HC Deb 13 March 1924 vol 170 cc2615-6

The right hon. Gentleman the late Under-Secretary of State, in introducing the Estimates last year, pointed out to the House that our military responsibilities had not diminished since the War. I am happy to say that, at any rate in one area, things are brighter than they were when he then spoke. The Treaty has been signed with Turkey, and that has enabled us to release the troops from Constantinople. Here I should like to pay the tribute—which this Government is as anxious to pay as was the last—to the admirable manner in which the British Army upheld its traditions in its difficult task when quartered in Constantinople, and to the ability with which their commander, Sir Charles Harington, presided over the Allied Force. His tact and personality, supported by the conduct of all ranks, contributed in the highest degree to the fact that we were able peaceably to come to an agreement with the Turks, and to leave the British name in Constantinople higher than it has stood for years.

The difficulties that we have to contend against in Egypt, Iraq, India and the East generally are well known to the House. Whether we like it or not, the difficulties are there; and will not be solved by ignoring them. Some of the problems are quite new, and though they may not warrant an increase of the Army, they cannot in the present state—I say nothing of the future—warrant its decrease. It is the duty of the General Staff to consider possible military eventualities with which the country may be faced in every area, and I am glad to say that I have every confidence in the temperate judgment of the General Staff with whom I have the pleasure of working. The problems of defence are not merely matters of the General Staff of the Army. In almost every case they affect the two other fighting services. This brings me to the work of the new Committee of the Chiefs of Staff, which was set up by the last Government and is proving a great success. It saves a considerable amount of duplication of work. Military questions which require submission to the Committee of Imperial Defence can now be submitted, after they have been surveyed from the point both of the Admiralty and of the Air Force, with a view to securing a unified defence policy. The Committee has met a considerable, number of times, and has discussed and made recommendations to the Committee of Imperial Defence on such subjects as co-operative training between the Army and the Air Force, the relation of the Army to problems of air defence, and various defence problems that affect the services jointly in various parts of the world.

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