HC Deb 24 March 1922 vol 152 cc897-902

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £28,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for defraying the Charges for Army Services which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, namely:—

Heads of Cost. Amount required.
Head I.—Maintenance of Standing Army 15,000,000
Head II.—Territorial Army and Reserve Forces 2,500,000
Head III.—Educational, etc., Establishments and Working Expenses of Hospitals, Depots, etc. 2,750,000
Head IV.—War Office, Staff of Commands, etc. 500,000
Head V.—Capital Accounts 750,000
Head VI.—Terminal and Miscellaneous Charges, etc. 4,000,000
Head VII.—Half-pay, Retired pay, Pensions, etc. 2,000,000
To be voted 28,000,000"

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I want to ask one rather important question as to re-construction. As I understand it, certain regiments are going to be amalgamated, and not done away with. I wish to know what proportion of the senior officers is to be kept on. Whether or not the amalgamation is a real economy depends a great deal on whether you are going to have in the amalgamated regiment two colonels and two or three majors or not. Is the reduction to be made effectual in the number of senior officers? I should also like to make a suggestion as to the Territorial Army. I quite agree with the making of necessary reductions there, and should like to point out that the reduction which has been made in the staffs by taking away the brigade majors might be increased a little by amalgamating brigades in peace time, and keeping one brigadier instead of two, with a reserve brigadier on the list unpaid. I think that a certain amount of additional economy might he effected in that way.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)

With regard to the amalgamation of battalions or of regiments, the essence of amalgamation is, of course, the saving thereby effected, and there would be little or no saving if the headquarter staff remained the same. Therefore it does mean that the number of commanding officers is reduced. With regard to my hon. Friend's suggestion as to brigadiers, that is another matter. The services of brigade majors in the Territorial Army are being dispensed with, but that will throw a great deal more work upon the brigadier, and I am not prepared to say at this moment that we can, without grave loss of military efficiency, also dispense with the services of one or more brigadiers in a division. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that I am aiming at exactly that class of saving, namely, saving bayonets and reducing overhead charges. But overhead charges can be reduced to such an extent that the bayonets left are neither trained nor efficient units, and we have to keep the balance between the two. I assure my hon. Friend, however, that, generally speaking, the policy is to maintain the bayonets and reduce overhead charges.

May I appeal to the House to give me this Vote A and the Vote on Account, because, unless that be done within a relatively short time, the Consolidated Fund Bill cannot be brought forward on Monday and Tuesday, and there will be a great embarrassment in regard to Parliamentary time. Moreover, I understand that I am to be challenged with regard to the two Excess Votes which are to follow immediately, and, if there is to be any discussion upon them, very little time will be left for it if there is also a discussion on Vote A and on the Vote on Account, both of which, I may say, have been discussed for nearly two days in Committee. I appeal to the House to give me these two Votes, and proceed with the discussion on the Excess Votes.


Is it the intention of the War Office to put into practice my suggestion as to the enlistment of trained men for the Reserves?


I was very -anxious to make a few remarks, but I will defer to the appeal of the Minister. I may say, however, that on two occasions we have been appealed to in the same way and, while I do not occupy very much time of the House, I naturally like to speak when a matter about which I know something is before it. I took part in some conferences before the War, when it was decided that six divisions was a minimum striking force, and now that these alarming reductions are being made, I should naturally have liked to speak at some length on the subject, but in deference to the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman I do not now propose to do so. I should, however, be glad if he could give some reply to a point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rutland (Lieut.-Colonel Willoughby) as to the increase in fees at Sandhurst. I understand that it is proposed to increase the fees from £100 to £200. In my opinion that is bad economy, and it is in striking contrast with what is done in Australia, where the military college boys are admitted on a competitive basis, and at first the whole cost is paid by the State. These lads, after four years' training, receive their commissions, and I am assured by the War Office here that, as the result of their competitive training, they come out very high. I should very much like to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman considers that to be a wise economy, more especially as these boys are sons of soldiers and others who are not possessed of ample means, and it seems hard that the parent of a boy who gives his life to the State should be penalised.


