be allotted to the Voluntary Aid Detachments who now come under the Territorial Army. I submit that great use might be made of the Voluntary Aid Detachment if they were told off to supply the material for some of these field ambulances. It would give them an object to look forward to and the supply stores would be handed over to them. We all know that when the War took place in 1914 great difficulty was experienced in finding men who had any knowledge of first-aid or ambulance service. We hastily requisitioned the detachment at the last moment. Great use might be made of the existing Voluntary Aid Detachment The women's detachment did their duties well. They turned out to be an extremely efficient body, and I am afraid that if they do not have some duties allotted to them they may disappear altogther.
Reference has been made to Territorial Associations and the possibility of being able to make certain reductions in the expenditure of them. I know that the Secretary of State for War appreciates fully the spirit in which the County Associations endeavour to meet all his 2289 wishes and even to anticipate them. I submit for his consideration the possibility of giving these Associations a block grant. The Associations are composed of men with great experience in all directions and I believe in many ways they could administer the grant themselves much better economically than if the money is allotted for a specific purpose to the Territorial Associations. I think that great use might be made of these Associations in the matter of remounts if it were left to them. Then on the question of cadets at present the cadets receive a capitation grant which is admittedly much too small. If the County Associations received a block grant for everything including cadets they might make such use of the money that they would be able to treat the cadets rather better than at present. The cadets are a force who are struggling very hard to keep afloat because the principle of voluntary financial assistance comes in their way and they might look to the Territorial Associations for assistance, and possibly if that method were adopted we might do much to encourage the cadet force.
§ Lieut.-Colonel NALL
As we have to adjourn at 8.15, I shall not have time to say all that I wish to say. Everybody who listened to the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) must be profoundly impressed by the extraordinary risk involved in the proposals contained in the Estimates before the House. I do not at present propose to go into the question except to say that there was one important fact which the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not mention. That was the fact that in Soviet Russia to-day there exists an army of over a million men, trained and armed and officered to a certain extent by Germans, standing there at the orders of the State which is by no means friendly to this country. But assuming that the reductions contained in the proposal are likely to be carried out in part if not entirely before the possibility of a change of Government becomes more acute I do want to say one or two words with regard to the reduction. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he could, to say rather more definitely what sort of conditions are attached to the reduction in other ranks? Are men going to be selected to be discharged, or will certain permanent 2290 service men be discharged, or will a number of men be allowed to apply to terminate their engagement on personal or so-called compassionate grounds? With regard to the reduction of officers I understand from statements which have been made that the by no means popular system of dismissing by selection is the main method to be employed in reducing the number of officers. It is a system which, applied in the other directions of promotion, was never attended with very good results, and it is deplorable to feel that it is now to be the chief method by which these reductions are to be carried out. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this system of dismissing by selection on confidential report is to be applied to field officers as well as to general regimental officers? Are officers of the rank of Major or Lieut.-Colonel to be selected for retirement in the same manner as, one understands, is to be applied to more junior officers, and will any steps to expedite or assist this business of reducing the number of officers take the form of reducing the retiring age limits whereby some of the more senior officers will be retired on pensions, thereby retiring those whose services, in any case, are not likely to be retained very much longer by the State, and also avoiding the discharge in their earlier years of some officers who show promise and whom it would be to the advantage of the State to retain in its service?
I asked the Minister in August last if he could state how many of the officers who were sent home on that first report on active service were still serving, and what steps were being taken to retire them. The answer was that the war records of all regular field officers will be carefully reviewed by Special Committee, and where the officers' record is considered unsatisfactory they will be called upon to retire. I want to know whether senior officers who were sent home with really bad reports are going to be retired before officers, probably generally with good reports, are discharged under this system of selection. I have one or two instances before my notice of officers who have been retained in the Service on the active list when their war record is well known by their comrades, when, one would think, looking over their records, that there was no possible ground for retaining them in the Service. I may 2291 mention one case, the case of an infantry major whose total Army service in any theatre of war was only one month in France when he was attached to a headquarters. He broke down in health, and was returned to England and employed as an Adjutant in a reserve unit during the years 1914–1915 and 1916. From 1916 to 1920 he was a Major for regimental duties. He was medically fit from 1914 to 1916, and again after the Armistice, and he was only one month in France during the whole War. I believe that he has failed for a senior officer's course, and that he is still in the Service. Is it fair to retain in the Service officers who are like that?
§ It being a quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.