That point is not in order on this Vote.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. HALL

I wish to raise a point in regard to the disabilities of men who served under what we term boy service. New instructions have been issued which press very hardly indeed upon the soldier with regard to the completion of his 21 years. Originally boy service used to count, but now, under the new Regulations, in the case of those who join as boys at 14 the four years between 14 and 18 do not count. My right hon. Friend must recognise how hardly that affects a soldier who wants to complete his 21 years. In the old days there used to be halfpenny a day deduction. With regard to warrant officers there is no deduction at all. Now it is most difficult for any soldier who joins as a boy to complete his 21 years and obtain the full pension. I should like an intimation that my right hon. Friend will have the whole matter looked into so as to put these men in the same position they were in previous to the issue of the new Order.


It is our intention to endeavour to get special direct enlistments into the Reserve. That has been done in the course of the past year, and it is intended to be continued, especially as far as key men are concerned. With regard to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall), I will look into it. There is a difficulty. There has got to be a proper balance between the non-effective and the effective Vote. We must not take too many men on to full pension. The balance has to be maintained fairly. But I will see whether there has been any change such as my hon. and gallant Friend indicates in counting or not counting the years before 18 towards the 21 years' service.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this, House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I can now answer the question which was put to me on the last Vote in regard to the fees at Sandhurst. They are to be increased from £100 to £200 a year for the sons of civilians, but not for the sons of soldiers. The sons of soldiers have a special rate. That is being increased by 33⅓ per cent. I cannot give the exact fees, but they are not £200 a year. In addition to that, there are forms of scholarship which reduce the fees very largely. I think in the case of sons of widows the fee is as low as £30 or £40 a year. I will give more accurate figures. I am only speaking from memory at this moment. When the hon. Members says that the fees for the sons of civilians are too high, he should recollect that the actual cost is nearer double, nearer £400 a year. [An HON. MEMBER: "Consolidate the two establishments."] So that this is a great concession which is being made in the actual cost to those who go to Sandhurst, even the sons of civilians. On the whole, I think I shall be able to persuade my hon. Friend that justice has been done.


I should like to draw attention to the Geddes Report and to the so-called saving of £330,000 in regard to the two regiments in the Channel Islands. It is only in the last 140 years that a regular regiment has been sent to the islands. Previous to that the islands defended themselves against the French and against the Usurper. These regiments are presumably sent as garrisons.

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Lieut.-Colonel Stanley)

I can asure my hon. Friend that they are sent there for the convenience of the Government, because there are barracks there.


If they are sent for the convenience of the Government then my case falls to the ground with this exception, that the presence of regular troops in the island increases the cost of everything not only to the military in the island. So much so that whereas a few years ago the Governor, the officer commanding the troops, had a private secretary who lived in a house which cost £36 a year, three rooms of which were given over to military offices, the offices are now in a house at £180 a year rental, and the private secretary, who was then a sergeant, has become a person of much higher social standing and ability, and receives a large sum of money as salary. Again, the expense has been increased in connection with the militia. Some years ago the militia was unpaid, officers and men were unpaid and the service was obligatory and universal; but a brilliant Secretary of State for War decided that the militia should be paid, and induced the local legislature to pay that militia, and now the Home Government send staff officers of the regulars, colonels and all the usual paraphernalia, and £12,000 a year is wasted in that way by the Imperial Government alone.


That the Resolution which upon the 23rd day of March was reported from the Committee of Supply and which was then agreed to by the House be now read:— That a number of Air Forces, not exceeding 31,176, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923.

Ordered, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide, during Twelve Months, for the Discipline and Regulation of the Army and Air Force; and that Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Captain Guest, Mr. Amery, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Robert Sanders, and Lieut.-Colonel Stanley do prepare and bring it in.